November 28, 2013

I thought I was a good listener...

I always thought of myself as a good listener. But recently I realized I wasn't the great listener I thought I was.

In the middle of answering a question in a class, I realized I hadn't really listened. If I did, I would have asked more questions to understand what the person was getting at. I wasn't satisfied that I provided the best answer.

So I decided to focus more on listening. Something most of us do every day - and something most of us don’t take courses in, unlike speaking or even writing. Research (my focus group of my kids) seems to say that most of us think we are pretty good listeners.

I was a bit surprised to find out that there is an International Listening Association. Pamela Cooper, vice president of the association, said:

"There's a misconception that when we hear, we listen, but listening is really hard work, and it takes a great deal of concentration."

Malcolm Gladwell said that listening well is a gift and that listening is difficult because the more you listen the more unsettling the world becomes.

I would agree. The more I listen, the more I think outside of my comfort zone. The more I focus on listening, the more I realize I have much to learn, and that there is much to learn from everyone’s point of view.

So - here’s to listening and learning.

November 22, 2013

Make Sure Opportunities Find You

I recently conducted a global webinar for over 1300 participants and received some great feedback and questions. One repeated question was: "How do you ensure opportunities do not pass you by?"
  1. You need to ask. Easy to say, difficult to do. We seem to hesitate for fear somebody will say no. But if you don't ask, it is a definite no. Believe in yourself, your capability, and that confidence will prompt you to ask and open up opportunities.
  2. Focus on your strengths. It is easy to let our weaknesses hold us back. A weakness is only defined because it is somebody else's strength. I'm not sure why - just because somebody is great at something, that defines us? Define yourself, focus on your strengths, and tell everybody.
  3. Learn to say YES. We all have opportunities that come before us and many times it is easy to make excuses as to why we cannot partake. Although these excuses are valid short term, they will hold you back long term. This implies that you need to raise your level of risk tolerance but your increased confidence from focusing on your strengths will offset that.

November 14, 2013

Managing Your Multiple Projects - Get the Exec on Board

Project Managers know that executive support is crucial for successful projects. But did you know that senior management support and organizational culture are especially important for those project managers who manage multiple projects?

A study done on team culture in managing successful multiple projects found that organizational culture was more important, by far, than the culture created by the project managers and teams. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive. Wouldn't you think that it was the environment created within the project teams that made the most difference towards the success of the project?

Commitment, communication and rewards for performance were the signifiers of a strong organizational culture. In organizations with a strong culture, project team members felt committed to their projects, contributed strongly to project development, communicated with each other to transfer information and knowledge, and were recognized and appreciated for performance beyond expectation.

Senior managers are usually the ones who lead the development of organizational culture. To create this multiple-project-supporting culture, the study found that senior management established a group-oriented organizational culture. That is, they supported project teams and valued working in groups as opposed to individually. They “walked the talk” in leadership by setting in motion policies for team rewards, as opposed to individual ones, and supported group decision-making techniques.

Senior managers developed a collective sense of mission and good relationships with those who followed them.

Organizations that support teams in policy and action = strong success for multiple projects run by one project manager. If you are an executive, are there policies for rewarding group performance that you can introduce? If you are a project manager, how can you incorporate the strengths of the organization, for example, in relationship building or how teamwork is supported, to improve the success of your projects?

Thank you for the research done by:
Managing a Group of Multiple Projects: Examining the Influence of Team Culture and Leader Competencies, Peerasit Patanakul and Zvi H. Aronson, Stevens Institute of Technology - Wesley J. Howe School of Technology Management, January 23, 2013

November 07, 2013

Unglamorous work?

Bill Gates is famous as the founder of Microsoft. Today, he spends much of his time and considerable money on the eradication of polio in the underdeveloped world.

With his great help, polio has been eradicated in India. This effort has taken a lot of hard, unglamorous work. All by his own choice. The man who has enough money to do whatever he would like.

Most of us have nowhere near Bill Gates’ money. We imagine, if we did, how we would buy a castle or travel the world a few times over, or some such lofty indulgence.

However, Bill Gates has gone from Head IT Manager to working for the underprivileged.

If we think we are doing something not as significant in the world, it might be worthwhile to think about what Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” says:
The truth is, few people are working on the most glamorous things in the world. Most of them are doing real work - which means that most of the time they’re doing a heck of a lot of drudgery with only a few moments of excitement. The real work of the economy gets done by people who make cars, who sell real estate, and who run grocery stores or banks. One of the great findings of this study is that you can be in a great company and be doing it in steel, in drug stores, or in grocery stores. 
The basic message is this: Build your own flywheel. You can do it. You can start to build momentum in something for which you've got responsibility. You can build a great department. You can build a great church community. You can take every one of these ideas and apply them to your own work or your own life.
Bill Gates built his own flywheel a few times over. But we can all do it.

And while you are it, remember: project management principles will help with all that building!

Click here for more information on Bill Gates’ work on the eradication of polio. Click here for more on Jim Collins and “Good to Great”.