Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Viewing Posts by Judy Umlas

Establishing a Culture of Acknowledgment

Categories: Teams

Editor's Note: In response to a recent comment on the "The Power of Acknowledgement," by Judy Umlas, commenter Lina asked, "Would you mind explaining or giving the steps to start implementing the acknowledgment culture in a team?" The following is Judy's response.

Lina, I think you have asked a very important and worthwhile question.

Here are some steps you can take to establish or enhance a culture of acknowledgment (and appreciation) on a team:

1. If you're a project leader for a new team, all the better. At your project kickoff meeting, announce that you have heard about the value of acknowledging team members for their accomplishments, and for who they are and what they bring to the team.
Be clear that people should only acknowledge team members that they truly feel deserve it. Otherwise, the acknowledgment will fall flat and be considered insincere. If the project is already underway, set up some specific time to discuss this at one of your regular project meetings.
2. Make the statement that everyone has a unique talent or gift that they bring to the team. Stress that they are all tasked with finding these gifts and talents.
3. In my book, The Power of Acknowledgment, I discuss 7 principles of acknowledgment, which can be summarized as follows:

  • The world is full of people who deserve to be acknowledged.
  • Acknowledgment builds intimacy and creates powerful interactions.
  • Acknowledgment neutralizes, defuses, deactivates and reduces the effect of jealousy and envy.
  • Recognizing good work leads to high energy, great feelings, high-quality performance and terrific results. Not acknowledging causes the opposite.
  • Truthful, heartfelt and deserved acknowledgment always makes a difference in a person's life and work.
  • Acknowledgment can likely improve the emotional and physical health of both the giver and the receiver.
  • Practice different ways of getting through to the people you want to acknowledge.
Ask people how these principles "show up" for them. Do they recognize that being acknowledged is an innate human need? Without it, people cannot survive, let alone thrive.

4. Share with them Stephen R. Covey's quote from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: "Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is ... to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated."

Keep the conversation about acknowledgment going throughout the life of the project. Then, do a wildly successful job as a team. The culture of acknowledgment and appreciation will allow that to happen.
How do you create a culture of acknowledgment within your project teams?

Posted by Judy Umlas on: October 05, 2011 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Instill Acknowledgment Into the Corporate Culture

Categories: Teams

Normally, I encourage and promote the use of heartfelt and spontaneous acknowledgments. Now I want to talk about the possibility of instituting and practicing a more formal process of recognition simultaneously.

I recently held a webinar with about 60 project managers from Finland. I had been told before the webinar that they didn't believe acknowledgement even existed in their culture. Shortly after this webinar, though, I received an enthusiastic e-mail from Dean Pattrick, PMP, telling me about an internal program introduced at Nokia in Finland. It's called the Peer-to-Peer Recognition Award.

Below is a copy of the certificate he and the company's human resources department put together to recognize achievement in one of the company's four core values, Achieving Together.

"So I filled in this certificate for eight people and the response I got from each of them was jaw-dropping," Mr. Pattrick wrote.

Remember, acknowledgment supposedly doesn't even exist in Mr. Pattrick's culture. Yet people were thrilled and delighted with the recognition certificates and the heartfelt comments.

He achieved these results because acknowledgment is a human need, especially at work.

Many companies are starting to institute formal practices like Nokia's and I wholeheartedly applaud them. I also acknowledge Mr. Pattrick for putting this practice into action.

Does your organization have a formal process for recognizing its employees? If so, please share it with us and let us know how you think it is working.

Photo copyright of Nokia and was published with permission.

Posted by Judy Umlas on: January 12, 2011 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Celebration of Project Managers

Categories: Leadership, PMI

One of the attendees at the Fifth PMI National Congress held recently in Brazil said something that really resonated with me: "I want people on my team who truly believe in the project." That statement is so simple and yet so elegant. It made me think of the project that my company is working on now: International Project Management Day 2010.

A senior consultant at IIL, Frank P. Saladis, PMP, created the idea for this day of recognition and acknowledgment of project managers worldwide.

Now in its seventh year, the event brings together project management thought-leaders in a virtual conference accessible to anyone and everyone around the world.

Gregory Balestrero, president and CEO of PMI, and Harold Kerzner, PhD, will each deliver a keynote address. The event launches on 4 November, and attendees can earn up to 11 free professional development units (PDUs) for participating. There will also be a virtual recognition booth where you can name people you think are great project managers.

This project is a joy, but often a challenge, for all of us to pull together and make it happen. We do it to help realize the goal and intention of the special day: to make sure that all of you are being celebrated. It's certainly a project that every one of us truly believes in and is proud to be a part of.

Head over now -- it's not too late for you to join in the celebration. If you can't make it, the content will be up for three months and you can still earn those precious (and price-less) PDUs.
Posted by Judy Umlas on: November 03, 2010 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Work-Life Balance Really Exist?

Categories: Career Help

I spent a good part of a recent weekend doing a final edit of an upcoming project management book. Ironically, one chapter referenced a 2004 Fast Company article called "Balance is Bunk!" ('Bunk' being a slang term that basically means 'absurd.')

There I was, giving up my well-earned leisure time on a beautiful fall day, but wanting and needing to get the job done. So I went to the article, which states:

"The truth is, balance is bunk. ... The quest for balance between work and life, as we've come to think of it, isn't just a losing proposition; it's a hurtful, destructive one."

Now we're really getting to the core of the dilemma, I thought to myself. The author then quotes John Wood, who at the time the article was written, had been working seven days a week, 365 days a year. In regard to the elusive, so-called state of "balance," Mr. Wood said:
"I don't look at balance as an ideal. What I look at is, Am I happy? If the answer is yes, then everything else is inconsequential."
That made a lot of sense, I thought. I love and am passionate about what I do. I want to get this book published and out the door -- but what's on the other side of this supposedly unachievable quest for balance?
Rodney Turner, PhD, recently made a presentation entitled  "Work-Life Balance in Project-Oriented Organizations." A preview states:
"Companies should treat their employees with respect and allow them to have a work-life balance. It is good for their physical and psychological health and therefore good for social sustainability. ... The need for profit and responding to client demands often takes precedence over employee wellbeing."

So is work-life balance bunk? I think the answer is both yes and no.
Sometimes when a project grabs us or is imposed on us, we have to say, "I surrender" -- either out of passion, guilt or intense pressure. I chose to give the book I was editing my all -- even when a "balanced" work-life scenario would have had me walking in the woods on that beautiful day. But I know it was worth it, and I know other beautiful days will come. I need to make sure I take advantage of them -- at least once in a while.

What do you think about the work-life balance challenge?
Posted by Judy Umlas on: October 21, 2010 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

A Project Manager's Call to Action

Categories: Leadership, Teams

Apart from the challenge of letting go of my 18-year-old "baby," I was thrilled and proud to bring my son to the Rochester Institute of Technology, a university in Rochester, New York, USA last week. At orientation for first year students, James Miller, PhD, senior vice president for career services, invited the 2,650 new students gathered there to create an education and a life that included three critical elements: balance, passion and making a difference.

What better message could there be for these young people, and for the rest of us as well?

Ultimately, project managers are committed to making a difference. It doesn't matter whether the project is solving a problem or filling a need, building a bridge, or creating new software that will do a job better, faster and easier. The goal of project management is always to make things work and work well. And that makes a difference -- in people's lives, communities, schools and environment.

Passion is another element that we love to see in our profession. Who among us wouldn't prefer to work on a team with people who won't stop until things get done and get done right? These are the people who are profoundly connected to, and engaged in, the outcome of the project. They keep the big picture in mind, too, and know that what they do is valued, important and worthwhile.

And then there's balance, the ultimate key to self-actualization and satisfaction in life and in work. Giving back -- when many of us have so much -- is a key part of a balanced existence. I love the way more and more organizations in the United States are excusing their people from work to do community service. I'm also inspired by the way many project managers serve as mentors to those entering the profession or in the process of earning a Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential.

Balance, passion and making a difference. These three elements can and should be a project manager's call to action. What we wake up for, what we see as our purpose in life, and what we keep in front of us as a guidepost will continually challenge and inspire us -- as well as those around us. I hope my son will learn this as his first academic lesson. And may it last a lifetime.

Posted by Judy Umlas on: September 15, 2010 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world."

- Dave Barry



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