Monthly Archives: October 2013

Quote for Oct 31st

StairsTake the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Are You Managing, Leading or Doing Both?

See SawCareer development is a series of phases.  The first step is to learn to manage you.  This means learning to take control of your time, make good decisions and improve your communication skills.  The next phase is where you start to move into managing others.  In this phase you will start to take responsibility for building effective teams and managing multiple priorities for you and your team.  Then you move into leading others.  This is where you start to move beyond just managing tasks and responsibilities to setting a vision for others to follow.  As you advance towards this phase it is important to take the time to develop your leadership skills.

Peter Drucker says it best “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”  Yet you don’t completely drop managing as you start leading.  You still have to be in control of your behavior and you may still need to direct the actions of others.  Becoming a leader doesn’t mean you stop managing it means you add new responsibilities to your plate.

Too often managing is treated as an ugly behavior that adds little value to people or organizations.  This is maligning a much needed function in business.  All activities have quality levels that must be maintained and customer demand to meet.  Someone must keep an eye on the details of getting things done on time and on budget.  This is the role of a manager.  The title for this person maybe supervisor, project manager, manager, director or some other option.  Yet the role is critical to the success of the organization.

Leading and managing don’t have to be mutually exclusive and probably shouldn’t be treated separately.  Leaders need to set the direction and the vision for what people will be doing.  Part of that includes setting expectations for what success looks like for the team.  These are guidelines the managers and people can use to determine what needs to be done and when.  Leaders who ignore the importance of those parameters will leave their team struggling to meet the leader’s vision.

Managing people without paying attention to the needs of the team is a dictatorship.  To successfully manage it is important to take the time to understand the people on the team, what motivates them, enable them to see the purpose of what they are doing and help them achieve their goals.  This will drive engagement, improve quality and productivity, all things good managers want to achieve.  These are a result of leading the team more than just managing results.

Take the time to pay attention to the people and the business results improve.  If leaders focus solely on making the people happy it can lead to a decline in business results.  When you have more than one person working on something there will be complexity and complications that must be dealt with to ensure productivity.  This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a function of human nature.  The trick is to balance an engaging and inspiring workplace with one that produces to customer expectations.  This means businesses need managers and leaders, and in particular people who can wear both hats at the same time.

How do you balance the goals of the organization with the needs of the people?  Do you find it difficult to lead people and manage results?

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Free Webinar – 3 Biggest Project Scope Myths

myth versus realityAre you struggling with:

  • All the changes that keep cropping up
  • Changes made without approvals
  • Saying NO to changes

Learn:

  • When scope change is good
  • Difference between change and creep
  • How to professionally handle changes

*****

Over the last 25+ years I’ve been part of a wide variety of projects, some went amazingly well, others were complete disasters.  Too often if the Project Manager was struggling the project struggled and even failed.  I have successfully run projects and helped turn around others.  The projects range from small continuous improvement projects to a $1.2 Billion airport expansion.  

I started with little training in project management.  I just jumped in and learned along the way.  Now, I’m sharing what I learned.

Date: October 30, 2013

Webinar Time: 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost: Free!

Register at3 Biggest Project Scope Myths

Bonus: All participants will receive handout materials

Post questions you’d like answered here. I’ll do my best to answer yours during the webinar.

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Quote for Oct 23rd

Learning

I’m still learning, and that’s what life is about.
Cary Elwes

If you are interested in learning more about controlling project scope join me on October 30th at 7:00 pm CST for a free webinar.  Get more information and register here.  Webinar Oct 30th

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Project Communication Challenges

Businessman sleeping at the presentationIf you have been part of a project, large or small, you have seen communication challenges.  These challenges seem to crop up often yet the good news is that they can be addressed.  When you take the time to pay attention to the project’s communications and work at doing it well things will go much smoother for you.

Here’s look at some of the biggest challenges: 

  • Poor Planning – This shows up in several ways: a lack of information, wrong information for the audience, and information at the wrong time.
  • Ineffective Messages – These cause delays in action or decisions, mistakes due to misunderstanding, and confusion about what is happening.
  • Organizational Issues – In some organizations team members are assigned to multiple projects which means the PM is competing for their attention, virtual teams are becoming more common which adds complexity to communicating, and working globally introduces delays due to time zone differences.
  • Language Constraints – As business becomes more global language barriers can get in the way of communicating effectively.  Different meanings for words and gestures, lack of a common language among a global team, and cultural communication styles are all issues the PM must learn to handle.
  • Style and Skills – The communication style and skill level of the PM can introduce challenges.  Very direct people can seem overbearing to those who are indirect while indirect people seem to never get to the point to direct communicators.   Being uncomfortable in front of a group can impact the effectiveness of the message.

The communication plan and its effectiveness is a key component to delivering a successful project.  If the PM or team leader has the skills to adapt to different audiences and different styles they will be more effective.  This helps the project in the following ways:

  • Decisions will get made in a timely manner
  • Tasks are completed correctly when due
  • Changes are handled promptly and with less conflict
  • Problems and issues are addressed properly and promptly
  • Stakeholders understand the changes and impact

Communication is the breakfast of Champions” – Ken Blanchard

If you are a Project Manager or a Team Leader take the time to focus on communicating well and develop your communication skills.  If you are seeing delays in decisions, mistakes, missed due dates, or confusion about changes then you may need to work on improving your project communications.   For more information how you can improve your skills check out a free White Paper on “5 Keys to Effective Project Communication” by clicking here.

Thanks to my colleagues in LinkedIn’s The Project Manager Network – #1 Group for Project Managers for their contributions to this topic.

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Making Hard Choices

Caught Between A Rock And A Hard PlaceWhen you are in a leadership position there will come a time when you have to make a hard decision.  It maybe that you have to fire someone or you must cancel a project or deny someone a promotion.  Whatever that decision is you will be required to act on it.  That is your role as the leader.  Unfortunately you can feel like you are between a rock and a hard place.

The key to being effective in making these hard decisions is in your mindset.  How you react to the situation will determine how your team handles it.

If you dread the decision and worry about it then it becomes bigger and harder to make.  You may also delay making the call which can have a negative impact on your team.

  • If you keep a bad employee because you don’t want to fire someone you are telling your team that you will tolerate poor performance.
  • If you let the team continue working on a dead project you are telling them that their time and efforts really aren’t important because you wasted it.
  • If you hold off on a promotion to avoid hurting someone you have missed a chance to help them grow into the job they want and you have given them false hope.

As you can see all of these are discouraging to a team.

If you embrace your role as a leader and all that it entails you will welcome the chance to make those hard calls.  It doesn’t mean you enjoy firing or denying a promotion to someone.  It means that you are willing to do what is needed to keep your team going forward and growing.

  • If you have worked on correcting someone’s performance and they are not making the grade then let them go.  They may even thank you for helping them get out of a situation that was not good for them.  I’ve seen it happen.
  • When you let someone know they aren’t ready for a promotion yet and give them feedback on what they can do to improve their skills you are helping them grow so they will be prepared next time.
  • If you have to cancel a project that is underway and you are open about the reasons you are helping your team understand the business and they can help make better decisions about their work and projects in the future.

Being a leader means you have to pay attention to the needs of the organization and take care of the people in it.  This means you must make the tough decisions when needed.  If you handle it in a calm and professional manner people will respect you for it.  If you drag your feet and delay those decisions your team will see through it and you will lose some respect from them.  You aren’t willing to stand up and decide; which is your job.  Your team wants you to lead, so go ahead and make the hard choices.  Be firm but fair and above all be professional and considerate when dealing with people.  They will like you better for it.

How have you handled the tough choices you’ve had to make?

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Quote for Oct 16th

FlamesFlaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.
Dale Carnegie

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Do You Persist?

pushThere are times when it seems like nothing is going your way.  How do you react to it?  Do you become a victim of circumstance or do you become a survivor who makes it through?  Often it is easy to quit when things get tough or it seems like you can’t win.

Keep in mind that you may be closer to a break through that will get you to your goals.  Thomas Edison once said:  “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  If he had quit instead of persisting who know what the electric light bulb would have looked like or even when it would have come into existence.  When you have a goal you must keep going no matter how hard it seems right now.

For some great pointers on how to develop the skill of never giving up are found in this post by LaRae Quy:  http://www.laraequy.com/blog/personal-leadership/the-number-one-skill-in-life-is-not-giving-up/.  As she states most often we give up because we are afraid of failing.  This is a fear we develop over time and can become a major roadblock to success.

As shown in these examples if we are willing to keep going, persist in our efforts to reach our goals we can have great success.  We have to get out of our own way.  The title of John Maxwell’s new book says it best: “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.”  The question to ask yourself is: are you learning when you aren’t winning?

If you take the time to learn when things go wrong or when it gets tough you can get past the obstacles and keep moving forward.  If you quit when it gets tough instead of persisting you will be like the miner on the bottom of the picture here.  You turn back right before you reach the pay-off.  True leaders will always find a way to keep going no matter how difficult it seems.  They show the way forward for their teams as well.

Keep going, persist, learn and do something new to move yourself forward.  The rewards will be amazing when you reach your goals?

What is your favorite thing to do that keeps you going when it gets tough?

Picture from http://www.lightweightfunny.com 

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Will You Change Course?

Lighthouse in the duskHere is a powerful parable about the need for flexibility and being ready to change course when needed.

The captain of a ship received a message one night, “Change your direction 15 degrees North to avoid collision”.

A little indignant, the captain replied, “I am the captain of a large ship and recommend you divert 15 degrees South”.

The captain received the reply, “We are a lighthouse”.

No matter who you are, life will require flexibility. Be ready to make an adjustment.

Will you be will to change your course?

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Quote for Oct 9th

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.
Mahatma Gandhi

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