Archive for the 'motivation' Category

Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2014

According to China Gorman, CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, the Top 10 workplace trends for 2014 are:

  1. Millennials make their mark
  2. Global goes global
  3. Talent, talent, talent
  4. Investing in development
  5. Values training
  6. Wellness matters
  7. Employers up the ante
  8. Always on work environments
  9. Using inspiration to motivate
  10. Forward thinking

Just based on these 10 trend titles, you can pretty much define what the meanings are behind these trends. FYI, the Millennials are the generation with ages ranging from the early 20s into the early 30s. Some generational models call the Millennials by another name, Generation Y or “Gen Y”. My daughter will turn 32 in April, and is right on the cusp between the Millennials and Generation X. There are several trends in this list that I identify with, starting with “Wellness matters”.  The other two trends in my top 3 are “Investing in development” and “Employers up the ante”.

“Wellness matters” Seems to me that wellness really does matter more these days. In fact, wellness has actually become an employee benefit.  Many companies offer incentives and in-house programs focusing on wellness, such discounts on programs like Weight Watchers, in-house yoga classes and on-site gyms.  My daughter is a big fan of incentives such as these, and it seems that a large proportion of Millennials in the workplace will use these incentives when they are available.

“Employers up the ante” Many companies have gotten better at upping the ante (and raising the performance bar) by recognizing happy employees equal a happy bottom line. The benefits many businesses offer to their workforce are competitive and are a great way to attract new hires and keep the staff that they already have. This also links into the motivation and inspiration trend, don’t you think?

Investing in development” I have been lucky enough to spend time consulting and training with large firms who want to put more efficient and effective project management processes in place and teach everyone how to use those processes correctly. Investing in development and values training fall right in line with what I have been observing. Many companies go to great lengths when developing and training their people. Enhanced staff skills can definitely have an impact on customer service, satisfaction and the bottom line.

I am curious, which of these 10 trends do you identify with the most?  Do you think the trends you prefer are related to your age and generation, or is it a bit more complicated than that?

Susan Weese

Reference: Madell, R. (2014). U.S. News Money Careers. Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2014. Retrieved from


Lessons in Leadership from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos

After the Denver Broncos Super Bowl loss earlier this year, it took me a while to realize that there were some positive lessons to be learned from watching my favorite team lose at the very end of the season.  My husband and I are serious Broncos fans, which means we always watch the whole game from start to finish, win or lose. In this particular game, the team and its quarterback provided a number of lessons on leadership and some things I think will work very well on my projects and with my teams.

Here is my list of leadership lessons learned from the Broncos loss in this year’s Superbowl and Peyton Manning’s behavior, both on and off the field that day.

Lesson 1: Never stop trying.  As the Broncos got further and further behind, the team continued to play their game.  After watching the Broncos play all season, it was painful to watch their offense be ineffective against the Seahawks.  However, the team stayed on the field and in the game right up to the bitter end.  Seems like a good approach to getting your projects completed, too.  Never retreat and never surrender.

Lesson 2: Be gracious, even in defeat. After the game, one of the first things Peyton Manning did was to walk over to Richard Sherman of the Seahawks and ask if he was okay after injuring his ankle and leaving the game.  After a game in which Sherman led the Seattle defense at smothering Manning and the Broncos offense, Manning still sought out Sherman after the game to ask Sherman about his ankle injury. I agree with Sherman about this: “To show that kind of concern for an opponent shows a lot of humility and class.”

Lesson 3: Don’t play the blame game. People are more important than their mistakes.  I will never forget Manny Ramirez, Denver’s center, hiking the ball over Peyton Manning’s head in the Broncos first offensive play of the game. After the safety, cameras showed Manning and Ramirez on the sideline briefly talking. My guess is the conversation was about not doing something like that again.  Sounds like a good example of how to handle issues and problems on your project team – discuss the issue or problem with no finger-pointing or raised voices.

Lesson 4: Mind your manners. I found it funny how the only team captain among the eight to shake the hands of honorary captains Joe Namath and Phil Simms after the coin toss was Peyton Manning. His mother must approve, I know my mother called me and mentioned this very thing after watching the game.  Good manners are never a bad thing, in football or when working on your projects.

Lesson 5: Get over it and move on. Peyton Manning stopped to sign T-shirts and autographs on his way out of MetLife Stadium Sunday night after the loss to Seattle.  Enough said.

I am looking forward to the next football season and hoping to see the Broncos in the Superbowl once again! Stay tuned…

Susan Weese

What are the Three Kinds of Focus Every Project Leader Needs?

According to Daniel Goleman’s new book FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence,

1) An inner focus for self-awareness and self-management;

Many consider flow to be an ideal state. That’s when your concentration is utterly absorbed – and you’re most likely being challenged. You’re better able to tune out your mental chatter because you’re fully engrossed in a task. That can feel great since you’re not only being productive, but you’re also not distracted by negative self-talk or ruminations.

The opposite is when we are facing a challenging situation or a fearful experience. An “emotional hijacking” renders us unable to function appropriately. We can overreact or underreact, demonstrating nonassertive behavior. Here is a way to remember fear:

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real

  • Imagining the worst that could possibly happen
  • Create mental stories not based on fact
  • Limiting our ability to think rationally
  • Scaring ourselves into inaction

We need to become more aware and begin to anticipate those circumstances in which emotional reactions are just that – reactions. Understanding our emotional and mental habits and setting an intention to recognize them will help us respond appropriately to the real not imagined circumstances we are facing.

2) A focus on others for empathy, clear communication and interpersonal effectiveness;

Goleman tells this story. Think of two people who work in your organization: one a level or two below you, and the other a level above. Now imagine getting an email from each of them. Ask yourself how long it would take you to answer those emails.

Chances are the one from above you respond to right away. And the one from below you are likely to answer when you can get around to it.

That difference in response times has been used to map the hierarchy in an organization. And it reflects a more general principle: we pay more attention to those who hold more power than we do – and notice less those who hold less power.

Here is what Ruth Malloy, global managing director of the Hay Group Leadership and Talent practice, has to say about the positive behaviors of a boss (project leader) that make us stay at our jobs.

Best Boss (Project Leader)

  • Takes an active interest in me, listens to my perspectives and concerns
  • Is self-aware; open to feedback, has a sense of humor about himself – comes across as genuine
  • Inspires me around the goals of our organization; lays out a vision that I find consequential and energizing.
  • Provides feedback and support in a way that is encouraging and helpful; empowers me
  • Has a positive outlook, even tempered – even under stress

3) and a systems focus.

“Systems blindness is the main thing we struggle within our work,” says John Sterman, who holds the Jay W. Forrester chair at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

One of the worst results of system blindness occurs when project leaders implement a strategy to solve a problem — but ignore the pertinent system dynamics.

“It’s insidious,” says Sterman. “You get short-term relief, and then the problem comes back, often worse than before.”

The problem gets compounded by what’s called the “illusion of explanatory depth” where we feel confidence in our understanding of a complex system, but in reality have just superficial knowledge.

After some practice, you can improve the three kinds of focus every project leader needs.

James L. Haner

Project-Managing Your Writing

Wouldn’t you like to write better contract proposals, business plans, executive summaries, recommendation reports and internal business communications, such as e-mail?

The element of persuasion is what sets business writing apart from other forms of writing. Professional business writing convinces your audience to do what you want, even though there may be initial resistance.

You need to project-manage your writing by breaking it into tasks (WBS), scheduling them (Gantt Chart), and identifying any resources you need (RAM).

A four-step technique is:

  1. Identify the objective
  • What exactly are you being asked to write about?
  • What do you need your readers to do when they have read your text?
  1. Analyze your audience
  • Who are your readers?
  • What do they need to know?
  1. Research
  • What sources will you use for your research?
  • Do you need help from a Subject-Matter Expert (SME)?
  1. Draft, edit, and revise
  • Improve the quality of your writing

When Stephen King finishes a book he puts it away for 2 months and then looks to cut 15% before his editor even sees it.

Crow and Parkin-Dillon suggest the POWER process for project-managing your writing.


  • Plan
  • Identify objective
  • Analyze audience

Organize information

  • Perform research
  • Generate topics
  • Reduce topics
  • Structure topics


  • Prototype document
  • Test prototype
  • Draft document


  • Review
  • Proofread
  • Mark up pages


  • Implement changes

Editing and Rewriting are iterative and interactive steps of the POWER process. Using the POWER process helps you avoid last-minute crises and meet due dates with ease.

Crow and Parkin-Dillon recommend these approximate times for a writing project:

  • Prewrite and Organize—40 percent

—   Plan

—   Identify scope and  objectives

—   Identify audience and scenarios

—   Research

—   Generate topics

  • Write—30 percent
  • Edit and Rewrite—30 percent

—   Review and edit

–    Proofread

—   Revise

—   Publish

Keep Prewriting, Writing, and Rewriting Separate

You need to plan, draft, and rewrite your document. Don’t rewrite as you write. You’ll drive yourself crazy and probably never finish.

Many people think revision means they somehow failed. Nothing has ever been written that wouldn’t have been improved by taking the opportunity to revise it.

Professional writers know the real work is done in the rewriting, not in the writing.

Persuasive writing is about assessing your customers’ needs and responding directly to those needs. Audience analysis, brainstorming, outlining, establishing credibility, stating credentials, avoiding logical fallacies and appealing to intelligence are persuasive writing tools and techniques you can use to be successful.

For more on how to project-manage your writing, have a look at Learning Tree, Intl. Course #219: Business and Report Writing Introduction.

James L. Haner

Using Networks to Expand Your Influence

Networking (who you know) expands your influence by giving you access to personal and professional resources . . . anytime and anywhere in the world.

We can use social networks to build useful project management relationships that are mutually beneficial. Networking cannot be a one-way thing. The more we create a structure of support throughout our project management world, the more we are able to demonstrate positive influence, build useful alliances and healthy coalitions . . . that can help us deliver projects on target, on time, and on budget.

Our most productive project work is done by, with, and through others. We work with and through others to produce results by:
• Gaining their support and buy-in
• Utilizing their knowledge and expertise
• Receiving their sponsorship
• Understanding what they need from us.

Networking supports successful project influence in three ways:
• Provides rapid access to people and their support when you need it
• Builds your understanding of people’s priorities, perspectives, and personalities
• Enhances your information, expert, and personal power.

Effective project leaders network throughout the project management life cycle.

We network with stakeholders by:
• Identifying them and eliciting requirements
• Acquiring, developing, and managing resources
• Planning risk management.

We network within the organization by:
• Building and maintaining relationships
• Following up on tasks and activities
• Leading the project team.

Relationships and knowledge, rather than positions, achieve results by:
• Finding out what’s going on
• Knowing who to talk to.

You can build up diverse networks within:
• Your immediate environment (office, building)
• Your business or organization
• Your industry
• Broad groups (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, business groups)
• Online communities.

The more networks the better!

Are you a member of social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and business networks (LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc.)?
Here are some examples of opportunities to network:
• Make contacts at social gatherings
• Attend conferences and technical seminars
• Become known in expert Internet groups
• Utilize online networks to stay in touch with business contacts
• Join professional organizations
• Volunteer for expert committees

According to Remidez and Jones, project management requires communication practices that go beyond transaction confirmation to include managing relationships, building trust, and managing stakeholder expectations. It seems likely that project managers can enhance the communication effectiveness of teams by incorporating social media. Therefore, it is important for project managers to understand the relationships among communication practices, trust development and the affect that social media have on them as they apply to the execution of projects. Not only is it important for practitioners to understand these relationships, but researchers and project management software vendors would benefit from understating the role of social media in managing projects.
Question: What steps can you take to increase your networking and the potential of your networks to increase your influence?

For more on how to use networks to expand your influence, have a look at Learning Tree, Intl. Course #297: Personal Skills for Professional Excellence.

James L. Haner

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