Category Archives for Leadership

10 Terrific Traits of Exceptional Project Managers

Think about the project managers you've worked with through the years. Which ones were unusually good? Which ones qualify as exceptional project managers?

I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of project managers in my career. Here are some of the traits and behaviors that made them stand out. How many of these traits do you possess?

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"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill

1. Persistent

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill

Projects are filled with pot-holes. Project managers and their team members make mistakes, create defective products, and stumble. Persistent project managers learn from their failures and lead with renewed enthusiasm.

2. Opportunistic

“Opportunities don’t happen; you create them.” -Chris Grosser

Project managers are risk managers that identify, assess, and manage risks including threats and opportunities. Great project managers have an eye for seeing, exploiting, and enhancing opportunities.

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Nine Awesome Benefits in the World of Stakeholder Management

John has been failing to exploit and enhance the benefits of stakeholder management. Why? He's not been be convinced of the benefits. Allow me to pull back the veil and share nine benefits of stakeholder management.

If you are a Project Management Professional (PMP), you’ve likely studied Chapter 13 of the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Stakeholder Management, which was added in the Fifth Edition. PMPs know about identifying and assessing stakeholders. You’ve learned how to develop a stakeholder management plan of when to engage stakeholders at in a project.

You understand the concepts. You have the book knowledge. But are actually engaging your stakeholders?Continue reading

Four Reasons Why You Struggle to Engage Stakeholders

Colin Gautrey

This is a guest post by Colin Gautrey from Learn to Influence. Colin is an author, trainer and executive coach who has specialized in the field of power and influence for over ten years. He combines solid research with deep personal experience in corporate life to offer his audiences critical yet simple insights into how to achieve results with greater influence.

Few things are possible in large or complex organisations without buy-in from stakeholders. To get that buy-in, you have to engage them. In this article, Colin shares four reasons why you struggle to engage stakeholders.

So, you diligently reach out to them to bring them up to speed, get their input and elicit their support for your initiative. Naturally, you are convinced that it is in their very best interests to engage with you, they have a great deal to gain from this exciting project.

And that is when the problems start.

Your emails go unanswered, your calls ignored. As time advances, things become desperate as you realise that you are up against a deadline. Trying harder to get them talking to you just seems to make things worse.

Should you escalate?

Well, that would indicate to your boss that your influencing skills are lacking. So, what else can you do to get things moving again?

Firstly, you’ve got to pause a moment. Instead of trying harder, start to think more deeply.

Secondly, you really need to check the attitude you have towards your stakeholder. The longer failure to engage continues, the more negative attitudes become. Although this may not be the cause of lack of engagement, it will definitely make it harder to remedy the situation.

Thirdly, get a clear appreciation for the reasons why they may be holding back. This takes some doing, but when you move beyond mere suspicion and assumptions, you are much more likely to find the winning actions to gain the engagement you need.

Fourthly, based on your reflection about the real cause, adjust your approach so that you tackle the cause head on.

To help you delve more deeply into the underlying causes, consider:

  • Time. Although you may suspect otherwise, quite often they genuinely do not have the time to give justice to your request. Think about it. You’re busy, too busy to do many of the things that you would like to do. Maybe, just maybe, they would love to talk to you but haven’t been able to find a moment to do it.
  • Interest. You’ve heard this before, if someone has sufficient motivation, they can always find the time. For many stakeholders, especially those subject to extreme time pressure, they may not yet be aware of all they can gain from engaging with you. Your first sale is the time and priority in their schedule. Your second sale is what you want them to agree to.
  • History. Is there something in the history of your relationship that may be causing them to resist your attempts to engage with them. Think hard about this one. It might be that you’ve made life difficult for them in the past, or maybe you’ve let them down badly. Alternatively, something may have happened that they feel guilty or embarrassed about. Going further, what about their history with your boss?
  • Suspicions. Do they trust you and your motives? Perhaps something else is going on that makes them a cautious. This could be as simple as your new reporting lines (hence concern about whose side you are now on) or as distant as your friendship with a political rival they have just skirmished with.

The key here is to be as accurate as possible. You may need to invest some serious time to investigate this and talk to other to other stakeholders. While this may seem expensive, what pain are you already facing while hitting your head against a brick wall?

Regardless of the time it takes, if you don’t know why they are unwilling to engage, any attempt to engage them will be based on guesswork.

Seven Project Management Influencers to Watch

If you had to pick a few people who are helping you grow and mature as a project manager, who would those people be? Perhaps these individuals are influencing you through a blog, online videos, online courses, or books. Grab a cup of coffee as I share seven influencers that I follow.

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1. Susanne Madsen

From the UK, Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognized project leadership coach, trainer, and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership. Her focus is helping you become a confident leader, able to inspire, motivate, and deliver value.

In addition to her books, Susanne provides great articles on her website. She shares her knowledge through videos on her Susanne Madsen YouTube Channel. Susanne also actively shares her knowledge on Twitter @SusanneMadsen.Continue reading

How to Actually Boost Your Team’s Performance

Why is that one project team can vastly outperform another team although both teams have similar skills? Motivation. If you want to boost team’s performance, speak encouraging words consistently.

Each day presents opportunities for you to breathe life into your teams. Your teams are more than a group of zombies. They are human beings with emotions that want to make a difference in their world.

Here are ten words that can stir up your team members and help them to stay focused, remain committed, and jump the next hurdle.Continue reading

How to Engage Stakeholders Through An Internal Blog

There are many ways to engage stakeholders. You can facilitate discussions in your project meetings. A business analyst may elicit requirements. The lead tester may develop a team for testing. Let’s look at a different form of engagement–the use of an internal blog.

3 business people reading blog on a tablet

Engage: occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention)

One communication tool that I’ve used for enterprise programs such as implementing a Project Management Office (PMO) or an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Program is an internal blog. Blogs are a form of pull communication used for large volumes of information or for large audiences such as an organization. Subscribers access the blog content at their own discretion.

What’s An Internal Blog?

An internal organization or company blog is a regularly updated website or web page that is written in an informal or conversational style. An individual or a small group may run the blog. Blogs are a great way to share internal news and knowledge, improve company and team communication, and inspire stakeholders.Continue reading

Do You Really Care About Your People?

Do you really care about your people? I mean really.

I have to admit there have been times in my project management career when I cared more about the project than the people. After all, I was under a lot of pressure to deliver the project come hell or high water. And my reputation and career were on the line.

When I think back, I’m not proud of how I handled some situations. I said and did some things that caused others harm. Nothing unethical; just ungracious, unkind, and uncaring.

Can you relate?

Care For Your People First

The Story of William Osler

In his book—The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader— John Maxwell shared a story about William Osler, a doctor, university professor, and author who practiced medicine. Osler once wrote:Continue reading

Wonderful Things Happen When Your Team is Unified

Team values drive the team’s behavior and actions. If the team values efficiency, individuals will look for ways to get greater results with less effort. Project managers who value communication seek to improve understanding between stakeholders.

picture of paper dolls holding hands

Many individuals assume that all the team members have similar values. While everyone may agree on project goals, they may not agree on the same path to success.

Does everyone value respect, trust, and encouragement in their day-to-day interactions? Team members will be more productive when they encourage one another and when project managers express appreciation.

Project managers rarely discuss values. Why? Because they see values as fluff. Teams are under pressure to execute and deliver. Project managers may not feel that they have time to clarify values.

So, how can we engage our team members and have a meaningful discussion on values?

Project managers can create a team constitution when initiating projects. What is a team constitution? It is a list of shared values. As the team creates the constitution, ask team members to reflect on previous projects. Ask them to identify desired attitudes and behaviors.

Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved. -American poet Mattie Stepanek

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How to Take Care of Poinsettias (and Project Teams)

I recently had a friend ask me — since I have an agricultural background — how to take care of her Christmas poinsettia. She said, “The leaves have been turning yellow and falling off. I think I’m killing it.”

How to Take Care of Your Poinsettias (and Project Teams)

Poinsettias have a reputation for being hard to maintain. I asked a few questions such as:

  • How many hours of sunlight has the plant been getting?
  • What’s the temperature in your house?
  • When and how are you watering the plant?
  • Are you fertilizing the plant? If so, how much?

Based on her answers, I knew the primary problem was insufficient light. Poinsettias like six to eight hours of filtered sunlight and temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, water the plants when dry to touch, and drain the saucer. What about fertilization? No fertilizer is required when the plant is in bloom. Want to know more?

Are Your Team’s Leaves Turning Yellow?

You may have the best intentions, but you may be over managing and killing your team. How can we revive and maintain a healthy team?

First, it would be helpful if you knew your team’s thoughts of your leadership and management. Ask and listen carefully. You might ask a few team members one-on-one, “Hey, I’m looking for ways to lead more effectively. Would you mind answering a few quick questions?”

  • What should I do more of?
  • What should I do less of?
  • What should I continue?

Ultimately, you’ll have to determine your actions going forward, but you may be missing some simple things that could make a big impact. Just the fact that you would ask these questions would speak volumes. Leaders are intentional in creating a vibrant culture and involve others in that culture.

“What most people want in a leader is something that’s very difficult to find: we want someone who listens.” –Seth Godin

Second, consider what the team needs to do their jobs and how well they are working together. Here are some additional questions you may ask:

  • Do you understand the goals of the project?
  • Do you have the tools you need?
  • Do you clearly understand your role and responsibilities?
  • How’s the chemistry of the team? What could make it better?
  • How can I improve the communication?

Taking Action

After carefully considering the needs of your team, develop a simple plan to put in action. You may find yourself doing less and getting better results. And keep in mind — teams, like plants, need consistent care to flourish. Best wishes!

[callout]Are you an Intentional Project Manager? Many project managers possess good technical skills, but some lack interpersonal skills such as leadership, influence, conflict management, decision making, and facilitation skills. That’s why I wrote The Intentional Project Manager and created the FREE Companion Course. I hope you’ll check it out.[/callout]

8 Things All Bad Project Managers Have in Common

Bad project managers create project cultures filled with stress, confusion, and little progress. Unfortunately, many of these individuals are not aware of their behaviors.

8 Things All Bad Project Managers Have in Common

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Let’s run through a list of eight things that all bad project managers have in common. And let’s talk about things to do to remedy these behaviors.Continue reading