by Dave Wakeman
As we’ve moved through the pandemic, I’ve learned more and more about leadership—what good leadership looks like and what bad leadership looks like.
Since early July, the first question I pose to guests on my podcast, The Business of Fun, zeroes in on how they’ve have been leading their teams during the pandemic. Here are some of the lessons learned that can help you level up your leadership game no matter what industry you work in:
Put People First
This actually came out of several conversations I had, but Mark Fowlie and Harold Hughes, a pair of tech CEOs, really put the best exclamation point on this directive.
Mark is the CEO of Audience View and has a team distributed around the world. He said he helped his team adapt to the new normal by communicating consistently and clearly, and helping people get the space to operate, think and work in an environment where no one had a playbook.
Harold is the CEO of Bandwagon FanClub and his approach is to have daily stand-ups. This provides some consistency with the in-office experience and offers teams a place—albeit virtual—to come and talk. It also gives folks some structure to their day, so they don’t feel alone in their work. On top of that, Harold and his team emphasized socialization with baking classes, happy hours and other fun meetings to ensure the team got a chance to know their co-workers both personally and professionally.
Be Honest In Your Communications
Richard Howle is director of ticketing at The Ticket Factory in the United Kingdom and the biggest lesson learned he shared with me was: It’s totally fine to say that you don’t know something.
No one has the definitive playbook for how to deal with unexpected situations. So expecting we’re going to have all of the answers at a moment’s notice isn’t doing our team any favors—and sets us up to fail as leaders in the process.
Change Is Difficult, But We Have To Deal With It
Zoe Scaman from Bodacious shared her philosophy on communicating change, especially to an audience that may not be comfortable with change or might not want to change. Securing their buy-in goes beyond simply telling them why they need to change. You must show the exciting things possible when people create change and embrace the process.
As project managers, change is a constant and it can be disruptive in the best of cases. In my own experience, I find the need to sell change to my team a bit frustrating. But when I chatted with Zoe, her point of talking about selling the benefits and the vision of a better future helped recalibrate my thinking about what change is really about and why it matters so much.
Change is really about improvement and making the environment and world around you a bit better. In times like these, that’s actually a pretty refreshing perspective to maintain.
How have you been leading your teams during the pandemic? Let me know in the comments.
By Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMP
“People reported to me that they had difficulties working with you.”
These were the words a manager spoke to me early in my career—and I haven’t forgotten them. I was very shocked to hear the feedback, as no one approached me about any grievances they had with me. Naturally, I wanted to know who said it and in what context. But the manager refused to give me many details. Was the feedback constructive? Not really. Was it useful? Absolutely not.
Giving better feedback helps you and your teams improve their collaboration and deliver better project outcomes. But all feedback is not created equally. You need to set the conditions for success.
First, feedback shouldn’t feel like top-down decision-making. There has to buy-in. So it’s important to talk through expectations with team members: How often will you gather feedback? How will you communicate it?
The conditions in which the message is conveyed also matters, especially for negative feedback. If it’s a face-to-face meeting, book a room to create a confidential and comfortable environment to engage in a conversation. The feedback must also be recent. Regular feedback lets team members apply lessons learned on the fly.
And there must be follow-up: If action items are outlined but no action is taken, credibility in the feedback process is lost and motivation decreases. As a leader, your role is to ensure constructive feedback is turned into reality.
Let’s explore ways to improve the feedback process:
1. Have a game plan.
One useful framework I’ve used is SBI:
Then finish with a proposal, knowing this is only the beginning of the conversation. Having a plan of action that remains consistent across all feedback creates a structure the team can adapt to and feel comfortable with.
2. Don’t escalate the situation unless it’s necessary.
When I delivered the first Samsung LTE device, I worked with a radio engineer with a reputation of being a difficult collaborator. Some colleagues recommended I escalate any issue that arose. But I preferred to meet him face-to-face in a closed room to seek out better ways to communicate. At the end of the project, he mentioned he appreciated my approach.
3. Speak up and don’t procrastinate.
A few years ago on a strategic project, I couldn’t get a hold of the expert. He was busy presenting to the top management and stakeholders in other countries. I organized some meetings with him, but I didn’t dare take up too much of his time asking questions. I also didn’t open myself up to provide feedback because I didn’t think it would bring about any improvement. When he left the team, I faced some long delays on the projects because I’d refused to make suggestions or start a meaningful dialog about what could be done better. The moral of the story: Don’t refrain from voicing your concerns or feedback when appropriate!
4. Don’t forget to provide positive feedback.
With 20 years of work experience behind me, I’ve learned the power of positive feedback and how it offers a self-confidence boost to team members and leaders. I now send spontaneous appreciation notes to recognize my team’s efforts.
I've also learned to accept positive feedback. Before, I would say “thank you” and quickly jumped to what I could have done better. One day, a colleague told me to stop, breathe and internalize the positive feedback.
Constructive feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, opens the door to a conversation. It sets you off on a rewarding path to self-discovery and self-improvement.
How do you give feedback on your project teams? Tell me in the comments.
By Jorge Valdés Garciatorres, PMP
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
Experts say that the world will never be as we once knew it. I personally think that it will take us several years to return to some sense of normalcy. We’ll have to accept it: Adaptation is inevitable.
As I prepared to write this blog, I was looking for a personal story to illustrate my resilience skills. The truth is that many came to mind. I believe that this ability, along with creativity, is something we all have as project managers.
Working from home for the past 15 or 16 weeks (I’m one of the lucky ones who can work remotely during the pandemic) is perhaps the closest example of resilience. In my case, it has required less effort, but the overwhelming response we have had to our Managing Remote Teams program has helped me realize that, although the technology exists, there is still a lag in the ability of many to adapt to this new way of working.
Another reflection that came to my mind was that perhaps as project managers, our shifting scope of work causes us to take life as it comes. That is to say, this professional activity that I chose and that I enjoy so much helps those of us who practice it to develop that capacity of hyper-adaptation. For example, life has led me to give courses in parking lots, and on one occasion a few years ago, I almost had to give a course while on the presidential plane for a group of Mexican government officials. I have learned to work at home, where I have a spacious and comfortable office totally adapted to my taste, and I’ve also transitioned to suddenly having to work at a 35 inch x 35 inch desk in a client's facilities.
Other reflections come to my mind with regard to the technological changes that people in my generation have experienced. My kids just can’t believe that when I was young, I was my mother’s remote control, and that in my time, the “smart” were the people who used phones—and not the phones themselves.
In the end, whether it is a generational skill or whether it is fostered by the career someone chooses, there is no doubt that adapting to changing situations is an important and vital skill in these times.
During the "Googleographic" research I did to write this article, I came across this page in which the American Psychological Association, in addition to defining resilience, proposes some activities to help foster it.
The literature available on the web around this topic has been increasing. I can also recommend two books, not to be missed, that can help you better understand how resilience can make the difference between success and failure.
One story that has marked me in particular, masterfully narrated in the book Desde la Adversidad, that of Ernest Shackleton, a ship captain of about 110 years ago. He went down in history for having formed what is perhaps the most resilient team in history.
Another book that I highly recommend is Bonnie St John's Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy. I had the opportunity to listen to Bonnie while attending an event a few years ago. Her story is incredible, and an inspiration for everyone. The fruit of her experience is explained very assertively in her excellent book.
If you are a project manager or a consultant, chances are that you are already a resilient person. But remember that you must keep exercising your skills to keep them in shape.
How do you exercise your resilience?
By Cyndee Miller
Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Trevor Noah. But even I was a bit surprised at his eloquence in speaking about managing projects—and what it takes to deliver them.
And those skills are coming in handy in these strange times.
Noah said he felt “inspired” by the opportunity to rethink how he does everything.
“It’s not often you get an opportunity to completely revamp what you do,” he said. “We cannot ignore the situation we’re in. It would be a disservice to not emerge from this without thinking about better ways of working—of living.”
That means abandoning your comfort zone. His approach? “I wake up every day saying this could be the day I get fired,” Noah said. “It makes me appreciate the fact that I’m not. It also makes me ask what else would I be doing?”
There are no rules, Noah said. And that opens up new opportunities for people to reinvent ways of working, to rewrite the rules and to reemerge better than before.
“For any project manager who’s out there thinking about the moment, try to apply yourself to thinking about how you would like an ideal system to be, as opposed to trying to apply an old system to this new world,” he said.
And yes, that includes one of the greatest questions of our Zoom-filled times: Do you really need that meeting? Or can you handle it over a text?
“We are in a situation where we can challenge conventional thinking,” PMI President and CEO Sunil Prashara said in talking with Noah. “Be realistic and optimistic at the same time. That allows you to innovate.”
Note: This optimism isn’t the kind of unchecked, unicorn-and-kittens, pie-in-the-sky optimism. Meaningful innovation only happens when it’s based in reality. And right now that reality is intrinsically linked to COVID, which is serving as a catalyst for iteration and the exploration of new systems. The little virus is the ultimate gamechanger. “There’s nothing like a crisis to ignite innovation,” said Shobhna Raghupathy, PMP.
That means ditching those old prescriptive ways of thinking and activating a new set of power skills. Adaptability, communication and collaboration are the must-haves in the age of disruption, said Erick Means of CDW.
And forget failing fast. You’re still failing, said PMI’s Scott Ambler. Project leaders should instead aim to fail less often, learn faster and succeed earlier.
Much of innovation is tied to tech, of course, and project leaders mustn’t ignore the sometimes-sticky ethical issues that will inevitably bubble up.
“Every conversation about technologies should consider, ‘Okay, what are the ethical implications? What are the unintended consequences?,’” said Rana el Kaliouby, author and CEO of healthcare Affectiva, an MIT Media Lab spin-off focused on “bringing emotional intelligence to the digital world.”
The effects aren’t always what they would appear on the surface.
“My biggest concern is not that robots are going to take over—it’s that we’re accidentally building in bias in unintended ways,” said el Kaliouby. The best way to combat that? Build diverse teams of people with different POVs and perspectives.
Mark your calendars for the next Experience PMI event on 9 September, when Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Lakshyashala Edutech’s Tanya Elizabeth Ken will lead the conversation on entrepreneurship and resilience. I’ll see you there—virtually, of course.
I’ll close out the same way PMI started each session throughout the day, with a simple question: What’s the one word you’d use to describe the work you’re doing today? Tell me in the comments below.
Defining standards and metrics is a key function for the Project Management Office (PMO). In many ways, a PMO is uniquely positioned to provide guidance and orientation in order to build consistency in the application of project management best practices among the projects within an organization.
As you can imagine, a standard methodology provides a basis for performance, and metrics provide a basis for the measurement of that performance against the standard. To that end, project management practices can benefit from metrics to establish the depth and extent of applying standards selected by the organization.
Here, I will outline the steps in developing good PM methodology for your organization and how to define metrics and key performance indicators.
Developing a Project Management Methodology
The ﬁrst step in introducing formal project management processes and practices is the awareness of the starting point (AS IS - current situation). The PMO should scrutinize the organization’s capabilities in the project management environment as a prerequisite for designing the type, depth and comprehensiveness of project management methodology processes and tools. The PMO’s examination of current project management practices involves the following activities:
Bear in mind that project management methodology development is not a simple task. This undertaking requires:
Below you can find a simple structure to guide you in developing a detailed methodology to suit your organization’s needs.
Defining Project Management Metrics
The PMO will be involved in determining which metrics are used in the project management environment. Actually, most PMOs are responsible for metrics comprising the various sets of data that represent and quantify either its prescriptive practice guidance or results from its directed measurements.
A good set of metrics can be used to:
Some metrics could be:
Defining a standard project management methodology is very important for consistency, helping to improve maturity and increase project success rates. This is a collaborative endeavor and should be led by the PMO, if there is one.
What are some of your biggest lessons learned from developing standard methodology or defining project metrics?