December 10, 2014

The Opposite of Mad

Last week I was driving my eight-year old to school. Out of the blue, he piped up, "The opposite of being mad is being thankful."

I was a bit surprised. I thought about my brilliant son and said, "Yes, Zachary, I guess the opposite of being mad is being thankful."

He then continued, "The opposite of being worried is being excited. The opposite of happy is sad. Now you say a few."

"Well, Zachary, I think you've covered everything," I replied after giving it some thought.

"Haven't you ever thought about emotions, Mom?" he responded.

I laughed, "Yes, I have thought about emotions."

I gave a class that day and told them about my conversation in the car. One lady surmised that perhaps they had talked about emotions in school. So, when I picked Zachary up, I asked him if they had.

"No, that was just to break the silence," he said.

Many times I have started to get angry at a situation or a person, probably for not being the way I wanted them or it to be. I think maybe a lot of us are like that. So, I am focusing on catching myself in those “almost mad” moments and turning them around - what is there to be thankful about instead?

Maybe, like my eight-year old, I can understand that the opposite of being mad is being thankful.

November 13, 2014

Always Tell Why...

I recently fractured my ankle and got a cast on it at the hospital. They gave me a little booklet saying not to get the cast wet. However, I didn’t know why and didn't bother to ask.

In the next few days, it was pouring rain and I had a few classes to give so I was out and about. Even though I covered my cast with the required green garbage bag, it got wet on the bottom. On the weekend, my foot was starting to get pins and needles and it didn’t stop. I did know this was a sign to contact Emergency. So I called 811 and they said go in right away.

When I got there, they chastised me for getting the cast wet. It turns out my cast was a gremlin. (Never get it wet! Thank goodness I didn't feed it after midnight.) It was no longer a cast, but a piece of wet plaster, and not helping my ankle at all.

If I had known why a wet cast was a problem, I would have gotten into the hospital a lot sooner.

The moral of this story is always tell why (and if you're not sure why, ask!)

October 28, 2014

One Step at a Time

I had the best business advice ever last week. Karen Mombourquette, my tarot card reader, said, "Take everything a step at a time."

I laughed; assuredly this was the best advice for me, as I was starting a trend of over-committing to multiple projects. I was ignoring a simple truism of Project Management: break down the work into manageable steps and follow the plan.

I am now getting back on goal and following Karen’s advice. For the work I have already committed to, I am taking a step back and saying, "Okay, how can I get what I said I would do done?" The answer falls in line with Karen's advice: break it down! (Where was that WBS when I needed it?!)

One small step at a time can get us to big results. And no small steps, of course, leads to foggy thinking and nothing getting done.

(Thanks Karen!)

August 21, 2014

A Successful Person

A few weeks ago while I was visiting my mother in Newfoundland, she received a letter in the mail. It was a note from a doctor’s office saying she had an appointment for an urgent blood test. She had told me about the appointment, but it wasn't till I saw the letter that I realized it was urgent.

When I mentioned to my mother about the urgency, she shrugged and said, “I’ll deal with it when it comes.” I was impressed.

A lot of people become obsessed when they think they might have a problem, especially with their health. Not my mother. I would guess she did a quick rundown in her head about the options and alternatives, and decided her plan of action - which was to take it as it came.

I was going to write about how my mother’s situation is a perfect example of risk analysis - identify the risk events, figure out the probability and impact, and determine your response. And then I saw this article, and thought, “Hey, my Mom is one of those “successful” people.” (Of course, I already knew that!) She did exactly what the article said. So, whether the success is making money or achieving a happy life, here’s some research: How Successful People Stay Calm.

July 03, 2014

Managing Summer Interns

During the summer, organizations often take on students for intern positions. I have hired a few students over the years and find that it's important to have a plan for what they are going to do. No plan means it takes a lot more of my time.

Here's an article with helpful tips for employing summer interns:

3 Tips for Successfully Managing Summer Interns

I hope your summer is off to a great start!

June 25, 2014

Project Managers - Focusing to Get Results

“A recent story about the use of transcendental meditation by top Wall Street traders was given a lot of attention, but I just see it as more evidence of what our research has shown for years,” says Hannah Shaw Grove, an authority on the behaviours and characteristics of the high-net-worth markets and the executive editor of Private Wealth magazine. “The professionals who are the very best at what they do and have monetized their skills always find ways to stay focused on the most important tasks and forget about the trivialities.”

(excerpt from: To Become Wealthier Do What You Do Best, Forbes Magazine)

When I read this article in Forbes Magazine, I thought - that’s what project managers do: focus on the important tasks.

We have a few tools to help with this, not the least of which is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). In defining a WBS, we are looking at what the end result/product/service is to be, and breaking that down into manageable groups. We then define the steps to get there and follow these steps to achieve the outcome. What could be more focused?

How about those diversions along the way? Project management is largely based on having a good plan, being prepared for what could lead the project astray, and having a change control system. Whether the changes are related to the roles and responsibilities of the project, budget, scope, etc., following the plan and using the system will help keep us on track.

And, like the article said, meditation is an excellent input to keeping focused. I started meditating about a year ago after a few nudges. I can attest that meditation has changed my outlook on life and work - more positive and calmer. If making the big bucks is what motivates someone to start meditating, I say go for it. The results will enhance focus and much more.

There are a few more project management tools and techniques that help us stay on goal. If you'd like to discuss, send me an email at

May 29, 2014

Project Management: How to Implement Trust

The basis for a good team is trust.

Team members who trust each other have positive expectations of each other. This is a great underpinning for resolving conflicts and discussing problems.

Simon Sinek talks about trust and leadership in his TED talk Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.

So, how do we create a culture of trust? The basis is not that difficult: make the decision yourself to trust. Model and share this with your team. When making decisions yourself and with your team, reflect on whether those decisions agree with your value of trust.

So, as Simon says:
What I learned was that it's the environment, and if you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do these remarkable things, and more importantly, others have that capacity, too. 
You see, if the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.

May 22, 2014

A Great Team

“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people.”
- Steve Jobs

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

This week I'm writing about a tremendous team that I am proud to have worked with. It was the Steering Committee for the PDSummit (Professional Development Summit) in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The PDSummit was the grand finale of eight months of planning and preparation by a team of about ten people. Our team met every week (except Christmas) on the phone for half an hour to plan, come rain or shine.

Each meeting had an agenda put together by the Chair. The Chair also distributed minutes right after each meeting. Some members of this team had been together for a few years, and other members were brand new.

Why did this team work? I think a large part was the great leadership, including the roles being allocated and processes defined and followed. Another large part was the attitudes of the team members, which contributed to the collaborative culture.

I did some research on great teams (thanks Internet!) and here are some links about strong teams. I believe this team met all the criteria stated in the following articles:

May 15, 2014

The Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification is the Certification Most Likely to Get You a Job

Research was done by Toni Bowers, Managing Editor of TechRepublic, and award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She found that the PMP is the most frequently desired certification according to Dice.

So, if you are wondering if PMP is something worthwhile – many people think so!

April 30, 2014

Happiness is... being a Project Manager

There is a lot of research on happiness these days. One of the latest books to come out on the subject is by Shawn Achor - Before Happiness. Mr. Achor gives five strategies for being happy. I found these strategies to be similar to those required for being a successful project manager:
  1. Use success accelerants - signals that tell your brain success is possible. I would liken this to collecting metrics in a project; with measurement, we have guidance on what to do to achieve success.
  2. Set meaningful goals. What is a project if not a goal to be reached?
  3. Eliminate as much as possible the negative emotions of fear, pessimism and doubt. This sounds like providing the vision and leadership that any project needs to be successful. When pessimism starts to abound, find ways to cut it short and turn it around.
  4. Share your good feelings of happiness with others. Hopefully that would happen in any team environment. I have certainly been in environments where one person's happiness inspired and buoyed a whole group (and cases where the opposite was true, as well).
  5. Focus on the positives rather than the negatives. I don’t think I have seen any successful team where there was a focus on the negative!
So, a happy person can be likened to a successful project team. How does your team line up?

April 16, 2014

Being Brave (and Project Management)

This is my year to be brave. Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave” totally captures my intent:

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I have a feeling it’s not just me who is valuing bravery these days. I read a newsletter that touched on this thought. Lea Brovedani wrote, “Although agreeableness is positively correlated with teamwork, it is negatively correlated with leadership success.” Isn’t disagreeing sometimes a brave thing to do?

Project Managers are required to be brave. I think it should be written into every Project Manager’s job description:

  • Be willing to stand up for what you think is right (without totally alienating the customer)
  • Be prepared to let your team and executives know when things are not on track
  • Be willing to make decisions without too much grief!

All of these are acts of bravery. So, if you need inspiration for bravery as a PM or in any other role, take Ms. Bareilles’ advice:

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

April 09, 2014

Lag, Lead or Laugh

Last week I was in Newfoundland and Labrador giving a project management course.

I asked the class, “Does anyone know what a lag or lead is?”

One guy piped up, “Yes, a lag is what you stand on.”

Took me awhile...

(Thanks Jeremy, I have been laughing all week.)

March 20, 2014


On April 3, my company is starting up a program where senior executives will tell their stories. These leaders have inspired me by their generosity of spirit.

The executives giving these sessions are all busy people. They travel, they manage good-sized companies. All of them, when asked, agreed to share how they got to where they are.

Just considering this inspires me. That these individuals would be willing to take the time and present their tips, tools and advice. This isn’t about making more money or getting publicity - they already have enough of those.

So thank you, Halifax Executive Mentoring Series presenters!

If you are in the Halifax area and are interested in learning more about this series, please see

February 26, 2014

The Sender-Receiver Model

Why the Sender-Receiver Model is true:

My mom said, "Honey, please go to the store and buy a bottle of milk. If they have eggs, get six."

I came back with six bottles of milk.

She said, "Why did you get six bottles of milk??"

I said, "Because they had eggs!"

February 19, 2014

Have you been Asked yet Today?

I had a conversation with a potential client the other day and they asked me question after question. Probably thinking I was getting irritated by it (if they knew me better they would know this certainly wouldn't be the case), the client said “We teach all of our consultants to ask questions. If they don’t understand something, they are told to ask more questions.” Wow!

This is definitely the kind of place I would like to work. My husband can vouch for this. If he tells me he was talking with so-and-so the other day and they went to the Bahamas, I ask “When did they go? For how long? Did they go with someone? ...” until he says, “I didn't interrogate them!”

One of the biggest problems with projects is not getting a complete view of the objectives (scope). This stems from a few things, including not spending the time and effort to find out what the client really wants. How do we find out what the client wants? ASK.

Why wouldn't we ask questions? Probably from a fear of looking stupid – after all, whatever we do, we are supposed to be experts in our field. Our customers come to us to get their problems solved. Isn't asking questions a sign of weakness?

I would claim that asking questions is a sign of confidence.

When I was in elementary school there was a classmate who asked the most seemingly stupid questions. That classmate is now a doctor. I could see that my classmate wasn't stupid – rather, appearing unintelligent was less of a risk than not knowing.

So, as my potential client so clearly demonstrated, asking questions is a key to success.

February 13, 2014

Is it Really a Project?

I asked a colleague the other day how everything was going with his project. He told me that what he was working on was supposed to be a project, but really it was operations.

The word was that the company had described the work as a project to win the contract. However, the work wasn't seen as a project.

Was it a project or not?

First, I would say that if the team member did not think he was working on a project, he was not. No matter if there was a project name that he put on his time sheet each week.

How could it have seemed to be a project?

My guess is that the Project Manager and executive saw it as a project. There was an account code assigned and surely there were reports to the customer on the deliverables. And, hopefully, there was an end result in mind.

However, if the project team members did not see any sign of this being a project, it surely wasn't to them. (If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it...)

If there were regular team meetings with outcomes the team was working toward - that would be seen as a project. Even if there weren't team meetings, but regular communication from the Project Manager, possibly outlining the overall status of the project, there could be some semblance of a project.

What was the missing key?

I would say communication from and to the Project Manager.

So, I guess my colleague was right - this was operations cleverly disguised as a project.

February 06, 2014

Big Data and Project Estimates

March Madness is due to hit in full force soon. I try to ignore this fact but my husband warns me every year when the season is approaching (so I can know why he is hibernating).

For those who aren’t basketball fans, March Madness is the American (United States) National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments.

This year it is especially big news because Warren Buffett, together with his company, Berkshire Hathaway, are offering $1 billion to any person who can correctly pick the winners of all 63 games in this year’s NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. The odds, without tools, are 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

To add to your chances of winning, Paul Bessire has created an application called The Predictalator. He says this software has been incredibly accurate in predicting outcomes of sports games. If you want to spend time on going for the billion, there’s a tool.

The Predictalator analyzes multitudes of factors and converts them into probable outcomes.

Let’s apply these estimates to projects. If we had a project with 64 team members (just like there are 64 teams in the Men’s NCAA tournament), and asked each team member for an estimate on an activity, we would have 1 in 9.2 quintillion odds that all of the estimates would be correct; correct meaning exactly equal to the actual outcome. If we had only 64 activities in a project – which would be a pretty small project – and had one estimate for duration for each activity, again the odds would be 1 in 9.2 quintillion that the total estimate would be on target.

Which leads me to think – why do project managers, sponsors, team members and clients (okay, project stakeholders in general) often expect projects to be “on” their estimates? Certainly the odds are wildly against that.

Of course, as we get closer to the end, our estimates for the project budget and duration are much more accurate – just like when we get down to the final game in a basketball tournament.

While The Predictalator teaches us there is no safe bet on games or projects, perhaps a good webinar for basketball bettors would be on Rolling Wave Planning, to continuously update their estimates.

January 30, 2014

Positive Questions

Have you ever used affirmations? Have they given you results? I have read lots on the power of affirmations but must admit I have never really used them.

However, when I saw “The Book of Afformations” by Noah St. John, I was intrigued. Mr. St. John came upon a realization that our subconscious mind acts upon questions. If we pose questions to ourselves, things happen.

I was happy to test out this theory. For the past few weeks, I have reframed my thinking to be in the form of positive questions. I think, along the guidelines provided by Mr. St. John, “Why do I provide such great service to my customers?” Interestingly enough, using this questioning technique has coincided with many opportunities to prove my customer service skills.

This questioning technique can be related to projects. For teambuilding, perhaps the project team could think this way: “Why do we get our work done so efficiently? Why do we provide such great value to our customers and company?” These questions are starting points. Your team will undoubtedly come up with excellent questions themselves. Then, it will be interesting to see what happens.

It doesn't cost anything to use the technique and I would encourage you do to so. Let me know your results!

January 16, 2014

Project Management Truisms Ring True

I went to a fascinating presentation on lessons learned from projects yesterday. The two presenters analyzed ten projects they had worked with and came up with twelve lessons learned. I listened intently.

Of great interest to me was that these were not project management professionals and did not even use the term 'project management' in their talk. What lessons did they come up with? Among them were:

  1. Senior leadership needs to be committed to the process and open to the outcome.
  2. Make sure the purpose and intention of your project are clear. If you are confused, everyone else will be too.
  3. Go slow to go fast. Planning and implementing an effective and meaningful project takes time. Are you ready for this?

Do these findings sound familiar to you? The findings underlined for me that the theories of project management ring true. The personnel involved in these projects discovered these truths from their own experience.

So, I conclude that whether you think in project terms or not, having a sponsor you can rely on, having a clear vision and purpose for what you are doing, and planning are fundamental principles of success for any work.

January 10, 2014

Risk and Dr. Seuss

I was talking with a friend over Christmas who told me of a crisis she had been through. She was in a foreign country and received word that a large contract of hers back home was having major unexpected difficulties.

Here she was, far from home and her customer. What was her first thought? Panic. The second was “Hold on a minute, what can I solve by panicking?” So she called a colleague who helped her out, she put the situation in a positive frame in her mind, and let it go.

The result? The contract wasn’t cancelled, things settled, and my friend got to enjoy her holiday at peace. Whether the contract was cancelled or not, my friend had decided that it would all work out, so that was a success in itself.

As Project Managers, we have decisions to make all of the time. Some of these decisions may cause us stress if we feel out of control. So - what to do? Besides having a risk strategy in place, with risk responses planned for those potential threats or opportunities, having the mindset to deal with stress can go a long way. If we know that things can happen and frequently do (thanks Dr. Seuss!), then we can handle them. Of course, when we work out how to proceed if a crisis does occur, we don’t need to focus on the potential problems and can dig up the prepared solution when/if they happen. Like having the masks ready-to-go on the airplanes.

May you be off to Great Places!