Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monthly Archives: August 2013
At one time or another we will all be responsible for managing a project at work. Often we get these assignments without really having any authority over the people on the team. This means to succeed we need to create a collaborative, welcoming and mutually beneficial team environment. It’s not as hard as it might seem.
Here are my top 10 tips for creating success:
- Solicit Input: Actively engage each team member in brainstorming ideas and options. Participation is a must not an option.
- Hold People Accountable: Require updates and hold people to due dates for tasks. Address performance issues quickly and professionally.
- Communicate Often: Provide progress reports to stakeholders often. Share status within the team. Let people know what’s happening and why it’s happening.
- Make Decisions: As team leader the final say is yours, so make the decisions. Even if your choice is not popular you must decide and act. Seek to get commitment, consensus is not required.
- Believe in Success: Show you believe the team will succeed to EVERYONE!
- Give Credit: Share the credit with the team, place them above your personal recognition.
- Celebrate Milestones: Take a moment or two to celebrate reaching key milestones. Long projects need the small wins to maintain momentum and enthusiasm.
- Track Progress Closely: Know the status of the project at all times. Regular updates will keep people moving forward.
- Lend a Hand: Help destroy obstacles, pitch in if someone is overwhelmed. Have your team’s backs.
- Learn to Say No: If the project scope is creeping up as team leader you must say NO. If someone is attempting to dodge work or bail on an assignment you must say No and hold them to it.
Project management can seem really difficult and it can be, however, mastering these 10 items will help you set the stage for a successful project. Keep your team engaged, support them, hold them accountable and celebrate the progress you are making and you improve the odds of success. If you can get your team to work well together it will be much easier to navigate the rough patches that will happen. They will know you are there for them and they will be there for you. Success is sure to follow at that point.
We’ve all had occasions where we run into a brick wall at work. Maybe it’s being denied a promotion or it’s a difficult co-worker that sabotages your efforts or it’s a lack of resources to complete a project properly. Whatever it is they exist and how we deal with them speaks volumes about our leadership style and abilities.
There are four basic personality types when it comes to obstacles:
- Bulldog: This person keeps gnawing away at the problem until he gets through it or exhausts himself.
- Turtle: This person withdraws into their shell when they encounter a problem and hide until it goes away.
- Sheep: This person will look around for someone to lead them out of the situation, waiting until someone else shows them the way forward.
- Mountain Goat: This person will look for a way to get around or over the problem.
Each of these will work well in some circumstances but most will not work well in all situations.
If you are a bulldog and keep at a problem no matter what is happening around you people will get tired of your aggression. There are occasions where you need to get help to solve the problem. Pushing ahead no matter what will alienate people.
Always crumbling when confronted with a problem will cause people to view you as weak. It takes courage to face problems and obstacles head on. People will respect those who know when to take a stand and when it’s time to walk away. Some situations just are not worth the effort of resolving the problem so cut your losses and move on.
When you look around for someone to rescue you, again you will be seen as weak and indecisive. There are times when you must get help or direction to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle. However, make sure you have explored your options and know what help you need before you seek assistance.
People how take a moment or two to assess the situation and look for a way to reach their destination by going around or working through the problem have a real advantage. You may need guidance to find the path forward but you are actively looking for solutions and opportunities to reach your goal. This can demonstrate tenacity and courage. Care must be taken to know if that goal is still the right destination by looking at the risks involved with moving ahead in spite of the obstacles.
Leaders must make decisions about what goals are important and how to help people reach them. That means being aware of the brick walls that appear in the path and having the ability to determine the best approach to getting around them. Do you charge ahead and tear down the wall, do you wait for help, do you step back and wait for it to fall, or do you find a way around or over the wall? Learning which approach will work best in different situations is key to becoming a more effective leader.
There are times when you need to get help even as a leader. That’s okay. Too often leaders think that they have to stand strong and that asking for assistance is a sign of weakness. Thinking that people will look down on you for getting help is arrogance and could put you at risk of failing. There are times when you just don’t have the skills or the knowledge needed to get something done. Or maybe you just don’t have the time to complete something. These are perfect times to ask for help.
When you have enough self-awareness to realize that you are not Superman or Superwoman and you admit it to your team, they will actually like you more. Superheroes are great, but hard to live with on a daily basis. People want to be needed and superheroes stand on their own or have one trusted aide. In the real world that behavior is self-limiting and goes against team building. Admitting you need some help will make you seem more human and easier to connect with.
Even knowing all of this it can still be hard for a leader to ask for help. I have problems with that issue myself. I have always been very independent and I want to get things done on my own. Early on I had to step up and take care of the house while my dad recovered from heart surgery. This was over 35 years ago, so recovery meant weeks in the hospital and months of bed rest. While my mother focused on taking care of my dad, I took care of everything else to ease her burden. I was in high school and got it all done without too much trouble, however it did instill a habit of self-reliance that even now is hard for me to break. I learned how much I could accomplish when I set my mind to it as well as how to run a house.
Jump ahead 15 years; I learned at work that people found it hard to relate to me because I never showed any weakness. The habit of helping others without asking for help was well ingrained at this point. I was also one of a handful of female engineers in a factory of 2500 employees. I was afraid to show any weakness, that it would undermine the credibility I was slowly building. It turns out I gained more ground by being human and showing that I didn’t have all the answers. I got into an ugly situation with a shop supervisor where I was on the receiving end of his frustration with a situation and my boss. Afterwards my struggle to handle what just got dumped on me earned me significant respect from a co-worker, someone I truly like and respect. Seeing my struggle helped him realize I could be hurt and didn’t always have the answers. He told me that he liked me a lot more after that day. It was an Ah Ha moment for me.
People want to contribute to the team and help reach the team goals. For that to happen they need to really connect with the others on the team. That means the leader as well. We all connect better with people who seem human, have flaws and weaknesses as well as strengths. As a leader, be human, ask people to help when you need it. They will like better you for it.
Today is your day to do with as you see fit. Will you step up and make the most of it or will you sit back and wait for something good to happen?
Take a look at this video of Ashton Kutcher on the Teen Choice Awards. It’s a great look at three things related to success: opportunities, being smart, and living life. He applies these to success which is true. They also must be applied to leadership, leaders need to keep these three things in mind so that they can build a better world for their followers.
Will you make smart choices today? Live life to the fullest!
Do you give it your all when you tackle a task? Is ‘good enough’ your typical effort level? Or are you one of those folks who does just a little bit more or something unexpected? Anyone can do just enough, not everyone will bother with giving their best. People who go that extra mile will stand out. Leaders look for ways to go above and beyond – that’s how you get to new opportunities.
I’m collaborating on a project with a great group of professionals who love leadership and exemplify it in everything they do. Working with them causes me to step up my game. I like to do something a little different than what was asked. I often will find a new and different way to present the information we are pulling together. This is for a several reasons:
- I want to make sure I add value to them each time we talk
- Finding new ways to share information is important to me in my work so I bring it to the group as well
- All of them give 100+% to what we are doing and I won’t do less than they do
- I get to explore new methods in a very safe environment
Rarely does it take me much longer to provide this extra stuff and yet the team is always amazed and surprised by what I’ve done. I think they believe I’m spending lots of extra time on it which really isn’t the case at all. Often it’s a function of things I do well and like to share with others.
The interesting thing about this stepping up in this area is that I find I’m doing it more and more elsewhere. When I am working on something, anything really, I am looking for ways to do just a little bit more, to make it the best I possibly can. Does this mean extra work for me, sure but it also gives me huge satisfaction to be able to look at what I’ve done and know it’s my best work.
People will notice when you do a little bit more, go that extra step and exceed expectations. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture each time. Just a little extra is unusual and much appreciated. How do you want to be known? As someone who does just enough or someone who does just a bit more? You get to decide which way you are seen so choose wisely.
The group I am working with has dubbed me Wonder Woman for my efforts. I admire each of them so much for what they do that it is very humbling for me to be seen as a superhero – to me they are all superheroes. If you are curious about these folks – check out LeadWithGiants as they all can be found there. http://www.leadwithgiants.com/
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
You see a job posting that looks like it would be the perfect next step for you. You decide to apply for the position so you go in to talk to your boss about the move as you need his approval to apply. No problem right, he’s talked to you about where you want to go and he’s supported your development. Surprisingly he tells you that you aren’t ready for that position, you just don’t have the right experience. What’s going on? Now what do you do?
First you have to set aside your disappointment and that may take some time. When you can be calm and are ready to hear what your boss has to say, schedule time to talk to him about it. You may be surprised by his answers.
To get to the root of the issue you need to be open to asking questions that may have tough answers. Here are some suggestions of questions you can ask to learn more about the situation:
- What about this position wasn’t a good fit for you?
- Where there skills required for the position that you don’t have or haven’t fully developed yet?
- Was there some specific business experience required that you haven’t had yet?
Once you get answers to those questions you can then start to explore what you can do to be better prepared for the next opportunity that comes along. Ask what you can be doing to grow in the appropriate areas. Are there classes you should take? Is there a project you can be part of to gain experience? Should you be connecting with people in another area?
You may also have discovered that the position would not have been a good move for your career goals. Maybe it was interesting but would pull you in a direction that really is not where you want to go. It can be so easy to get excited about a position based on the job description only to learn that it really is more repetitive or tied to a desk than the description might imply.
Another possibility may be lurking in the background. One is that your boss knew they had identified someone for that position before it was even posted. The posting was a formality and you would never have had a chance so he was saving you from getting false hope.
The other reason you may have been told you weren’t ready is that your boss may not be ready to let you go. If you are doing a great job and are in a unique field it might be hard to replace you, so your boss is holding on to you for his own good. This will be harder to spot because bosses rarely admit to this one. Look for comments related to difficulty backfilling your current position.
No matter what the reason is behind the “you aren’t ready” you now have more information about what you need to do to be prepared to move. If it’s related to skills or experience focus on developing the needed skills or getting the right experience. If it’s because they had hand-picked someone work on getting to know people in the area where you want to go. This will help you be someone they will consider because they know you now. And if it was because your boss wants to keep you, you will need to find an ally outside your area who can help you grow and move forward.
It’s not always easy to hear that you weren’t right for a job, however it gives you the opportunity to prove what you can do and how you handle disappointments. Focus on moving forward and stay positive. That will prove you are ready when the time comes, and it will come sooner than you think.