When you make the rules, it's okay to break them.

I don’t live by the rules, but I do live by the process. And rules are part of the process. I think processes are important (unless following them gets me stuck in my thinking.) That is, until I came upon my latest Sherpa project.

Let me set the stage and explain a couple "process rules" we have at Database Sherpa:

  • A client cannot be in crisis mode. Looming deadlines cannot cause undue stress on the individual taking the trek.
  • When we help organizations build a brand new database, we guide them through the learning process. We don’t build it for them.
  • We use the buddy system. We Sherpa at least two people in the organization to build their database.

Yep, I broke my rules. I helped a client who a) was in full-on crisis mode, b) was working with a fully built database created by someone else, and c) was the sole administrator of the database.

But ask my toddler Zola, and she will be the first to tell you (or show you) that rules are merely guidelines. So I said, “yes” to Lauren of the  Women's Resource Center in San Diego. Lauren is in a new position within the organization. Although she's been there for 5 years, this role is only 1-1/2 years old.

Women's Resource Center was using Donor Perfect, but a board member recommended a switch to Salesforce.com. Lauren agreed. Unfortunately, Lauren was not involved in the creation of the Salesforce.com database. Although she was involved in the importing process, she wasn't able to get her hands into the database and was left out of some critical decisions that needed to be made.

In order to help Lauren, I broke several of my own rules:

  • Lauren is the only user of the database. (I broke the “buddy rule.”)
  • She had an existing database. (I broke the “new” rule.)
  • She wasn’t involved in the creation of the database. (I broke the “guide them” rule.)
  • She felt overwhelmed by her lack of knowledge. (I broke the “crisis” rule.)

Why did I break my own rules? Lauren had a very specific task to accomplish without a lot of other distractions, and she was very enthusiastic about the prospect of learning.

When I first spoke to Lauren, she was quite overwhelmed and felt she was in over her head. She had also been told that the initial import hadn’t been done correctly and the data needed to be re-imported.

She gave me access to her existing database. (What an experience, to see the data already in there!) Spending time in her database, I realized that the data was imported quite well and only needed some minor tweaking. And on top of it, during the process I would have an opportunity to show Lauren some other important Salesforce.com features that she was unaware of.

As she explained the situation, I assured her that the data had been imported "okay," but needed a little tweaking. The relief in her voice was immediate! And during our first trek, she confided that after that first call, she had a good feeling about Database Sherpa. Her stress levels had decreased dramatically and she was excited to get into the database and learn on her own and with guidance.

I knew this journey would be shorter than my other journeys as it required me to only teach Lauren exactly what she needs to know right now. This allowed me to break my own rules.

Our first trek went great. Up to this point, we had not spent much time talking to each other or getting to know each other. I learned that what she really needed and wanted was to be guided through her existing database that she is needed to use.

As I was documenting our recent trek and preparing for our next trek, a thought popped to my mind: Database Sherpa is much more than just developing databases. It's about building confidence and providing a unique level of support.

After our call, I knew Lauren would be practicing her new database skills. No, Lauren did not offload all of the work onto me. Instead, she now has a Sherpa who is coaching, guiding and helping her as she builds her skills and confidence. Our journey is just beginning.

Yes, rules are made to be broken. I'm excited to work with Lauren and the Women's Resource Center of San Diego. Breaking the rules will not only help her, but will also help me strengthen and grow the processes at Database Sherpa.