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Top Management Resource - 2012

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It’s NOT Just About Project Status

images“Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” — Henry Miller Jack had begun to think of these biweekly project status presentations as a nuisance. They took up a good two hours every other Friday morning, plus the time he spent Thursday evening putting together his status report. Sometimes he would even wait until first thing Friday morning to prepare for the meeting. On more than one occasion he just barely uploaded his status report in time to make into the conference room. He paid little to no attention while others were speaking. He did not go so far as to read emails or send texts during the meeting, but he was sorely tempted to do so. Because he was not paying attention, he often had to be called upon more than once when it was his turn to speak. He often found himself uncertain as to what to say; after all didn’t the status report speak for itself? His project was important but not one of the top five company priorities, so he was puzzled when the project sponsor asked him so many questions. Poor Jack. He is not seeing the potential in these biweekly project status presentations. Sure, the purpose is to discuss project status. But there is more to it than that. Much more. The attendees and especially the project sponsor can all read the status. When it is Jack’s turn to speak about his project, it can and should be Jack’s turn to shine. It is not about simply reading the status report. It is about showcasing himself as a strong and trusted leader. It is about instilling confidence in the project sponsor. When Jack rushes into the room at the last minute, he is not projecting reliability. When Jack simply reads the project status to the rest of the room, he does not come across as insightful or knowledgeable about his own project. He also does not appear to understand the key pieces of information that are important to his project sponsor. When Jack cannot answer the questions put to him by his sponsor, he does not come across as competent. What Jack does not understand is that his sponsor asks so many questions to try and determine whether or not Jack is the right person to manage the project. Jack is not just doing himself an injustice. He is also letting down his team. If he prepared for the status meeting in advance he would be able to share examples of how the team met and conquered challenges. He could help make others aware of his top performers and how valuable those top performers are. His lack of preparation means lack of recognition for his team. The truth is, Jack is an excellent project manager. He does know what is going on, he does foresee issues and helps to resolve those issues before they disrupt his team. His team members all enjoy working for him. He just is not good at reporting status because he is not seeing the real opportunity that comes from the biweekly status meeting. That opportunity is the opportunity to showcase his team and to show that he is a strong and trust worthy leader. Status meetings are not just about project status. Seize the opportunity to let others know just how wonderful your team is.
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Don’t Forget to Say Thank you

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” – G.B. Stern thank-you As children most of us were constantly reminded to say “Thank you.” As your mother or father picked you up from a birthday party or some other event, you were most likely asked, “Did you say thank you?” Those of you who are parents probably go through a similar routine with your children. Saying thank you is one of the basics of good manners. It is also an excellent form of motivation. In Coaching for Emotional Intelligence, by Bob Wall, a study in which 1500 people from different organizations and industries revealed that when asked to list which incentives were the most meaningful to them the top five were: 1. A personal thanks from their manager 2. Written thanks from their manager 3. A promotion based on performance 4. Public praise 5. Morale building meetings or activities ​ Despite this, 58% had never received personal thanks from their managers and 76% had never received written thanks and 81% rarely (and some never) received public praise. It costs you nothing to say thank you and takes only a minute or two of your time. The key is that your expression of gratitude needs to be sincere. An absent minded, “Hey thanks”, will not do the trick. What did your team member do that was worthy of your appreciation? What type of effort did they expend? What did it mean to you personally, and you can also add what did it mean for the company or the client or the rest of the team? Timeliness is also important. The sooner that you thank Bob for his work the better. Consider these two examples: 1. Wall, Bob. Coaching for Emotional Intelligence the Secret to Developing the Star Potential in Your Employees. New York: Amacom, 2007. 126. 1. “Hey Bob, thanks for your work this week.” 2. “Bob, thank you very much for putting in extra hours over the past week in order to test that additional component that we added to the unit. Your work has put my mind at ease as we move forward with our go live. Because you put in those extra hours, our customer now has an even more reliable product AND we are still able to deliver it to them on the original due date. You have made it even more likely that they will sign additional contracts with us.” The first example is of course better than nothing. The second example is very specific. Bob knows that you really paid attention to him and to his work. In this day of texts and other electronic communications, an old-fashioned hand-written card or note makes a world of difference. To be honest in a contest for the world’s worst handwriting, I would place in the finals, I might even win the bronze medal. Yet, I have seen cards I wrote to team members in their offices for months after they received the card. They were not keeping the cards because of the calligraphy that is for certain. “Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.” – Ralph Marston Speaking of gratitude – thank you for reading this and for being part of my community.
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An Open Letter to Project Managers

An Open Letter to Project Managers Last week I featured a letter from project managers to their team members. This week it seems only fair to feature a reply from the hard working team members who make project completion possible. Dear Project Managers, Thank you so much for your open letter to us, it is always good to get to know you and to understand your expectations. As you said in your letter, please accept this reply in the spirit of “We are all in this together”. Because it is true, we really are all in this together. project_management3 1) If we have not started working on something yet, it is not because we do not think your project is important. Your project is also our project. If the person who writes our performance appraisal gives us another assignment to do first, guess what? We don’t like it anymore than you do. 2) We understand that you need our status reports on time. We know you have to take our status and consolidate it and pass it up the chain of command. We create status for multiple project managers, plus our functional managers. It would be truly awesome if you could all agree on the same status report template. Or even better if you could all share the same status report, so that we only have to create one status each week. 3) We tell you about issues because we want you to help resolve those issues NOT just because you are a good listener. 4) No amount of wishful thinking is going to reduce our estimates. We know that you are frequently handed an impossible deadline and we will do our professional best to meet those crazy deadlines, but if we could alter the space and time continuum we might just be doing something else for a living. 5) Please do not make us look for you. We know you attend about a zillion meetings and that you are allowed to have a life, but please let us know the best way to reach you when we have questions and concerns. The time we spend trying to find you could be time spent working toward meeting that impossible deadline. 6) While your role may require you to attend many meetings, we would prefer to attend as few meetings as possible. We love it when you start and end meetings on time, stick to an agenda and value our time. 7) Don’t hide important information from us. Do not think that we do not want to be bothered by the details. We are the ones whose work requires those details. Share information with us, we are capable of discerning which information impacts our work and which information does not. It really bothers us when you try to make this decision for us. 8) The truth is, we appreciate you too. When we work well together and you facilitate and coordinate and run interference for us, we can concentrate on the work we really enjoy and the work that we do best. The end result is that we all experience success together. Wow, we feel so much better to have all this out in the open. With our sincere admiration, Your Team Members
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An Open Letter to Project Team Members

images Dear Team Members, Sometimes you probably wonder, “What does my project manager want from me?” Please accept this letter in the spirit of “We are all in this together”. 1)If you have not started a task yet, it is 0% complete. It is not 7% complete or underway or in progress or looking good. We get that you hate it when you are not able to start something as scheduled. Tell it like it is and together we can deal with it. Which leads to… 2)Status reports are meant to be nonfiction. Your status report is meant to document the true nature of your work on the project. Not how you want things to be or not how you think things will be in a few days. Once again, tell it like it is and together we can deal with it. 3)If you see an issue on the horizon, give us a heads-up. Maybe it will turn into nothing, but maybe it won’t. We really do not like to hear you say, “I knew that would happen.” Especially if you did not share your insight with us. 4)If you are going to be late with your work, tell us as soon as you know. That way we can plan around it. Waiting until the deadline to tell us you will miss the deadline is so uncool. 5)We want you to enjoy your days off and your vacation time. We just want you to let us know in advance. We prefer that you don’t take off in the middle of a major implementation. We don’t like to find out that you are off from your email auto-responder or your voicemail. We are funny like that. 6)Don’t assume we know something. If there is something important that we should know about our work, tell us. If we already know, no harm no foul. Plus your perspective is helpful and hearing it from you might help us understand more about why this particular thing is important. If we were psychic, we would have the winning lottery numbers. But of course we would still work, because we are just that dedicated. 7)If you have preferences about how we can best work with you, tell us. If you need to avoid afternoon meetings because you pick your son or daughter up from school, we want to support you in that. If you prefer texts to emails, we will try to accommodate you. We can’t promise you that we will never ask you to work overtime or that we will never ask you to attend meetings. But the more we understand about your preferences the more we can seek to provide you a more positive working environment. 8)The truth is, we appreciate you, we know you work hard and when we can we want to make you happy that you are on our project team. You must have some ideas on how to make our lives together easier too. Looking forward to your reply. With respect, Your Project Managers
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How to Appreciate a Jerk

How to Appreciate a Jerk 4653102655_people_being_kind_xlarge “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ― Plato Not everyone who treats you poorly is doing so because of you. Their choice to treat you badly is just that, their choice. Sooner or later we all must deal with a jerk. If from the very beginning you remember that their jerkiness is not about you, you are on your way to being able to appreciate them. Appreciate a jerk? Yes! I ask you take it even farther and develop feelings of kindness towards them and take it beyond the feelings of kindness and treat them kindly even when they are being a huge flaming jerk. First, you must stop thinking of this person as a jerk or as any other negative name you call them. What you want is to use a phrase that is positive, that recognizes that person is providing you with the ability to strengthen yourself and your conflict resolution skills. Or perhaps simply use his or her name. He or she does have a name and to say jerk is dehumanizing and makes it too easy for you to distance yourself from him or her. Next you must be willing to start the process of being compassionate to this person and this means opening your mind to the possibility that you can and will think positive thoughts about this person. Take some time and think about this person. Come up with at least three good qualities they possess or three positive statements that you can make about them. OK, now here is where the difficulty might begin. If this person is truly annoying to you, you might not be able to see any good in them. Well I insist that you stay at this step until you can complete it! Some ideas: 1. They have family and friends who love them 2. They are offering you an opportunity for personal growth 3. They are good at (fill in the blank – working out, public speaking, product design…) Now associate their name with the three good qualities or positive statements you have for them. Memorize this information in a statement that is easy for you to repeat to yourself, like this: Dan is a loving father who adores his children, organizes the company blood drive every year and is giving me an opportunity to become even better at dealing with difficult people. Next time you encounter Dan (or your difficult person), remember the statement you memorized about them. If you know you are going to encounter them, then repeat the statement to yourself before the encounter. This puts you in a positive frame of mind and you are approaching them thinking about their good qualities, not their bad qualities. While you are with person, keep your positive statement in your mind and when they annoy you or become difficult, keep recalling this statement. (Silently and to yourself, of course!) If you feel yourself becoming agitated with your difficult person, try to take a deep breath and again repeat the positive statement to yourself before you respond to them. Then recall that you want to move forward with compassion and that this person’s behavior is not about you, it is about them and finally, you can only control your own behavior. When your encounter with this difficult person ends, be appreciative. I don’t just mean appreciative as in; “I am so glad that jerk is out of my face.” I mean appreciative, as in recognizing that this person is really bringing you an opportunity to grow. And if the encounter went well, be appreciative of your growth. If you don’t think the encounter went well give yourself credit for your efforts and DO NOT GIVE UP! You must be persistent to prevail.
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