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Know Boundaries or No Boundaries?

“Honoring your own boundaries is the clearest message to others to honor them, too.” ― Gina Greenlee, setting-boundaries A friend of mine is very good at his job. In fact he is a subject matter expert in a very specific area. His work almost always results in new funding for his company. This skill is part of what landed him his most recent position. He has been with his current organization for less than one year and has already been promoted. Twice. Typically the time period when his company would be soliciting new funding would end in May. It is generally a three-month period where he would work long days for six days a week. That does not mean that he would no longer be needed after May, it means that after the funding cycle ends he takes on responsibility for managing the work for which the funding was received. But something different is happening. It is August and he is still being handed assignments to pursue new funding. Now he is continuing to bring in new work and oversee the work that was received in May. Looking at this from a bit of a distance I see why he is being continued to ask to pursue new funding. He is doing an amazing job and has a high success rate. Why stop in May if there is other work that can be pursued and a star player who will probably land that work? His company has never had such a high success rate before and they are experiencing some amazing growth. Over the past six weeks each time he tells me he has been handed another new request to pursue, he says, “This must be the last one.” But I do not think it will be and now he sees that too. And he is so tired. He still loves his job and he is excited about the work and he knows he is valued, but he is so tired.  He is still working long hours six days a week. Now what? Now he has a choice to make. Does he keep working at this pace or does he begin to establish some boundaries? The longer that he continues to work in the manner, the more that his leadership team will expect it to continue. That does seem counter intuitive. You would think (or hope) that someone would take a look and say, “Let’s just back off that pace for a bit.” It would be wise and compassionate for his leadership team to say, “Why don’t you take a break?” And maybe one of them will. And maybe they will not. They just might look at him and assume that he is doing what he wants to do. Since they are all profiting from his efforts they might not want to suggest to him that he slows down. He is still newer to the company, so for all they know he enjoys being a workaholic. Right now he is not sure what he wants to do. He knows he loves his work, and he knows he needs a break. He is not completely sure what his boundary is in terms of how much he wants to give to work, but now he knows that the boundary has been crossed.  One of his challenges is to take time to decide exactly where that boundary should be drawn and then to begin to honor his own boundary and to teach others about that boundary. He might accomplish this by:
  • Taking some time off and then coming back and working five full productive days a week
  • Beginning to work fewer hours and days right away
  • Acknowledging to others that the funding season has been longer than anticipated and advise them that he needs to return to a more normal schedule
His first step really is about defining his own boundary. Then he needs to find a way to communicate it and then he needs to honor it and expect others to honor it. If not, he will continue to know no boundaries.
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The Story of the Fake Meeting

Mary Carol was getting very frustrated. She had been asked to attend a meeting about a project that was just launching. The kickoff meeting had just occurred last week. Mary Carol was not the project manager. One of her colleagues was leading this new project. Mary Carol was in attendance because one of the projects she managed shared some dependencies with this new project. fake emailsThe kickoff had really been handled extremely well. There was good organization, a solid grasp of the project objectives, strong buy-in and well-defined next steps. This made it surprising when another colleague invited her and other project managers to an additional meeting about the new project. For about 30 minutes her colleague bumbled through topics that had already been covered in the kickoff meeting. He was truly not adding anything new.  A point that other attendees were also noticing and commenting upon. And then all of a sudden, there it was, the real reason for the meeting. Her colleague began to discuss some challenges that he was facing on one of his current projects. All of the attendees seemed to be relieved to be discussing something new, not the rehashed agenda from the kick off meeting. Together they all discussed the challenges he was facing and everyone collaborated to come up with some ideas for how to move forward. About 25 minutes later the meeting adjourned. Mary Carol realized that the last 25 minutes of the meeting was in fact the real purpose for the meeting. And although wasting 30 minutes rehashing old information was frustrating, it dawned on her that her colleague did not know how to approach others and ask for help. She could have called him up and chewed him out for wasting her time and the time of others. She could have called the others up to complain about the wasted time. She could have called their boss and explained that this project manager needed help. But she did not do any of those things. Instead she dropped by his office later that day and made plans to have lunch with him in a few days. And she made a note to herself to check in on him once in awhile. She decided to invite other colleagues along when she had lunch or coffee with him.  In this way she would help her colleague build relationships with others and allow all of them to have time to discuss project issues and concerns without having to call fake meetings. This is an example of compassion at work. Let’s all spread some compassion around this week.
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The Secret to Good Time Management

download The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." - Michael Altshuler YOU already know the secret to good time management. Now you are thinking, “If I already knew the secret, why would I be reading this right now?” Maybe you are reading it to see if you agree with what I say.  You can check up on me and see if I have it right. Guess what? The secret to good time management is in your head. You do not need a fancy system or the newest software.  Either of these can be extremely helpful, ONCE you understand where your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of time management. BEFORE you go sign up for a class or buy a snazzy time management system get to know yourself and your time management issues. You probably could have predicted that I would say something like this. It is a common theme in so much of what I share with you. Pushy me, always asking you to consider yourself, become self-aware, understand what makes you tick.  For example: Or Or Here I go again, this time with time management. The best time management tool is YOU. As in you becoming aware of where you face your challenges. You becoming aware of where your time really goes, and where you really want it to go. You becoming honest about what you really want. Take your time management strategy to a higher level and make some decisions about how much time you want to spend at work, at home, on your education and on other activities. Then do a gap analysis, you know, where are you now? Where do you want to be? How will you get there? As you consider how you will get there, you need to honestly consider what hinders you and what helps you. Do you have a challenge with procrastination or does social media easily distract you? Once you know the challenges you face and some of your own strengths, then it is time to look for a system or a class that might help you. PS. I do recommend one specific program on Coursera  - Work Smarter, Not Harder - (Full disclosure I created this course for UC Irvine to share on Coursera.) PPS. I was inspired to write this post by Martin Tokar of He will be publishing a podcast where we discussed this very topic and when he does, I will make sure you know about it. Thank you for making being a member of my community a priority! I know it is your goal to spend your time wisely.
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Let’s Get Motivated!

imagesWhy let’s get motivated? Why not? I can’t promise you that I have the same level of motivation every day. Some times it dips a little. It never hurts to have some reminders of the importance of motivation. Here are some quotes that help me. I hope they will be helpful to you too. “Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.” ― Zig Ziglar “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it.” ― Jordan Belfort “The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson “The motivation is in my heart to work toward my goals and my dreams.”   - Nonito Donaire “Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.” - Norman Ralph Augustine And my favorite: “When someone tells me "no," it doesn't mean I can't do it, it simply means I can't do it with them.” ― Karen E. Quinones Miller On that note, let’s get motivated, and why not add your favorite quote to the list too? You add them in the comments area right here:
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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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