This is the first in a series of posts based on the questions I ask project managers when we explore being a Project Motivator and the concepts of strengths-based project management. I ask these questions of my readers and workshop attendees, but I think it is important to be transparent, so I share my answers too....
How much time do you spend communicating? Keep a few a journal for a few days to track your communication.
When I first did this exercise, I was totally surprised! First of all, I looked up the definition of communication – sharing of information OR building rapport. Hmmm, I thought. As a project manager that is practically all that I do! When I logged the amount of time I was communicating – by phone, in person, email, Powerpoint, using Sharepoint etc, it was over 90% of my day.
And of course, the research by Andy Crowe (shared by PMI) confirms that we spend the bulk of our time communicating. Of course, knowing that is one thing, seeing that in our own experience is another! When I kept a log of what I was doing, it was a real eye-opener.
Some days it was ALL day. Suddenly I was aware of how important communication is and also how important it is to be thoughtful about the means and modes of communication! I really started to pay attention to whether I was using the best means for each message and each member of my audience. After that, I became much more flexible.
I started to look at when I wanted to “push” information and when I wanted it to be on-demand by the recipient – “pull” communication.
I also started to think about whether we communicate so much because we need to, or whether it is because we don’t do it as well as we can!
See my upcoming post about project managers and social intelligence.
What do you do to influence others?
This was another real eye-opener question for me. Rather than just look at this question on my own, I asked other people what I did or said that was most influential. The feedback I received was enlightening. I heard that (i) I model positive behavior. Even when things are tough, I seem to believe that things will work out and that we have the means to make it happen. (ii) Connected with the first one was the feedback that I show that I believe in the team and have confidence that they will overcome obstacles and make things happen. (iii) I don’t ask others to do things I won’t do myself. If there was weekend work, for example, I was there with the team. (iv) I always make time for people to be people – some days they are on top form, others they are distracted. Some days they seem to ace every decision, other days they make mistakes. Some days they are all about work and some days they are focused on their family, their dog or some other area of their life. It is a fact of being alive!
What are three strategies you already use to be an effective project manager?
I think the main strategies I use are (i) I am always learning – about the team, about the project, about the reason for the project. (ii) I accept that priorities change and that we may have to adjust and re-plan and at the same time I recognize that constant change is not something that everyone is comfortable with and (iii) I work with the strengths of my team.
Strategies for Success:
- Be Hopeful: Believe that you will make a difference and look for ways you can apply a strengths-based approach to your environment.
- Each time I discuss strengths with project managers, I am reminded of things I want to build on to make a difference to project managers, projects and teams.
- Be Curious: Observe yourself and others. Ask yourself what is motivating the behavior of the person or people in front of you?
- I like to follow my observation up with a question to those around me. Checking in with others broadens my perspective and understanding. It also demonstrates that we are interested in what others think and feel and in hearing what they have to say.
- Be strong: Reflect on your observations to glean insights into the working of your team and to identify actions you can take to build team connection to your goals.
- There is lots of research that shows that speaking out loud is more helpful than an internal dialog for reflecting on learning and experiences. When we speak out loud, we hear ourselves and hear our story from a different standpoint. Writing things down has the same effect. We process experiences differently when we write about them.
- Be Brave: Create small actions that reinforce helpful team behavior.
- The old adage “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is well known and may be overused, but it is still true! Small changes lead to big changes. Small changes stick! We are more likely to repeat a small change that took incremental effort than a big change that was hard to accomplish. Think of going to the gym. When we lift our first weights – big effort – our muscles hurt afterward. If we up the weights from there a little at a time before we know it we are lifting twice the weight, but we no longer suffer the same muscle fatigue the next day.