Category Archives for Personal Development

Project Summit – Business Analysis World

I had a great time at the Project Summit / Business Analysis World in Atlanta. I always enjoy to making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, learning some new things, and having the chance to speak.

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10 Things Successful Project Managers Never Tolerate

IMG_0219In my breakout session, I had the privilege to speak on the topic of 10 Things Successful Project Managers Never Tolerate from my book The Intentional Project Manager. I am thankful for an engaged group of participants who asked great questions and provided insights from their real world of projects.

If you wish to see the slides and notes for my presentation, click here. I have also created a short course in teachable.com — The Intentional Project Manager — where you can watch the presentation in short video segments (about 3-5 minutes). Here is the class curriculum:

The Intentional Project Manager Online Course

The Intentional Project Manager Online Course

How to Accomplish Your Awesome Project Management Dreams

Everyone wants a bright future. How can we improve our lot in life? How can we discover positions that leverage our experience and talents to fulfill our dreams?

Tom has been working at AAX for four years as an information technology project administrator, mostly managing small projects no one else wants to do. Lately, Tom has felt unchallenged with the menial tasks he’s been given; he knows he has skills and knowledge that’s not being tapped. Tom has been thinking about taking the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam and applying for a project manager position.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

You may feel a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities. You may feel a million miles behind everyone else.

Simple Secrets to Advancing Your Career

If you want to advance your career, start by defining your career goals. Then determine what may help and what may hinder the achievement of those goals (sounds like risk management to me). Let’s look a little deeper.Continue reading

5 Project Questions That Will Make You Feel Uncomfortable

Imagine that you are at a social gathering where your friend John begins a challenging conversation. John asks some probing questions to the group, questions that hit home with you. Unknowingly to the group, the questions shine a light on some things that are not right in your life. At an appropriate moment, you excuse yourself from the uncomfortable discussion.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Sometimes we need to hear hard questions, personally and professionally. Project managers need regular quiet times in their lives where they can think deeper about their attitudes, behaviors, and actions. While excessive introspection is unhealthy, we should periodically examine our lives to understand the deeper issues in our life.

I want to ask you five questions. My motive is not to MAKE you feel uncomfortable. Rather, my aim is to help you identify the deeper things that are limiting your effectiveness.

As you consider each question, be willing to ask yourself: Am I REALLY being honest with myself? Here we go…Continue reading

What’s Your Favorite Project Management Book?

Project managers have the opportunity to learn from the best. Reading books is like sitting down with an author, having a cup of coffee, and listening to their distilled insights.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

What have you been reading lately? If you are preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, you’ve likely spent a lot of time in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). That’s great, but project managers today need more than technical knowledge.

The ideal skill set – the Talent Triangle – is a combination of technical, leadership and strategic and business management expertise. The list of books below provides resources for the different aspects of the Talent Triangle.Continue reading

3 Superior PM Skills – Which one do you need to work on?

Have you ever encountered a friendly tour guide who just started their job and does not know any more about the local area than you do?

Have you had a child join a sports team where the coach lacked basic leadership and motivational skills?

Perhaps you’ve seen a brilliant doctor but found his manners less than pleasing.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

When people are looking for a project manager, they want someone who can meet the total needs of the project. They want someone who possesses a wide range of skills including technical, industry, and soft skills.

If your past three project teams were to evaluate you, what would they say is your most limiting factor? Maybe you have great technical skills but lack the skills to properly staff and develop your project teams. Perhaps you find yourself at a loss when trying to help your sponsors align your programs and projects with your organization’s strategy.

None of us are perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses. While project managers should leverage their strengths, let’s not fail to discover the skills that limit us most. What’s the bottleneck in our project management career?

“75% of organizations rank leadership skills as the most important for successful navigation of complexity in projects.” -Project Management Talent Gap Report

Let’s look at three superior skills that project managers should possess.Continue reading

17 Powerful Ways to Learn Project Management

Years ago, I decided that I wanted to become a project manager. I had a great job managing about 50 Information Technology professionals, but the company I was working for was not supportive of project management. I made the difficult decision to change companies and jobs.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

I was hired as a project manager by my new employer, but frankly, I knew very little about project management. Furthermore, I was not a very good project manager…I had lots to learn. How did I learn? How did I apply the new knowledge in practical ways to drive project success?

Fortunately, I had a great boss and mentor. Theron took time each week to coach me, to share articles, and to point me to books. He also challenged me to get my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, which I did. Since that time, I’ve been on a journey to learn and apply project management to help companies deliver products and services.Continue reading

10 Mistakes Unhappy Project Managers Make Daily

Some project managers find themselves unhappy…some miserable…some lost.

What can we do to right the ship? How can we get our footing again and move forward with meaning and purpose?

Stressed Young Businessman at Office

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The starting point is finding a place where you can invest your gifts and talents to meet the deep needs of the world. Beyond this foundational premise, let’s consider mistakes unhappy project managers make.

  1. Not growing as a project manager. When we stop learning and growing, life gets dry. Discovering new things keeps life fresh and enables us to do our jobs more effectively. How can we grow? Read. Take a project management course. Join a mastermind group.
  2. Worrying about things outside of your control. Project managers may find themselves dwelling on things outside their projects that they don’t control. It can consume us. Let go of the things outside of your control. Be a good steward of the things WITHIN your sphere of control. Perform with excellence. 
  3. Not forgiving someone. Someone hurt you on a project…really bad…three years ago. It may have been intentional or maybe not. Either way, that past grievance is keeping you from reaching your greatest potential. The unforgiveness is only hurting you. Forgive the individual. Release it. Put it in the past.
  4. Not addressing a problem team member. You have someone on a project team who is a slackard. You and others are constantly having to follow up with this individual. Other team members are being adversely impacted. Coach the individual. Help them see how their action or lack of action is hurting the team. If the individual continues to misbehave, get rid of this bad apple.
  5. Failing to take care of yourself. Some project managers are selfless servants. These individuals give until the tank is dry. They mean well, but they fail to recognize their finiteness. We must first take care of ourselves. Why? So we have the energy and health to serve others. Take time off from work. Exercise. Get adequate sleep. Maintain a healthy diet (okay, have a milkshake every now and then).
  6. Not focusing on what matters. When we fail to prioritize our work, we make everything of equal importance. We cannot be all things to all people. Work with your team to prioritize the work. Complete the most important tasks. Realize that some things won’t get done.
  7. Seeking everyone’s approval. Some people are approval addicts. These individuals exhaust themselves trying to appease everyone. Don’t seek the trophy of compliments. Simply serve others with humility.  
  8. Not trusting your team members. “People follow leaders by choice. Without trust, at best you get compliance,” says Jesse Lyn Stoner. Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for teams to perform at their highest level. Look for opportunities to entrust your team members with responsibilities.
  9. Fearing failure. If we want to grow, we must embrace adversity and failure as a part of our lives. See your mistakes and failures as opportunities for personal growth. Persevere. Don’t give up. Press on. 
  10. Failing to live in the present. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” -Matthew 6:34. As a project manager, I spend lots of time planning for the future. So much so, I can lose sight of today. I fail to enjoy the present. Carpe diem – seize the day – live in the present!

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Viktor Frankl

The Masters of Project Management

One of the events I enjoy each year is the Masters; a premier golf tournament held in my home state of Georgia. I have carefully studied the masters of golf each time I have attended. What is it that allows golfers to reach the summit of the golf world?

The Masters ofProject Management (1)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

I have also watched many project managers through the years. Some project managers outperform other project managers exponentially. These project managers have superior soft and hard skills. They are the masters of project management.

Traits of World Class Performers

What are the traits of world class performers? World class performers practice hard, receive coaching, and sleep and rest.

Practice

World class performers practice in a consistent and disciplined approach. They put in many more hours than average performers. Their thinking is that they never arrive at the top of their game. They continuously learn new tools and techniques.

How can project managers learn more and improve performance? Here are some ideas:

  • Ask for projects that challenge you and allow you to learn new things
  • Attend project management conferences and symposiums
  • Read project management books
  • Read non-project management books that teach leadership and communication skills
  • Speak and teach on project management topics
  • Take project management simulation classes

Continue reading

7 Reasons People Are Cynical About Goals (and How to Move On)

When I bring up the topic of setting goals, I typically get two responses. Some individuals are excited and want to learn more. Other people trip over themselves running for the Exit doors.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com (edited with Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhoto.com (edited with Canva)

Most people have set goals and new year resolutions at some time in their life and have had varying degrees of success…and a lot of failures. Perhaps you’ve set goals such as:

  • Losing weight
  • Getting a new job
  • Starting a new business
  • Getting out of debt
  • Achieving business goals
  • Improving relationships
  • Winning a sports season
  • Learning a musical instrument

We’ve all heard how goals can help us. Why is it that goals work for some people and do not for other people? Why are people skeptical about goals? I believe most of the resistance is rooted in faulty thinking about goals.Continue reading

How to Advance Your Project Management Career

Are you struggling with your project management career? Not sure of how to get from where you are to where you want to be?

Perhaps you are even uncertain about where you want to go.

I recently had the pleasure of spending time with the Stevens family, dear friends of ours. As always, we had great food and conversation. I particularly enjoyed our discussion concerning career decisions for their college-age son, Caleb.

It’s been a delight to watch Caleb and his brother, Colin, grow up to be extraordinary young men.

Caleb described two internship opportunities. One company was a financial consulting company; the other was in the food industry. He asked, “Which company should I pursue?”

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com.

I responded, “Your short-term decisions should be made in light of your long-term goals.”

When we are fuzzy about our long-term goals, we will struggle with short-term decisions.

Doing Things on Purpose

What is the difference between purpose and goals? Purpose is what I want to do or to become. It is the general direction toward which you would like to move. Goals are the specifics of what we wish to accomplish.

For example, you may wish to be a mountain climber (purpose). You might plan to climb five 14,000 foot mountains in the next three years (long-term goal). You set a goal to climb one 14,000 foot mountain before the end of this year (short-term goal).

Here is another example: You have been a project administrator for one year. You’ve set your eyes on being a program manager (purpose).

What would it take to become a program manager?

Likely, you would have to be a project manager for a period of years and demonstrate your ability to manage large, complex projects. Define specific, measurable goals that will give you the required experience, knowledge, and credentials.

Your short-term goals should include the specific things you wish to accomplish in order to become a project manager.

Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

People sometimes struggle with this question. I still ask myself what I want to be when I grow up. Here are some clarifying questions for your personal reflection:

  1. What is your sweet spot? When my son Austin was a teenager, he did not know which sport he wanted to pursue. He tried soccer; he tried baseball; he tried golf. Then, he tried basketball. Bingo! You could immediately see that he found HIS game. He was in his element. It came more naturally.

  2. Where do people affirm your gifts? As we perform certain things, we receive genuine encouragement. People say, “That was a super speech. It seemed to be effortless.” Take note of where you people affirm you. This is a good indication that you are in the right place.

  3. Where do you put forth minimum effort and see maximum gain? Some things are terribly difficult for me; it requires a lot of time and energy. Frankly, I don’t see much in the way of results. However, other things are easy. I can do these things will little effort (notice I did not say zero effort). I see huge benefits for me as well as others.

Trying On a Space Suit

When I was twelve, my mother took me and my twin brother to the Houston Space Center. While taking a tour, my brother and I tried on a space suit. This event further peaked my interest in science.

Trying on a space suit is one thing; trying on a different job is an entirely different matter.

How can we try a different job or role when we already have a job? Good question. Here are a few ideas.

First, volunteer to work on projects in your areas of interest. If you work in the accounting department but think you are interested in project management, volunteer for a project that involves both accounting and project management, such as the implementation of an accounting software solution.

Second, take courses in your area of interest. Think you want to be a project manager? Take project management courses. Seek your PMP credential.

Think you want to be a project risk manager? Take a project risk management course. Seek your PMI-RMP credential.

Third, enlist in a “walk a mile in my shoes” program. Some companies offer these programs to allow individuals to gain experience in another area.

Back to the Future

Let me leave you with this: Schedule some time to reflect on this article. Clarify your general aim and purpose in life. Define your long-term goals.

As opportunities come knocking at your door, you will be in a stronger position to make short-term decisions that will propel you toward your destination. Your life is a gift. Make it count!