Monthly Archives: November 2013
There are times when you run into a challenge or a problem that you just have to figure out how to get around. It seems like these times always come at the worst possible moment, when you are swamped with things to do, have pressing deadlines or you have reach the point of burnout and need a break. Whenever these occur keep in mind that they can be a road block or they can be an opportunity to learn. How you handle it as a leader or project manager will impact the team around you as well. You set the tone for the rest of the team.
I know that it’s become cliché to say “we don’t have problems we have opportunities” however there is a great mindset hidden in those words. If you look at every problem as a challenge or an obstacle than they will often keep you from moving forward. If you turn your thinking around you can look for the opportunity to learn a new skill or finally defeat an old fear. It really is up to you.
To help you shift your mindset to looking past the obstacles here are 5 strategies:
- Stay positive: Avoid falling into the mindset that things never go well, that bad things happen, or that this will never work. Focus on the end result or goal, and take time to look at the good things that are happening.
- Avoid pessimists: You will find people who are like Eeyore who think everything is horrible and doom and gloom. Avoid them at all costs. Spend your time around people who accept that stuff happens but look for a way forward. Who you spend time with will impact your ability to bounce back.
- Be grateful: Yes it sounds trite and it can be hard to do when things get tough. However, there are always things around you that are good so take the time to notice and appreciate them. Say thank you to people who help you with your challenges.
- Be open: Odds are there is something new you can learn to solve the problem so be open to new ideas, new methods, and new thoughts. These will help you find new solutions and get past the challenge quicker. If you want to move beyond where you are today you need to develop new skills and new knowledge. Look for those nuggets within your current challenge.
- Relax: The good news is that this too shall pass. Nothing stays great or horrible forever. There are times when you just have to hang on and let things improve with time. Sit back take some deep breaths and clear your mind for a few moments. Shut out the negative thoughts and pressures to just calm yourself. Find time to unwind from the pressures for even 10 minutes and you will be better ready to get back to it.
While these are all simple things it can be tough to accomplish them when you feel like everything is going wrong. It takes discipline and resolve to keep these in your mind as you are facing a challenge or obstacle. Keep calm and it will work out.
It is important to surround yourself with people who will help by giving you ideas, support or just a shoulder to lean on. Who you are with has a huge impact on your thoughts and feelings. There are people you can’t avoid who may be “Debby Downers” and want to suck everyone down with them. Work with them when needed and avoid them otherwise. Go to lunch with people who will make you smile and laugh not ones who will moan and groan the whole time. Pick your surroundings carefully.
Focus is a critical component of creating a mindset that helps you get past the obstacles in your path. The more you focus on the good in your world the more good you will see so the more good there will be in your world. It doesn’t mean that negative things will never happen, they will but how you react to them determines the outcome of those events. If you focus on problems you will have problems everywhere.
Whether you are faced with an obstacle or an opportunity to grow is up to you. How you view the situation will determine which one of these things experiences you have. Look for the positive in a bad situation and you will find your way out of the ugliness more easily.
Albert Einstein said it best “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Choose your thinking carefully and make it a great opportunity to learn.
When working with your team do you give them direction or directives? There is a marked difference between these two that will show up in the results of your team. Understanding that difference and knowing how to move towards direction will help you be more successful as a leader.
If you are giving directives you have taken on the role of dictator. This is where you tell people what they need to do to accomplish the team goals and objectives. Dictators take away creativity and initiative from their followers. People learn to blindly go where they are told to go. They will do just what they are told and nothing more. Engagement will drop to all-time lows, the team stagnates, and creativity stops. This is a path to obsolescence.
When you give directions to your team you are enabling them to find the best way forward. This creates an environment that fosters creativity, confidence and high engagement. People are excited to work for a boss who believes they can reach the goals without being micro-managed. In team meetings more and better ideas will be brought to the table resulting in new and more innovative solutions. The team will be more collaborative and will work together to get things done because they all know where they are going.
A benefit of setting direction for the team and letting them achieve the goals independently is that you will have more time to get your own work done. When you dictate every step each person takes, you are doing their job along with yours. There will not be enough hours in the day to get it all done. Free up your time by letting others solve their own problems.
To make this work you must:
- Set clear goals: Let people know what they need to accomplish and where the team is headed. Show how their goals align with the department and organization goals. Make sure everyone is clear on what is needed.
- Invite ideas: Be open to the ideas and solutions your team bring to the table. Ask people what they would do to solve a problem or get around an obstacle.
- Trust your team: As the team shows you that they can come up with solutions to problems let them act on their own ideas. Give them the freedom to make things happen without you when appropriate. Show them you trust their abilities.
- Be a sounding board: Make sure you are available to your team to work out their ideas and find the best solutions. They will still need a sounding board to make sure they cover all the bases. As they gain experience they will need less guidance.
- Have their backs: Your team needs you to be a safety net for them. Help them make good decisions and then have their backs if something goes wrong. That demonstrates your trust in them more than anything else.
Moving towards a leadership style that focuses on setting direction for the team as opposed to dictating actions will create an environment of creativity and growth. Your team will be more productive, more effective and they will grow beyond their current roles. There may be some who never manage to act independently so they may need a different role or they may need to move elsewhere. As a leader part of your job is to nurture new leaders. This is a great way to start identifying the future leaders.
All of us have a great capacity for growth and improvement. We get the choice of doing something with that capacity or not. Life is a journey and each day represents a new opportunity to move forward towards are dreams. Success is a result of action and great success is a result of determined and focused action. Keep moving forward no matter what happens. An obstacle only stops progress if you let it, find a way around it to reach your goals.
What are you doing today to grow your skills and abilities?
Recently I’ve been asked several times about building relationships with clients as a project manager. I am a big believer that having a strong relationship with the client helps you manage the project more effectively. The trick to this is the relationship needs to be professional not personal. This is not about becoming best friends, it’s about business so be professional. The idea also applies to internal customers, bosses, peers or co-workers not just clients.
The question I keep hearing is how do you keep it professional? Too often people assume that building a relationship means something more personal than it needs to be. Here are my top three suggestions for having a professional relationship:
- Be kind and courteous: This is about being civil and polite. Ask how things are going. Make small talk about weather, sports, holidays, family or whatever flows naturally. If the person has been ill; wish them well. Ask how the vacation went. Be interested in them and their interests.
- Keep problems professional: When dealing with issues or problems keep the focus on solutions to issues not personal attacks. Avoid judging actions or behaviors. Strive for win-win solutions that work for both parties.
- Focus on business needs: Remember that you are working with them as a business person, so focus on the business at hand. You are providing a service or product that will provide a benefit for them while providing revenue to you. When you act in a way that advances their business goals along with your own the client will notice and respect it.
The idea is to become a valued business asset to your client. This means someone they can count on to help them reach their business goals. When you are working towards their goals as well as your own, you gain respect and build a great working relationship.
If you are giving what they want while sacrificing your profits and goals you can be seen as weak. Caving to every whim and request for them it raises the question of what you do for other clients. Where else are you giving in and when will that interfere with the clients goals? Also, sometimes the client’s requests are actually detrimental to their goals and they need you to tell them that is the case.
If you become too friendly it can get in the way of the tough decisions. No one likes to point out a friend’s mistake or say no to a friend. In business you must be able to say no and to keep people focused on the end goal. This is much harder to do with friends than it is with colleagues.
Building a good, professional working relationship with a client (or boss or co-worker) makes it easier to have a conversation about what is working and what isn’t working. When you know that you have the person’s respect you can safely point out concerns and get them addressed. Using the three strategies above makes it simpler to look at issues as business and get them resolved without the drama personal relationships can bring to the table. Once you have that professional relationship you can tackle tough problems in a mutually beneficial way. It takes respect and trust to make it work. Build both and you will be a better manager of projects and people.
Leaders have an obligation to prepare the next generation of leaders. This becomes challenging because generational biases can get in the way of that development. As a leader you must work to see past the differences to build upon similarities and strengths of the emerging leaders.
The next generation of leaders will be the Millennials. As Baby Boomers retire at record rates there are not enough Gen X to fill all the voids left by the Boomers. This means the Millennials will be stepping into leadership roles even sooner than their predecessors.
As you start working to prepare Millennials for leadership roles there are several questions you need to ask yourself:
- What are the strengths of the person I am working with?
- What experiences do they need to have to be ready to lead?
- Am I making assumptions about their skills based on a generational bias?
- What can I learn from them?
- How can I help this person grow into a successful leader?
- Have I focused on generational stereotypes instead of on the person?
These questions will help identify the areas where you might be getting in the way of the development of the next generation of leaders. This new generation of leaders has so much to offer and so much to learn. It is up to the current leaders to help them do both.
Some of the value that Millennials bring to an organization is seen in the following areas:
- Technology utilization: They are wired and see technology as a fact of life and work so get their input on how it can serve the organization’s needs.
- Collaboration and connecting: They have been raised to work in teams and find it very natural to do so. Also, they connect with others via technology much faster.
- Inclusion: Often they see value for the team from a much wider variety of people so they welcome the contributions of each member.
- Desire to make a difference: One of the great things about Millennials is that they are interested in making a difference and being part of something bigger than themselves.
Tapping into these strengths will help Millennials feel valued as the next generation of leaders.
How are you developing and working with the next generation of leaders?
To gain more insights about working with the next generation of leaders check out the Lead With Giants tweetchat on Monday Nov 4th at 7:00pm EST (#leadwithgiants).