Summit is coming.
Summit is exciting. With so many people scattered around the world, this gathering of Mozillians… this summit… is a rare chance for people to get together face-to-face.
Summit is scary and stressful. It is a total change in location and routine, which can be stressful. It forces everyone into a high-volume-of-contact… not anonymous contact like a crowded street in New York… high-volume-and-intense-contact with lots of people you work with, closely or intermittently, on a shared project that we all care about passionately. It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It’s overwhelming. In the coming days, even extrovert people will need a quiet time or two… more introverted people doubly so. Add some small factors like: jet-lag, sleep deprivation, language barriers, change-of-routine, and it’s easy for people to get frayed at the edges.
With that context, I’d like to offer the following thoughts:
- Respect of self (1): Despite all the great things going on, keep a mental track of how *you* are doing. If you are feeling stressed/overwhelmed with everything, take a few minutes to walk outside in the sunshine, read a book in your room, go for a jog in the sunshine, call family back home, go for a swim… everyone is different, so do whatever works for you. I’ve done this at every conference I attend over the years, and it really helps me recenter. It also lets me mentally process all the inputs so far, and gives me time to remind myself what is important that I still need to do when I go back in the crowd. After all, we’re all here to connect.
- Respect of self (2): Don’t quietly put up with unacceptable behavior. If a conversation or a situation is making you uncomfortable, make a mental note of it, regardless of whether it’s directed at you, or something you observe/hear being directed at someone else. Politely say “I’m starting to feel uncomfortable“. It may not be intended, so this is a great way to give others a chance to quickly learn, self-correct and grow (without risking offense to either party). If that doesn’t fix things, politely excuse yourself with “That’s an interesting opinion, but I have to leave now” and disengage. Some people, at Mozilla and elsewhere, enjoy trolling… but keep in mind that you don’t have to feed the trolls if you don’t want to. Nicole’s presentation is just great, I re-watch it often. If you think the situation merits it, please do let any of the Mozilla Conductors or Site Hosts know.
- Respect of others: Lively, honest, debate is a great way for smart people to quickly solve complex problems. When it works, it’s magic. True magic. And to be encouraged. Sometimes, however, these can spiral out-of-control. The difference, as far as I can tell, is respect. Don’t impose your thoughts/intentions where they are not welcome. To be clear, I’m not saying that people should stop having honest conversations, and suddenly be all super-politically-correct. Just be respectful. If you find yourself in a heated discussion with someone, and you’re not getting anywhere, try the following:
- “Wait, wait, wait. We’re repeating ourselves here, and clearly not agreeing, so lets take pause and reset.”
- Then wait a few seconds, and take a few deep breaths!
- “OK, to reset context, can we assume that we both are professionals in our areas? Can we assume that we both want the best outcome for Mozilla? Agree?” (It is important to have these be asked, and answered, honestly and with “yes” from both! If you cannot even agree to this, you’ve got a different situation to resolve.)
- Once you get a “yes”, then speaking calmly, ask “ok, so using different words, can you tell me why you care about xxxxxx? And I promise to not say *anything* until you tell me you’re finished. Then afterwards, we’ll switch, so I’ll speak without interruption, and you listen. But you first…“.
- Listen. Take notes if it helps. Allow the other person time to pause and collect their thoughts without interruption. Literally no interrupting.
- When they finally say they’re all done, then say “ok, here’s what I heard you say – is this correct?” and paraphrase it all back to them. Adjust for corrections and repeat if needed, but make sure to state the full end-to-end one last time after last corrections, so they clearly hear you say their entire opinion/concerns *once* perfectly, in one uncorrected pass.
- Now, reverse roles. “ok, now it’s my turn to speak without interruption, while you listen“.
- Make sure they can paraphrase back to you, accurately like you did for them.
- Almost every time I do this, we instantly find that we were actually solving unrelated *different* problems… problems which just happened to overlap in one small area. No wonder we couldn’t agree! We were two smart professional people who were each actually solving very different problems. This tactic helped debug *which* problem we were each solving, and typically cleared things up right away.
- Respect of Mozilla: I didn’t create Mozilla, but I’m super glad that Mitchell, Brendan and others did years ago. Imagine for a second… if this was a organization that you had created, and nurtured over the years, how would you want yourself, and everyone else, to treat each other? With that thought in mind, go out into the great crowd and engage.
Hopefully people find these thoughts helpful. Disclaimer, this is an area I’m still working on myself, so any feedback/suggestions/improvements are very very welcome… either here or in email or (yes!) in person!
Travel safe, see (some of) you soon, and lets have a great Summit!
ps: Some additional links I found helpful are: Bob Sutton’s No Asshole Rule and Laura Forrest’s “5 Hacks to make the most of Summit”, bsmedberg’s “Mozilla Summit: Listen Hard”… and yes, of course, I would be remiss to not include this great song: