Posts Tagged 'leadership'

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

The Project Manager’s “No Swerve Zone”

Projects can have a lot of moving parts and a lot of people making decisions that impact those moving parts.  People come with their own set of parts, including their personalities, their productivity and their ability to work well with others in a team environment. Some of these complications are just the way things are, but not all of them.  Seems like there are areas where we can try to simplify our projects and avoid being like those drivers who create a lot of noise when they swerve into another lane while making a simple left turn

Watching this driving style got me thinking about the projects I am working on and the people who are members of the project team. Perhaps this need to over-complicate things extends into the project and people realm at work has the same source as people who turn by using your “right of way” lane when the turn lane doesn’t seem big enough.  Why is it that a simple turn becomes so difficult to accomplish in a simple way?  Why is it that a simple project task becomes so difficult to complete on time and within its scope? Why do some people just make things more complicated than they need to be?

Some people come with the built-in ability to take the shortest, most efficient path to their goals.  Other people seem to complicate things for themselves and for others on their way to the same finish line.  I read an interesting article about how effective leaders can keep things simple.  Authored by Elizabeth Cipolla, the article “Don’t Overcomplicate Your Leadership” points out three simple ways for project leaders to stay focused and follow the simple path.

1. Just act. When people make a mistake, discuss what happened and find a solution with the individual or with the team. Then you can move on and get the real work done for your project.

2. Shut up.  Listen to your team and to your people. Sometimes their ideas about what we are doing and how we are doing it are the right way (and the simplest way) to get ‘er done on our projects.

3. React to fact. Watch the emotion and react to the facts and the logic of the situation versus the emotions that can get in the way of effective decision-making and problem-solving on our projects.

My car driving experiences lately have been entertaining to say the least.  I have watched other drivers take simple turns to the left or the right and make them into overly complicated efforts. This is especially true when they swerve out of their turn lane into my lane and force me to swerve my own vehicle in order not to have a collision. What’s up with these folks?  I think they need to “react to fact” and stay in their own turn lane for everyone’s sake and safety!

Happy simplification and welcome to the project’s “no swerve” zone!

Susan Weese

Reference:  Cipolla, Elizabeth, “Don’t Overcomplicate Your Leadership”, The Post Journal, 22 September 2013,  retrieved from

Five Short-Term Coping Mechanisms for Project Management Pressure and Stress

Every successful project leader faces pressure and stress when attempting to deliver projects on target, on time and on budget.

Use these five specific strategies to help yourself deal with pressure and stress in the short term.

1.       Be your own supporter: Be a friend to yourself rather than beat yourself up!

YOU have to be on YOUR own side to be a successful project leader. No one knows YOU better than YOU know YOU. Accept YOUR strengths, limitations, and project challenges.

2.       Acknowledge your concerns by writing them down: Consider using a personal journal. Develop an action plan to reduce the problem. Make a list of all the good things you have.

You may not know what is causing your stress, exactly how your body responds to stress, or how you cope with stress. To find out, suggests you use a journal to keep track of each time you feel stressed.

Write down:

  • What may have triggered the stress. Guess if you aren’t sure.
  • How you felt and behaved in response to the stressful situation (symptoms of stress).
  • What, if anything, you did to cope with the stressful situation.

Look over your notes to learn how often you are feeling stressed and how you are coping. Ask yourself which ways of coping with stress work best and which don’t work or have other effects you do not like.

The more notes you take, the more you can learn about your stress patterns. Keeping the journal for 1 to 2 weeks is best, although taking notes for even 1 or 2 days can be helpful.

3.       Release your emotions: Disperse aggression that can result in stress. Counter anxiety with laughter.

  • Music. Write a song about what is bothering you. Music has the power to move you deeply and has the power to heal.
  • Confide in someone. If you feel you can’t talk to the people in your “Friends & Family,” look somewhere else. Be honest with yourself.
  • Talk to pets or nature. If you’re uncomfortable talking to people, try an animal or nature.

 4.       Distract yourself: Occupy yourself with useful activity. Focus on a time past your current problems.

Here are some suggested thoughts and involvements to consider from Stress Management for Dummies:

  • Recall something in your life you’re grateful for
  • Remember something good that happened to you
  • Think of something you’re looking forward to
  • Go to the gym
  • Read a book, newspaper, or magazine
  • Watch some television
  • Go to a movie
  • Talk to a friend
  • Work or play on your computer
  • Play a sport
  • Immerse yourself in some project or hobby
  • Listen to some favorite music
  • Work in the garden

5.       Set aside ‘worry time’: Cut down on worry by limiting the time you give to it. Challenge your worries – what good are they doing?

When people with adjustment disorders, burnout or severe work problems used techniques to confine their worrying a single, scheduled 30- minute period each day, they were better able to cope with their problems, a new study by researchers in the Netherlands finds.

The study made use of a technique, called “stimulus control,” that researchers have studied for almost 30 years. By compartmentalizing worry — setting aside a specific half-hour period each day to think about worries and consider solutions, and also deliberately avoiding thinking about those issues the rest of the day — people can ultimately help reduce those worries, research has shown.

“When we’re engaged in worry, it doesn’t really help us for someone to tell us to stop worrying,” said Tom Borkovec, a professor emeritus of psychology at Penn State University. “If you tell someone to postpone it for a while, we are able to actually do that.”

The new study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.


It’s important that you build self-awareness of how to respond to pressure and stressors in your life. Giving your best performance in all areas of your life is what being an excellent project leader is about.

To help you cope with pressure and stress, please take 10 – 15 minutes to reflect on and respond to the following questions:

  • What are the current stressors in your life?
  • What other stressors might you have to face in the near future?
  • What are the current stressors that affect you personally on your project?
  • What impact does workplace stress have on your working environment and your personal life?
  • How well do you deal with pressure?

For more on how to handle pressure and reduce your stress, have a look at Learning Tree, Intl. Course #297:  Personal Skills for Professional Excellence.

James L. Haner

Care and Feeding of Your Company’s Intrapreneurs

While many managers may not currently be familiar or comfortable with the concept, it certainly is time for change where the intrapreneur is concerned. It’s time to update the management training courses, seminars and books and get folks on the bandwagon. Intrapreneurs are your corporate innovators; the people who are lateral thinkers, have great ideas and know how to make those ideas a reality for your business.

In their post in the Harvard Business Review blog titled “Recognize Intrapreneurs Before They Leave”, Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai take a closer look at the risks companies take when they do not perform the proper “care and feeding” of their in-house entrepreneurs, who are also called by the term “intrapreneurs.”  The authors list the top 6 behavior patterns of successful intrapreneurs.  These patterns are very interesting because they are not what I thought they would be.  Here these patterns are, in summary, for your review.

  1. Money Is Not the Measurement. I totally get this one. According to the authors, the primary motivation for intrapreneurs is “influence with freedom.” Rewards and money are great, but they are not the reason why an intrapreneur is an agent of change within an organization.
  2. Strategic Scanning. I have worked with these agents of change and watched them always look one step ahead of everyone else to the next best thing. Wish this was a skill that could be bottled up and sold to everyone. Just think of the great ideas we could come up with by being one step or more ahead of the game when it comes to change.
  3. Greenhousing. Intrapreneurs remind me of gardeners, bringing the seed of an idea to fruition over time before sharing that new idea with the rest of us. As the authors say, intrapreneurs “…tend to ideas in their greenhouse, protecting them for a while from potential naysayers.”
  4. Visual Thinking. I am married to a visual thinker and it is truly amazing to watch my husband combine brainstorming, mind mapping, and design thinking in order to solve a problem or do something differently.
  5. Pivoting. Intrapreneurs feel no need to stick to the normal path or corporate strategy – that’s what makes them such effective agents of change. The authors list a few examples of pivoting.  For example, Steve Jobs pivoting Apple from an education and hobby computer company to a consumer electronics company.
  6. Authenticity and Integrity. Intrapreneurs are typically not mavericks. After all, you can be honest and true and still be a corporate innovator and “get ‘er done” staff member.

Perhaps it is easier in some roles to be intrapreneurial and appreciated by your company, especially if your job was always intended to be that type of job.  When that is not the case, it may be difficult for the person having innovative ideas and their managers to know exactly what is expected and how to handle successful internal innovations.  I suppose one response to this could be to minimize the visibility of the situation and keep moving on in “business as usual” mode.

Seems to me that intrapreneurs create momentum for other folks within the organization. There are folks out there who are creative, enthusiastic and ready to take risks to do great and wonderful things within the organization. For their fellow staff members, the opportunity to ‘come along for the ride’ and possibly find an incentive to become their own agent of change is an excellent opportunity indeed.

Does your organization promote an environment where its intrapreneurs feel safe to share their ideas, both good and bad?  Financial bonuses also provide incentive for folks to share these ideas, although intrapreneurs don’t seem to care so much about the money.  Striving for a win-win is the way to go, although it seems like a delicate balance in some companies. .

It almost seems as though having intrapreneurs in your business creates a sort of Catch-22 situation. The intrapreneur is giving their idea to the business to do with as they will, so it isn’t actually just their idea once it is shared, is it? I wonder if this causes many folks not to share their ideas so they can still keep them as their own.  I would hate to think about how many great things were not shared that could benefit not just the individual but also the organization and its customers.

Susan Weese

Reference:  “Recognize Intrapreneurs Before They Leave” by Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai, retrieved from

Introvert, Extrovert or Something Else Entirely?

Seems like not a day passes when someone doesn’t mention the term introvert or extrovert when referring to themselves or to another person they work with. People are often labeled as introverts if they are quiet, calm or shy when dealing with other people. On the flip side, people who are chatty, friendly and outgoing are frequently labeled as extroverts. Is this the correct way to use these terms? Let’s review the common definition of introvert and extrovert so we can answer this question.

In my understanding, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone.  For introverts, being around other people drains their energy. As an introvert myself, I often avoid or minimize the time spent in social situations because being around people really does drain off my energy over time. Funny enough, I consider myself a friendly person with pretty good social skills.  After being with people for any length of time, I need time alone “in the cave” to recharge my batteries.  I also like to sit alone and think and typically find myself thinking before I speak.

On the flip side, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. This is the exact opposite of Susan the introvert who gets energized or re-energized by being alone.  My mother is an extrovert and really enjoys being around other people. Unlike me, she would rather talk with and be around other people because she finds this to be energizing as well as interesting. My mother would far rather be out in a social situation versus sit alone and think or read a book. We are definitely at opposite ends of the spectrum.

In many ways, I see myself as an “extroverted introvert”.  I can be as adept at the social situation as my mother, but doing so wears me out over time. When my mother and I attend the same social functions, I come home feeling exhausted while she comes home all jazzed up. I have always had to manage my energy when I am working since the workday drains my energy as the day goes on. By the end of the day, I am really tired but the customer and the folks I work with will never know that. They see the high-energy, driven and focused consultant they hired to solve their problems versus the woman who wants to get back to the hotel, take off her shoes and close her eyes for a bit to reverse the energy drain.

A friend told me once that introverts make up about a third of the population here in the United States while extroverts make up the other two-thirds. Seems like the projects and teams I work with in IT are a little more weighted towards the introverts, have you noticed a similar trend?

Seems like both introverts and extroverts need to work on their professionalism and how they translate your approach to others and to deriving energy within that framework.  I have always thought that it is the people who make the workplace and the work itself interesting, whether those people are labeled as an introvert or as an extrovert. Of course, interesting can be a good thing or a bad thing but that is a subject for a future post.

Susan Weese

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