Interesting Excerpt on Leadership Ideas

At Deckplate leadership blog, I found some interesting elements that really hold true through projects and leading groups. Read some of the ideas I liked or  the blog itself at http://deckplateleader.wordpress.com/

“There are a lot of “Be”s in “Being The Chief”, “Being The Leader”, or just plain “Being Successful”, but I believe these five “Be”s to be the most important in creating success:

  1. Be BOLD
  2. Be CREATIVE
  3. Be RELEVANT
  4. Be READY
  5. Be RIGHT

I think of these five “Be”s as being very dependent on each other much in the same manner as the Triangle Of Fire, where heat, oxygen and fuel are all the three mandatory ingredients for there to be a fire. You remove one element from the equation and it is impossible for a fire to happen. You remove one of these “Be”s from the equation and the result is failure.

If you apply these “Be”s in everything you do, whether it be at home with your family or achieving personal and professional goals, you will be successful in your ventures. If something fails however, or if you or your team fails at something, then take a look at this list and figure out which principle was not applied to the best of your ability and work harder in that area to prevent failure the next time around.

Be Bold

Being bold is NOT:

  • Being a jerk to get things done.
  • Being combative with everybody who disagrees with what you do in an effort to stand your ground.
  • Taking unnecessary risks.
  • Sticking out your neck for someone because you feel obligated to do so as a boss.

However, being bold IS:

  • Getting out of your comfort zones.
  • Being visible.
  • Taking on the hard jobs.
  • Being vocal up, down and across the chain of command.
  • Laying it all out on the line every single day.
  • Making a decision.
  • Not being afraid to make mistakes.

Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zones

You want to avoid being a one-trick pony and diversify your skill sets. When you stay within the confines of those things that you are comfortable with you become complacent and short-sighted. Worst of all, you will stymie your personal and professional growth. Get out of your comfort zone by taking the lead on projects that you may not have much experience in, or those jobs within your organization that you think you may not particularly like too much. In the end, the education you receive by learning how to do those things you might not have done otherwise will be priceless.

Being Visible

Speaking of getting out of your comfort zones, get out from behind your computers. Roll up your sleeves and get dirty from time to time. Walk the front lines, visit the troops. This will make yourself available for mentorship and development of your people. Remember, you will set the tone as the Deckplate Leader, and your actions will always….always….speak louder than your words. By getting out from behind your computer and spending time with your people you will be demonstrating their importance in your life because you are a busy person with a busy schedule, yet you still found time to see what life is like in the trenches first hand. And, hey, you might just learn something new about your field from one of your people that you may not have learned otherwise.

Taking The Hard Jobs

The hard jobs aren’t necessarily the jobs that are physically difficult to do, but rather the jobs that are important and need to get done with nobody willing to do them. This is what I like to call “Embracing The Suck” or “Leading In The Suck”. You have to pay your dues in order to gain credibility and increase your sphere of influence. And more often than not these will be those jobs that are WAY outside of your comfort zones.

Being Vocal

Doing the right thing is easy when everybody’s watching, it is much harder to do when nobody is looking though. I would argue that standing up for what is right is even harder. But you must be willing to speak your mind and provide valuable insight up, down and across the chain of command. Remember the analogy of the lumber jacks. They are ordered to cut down a group of trees, so they get all their equipment, figure out the overhead costs, and develop a timeline. Then they run out and start cutting down the trees in a forest. The leader is that person who speaks up and says, “Hey, we’re in the wrong forest!”

Laying It On The Line…Everyday

When you suit up in the morning you must be willing to play ball. I grew up playing baseball and football, and one thing that you learn early on is that once you commit you have to go all out. A half-assed effort will produce half-assed results. Part of what makes people successful is their passion. They show up to do business day in and day out. Mix this with a positive attitude and now you have a potent solution that will be infectious, and spread down to your teams. The Deckplate Leader sets the tone. They set the pace.

Making A Decision

Inaction is a horrible cancer that can bring an organization down to its knees. A successful leader must be able to make a decision. There comes a point when the analysis is complete, or as complete as it can be, and it is time to make a decision and execute. Sometimes, if not most times, you will have to be able to make a decision and hope for the best, with a 50/50 shot of your decision being the right one.

“The most difficult part of creativity, or innovation, is having the change last. You have to have sustainable innovation. How do you do that? Well, first, you can’t make changes just for the sake of making change. You know the addage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Everybody wants to make their mark and leave their legacy. But if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. Maybe your legacy is that you kept a successful program from falling apart and passed on a good product to your successor. I will argue, though, that things can always be better and processes can always be improved. After all, times change, technology improves, old ways of doing things and normal routines become obsolete. It is our creativity that allows us to move with the times.

The second part of sustainable innovation is keeping it simple. The KISS rule applies here. Keep It Simple Stupid. Too much change is a shock to the system. You must manage it and pick away at the battles that you can win. Make sure that your change doesn’t create more work or cost more money. The goal is to become more efficient and cost effective, thereby producing more output with the same level of quality as there was before.

Another part of sustainable change is what we call “buy in”. This is not your father’s world anymore. It’s not a situation where the boss gets to bark the orders and the worker-bees just do it. There must be buy in from your subordinates. This means that you have to solicit the input and creativity of your replacements, our future leaders, to come up with a solution that the majority will approve of so that you have their buy in. More than likely, the workers will still be there after you leave. If you want your change to stick, then it will be those workers that carry out the job and pass it on. And if your successor ends up making a change just for the sake of change then it will not be well received, in a way forcing your successor to continue with your way of doing things or improving on your idea.

Now, I’m not talking about always going with the “group think” mentality. You are “The Chief” after all. If you know your people well enough then you won’t always have to consult them when implementing change because you will already know what the reaction will be. “Soliciting” in this case means talking to your people. Asking them questions and listening, really listening, to what they have to say.”

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PM Strategies to Lead Effective Transitions

The role of transition leader is frequently overlooked but important aspect of program management. There are several keys that you can use to be a top performer.

· Gains support from and confidence of others. Change is not accepted and work cannot be done without the buy-in of key stakeholders. Building support early and frequently is a key to ensuring you have management, customers, team members or shareholders when needed

· Collaborate effectively. No matter how good a manager is, people will not follow without a sense of ownership in the organization. Working together at all levels of organization is critical. People look to see results and your ability to get results effectively and break through roadblocks. This is a fundamental to rapid results. In order to collaborate effectively, you need to focus on building relationships with customers, peers, and project team members.

· Takes accountability. As with any effective manager,successful transition leaders take accountability for their own work as well as that of the entire team that he or she manages. If the transition is structure change, project change, team member change there will be a lot of changing elements. To be viewed as the leader, you need to take accountability for the good and bad and keep communication strong.

· Inspires and motivates sponsor, stakeholder, customers and team. In order to manage change effectively in the organization, transition leaders need to have inspired employees and stakeholders. This can be a challenge as many people will view change as negative. The one constant these days is change, so helping people

· Communicates openly and often. Since change is such a complex and fearsome idea for process what it means and connect to what they do and contribute will mitigate the effect and keep project moving forward as it needs to. For most people, it is important for transition leaders to open the flow of communication and let people know what is undecided and what is decided so they are not left to speculation, rumors and growing fear develops. This holds true on a day-to-day basis as well and just becomes more critical during times of change.

· Provides clear direction. People want to know where program or project is headed. They want to know what roles and responsibilities are and they want to do a good job. Often, there can be a lot of distracters and inhibitors to people doing a good job. Stakeholders also need to understand where they are and where the organization is going. The action you can take leading through change is to link vision to goals of program and keep defining and redefining so people can understand and work to the needed results

· Create a culture of urgency – Often change becomes worse when prolonged as it can create a wait and see operating style. Creating the platform of why and what must be done with urgency will help force resolution and implementation more quickly.

· Creates opportunities for wins. The change involved in large scale and complex IT implementations often appears insurmountable to employees. Define interim goals and wins the team and individuals can celebrate. It is important to frequently reward and recognize team members to help boost morale and to keep change initiatives from failing due to a burned-out staff. It will help build momentum and feeling of accomplishment over long term projects.

Change is a constant. You can implement simple strategies to assist surviving tough transition and being the leader to help team thrive through change. It is important to practice these on a regular basis but step it up in a big way through transition times. It will ensure you delivery High Payoff Projects!


Project Tips: Learn to use “No” to keep projects on track

At Project Connections, here is a very practical article for learning and using the word “No”. The common default is that PM want to do it all but that is recipe for failure. In order to boost the success rate of your projects and ensure high payoff results, staying focused and using the hardest word will help you get there. This requires courage to use it and stop saying “yes” to impossible or “yes, but…”  that is misleading to the person hearing it. Read the full post for some practical tips in

The Hardest Word in the Project Management Vocabulary,  by Carl Pritchard, PMP, EVP  at link below

http://blog.projectconnections.com/carl_pritchard/2008/05/the-hardest-wor.html

Project Tips: Leadership through Turbulent Times

Are you experiencing major changes in your business or organization? Well, if you are not now you probably will soon. Working in technology companies, the only guarantee is “Change will happen”. There are some common steps that you can take as a leader to help navigate through the change and help your project and team thrive and survive it. This is not easy, so please don’t think that is intent of the article. I just want to provide some tips to help along the way. You must be committed to make things happen and drive successfully.

– What qualities will it take?
Focus, Tenacity and resources are the key working through massive changes. Cultural changes can be some of the most difficult for organizations and often managers declare victory when the change effort was anything but that. There was slim evidence to support the claims. If a project I am working is held accountable for the success, I sure want to make sure the team is taking the right steps and driving activities to have strong evidence of succes. It is the key to proving the team made it happen.

– Start with accepting the difficulty of the task. Do your homework. You will encounter problems when you stop listening to other team members and stakeholders. There needs to be an overwhelming amount of credible information that visible throughout the changes. Bring in information from external customers as a way to quiet the internal noise or disputes about what reasons are. Internally, you can survey people to get information about where to focus your efforts, how to communicate through changes. It is tough to ignore the voice of the customer.

– Establish a sense of crisis. When people are spending time trying to figure out why change is happening, your communication is not sufficient. There needs to be a compelling case created, use customer examples, industry info, market info, financial info and make sure that there is crystal clarity on why there is a crisis and why things must change. Show that existing success will vanish because of the situation and what objectives will be of the change and what plan is to make sure it happens.

– Create a business strategy with direction info the entire team can translate to business they know. All change should be based on business strategy as that is the hard reality of why chang is happening. It needs to be driven be the marketplace. This is also the quickest way to move a company to change. The art is to build a sustainable future and what are the programs and projects that will be needed to delivery on the strategy rapidly.

– Align people and support systems. This is when the message becomes real. When you can look around or talk to people and observe behavior and hear the impacts, questions, doubts. People are going to have to do things in a different way than before. As the leader, your challenge is to overcome inertia of watching what happens. You want to discourage the business as usual way and encourage working in the new model. Encourage contribution and the new opportunities that will be driven to meet the market needs.

– Keep everyone informed and involved. This is a constant cycle every day, week to focus on through every change. Bringing people in for personal involvement will give them feeling of ownership of the change. Working behind closed doors and bringing out the end result is a sure way to surprise and cause a tough battle to overcome inertia. Look for people who play a role as key centers influence within organization.

How you manage through change does greatly influence the success or failure. You must be resilient and maintain candor as you will see and say many things. People will be looking to you for direction, communication and leadership. Be an enthusiastic evangelist of the future, your optimism and hope is important to show so people can see a glimpse of where we will get to. At the end, the ultimate payoff for high performancea and delivering success are exceptional financial results and more stakeholder value. Just remember when you are in uncharted territory, that it will require big thinking, learning from others, and staying agile during turbulent times. Its not always easy, but each time you look back you realize that leaps were made and it is well worth the journey. Make it Happen!

Is Your Project on Fire? Tips to Navigate the Urgent Crisis in Your Project

Project and fire are not the terms I like to hear together. So you may be thinking what do they have to do with each other? Well, participate and lead a few projects and you will find the inevitable “fire” to happen. Some of the common causes of the fire are a major issue found not planned for, crisis found in testing, something unexpected breaks, management comes in with a demand to meet that there is not time, resources much chance in delivering on. Sound familiar?

Urgent is a word used frequently in personal and professional life as trying to get work done through other people creates so many reasons that we must impart the criticality, importance, timing for our requests to be completed. Is this constant drive to solve the crisis needed? Some theories are projects that are well run avoid crisis and other managers believe it is there job to sustain this type of urgent work environment as more productive to complete projects. I believe there is a time and place for urgent culture but not sustainable continuously.

Dictionary.com defines “Urgent” as a

1.

Compelling or requiring immediate action or attention; imperative; pressing: an urgent matter.

2.

Insistent or earnest in solicitation; importunate, as a person: an urgent pleader.

3.

Expressed with insistence, as requests or appeals: an urgent tone of voice.

Taking the meaning of urgent and thinking of typical situations at home, provides a few examples that can be applied in workplace. You can have grand ideas for remodeling your house or getting in shape, but if you have a storm that damages your house you drop everything and put it out. What choice do you have? Naturally, the crisis moves to the top of the list despite you may have had plans to take the kids somewhere, travel for business, and make an important family function. Naturally, this is the best choice as the problem has to be solved or it will get worse so your immediate attention is required. The problem is most businesses and project managers act as if the organizations are on fire, most of the time. If you allow the problems to continue with fire fighting, they add up and your contribution is firefighting that defines your accomplishments and skill at managing a project. A career putting out fires never leads to the goal you had in mind all along. It is living reactively not proactively. If you are not working your plan you are falling into someone else’s plan and the result will not be what you wanted. Taking control and leadership as the project manager requires that you take control, put out the fire and proactively lay the right ground work to prevent a fire from burning out of control. The key to “Making Things Happen” is to be in control and know how to lead through the fire and normalcy can resume executing the program.

How to put out some common “fire” situations:

A manager who creates continual crisis

This is an opportunity that you need to learn what high level objectives are. Are they changing their mind, are they being influenced by customer, investors, is it lack of clarity for what they want done? A strategy to manage this is to get a view of the external and internal environment. Look forward and develop a plan to anticipate some of the twists, manager concerns so you can agree on strategy and how you will communicate with the individual. Map out what this looks like, where change points are, what impacts are and get on the same page with manager so impacts are understood of their requests on project.

Something breaks, fails to pass required check

Whether you are working on a construction project and something is found in digging the foundation that halts progress or you are developing a new product and regulatory doesn’t pass, in your industry you have a similar gotcha that grinds work to a halt. This a good chance to gather the team in area impacted and determine can it be fixed, at what cost, how much time will it take, what is chance at measure fixing problem, what other alternatives are there. This is critical crisis problem solving. It will vary issue if there is a quick fix or in some cases minimum time must pass to have another inspection, qualification. Either way, there is a cost impact to your business so how effectively you manage quick action plan will make the difference in making it happen and get work done successfully.

If you work in an urgent-only culture, the only solution is to make the right things urgent so you can survive and ensure that team is working to higher level goals. As a leader, your sanity and the endurance of your team will require tough decisions, learning to say no, manage the deliverable and stay on track. It is easy to be derailed but the difference between surviving and thriving will be your response to the fires and laying the groundwork to prevent the fire at all. What other strategies do you use?