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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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The Truth Hurts Temporarily, A Lie Hurts…

Truth-Hurts-Lie-to-Me“The truth hurts for a little while, but a lie hurts forever.” – Eileen Parra
Unexpectedly Sam had that 'I think I forgot something feeling’; the feeling that makes some of us feel just a little bit sick to our stomachs or perhaps brings on a cold sweat. Then he realized what it was, he had completely forgotten to tell his project steering committee about the change request that the branch office had given to him when he visited their facility two weeks ago. The branch manager's administrative assistant had handed him a hard copy as he was leaving for the airport. Sam had set the change demand into an organizer loaded with papers, bounced into a taxi and instantly disregarded it. The issue Sam now faced was that the steering committee had just met yesterday to review all open issues and change requests. Now quite a few of the members were leaving town for a lengthy business trip and he would not have enough members present to approve or reject changes. Of course he could get them together in a virtual meeting, but most of them despised virtual meetings and only used them for emergency sessions. This was not an emergency session. Unless..... Sam realized there was no paper trail or email trail that proved that he had received the change request. He could in fact pretend that he JUST received it and that the branch was making a major whine about it, so he needed to treat it like a crisis. He could always feign ignorance when the branch manager asked what happened to the copy her assistant had provided to Sam on his visit. Although Sam felt a bit uneasy, he decided that pretending he never received the change request was the best approach. That way he would hide any hint of failure from his steering committee and the branch manager would still get a decision on her change request. The administrative assistant might get reprimanded and would know that Sam was being dishonest, but that was a price Sam was willing to pay. Sam sat back and waited for the branch manager to call or email about her change request. Then Sam could spring into action and call an emergency virtual steering committee meeting. Sam felt much better after he had spoken with the branch manager. She was a bit annoyed and did not seem to believe that her assistant had neglected to give Sam the change request. But she seemed pleased with Sam's plan to call the emergency meeting and she appreciated his sense of urgency. Sam felt that he had been convincing and almost believed himself when he stated that he had never received a copy of the change request. By the time that Sam contacted the steering committee members and shared the story of the last minute change request with them, he never even paused to feel guilty, he had begun to believe the story himself. Sam's conduct really brings to light some of the many problems that come along with lying. When you lie to others, you are damaging your relationship with them. Even if they do not know you are lying, YOU know that you are lying. One lie leads to another and then to another. Soon you are uncomfortable being around that individual because you are worried that you will 'accidentally' tell the truth. Wait a minute; 'accidentally' tell the truth? So much for trusting and transparent relationships. Sam began to believe his own lie. His deceitfulness is not just with others; it is with himself. When you tell a lie and you begin to treat your lie as the truth you are damaging your most important relationship your relationship with yourself. And that lie becomes part of you, next time it is easier to lie (that is not a good thing) and instead of learning from your mistakes you cover them up. Would it have been difficult for Sam to admit that he had forgotten the change request? Absolutely. And if he forgot important documents on a regular basis, that would definitely be career limiting. This would be the case even if each time he forgot something he told a lie. It would catch up with him. If he had told the truth, he would have grown from the experience and earned the respect of some of the steering committee, most definitely the administrative assistant and the branch manager and again most importantly himself. The truth would have led to some temporary discomfort. Sam may not know it now, but his lie will last a lifetime.
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When the BEST Example is a BAD Example

good-badWhen the BEST Example is a BAD Example “From good examples we learn how to be. From bad examples we learn how not to be. An observant and willing student can learn from any circumstance.”  - Richelle E. Goodrich When you were a child, you might have found yourself thinking, “When I grow up I will never…” And of course you can fill in the blank as to what it is you would never do. Or perhaps you looked at something your parents did and thought to yourself, “When I grow up I will never make my children do the dishes.” Or “I will abolish chores and bedtime!” Oh come on now, if you did not have these exact thoughts you probably did something similar. And now here you are, a grown-up. At least chronologically, and you may still dislike chores and bedtime. Now your examples come from the behaviors of those around you. In the workplace you see behaviors you admire and behaviors you do not admire. There are leaders who set amazing examples. They seem to do and say everything right. You aspire to be like them. Then there are leaders who are the exact opposite. They bring you back to those thoughts you had when you were a child, “When I am in charge I will never…”  These are the leaders you do not wish to emulate. You look at them and you scratch you head in disbelief, wondering how they ever made it to where they are today. As disappointing as these bad examples are, they are also good for us. Let’s consider for a moment the leader who uses fear and negativity to push team members toward a goal. This is the person who uses threats as motivational speeches. “If you guys miss this deadline or if this thing does not work, you will be so sorry. I will make sure each and every one of you suffers at review time.” Lovely. When you all make the goal and things go smoothly this is the leader who delivers this backhanded compliment, “Well much to my surprise you did it, I did not think you had it in you.” Nice. Of course your preference would be to not have to work with a bad leader. But when you do, they can become a type of good example. Not because their behavior is good, no their behavior is bad. They are a good role model because they help you to isolate and understand leadership behaviors that are undesirable and do not work. They help to make you aware of your own behavior. When you think to yourself, “I will never us threats to motivate a team”; you are using this bad leader to help yourself become a better leader. Some might even say that the behaviors you find to be the least admirable in others are the behaviors you are concerned about in yourself. In other words if you vow to never be like that leader who uses threats, it could be because you are already concerned that you have that tendency yourself.  Whether this is true or not, it does not hurt to be aware of how you do not want to lead, in order to become the leader you truly wish to be. Lead on!
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