Updates from February, 2014 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Eugene Chan 1:40 am on February 13, 2014 Permalink |  

    What Questions should I ask my direct reports in giving me feedback? 

    I’ve been at my job for exactly one year and I’ve asked for one-on-one meetings with my team (there are three members) to give me feedback on how I can be a better manager.

    I’m looking for ways to improve, whether I’m addressing things that they need or that the team needs. All the team members were in place when I joined and from my point of view, I’ve worked pretty well with them. I do feel like I’ve built a level of trust with each of them.

    I’ve specifically asked for it to be outside of the performance review process (not that I have anything against it, I just don’t usually find them very helpful), this is more informal, hopefully honest, and in the spirit of taking in feedback and improving my role as their manager.

    So with that: do you have suggestions for questions or framing for my meetings?

    • Dana 1:50 am on February 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This is the question I’d want my bosses to ask me:

      1.What’s the one thing I could be doing to make your life/ job easier?

      I could go on a tangent about all the different areas I need more support and clearer communication in but this makes you focus on the thing that’s most prominent in your mind. And it sounds nice – like you are taking ownership of your piece to the puzzle and you want to help them.

    • Natalie 2:46 am on February 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Dana beat me to it. I think she nailed it. I like “one thing” questions because they almost force the person to come up with something. And if there’s a list, it gives them the opening to begin the diatribe. You could also ask for input on what they consider to be the most effective management approach for them personally, or to think back on the best supervisor they ever had, and what made that person so great.

    • Eugene Chan 6:48 pm on February 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Great suggestions! I had a question along the same line, but not for 1 thing, That is a better question. So thanks @dana and @natalie!

  • Natalie 9:15 pm on January 16, 2014 Permalink |
    Tags: Meeting places spreadsheet, meeting space,   

    Well, this takes me back to my days at Groupaya. I sent some information to Eugene, who asked me to post it on the water cooler. At Groupaya, it took me . . . oh, maybe 6 – 8 months . . . to get the hang of posting everything on the wiki instead of sending it via private correspondence.

    Anyway, here’s the scoop: Someone has created a spreadsheet of meeting locations, and it might be a good resource. I’ll copy the message and link below.


    Subject: RE: [sfba_members] Bay Area retreat locations

    Hi All
    This seems to be a common thread so I created a google doc with info about meeting spaces around the bay and in SoCal. There are tabs for each sheet listing (Free Locations, SF Locations, Non-SF Bay Area Locations, SocCal).

    A couple important notes:
    1 – It’s a publicly viewable doc AND editable. If you feel so moved and want to add to or revise this spreadsheet feel free to. In fact, please add more useful info that you find out or know about these spaces – pay it forward. πŸ˜‰
    2 – Disclaimer: This is a document is an online open-content collaborative list; that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups working to develop a common resource of human knowledge. This allows anyone with an Internet connection to alter its content. Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information. That is not to say that you will not find valuable and accurate information, however, I cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here.
    3 – If you have little experience or don’t know how to navigate a google spreadsheets to get to the info, please ask your friend, son, daughter, mom, co-worker, or anyone else that will know how. While I like to be helpful, I don’t have the time to field those questions.
    4 – Don’t email or call me about any info on this sheet either – sorry. IF you have a question about any of these spaces, contact them AND/or maybe use the YNPN community to help you out.

    I hope this works out and becomes a great community resource.

    • Dana 9:26 pm on January 16, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      WOW! Thanks Natalie! I have a to do to look up meeting venues in S.F, can’t tell you how much this helped. What awesome timing you have πŸ˜‰

      • Eugene Eric Kim 3:33 am on January 17, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        @dana, I have a list as well, which I’d be happy to share. It’s messy, but it’s got some different information than the spreadsheet above. Just let me know. That goes for anyone else as well.

        Would be even cooler if someone were compelled to combine the two lists!

    • Natalie 9:48 pm on January 16, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Well, there you have it. Eugene was right again.

      • Eugene Eric Kim 2:08 am on January 17, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        This should be the unstated fourth ground rule.

    • Natalie 5:49 am on January 17, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Oooooo. You’re asking for trouble, Eugene. πŸ™‚

  • Brooking 6:49 am on January 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    Hey everyone – we’re on for the 14th from 3-5 at PolicyLink in downtown Oakland (Marie won’t be able to join/host that day unfortunately). TOPIC: designing for high performing networks! PolicyLink is walkable from 12th St Bart at 1438 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94612. Eugene if there’s any info we should know for arrival/where to meet please share with the group! In attendance for sure we’ll have EEK & Eugene Chan, myself & Rebecca. @jessausinheiler ? @dana? @natalie @renee @anna341bc @lauren @amy you are welcome to join as well!

  • Eugene Eric Kim 4:36 pm on December 9, 2013 Permalink |  

    Last week, our very own @dana facilitated her very first retreat, a two-day strategy workshop for Code for America! Here are some pictures from the event:

    Growth Toward Scale: Regionalization

    Dana, hope you’ll post some thoughts from that experiment here, or at least will talk about the experience tomorrow at the self-organized bootcamp (which I’m looking forward to)!

    Also, this morning, I published a blog post on collective intelligence, which folks here might find interesting:


    As always, feedback encouraged! If you have thoughts to share on the blog post, please post it in the comments section there. Thanks!

  • Eugene Eric Kim 5:47 pm on November 23, 2013 Permalink |

    Here’s a related, but divergent followup to the world’s largest comment I left in response to @brooking‘s questions. While I was pulling up links to some of my stories, I found some other posts that strongly color how I think about online tools and their role in collaboration.

    Here’s one on differentiating engagement from artifact. Here’s one on stigmergy (i.e. leaving trails).

    Here’s a 12-minute slidecast I put together three years ago that pulls together these different topics:

    As always, feedback encouraged!

    • Jessica 8:17 pm on November 25, 2013 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      A quick point about engaging busy people in response to @brooking and @eekim, via an anectode: I was at the airport and felt compelled to answer your conversation thread. I tried for 10 minutes to log in via iPhone, but finally got frustrated and gave up. It may be obvious, but it’s so much easier when friends ping you in a way that’s easy to respond. Technology is getting there, but there are still plenty of barriers.

      Eugene, how do sites like https://mural.ly/ change your perception of online vs. in-person engagements? I’m thinking about taking a systems class at Worscester Polytechnic Institute, and was told that the school has “quite a vibrant online community”… I’ll report back on what I learn re: best practices for getting people to actually and meaningfully engage online.


      • Eugene Eric Kim 11:15 pm on November 25, 2013 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        It’s not obvious, @jessausinheiler. An amazing number of people do not pay attention to things like login usability β€” including online retailers, whose businesses depend on these sorts of things.

        I did a collective visioning project last year with several Alameda-based arts organizations, and we wanted to use a blog for participants to share their thoughts online. We picked Tumblr for a variety of reasons, and then we sat some participants down in front of it and asked them to log in and post something. It was brutal. No one could figure out how to log in without our help.

        These were not stupid people. They were just normal. Online tools require a mental model that does not map to what most normal people understand. The notion of online identity is particularly broken.

        When these things crop up, you don’t just give up, but you do have to get real about expectations. This is where a lot of people get tripped up. They don’t adjust.

        When I started working on the Delta Dialogues (@dana‘s bootcamp project), @rapetzel and I mapped out a strategy for how we might integrate online tools. We ended up doing two things: We had a project blog that was public, and we implemented a buddy system for people to interact with each other however they choseΒ β€” phone, face-to-face, etc. β€” between meetings. We shared artifacts from the meeting as printable PowerPoints (although we also published them online for transparency purposes). We did not try to implement some kind of online tool system so that people could interact between meetings, although I had originally thought we might go in that direction in Phase 2. I didn’t think our participants would be ready for it, and we had too many other priorities.

        As it turned out, our participants were even less ready than I thought they would be. Several of our participants (mostly government officials) had their secretaries print out their emails so they could read them, which made sending links completely useless. One of the participants shared his email account with his wife.

        So our strategy ended up being a good one, but it was not easy. For whatever reason, I find that people still have a lot of trouble getting why we approached things this way and how they might proceed moving forward. This is a common problem, not just with the Delta Dialogues, but with just about every project I’ve been involved with. It’s why I find the physical thought experiment so useful. If you imagine a special room where people could interact, but only if they figured out a puzzle lock that on average on 10 percent of participants even had the patience to try, what kind of engagement should you realistically expect, and how might you modify your design as a result?

        Given all this, Jess, how do tools like mural.ly change your perception of online vs face-to-face engagement? πŸ™‚

    • Jessica 6:13 am on December 5, 2013 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      It really depends on the length of the engagement and my goals.

      So, an unlikely but extreme example, if the group was a global group of people who’s only chance of accomplishing their goals, given the budget, was to communicate virtually, I’d probably make a really big investment to teach them how to use the tool. For example, at the kickoff meeting I might organize a simulation exercise where people have to post / respond / comment on the site in real time, in pairs or triads, so they learn how to use the site together and from each other’s mistakes–and so they get a sense of how valuable of a tool it can be. Between bi-annual meetings, on a predictable/regular basis, I might post questions on the site (or have people take turns posting questions) that participants have 24-48 hours to respond to, to keep the momentum going. (In Murally this might mean posting an idea that others can build and comment on.)

      Is fun, instructive, collaborative up-front investment… and then time-bound, regular, predictable, valuable virtual engagement periods… really enough though?

      I pun it to other changemakers.

  • Eugene Eric Kim 3:23 pm on November 13, 2013 Permalink |  

    Here’s @dana‘s exit interview:


    Talking to @brooking tomorrow; will post next week!

  • Eugene Eric Kim 4:04 pm on November 12, 2013 Permalink |  

    Hope everyone had a good Veteran’s Day weekend! I posted @jessausinheiler‘s exit interview yesterday. @dana‘s goes up tomorrow, and @brooking‘s next week.


  • Eugene Eric Kim 3:33 pm on November 8, 2013 Permalink |  

    Fun, fun, fun to see bootcampers β€” old and new β€” pop onto the water cooler this week! I had a long day yesterday that was packed with meetings, but it was re-energizing to peek here afterward and see all of this activity!

    My exit interview with @eugenechan is now up:


    I’ll post @jessausinheiler and @dana‘s next week and @brooking‘s the week after.

  • Dana 9:34 pm on October 18, 2013 Permalink |  

    Hey everyone,

    Tuesday was my first bootcamp and it was really awesome. As a young person I am often told I don’t have enough experience or enough education, but in bootcamp you’re encouraged to tap into your own internal resources. I love that the answer isn’t in a book. A reflection I had on Tuesday was that trusting my own skills/ knowledge is challenging for me and I hope I can learn to trust myself more.

    Similar to Brooking I learned we all have different ways of seeing/ thinking about power. I appreciated the discussion we had and the opportunity to hear the wisdom of the group.

    Another reflection I had was in thinking about my project working with a multi stakeholder group. The practice I chose to shift the power dynamic was to create space for participants to feel empowered and take ownership over the process. I am not sure yet how to create that space but am hoping to get clearer. Here’s a general question to the group: how do you get participants not too rely on the facilitator to make the right conversation happen?

    • Eugene Eric Kim 5:38 pm on October 19, 2013 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      So glad you’re participating, @dana, and appreciate your reflections!

      Humans are social animals. We all have wisdom about collaboration that has absolutely nothing to do with school or professional experiences. I started my first collaboration consultancy when I was 27 with zero qualifications… on paper. But, I could draw on the experiences that I had working and being with other people in all kinds of contexts β€” sports, family, friends, hobbies, music, school (not necessarily content from the classroom), etc. Today, I have some paper qualifications, which are useful for getting work, but which actually mean little in terms of actually understanding and being able to practice collaboration effectively.

      Putting aside your year at Groupaya and your undergraduate degree in this kind of work (which is more formal education in this space than I have!), you bring experience working in restaurants and in retail. You bring your experience in dance, which to me epitomizes craft and collaboration. And most importantly, you bring your experience as a human being living among other human beings.

      At the end of the day, the only things that matter are a desire to learn and constant practice. Bootcamp is meant to help with the practice, but it can’t create the desire. If you bring that to the table, good things will happen. You’re clearly doing that. The fact that you’ve chosen the Delta Dialogues as your project is incredibly bold, and I love it. Looking forward to seeing what your bootcamp experiences unlock in you as you explore this incredibly complex project.

      For the rest of you, here’s some context on Dana’s project:


      It’s the knottiest project I’ve ever had to deal with, and it’s only gotten more complicated since I left.

    • Rebecca 1:00 am on October 31, 2013 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Yeah Dana!! I just want to reiterate Eugene. I’ve learned a lot about collaboration from my work in restaurants. Don’t underestimate that wisdom.

      “The practice I chose to shift the power dynamic was to create space for participants to feel empowered and take ownership over the process. I am not sure yet how to create that space but am hoping to get clearer.”

      What a great frick’n question Dana. I think you’ve picked probably the most important and hardest question πŸ™‚ I can’t answer it. But this is at the crux of why we invest so much time in thinking through the “structures” that support any collaborative experience. How do you create enough frame to help guide the conversation, but clearly make things ‘hackable’ and emergent?

      I think the check-in, check-outs are a big intervention to this end. And in my last process, we decided to make it more explicit, asking “how are we doing as a group?” Just asking this question subtly reminds everyone they have influence over the group without explicitly saying it. This is our responsibility, not just the facilitators.

      It’s also a big part of why I try to work transparently (with varying degrees of success). OK, enough rambling πŸ™‚

      • dana 5:59 am on October 31, 2013 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Thanks Rebecca for your comments! I like your idea of asking a more explicit checkout “how are we doing as a group.” The checkouts seem more valuable when it’s more than just “how do you feel about today?!”

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