A colleague sent me an email this morning. She had read Agile and Lean Program Management, and especially liked the section called “Potentially Useful Practices.” She told me she thought of them as “pup”s and was going to use that idea for a talk she was developing. She talked about cute puppies—which one was a beagle, which was a bulldog or a German shepherd. Oh, I laughed out loud. I can’t wait to see her presentation.
That got me thinking about when we are serious and when we let our sense of humor out to play.
I’m serious about outcomes. I’m serious when I practice a new skill. I’m not as serious when I deliver training or presentations. That’s because I did the hard work in advance. I’m serious about my preparation, including thinking about funny stories so people identify with the idea. People need and appreciate some humor to go with their learning.
Back in my developer days, I was much more serious about how I worked. I hadn’t found my rhythm or a way to deliver on a regular basis. That led to cycles of delivery/black-hole-ness/delivery/black-hole-ness, etc. If I couldn’t depend on my delivery, how could anyone else? Work was quite serious for me, then.
As I learned how to work in smaller chunks, I was able to see my progress and become a little less serious. I still cared “too much.“
When I became a project manager, I learned an important lesson: as a leader, people took their cues from me. If I was serious about the outcome, they would be, too. If I was serious about the work, they would be, too. And, if I used my sense of humor in my work, they would, also.
I took a different approach than many other project managers (or managers). I asked for rumors. I asked for bad news. I would say, “Okay everyone, we’re going to sigh. Ready? 1, 2, 3, Big Sigh.” I waited for everyone to sigh with me. We often laughed after we sighed. Then, I could ask, “Okay, now what can we do about this problem?”
I treated the problem seriously, but not how we dealt with the problem.
When I see risks I don’t understand, I tend to be more serious. When I am pretty sure I can see the risks, I can let my (wacko) sense of humor fly.
I also learned that if I asked for risks, I would learn about more of them than I might be able to handle. And, if I didn’t ask about them, something would bite the project, at the worst possible time. That’s Murphy’s Law.
Yes, the world is a serious place. And, how we have choices about how we treat the problems and risks in our lives. We can see “pups” instead of “Potentially Useful Practices.” Our sense of humor is part of our emotional resilience. (See also the Book Review of Surviving Survival.)
Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question of the week: When are you serious?
- Are You Doing Your Part?
- When Do You Stop Working for the Day?