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Top Management Resource - 2012

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Are They REALLY Working on YOUR Project?

projectManagersThere you are in your project status meeting. You have a team member who attends and has attended for the last couple of weeks; she always looks at you with a smile on her face and assures you that everything is on track. She has no issues to report. Somehow you're just not getting that warm fuzzy feeling. What is going on? Maybe your project manager intuition is off and you are wrong. Maybe you are right. What could lead to something like this occurring? Let's go back to the beginning when this resource was assigned to your project team. If you're running your project using the projectized organization then you should really know what's going on here because this person is on your project 100% of their time. Chances are you might be using the matrix organization. If this is true then your resource was possibly assigned to you by a manager who was not a project manager. How was that assignment made? What discussion did you have with that manager? Did you confirm the start dates of the project and the start date of that resources assignment with you, along with the amount of time they would give to your project each week? I know this doesn't sound very responsible or ethical, but sometimes someone will be assigned to you but they're not really ready to work on your project yet. Sure it is sneaky. But nobody wants to be the manager who is the one who was holding back the project due to lack of resources. This means that sometimes a resource is told to show up at your meetings and participate but they know they will not really start their work just yet. They are finishing up another project and once they do they will begin to work on your project. They probably are not going to tell you this to your face. Of course this creates a situation where your resource is behind before they ever begin working on your project. And if they are working on critical path activities for you then your project is behind as well. The best answer would be to have strong resource utilization reporting and strong resource assignment processes. If these processes are well integrated with a good project selection process, then when projects are selected they would not be approved for kickoff until resources are available. If projects are approved for kickoff based on their priority then we would know we always have resources working on the most important projects. If there is no pressure to start a project until all of the resources are available, no resource managers are 'in trouble' if they do not have resources to start the project. You wouldn't be wondering if someone was really working on your project, because if your project was the priority and it didn't kick off until resources were available then your resources would be working on your project. Sometimes your organization will not have the perfect combination of resource allocation and project selection processes. That means you could have a resource sitting in a meeting smiling at you telling you everything is okay, but not really working on your project. How do you know? How do you challenge this? You don't want to call them a liar. Now you can go back to your project management best practices. If you had a well-defined work breakdown structure and that work breakdown structure had clearly defined activities and each of those activities had clear completion criteria, you would have something to look at to know whether or not the work is being completed. If you followed best practices and team members did not go longer than the distance between two status reporting periods in order to produce a deliverable or a component you would have an early warning system in place. With your early warning system in place it would just become standard practice during your status meetings that team members would bring results to the table on a regular basis. If a team member misses a deadline your warning bells should go off. When your warning bells go off, you need to know are you dealing with someone who really is not on your project yet or are they really not doing their job?  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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Don’t Be So Linear!

junglegymCareers are more like jungle gyms than ladders- sometimes a sideways or backward step can propel you forward.” Sarah Robb O'Hagan President of Equinox Looking to advance? That’s terrific. Sometimes the way up is not just to keep climbing straight ahead. Sure if you are a bird, then the best and most efficient path is the straight line. Just fly from the bottom of the mountain straight up to the top. But you are not a bird. You might reach the top of the mountain by walking straight up and if you are lucky, maybe there will be stairs or an escalator or even better an elevator. That’s the ticket, an elevator straight to the top. Now you can stand there at the base of the mountain looking for your elevator or you can continue your journey. The way to the top is frequently winding. Sometimes you climb, then you stay at the same elevation and then you might even experience a bit of a dip and then up you go once again. Be open to the journey. This does not mean that you do not have a map or a destination in mind, of course you do. It means that if you fixate on only taking assignments that are clearly designated as promotions you are going to miss out. While you doggedly remain in the same position until a clear and obvious promotion comes your way, you might find yourself being bypassed by others who are more open minded. You are standing still while others are moving. Of course you are not going to take an assignment just to move. But before you disregard an opportunity because it is not an obvious step up, consider what else this opportunity offers. Does it allow you to learn something new about your organization or industry? Does it help you add new skills to your portfolio? Will it help you build stronger working relationships? All of these are important to your ability to move up and when it is time to move up you will be compared to others who may have strengthened their position in these areas and have shown that they are not afraid to try something new. Keep Moving – Sometimes Sideways Leads to the Top!  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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YOU Should Have Seen That Coming

safetyNet"You should have seen that coming." Mary Carol could not believe her ears. She thought to herself, "That is an odd statement from someone who doesn't believe in spending any time identifying risks." Somehow she knew not to say anything in response and so she turned and walked back to her office. The truth is she was a little annoyed with her boss but she was also annoyed with herself. There was a little voice inside her head saying "you should have known better." The risk which prompted her boss to make the "you should've seen that coming" statement was NOT something that she or her team could have anticipated. But what she should have seen was that even if her boss didn't place any value on risk management she should have identified and planned for risks anyway. After all if any of the risks occurred it wasn't her boss who was going to have to figure out how to respond to them. Any actions taken in response to a risk would have to be planned and executed by Mary Carol and her team. Sometimes people don't like to engage in identifying and planning for risks. This can be part of the organizational culture. If this is true where you work you recognize it because if you've ever suggested that something could happen to derail your project you are immediately met with disbelief or even maybe disdain from your colleagues. They will look at you and say things like "How can you be so negative?" Or "The project is just getting started why are you thinking about the bad things that could happen?" They don't understand that you might be very excited about the project and that you are brainstorming what could happen because you want everything to go very well. These will be the first people to look at you when something goes wrong and tell you that you should have seen that coming and then they will demand to know how YOU are going to handle it. If you mentioned an opportunity that could be enhanced they would probably be okay with that. If you said something like "If we share resources with this other project team then we might be able to reduce our labor costs", everyone would think you were brilliant. Because you are brilliant. You are also doing a good job at risk management. You are remembering that a risk is both a threat and an opportunity and you are remembering that the best time to plan for a threat or an opportunity is in advance. It's a lot less expensive to discuss something when it's early and you haven't gone too far down the road yet. If you find yourself working with individuals who don't appreciate the value of thinking about threats and opportunities in advance - that's fine. Do it anyway. Maybe you just leave them out of the discussion. If you have to do it by yourself then do it by yourself. Don't stop thinking about what could happen. Your next thought after thinking about what could happen should be about what you (and your team) will do about it. Then you will be prepared. Mary Carol never wants to hear her boss say "You should've seen that coming" again. Now she walks around thinking and planning and preparing responses. She encourages her team to do the same. She leads them through risk identification and risk analysis activities. She and her team know their most likely and most impactful risks and they know what they're doing to try to make them less likely and less impactful and they know what they're going to do if they occur anyway. She just doesn't share all of the details with her boss. Next time Mary Carol will be able to say, "I did see that coming and here is the plan."  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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Who are YOU Pretending to Be?

JUST-BE-YOURSELFWe are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut There are different ways of considering the above quote. “Fake it till you make it” or “Perception is reality”; but I think we can take a deeper look. This is not just about what your exterior says to other people. It is not just about buying the right kind of clothing so that you look like the boss or pretending to have expertise at something while behind the scenes you desperately look things up (“Fake it till you make it”.) It is not about people seeing your exterior and thinking “Well she really looks put together and exudes confidence so we should hire her.” (“Perception is reality.”) YOU are what YOU pretend to be, YOU we must be careful about what YOU pretend to be. NOT because of what other people will see or perceive, but because of what YOU will begin to believe and perceive about yourself. (This will translate soon enough into what others experience too.) Perhaps you feel the need to be tough. You think that you are too soft, too kind to your team, too understanding when they disappoint you. You decide to pretend to be tough. When someone misses a due date or makes a mistake you let them know that there are no excuses. Or maybe you are naturally tough and you decide to soften up a bit. You decide to pretend to be a bit more empathetic. There is nothing wrong with being a tough leader or a more empathetic leader (and by the way a leader can be both tough and empathetic), there is nothing wrong with seeking to change your leadership style. The challenge is in the pretense. You do not want to become a prisoner to pretense. Pretense is a false show of something, it is making believe. If you pretend to be something for an extended period of time others will see you as that pretend persona. Some may sense that you are not being real and this may cause them to mistrust you. Most people will expect you to act as that make believe person, yet inside is the real you. But now you cannot let the real you out. If you want to be a certain type of person do not pretend to be that type of person, do the work you need to do to become that type of person. Allow yourself to change and take the necessary steps to make the change, don’t just lock up your old self in a prison of make believe. The best pretense is no pretense, just be yourself and be the best version of yourself that you can be.  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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You are NOT Afraid of the Unknown

feartheunknownConsider this statement for a moment, 'It's not the unknown that scares you it is what you think you know that frightens you.'  Aren't we taught that the unknown is ominous and scary? Aren't we conditioned to trust the tried and true? Those who take the road less traveled are considered to be rare individuals. The concluding lines from "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost state:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.
Would this poem be of merit if EVERYONE already took the road less traveled? Perhaps it would have value in that it would be a reminder of a cultural norm. If everyone took the road less traveled how could it in fact BE the road less traveled?  Oh, I know everyone would be creating new roads and blazing new trails all of the time. We do not all do that. Why not? We are not afraid of the unknown, we are afraid of what we have deemed the unknown to be. Think about it logically, you do not know what the unknown represents, so what are you specifically afraid of? It is all of the things that you think it could be.  Where do these potential outcomes come from? From your knowledge and experience with known potential outcomes. For example, on Friday evening on the way out of the office your boss asks you to stop by her office as soon as you come in on Monday morning. She wants to discuss something with you and she does not have time for the discussion right now. She does not tell you what she wishes to discuss and before you can ask her, she heads out the door. You begin to wonder what could be so important that it requires a more lengthy discussion that needs to occur at the beginning of the work week. Your mind begins to spin. Maybe you are going to be taken off of the project. Maybe your budget is going to be cut. Is one of your stakeholders displeased with you? Is your boss displeased with you? YOU DO NOT KNOW! You are becoming upset about what you think you know. The unknown is empty space. You are filling in the blanks with what you think it could be and you are reacting to what you think it could be. Couldn't it also be a raise and a promotion and that she wants the time to discuss it with you properly? Maybe she simply needs you to help her prepare for a presentation. The unknown is a blank slate, it is full of potential. Do not overreact. Do not let what you think you know allow you to become fearful. PS. This does not mean to stop identifying and planning for those unknown risks, it does mean to remember to plan for both threats and opportunities!  
If you enjoyed this blog posting, then you may enjoy our bi-weekly ezine Turning Point for FREE tips and insights to discover A Path to Peace……!
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