Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Building Confidence - Attitude uber alles

Working on technical problems requires a special aptitude and attitude. While we must have experience and/or training, confidence plays a big part in our success. That confidence comes from success with similar problems and good safety net of people and tools. Somehow, over time, the cycle of applying our skill and succeeding plants a seed of confidence in our minds. We talk to ourselves differently, even when we make mistakes, especially when we make mistakes.

As we swim in new technical problems we ask; Do I think I can solve this problem? Am I good enough to nail it? Do I have the skills and experience to work through the details? Can I manage to do no harm? What if I make a mistake? Will my peers think less of me?

It's easy to second guess ourselves when there is so much to know. There simply is no way to know it all. There are some geniuses out there but most of us are mere mortals :-) If you've ever had the pleasure of working with a person who is technically artful and with a positive temperament you change how you look at your own skill-set. You may wonder, what the h... am I doing in this field? What do I have to contribute? Until you find a way to relax into it.

Alongside and complementing our personal development is our team and out network. Teamwork with the people we share projects with. Networking with them and the host of people in cyberland. In order for teamwork to set in there has to be trust and confidence, confidence and trust. Trust that the people you work with will support you whether you get it right all the time or not. Confidence that you are a contributor, that you bring something useful to the table.

As I spend more time in the whirl of technology, I am less interested in geniuses and more interested in the collaboration - what makes it work and what makes it fail. Our team is an incredible group of people who give and take, support and lead. I love to watch them develop their talent and share it with each other.

As the circle widens across our district, the trust is more difficult to maintain. We work in isolation sometimes. This isn't good for building trust. And as much as I think I am going to "get out more" I sit at my desk trying to keep up with the details. I do this despite my theory that face to face time will build bridges.

While it is inspiring to make spontaneous trips to schools, to have on-the-fly conversations with teachers and principals, it is important to have direction. What are some key topics and themes? What are people reaching for? What are they frustrated with? What inspires them?