15 March 2023

I want you to exceed me

During my time at IBM I started coaching other teams. It was fun and I liked it. Later I went into full time training and coaching, and my motto was "Developing Quality Software Developers". I knew it was the thing I wanted to do, but I did not know why.

I use Gamification as a strategy to improve user engagement. To increase participation in my workshops and to express my feelings about that, I created achievement cards, the Code Cop Achievement Cards. Achievements or trophies are concepts from video games, and describe meta-goals defined outside the game's parameters. Meeting the fulfilment conditions, and receiving recognition of fulfilment by the game, is referred to as unlocking the achievement. There are several cards for first time participants in my deck, for example Shortcut Fu when someone uses a rare keyboard short-cut, Regexer for comprehending a crazy regular expression or Finisher for finishing the coding exercise started during the workshop at home - which I always offer but rarely happens. I award these cards to a participant, if I feel that the person has worked hard or struggled to make it.

I wanted my cards to convey my honest appreciation and used NVC (Non-violent Communication) appreciation statements. For a NVC-style appreciation we share the specific actions that contributed to our well-being, the needs that have been fulfilled, and the feelings engendered by the fulfilment of those needs. The focus is to create a clear understanding of how our life was enriched.. This made me think more about my feelings and which of my needs had been satisfied at the moments when I wanted to appreciate some action. I had thought about needs before in more general, less personal way. My friend and NVC coach Aki Salmi helped me to formulate these statements using different phrases to avoid having the same text on each card again and again: For example: "I value the usage of short-cuts as effective and as sign of ongoing mastery in our craft." "I am touched to see courage in situations of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure." "I am amazed by critical questions based on creativity and independent thought." "I am inspired by the integrity and consistency of sticking to principles in difficult situations." The process of finding the right words alone strengthened my ability to express my feelings dramatically.

Very Personal Appreciation Badge (copyright Peter Kofler) Scrutiny
Some of my appreciation cards celebrate learning, including stepping out of one's comfort zone, which is required for learning. One card I of these is titled "Scrutiny", subtitled Correct me when I am wrong. It shows a Whistle icon (by Delapouite CC BY 3.0) and the appreciation is "I am proud when you correct me, showing independence and competence." It does not happen often - still sometimes in a pairing or ensemble session, my focus may slip and I make a mistake or do not call out a mistake on time. And then, sometimes, someone else does.

There is a common theme in most of my cards: growth. Now that I have seen it, it is obvious to me. Growth is one of my major needs. I want to grow - e.g. learning new languages and other stuff regularly. And I want the people I coach and work with to grow, too. My second motto - surfacing around 2013 - "Developing Quality Software Developers" expresses that clearly. I want them to grow, to learn, to improve - and I am inspired and amazed the most, when they exceed me.

Snatch the Pebble From My Hand
There is nothing more satisfying than when a pupil exceeds his or her master. This is often depicted in movies, where a student must learn a lot, for example in Kung Fu movies: In the television series Kung Fu, Caine is an orphan and is accepted into a Shaolin Monastery. Part of the Shaolin way of life is strengthening the body and the mind. For example, one of Caine's teachers asks him to "snatch the pebble from my hand":

Then, after many years of training, Caine is finally able to beat his master:

What a satisfying moment, and Caine's master smiles. This is one of my favourite TV moments ;-) Like being corrected (see Scrutiny card above), "snatch the pebble from my hand" situations make me proud of my students.

Make Me Look Like a Baby
I want to leave you with a quote from a different and maybe more controversial source of motivation than Caine, ex Navy SEAL member Jocko Willink: Don't try and be like me. Be better than me. Crush me. Make me look like a baby. That's what you do. (Even better when he says it himself.) - OK, maybe there is too much testosterone here ;-)