Posts Tagged 'project leadership'

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead



Sally Helgesen reviewed Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead in Strategy+Business magazine as one of the Best Business Books 2013: Managerial Self-Help. This blog adapts her review to apply to project management/project leadership.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead combines exhortation, analysis, and memoir in addressing the question of why so many women who start their careers with high potential and high hopes fall behind as the years progress, resulting in a continuing paucity of women in project management positions. Until recently, this was widely attributed to the lack of a “pipeline,” a problem that, it was assumed, would resolve itself once enough women were hired on projects. This has not happened.

Although Sandberg recognizes that substantial extrinsic obstacles stand in the way of women’s success (organizational culture, blatant and subtle discrimination, and, of course, child-care issues), she’s also convinced that internal obstacles (issues related to women’s own thinking and behavior) play a role. This is what she sets out to examine, drawing on her own experience and that of other women. She buttresses her observations with well-integrated academic research on such issues as how success and likability are correlated in women (negatively, as it turns out), differences in how men and women perceive their own qualifications for advancement (men rate themselves more highly even in cases where women significantly outperform them), and how men and women perceive their employability (dishearteningly, women apply for open jobs only if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed, whereas men apply if they meet 60 percent of the requirements). Such data makes it difficult to argue with Sandberg’s central thesis that women’s tendency to question their own skills often plays a role in limiting their opportunities.

The Facebook COO freely admits that she has made every mistake she discusses and tells her own story with refreshing candor. For instance, when Larry Summers, her mentor and thesis advisor at Harvard, recommended she apply for an international fellowship, she ignored the advice because she feared it would make it harder for her to find a husband. Later, working for Summers at the World Bank, she made up for this strategic error by taking to heart his advice that she “bill like a boy.”

Sandberg demonstrates a gift for self-awareness that avoids both self-adulation and false modesty. She admits she didn’t know how to read a spreadsheet when she arrived at the World Bank and describes humiliating moments when she made poor decisions, received withering feedback, or even cried. Although she’s been criticized for these admissions by those who believe successful women must always inhabit the straitjacket of the unvaryingly positive role model, her honesty has stood her in good stead, both in her career and in the warm persona that animates the book.

She expresses humility and is not reluctant to assume a lower-status position if she has something to learn. She’s a skilled questioner who actively shows that she is listening so others will be comfortable opening up. She credits her success to recognizing that truth lies in the eye of the beholder and that statements of fact are therefore likely to put others on the defensive. She acknowledges that listening and being open were hard skills for her to learn and says she has to work at being “delicately honest.”

To improve your listening skills, have a look at Learning Tree Course 294: Influence Skills: Getting Results Without Direct Authority.

James L. Haner

Are You in Project Management? You are in $ALE$!


In To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others, Daniel H. Pink builds a strong, clear case that selling, which he defines broadly as “the ability to move others,” has become an essential project management practice rather than something that only salespeople do.

Sally Helgesen reviewed the book in Strategy+Business magazine as one of the Best Business Books 2013: Managerial Self-Help. The rest of this blog adapts her review to apply to project management/project leadership.

Yet even as more of us need to integrate sales skills into our project management repertoire, the nature of what constitutes skilled selling is changing. For instance, information parity is replacing information asymmetry. Such asymmetry historically gave salespeople and project managers an edge. But now, Pink notes, both can benefit by taking the high road—being honest, direct, and empathetic, and seeking to build relationships for the long term. In a transparent world, where we all have the means to research our choices, Pink says, “Moving people depends on more sophisticated skills and requires as much intellect and creativity as designing a house [or] reading a CT scan.”

The core of To Sell Is Human is a lively section titled “How to Be” that spells out Pink’s new ABCs of selling. Instead of “Always be closing,” the traditional sales mantra, Pink posits a new watchword for moving others: “Attunement, buoyancy, and clarity”—an ABC that’s as useful to project managers as to salespeople.

Pink offers research indicating that people with lower status tend to be keener perspective takers, more cognitively attuned to the moods and needs of those with higher status and so better able to discern what will move them. He therefore advocates the strategic assumption of lower status when trying to win someone to your cause. Pink also presents studies upending the conventional wisdom that extroverts are the best at moving others. It turns out that ambiverts—those able to move back and forth between action and reflection—are more skilled at attunement because they’re likely to be better listeners than are extroverts.

Daniel Pink’s examination of buoyancy is spot-on. He notes that being good at moving others requires great persistence as well as an ability to deal with the discouragement that comes as a result of “wave after wave of rebuffs, refusals and repudiations.” How can we stay afloat amid this ocean of rejection? By drawing on three techniques that social science identifies as most vital for resilience.
First, an individual must practice the right kind of self-talk in advance. What works best, per Pink, is using an interrogative voice before you undertake the task at hand. For example, asking yourself, “Can I make the head of this division understand what we’re up against?” and then listing the reasons you can do it is the most effective way to establish a buoyant spirit. (The corollary is to remedy any reason that you can’t.)

The second step to buoyancy is maintaining a high degree of positivity, a catchall term for a variety of positive emotions. As it turns out, the optimal ratio for tapping into the power of positive thinking is three positive emotions for every negative one. This strategic approach to creating positive experiences can also help project managers improve their resilience.

The final step is having the right explanatory style—that is, the kind of story you tell yourself to explain what happened when things go wrong. Pink cites an extensive study showing that people who give up easily tend to explain negative events to themselves as permanent, pervasive, and personal. By contrast, buoyant individuals tend to frame negative encounters as temporary, specific, and external. It’s a great technique for anyone who is a project leader.

To Sell Is Human shows us how we can all benefit from further insight on how to become more persuasive and thoughtful project leaders – especially towards our team members.

James L. Haner

Eleven Project Leadership Principles Worth Doing


Project managers, did you know there is a 1983 Army Leadership Guide that contains eleven principles of leadership well worth adding to your project leadership skill set? Funny how sometimes things survive the “test of time”, isn’t it? On this first day of June, here are some traits to consider the next time you are doing some self-analysis of your project leadership skills, straight from the US Army Military Leadership Guide.

1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. As a project manager and a leader, we all need to look for opportunities to fine tune and improve our leadership skills. There is nothing quite like taking a good look at your project leadership skills and accentuating the positive skills, minimizing the negative things you might do and adding some new skills to the mix.

2. Be technically proficient.   Seems like the best leaders I have worked for and with on my projects knew their jobs and were very much “in the know” about my job, its tasks and the desired outcomes as well. That didn’t mean these leaders micromanaged me or were more technically proficient at the task level, though.

3. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. Every effective project manager is both responsible and accountable – for their project and for their team. Effective leaders look ahead to the future and also look back at the past for lessons learned to help the team succeed.

4. Make sound and timely decisions. If you don’t have a serious toolkit of   problem solving, decision-making, and planning tools, it is time to construct one. Effective leaders also involve the team in these activities – it never hurts to have more than one person thinking about how to solve a problem or do something differently.

5. Set the example. I have always thought that project managers set the tone for their team. They also set the bar for their team’s behavior and work ethic. Knowing this, who wouldn’t want to set the bar high for the team and encourage everyone to “strive to excel”.

6. Know your people and look out for their well-being. Taking care of your team should be a project manager’s top priority, right up there with achieving the project’s objectives and delivering a successful outcome. A manager I worked for many years ago told me that she thought of her team as a garden, and she was the gardener who nurtured her team members to help them grow.

7. Keep your team informed. All project managers know the number one cause of project failure is poor communication – with internal and external stakeholders, team members, the organization, specific individuals or all of the above. Effective leaders are capable communicators at all levels of the organization, and with one to many people.

8. Develop a sense of responsibility in your workers. This relates back to leadership trait #3. It can be tough to be a responsible leader when your followers and peers are not so responsible. Fostering and teaching your team to be responsible in the workplace pays dividends for everyone down the line.

9. Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished. Effective delegation skills are essential. This item makes me think about delegating work packages to team members or team leaders: involving the team in defining and planning what needs to be done, agreeing to the work, keeping you up-to-date with the status of the work and making sure the work is completed correctly. Remember, no micromanaging required.

10. Train and work as a team. Ask yourself, is your project team really a team or are they a group of people who work for you that are just doing their jobs? Teams of people do more than just show up to do their 9 to 5 jobs. High-performing teams work together to achieve a goal or objective, and oftentimes produce more than the sum of their individual parts.

11. Use and develop the full capabilities of your team. Leading your project team and encouraging them to achieve their full potential requires some effort on your part. To me, the idea of servant leadership fits really well here as you enable and encourage your team to excel but try to also get out of their way.

Susan Weese

 

Reference: U.S. Army. (October 1983). Military Leadership (FM 22-100). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

APMG Launches New Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) Certification


APMG International recently announced the launch of their new Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) qualification. This new and relevant qualification was developed in partnership with the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI). BRMI has partnered with APMG International to promote wider adoption of world-class BRM training and facilitate widespread availability of BRMI professional certifications.

The BRMP qualification provides foundation-level knowledge of Business Relationship Management (BRM). This qualification is a comprehensive foundation for Business Relationship Managers at every experience level who require knowledge of effective BRM as part of their roles or are seeking certification to enhance their careers. The new BRMP qualification targets project managers, business analysts, architects, external service providers and representatives of shared services organizations including IT, HR, finance, sales, and strategic planning. This may be a worthy credential to acquire and enhance your PMP or PRINCE2 certifications.

The Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI) is a non-profit corporation that serves the business relationship management (BRM) professional community by providing membership, certification and professional development to help maximize BRM capability in organizations around the world.

Check out the new BRMP qualification on the APMG website and let me know what you think.

Happy studying for your new certification!  I am having fun preparing to sit this new exam!

Susan Weese

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 http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2014/01/07/top-10-workplace-trends-for-2014

 

Adding Thought Diversity to Your Project Teams


 “The future of workplace diversity is here, and it’s not what you think. In fact, it’s how you think.” — Alison Griswold

In Griswold’s article, “Why ‘Thought Diversity’ is the Future of the Workplace”, she looks at the idea that diverse thinking methods are the next trend in workplace diversity. What a great focus for today’s project managers and hiring managers as they build their teams and organizations.

Seems to me like the demographic trends in today’s workplace are not the “barn burners” that they used to be. The combination of HR training programs and the existing acceptance and tolerance of diversity found in our younger staffers allows many organizations to thrive on diversity.

That makes these organizations and their project teams ready for Griswold’s thought diversity. “By mixing up the types of thinkers in the workplace, … companies can stimulate creativity, spur insight, and increase efficiency.” Perhaps it is time to vary the types of thinkers we have in our organizations and on our project teams.

Just think of the possibilities of building a team containing thinkers of many different types.  I would like to have analytical thinkers, problem solvers, creative thinkers, detailed planners, and spontaneity seekers all on the same team and see how things go.  Sure seems like varying the types of thinking in an organization or on your project teams will encourage everyone be more innovative and think “out of the box.”

Thoughts?

Susan Weese

Reference:  Griswold, Alison. (2013). Why ‘Thought Diversity’ is the Future of the Workplace. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-future-of-workplace-diversity-is-here-2013-9

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


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