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GDC 2010: Concrete Practices to be a Better Leader
Bar Harbor
Concrete Practices to be a Better Leader
Speaker/s: Brian Sharp (Bungie, LLC)
Day / Time / Location: Thursday 4:30- 5:30 Room 305, South Hall
Track / Format: Production / Lecture
Description: Becoming a stronger leader is like losing weight: both are conceptually simple, and yet in practice very, very hard. This talk will distill leadership to its essential qualities with practical techniques for developing them, drawn from a wide range of sources, from serene Buddhist meditators in monasteries to freewheeling pickup artists in Hollywood penthouses. The stronger you become at empathizing, maintaining a sincere intention, and remaining humble, the better you'll be at synthesizing a vision for your team. And the more initiative you take, the more heartfelt your communication, the more confident your approach, the better you manage your influence, the better you'll be at helping realize those visions. Come learn how to do it all!

Alexx: This talk had a lot of Buddhist influences that may strike readers as new-age hoohah. I encourage you to read it with an open mind. Some of the techniques mentioned here paid off for me significantly in less than 24 hours!
He had a really interesting lecture mechanic - instead of powerpoint slides, he had a camera focused on a sketchbook, which he would write and doodle upon to enhance his points. He would also occasionally put a physical photograph on the page, usually a portrait of someone he was quoting.

Leadership is not science or craft -- is a practice

"Training is the opposite of hoping"
longing, idealizing, wishing--Hoping, not Training
Wishing can be a way of avoiding thinking about doing work

intellectual comprehension != mastery; understanding something is not the same as being good at doing it

Roles of a leader:
synthesize vision for the team
help team to realize it

focus on how you can change yourself, don't worry about other people who you may have troublesome interactions with

put yourself in the other person's shoes
helps to avoid petty politics
people all have 'shells' to mask/protect themselves -- shyness, temper, sarcasm, etc
you don't need to shatter those shells, but be aware of them -- they're human too
this is never easy, but becomes easier with practice
think of it as a vegetable garden - pulling weeds is never fun, but if you want those vegetables, you have to do it regularly

An empathy exercise:
close your eyes
picture a person, maybe a person you have a conflict with, sitting opposite you
Repeat several times to yourself: "Just like me, this person wants to be happy. Just like me, this person does not want to suffer."
Imagine that person experiencing deep personal loss
Repeat several times to yourself: "Just like me, this person wants to be happy. Just like me, this person does not want to suffer."
Imagine them feeling good about a personal success
Repeat several times to yourself: "Just like me, this person wants to be happy. Just like me, this person does not want to suffer."

your work can be tainted by arrogance; not just bad for you personally, your work suffers
Arrogance is often an impediment -- people react to your attitude, not your ideas
arrogance is often insecurity in another guise
many developers grew up smart, rewarded -- naturally leads to arrogance
game dev is often high stress, there's a great temptation to say "I told you so"
Being Right vs. Being Compassionate; Right is not always better
Speaker has a tattoo on his arm, where he can see it while typing: "I bow down"
He says he is happier, and better at his job, when he stays humble
Careful of a basic trap: "wanting to Seem humble" is pride

A Humility Exercise
Close your eyes
bring your job to mind
repeat several times "May I be of service"
Bring to mind conflicts at work, people, topics that cause friction
repeat several times "May I be of service"
Are you resisting? Note that, and be aware of it.
repeat several times "May I be of service"

Dalai Lama: "Everyone is my teacher" Everyone knows at least one thing that I don't.

Antoine de St. Exupery: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

Communication styles
Head (facts) vs Heart (feeling and emotion)
words can affect people's emotions
These are not exclusive! Most conversations include both.

Lulu Lamer: "Notice how others FEEL about what you say. Respond to their feelings."

Recommended book: _Difficult Conversations_

Confidence, unlike empathy or humility, is inherently alluring
Lessons from Pick Up Artists
Can train for Confidence -- takes 2-3 years of hard work
how does this feel? Why?
Confidence is a gift to those around you.
hesitance is catching, being confident empowers people to act
Being confident is scary -- it commits you and exposes you to potential failure -- but it's the only way to allow inspiration of others

Confidence exercise:
As you approach a stranger on the street, make eye contact
hold eye contact until the other person breaks contact
if the other person doesn't break contact for more than a few seconds, say "hi"

necessary -- but rests on foundation of passion
be mindful of how cool it is that we make games!

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The video will be posted on Bungie.net at some point soon.

(Deleted comment)
Thanks for posting these notes, Alexx! I really hope the video goes up, because I'd love to hear it in his words, too.

I'd heard this session was great from several people at GDC, and now I'm convinced it's the best session I missed this year. The notes were great, though -- I love those exercises!

I've had this page sitting in my "to read" tabs for over a year now. (Kind of amazing to realize that I'm occasionally leaving tabs open for that long.) Just got to it, and it's a *fine* summary of the topic. Mind if I link to it?

Sure, go ahead. You might also want to link to the video for the talk itself, which is now on-line: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1012346/Concrete-Practices-to-be-a

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