Servant Leadership: Serve to Be Great

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This blog is about leadership as it applies to projects and project management, but also as it applies to society in general. The bloggers here manage projects and lead teams in both business and volunteer environments, and are all graduates of PMI's Leadership Institute Master Class. We hope to bring insight into the challenges we all experience in our projects and in our day-to-day work, providing helpful tidbits to inspire you to take action to improve—whether in your personal life, your business/work life or on your projects. Read, comment and share your experiences as we share ours. Let’s make the pie bigger! Grab a slice!

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Cameron McGaughy
Catalin Dogaru
Mike Frenette
Suzan Cho
Jonathan Lee
Tolga Özel
Graham Briggs
Cecilia Boggi

Recent Posts

Project Management is All Around Us!

The Servant Leadership Way: Virtues that bring Results

Acting out...as a leader?

The Elusive PMO

Expert or Leader? / ¿Experto o Líder?

Project Management is All Around Us!

This past winter I helped coach a recreational league high school basketball team for my son. I am always up for the challenge of coaching a youth sport for our town.  Over the years, I have coached lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and most recently basketball. There are many challenges to a successful season, and at this level success isn’t always defined as how many wins a team can get.  It sure helps with morale, but the most important gauge of success is that a player has become a better player playing for the team I coached. That being said, I find myself pulling from my Project Management background in so many areas.  Utilizing the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing the work has helped tremendously in making the whole experience for the other coaches, the players, and the parents a smooth and enjoyable one. I thought it would be fun to look at the areas that I have pulled from.

Initiating can be hectic.  Luckily, most of the parents and other coaches also realize that the number of wins isn’t the only way to have a successful season.  This all starts way before a team is actually put together. We need to meet with the full league, secure gym time, set up a way for players to sign up, and figuring out and coordinating the practice and game schedules.

Planning, for me, is the fun part.  We finally are ready with lists of players and it’s time for tryouts.  Similarly to hiring an employee that you are going to work with on projects, we always focus on how coachable the kids are.  This doesn’t mean that they are the best at the sport, but it means that they are ready and willing to learn. The same goes for business.  If everyone focused on all stars for projects, we may do well on that one project, but it is important to also train other players for other projects and for the future.  A good project team is a blend of experienced, motivated individuals with multiple skills. On a basketball team, we want everyone to come to practice with an open mind. Sure, it helps to have teammates who can shoot and score, but it sure helps having someone that may be good at defense, or great at bench morale.  These all make for a great team and a fun experience.

Executing comes in many forms, especially during a season.  Each game requires execution; from the players and the coaches.  On a project team, executing well allows the team to succeed at their ultimate goal of successfully finishing the project on time and on budget.  Executing plays is what is required of the players, while figuring out player matchups and what the other team may be throwing at us is what is required of the coaches.

Controlling in terms of a sports team can be broken down in a couple of different parts.  Off the field, there are a lot of moving parts, most of which are coordinating various schedules, vacations, carpooling, and the occasional sicknesses… making sure that we have enough players to play in each game.  On the field, or court in the case of basketball, we as coaches must look at the players as individual parts of the team. We need to ensure that they are not getting worn out, not getting into foul trouble, and, ideally, trying to control the other team enough to win the game.  I did mention that winning isn’t everything, but it sure is part of a competitive sport.

Closing the season out can be in the form of a playoff run.  But, more than that, it is important to make sure that the team’s goals have been satisfied and hopefully a handful of them are willing to come back for another season.  Having a team that has been together for one year can drastically help ease startup of the next season. On a project team, there will be turnover due to promotions, change of job, retirement, etc… but making sure that they are all motivated to be successful again on another new project is the ultimate goal.

In conclusion, project management practices help me make my personal and professional lives much easier to handle.  If anything, from coaching a sport or being part of a project management team, it has allowed me to break down a sometimes daunting task to one that is much more manageable and enjoyable. Applied in judicious amounts, I believe project management practices will also help you: at work, in the community and at home.

Posted by Graham Briggs on: April 06, 2018 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Servant Leadership Way: Virtues that bring Results

Categories: servant leadership

Servant Leadership is not a leadership style; it is a way of life, with genuine and generous heart and strong commitment to the humility that puts the benefit of others before self.

Sharing with you Fortune’s The World’s most Admired Companies to start our conversation today. The oxymoron term of Servant Leadership has become better known because of the internationally recognized and respected success of the mega companies such as Starbucks (ranked 3rd in 2017, 5th in 2014) and Southwest Airlines (ranked #8 in 2017, #9 in 2014). Both deliver business excellence through the culture of trust and compassion.

Many people must think that Servant Leadership only works well in small teams or small organizations, such as the Scrum Master role in the software Agile development projects. However, size really doesn’t matter. Servant leadership is a way of creating human connections of virtuous cycles and building communities that outperform, as is the case with the examples above.

The path of finding or being a person with passion and passionately committed to a cause is not an easy one nor is it straightforward. For individuals, it is important to start from becoming self-aware, recognizing one’s strength or weakness and using that to benefit others without saying it (being humble). We are shaped by our experiences as a result of our actions. So, keep going!

  

Imagine if we continue to practice Servant Leadership from the heart with discipline, the virtues will expand and become a multiplier for the domino effect of the universe. Imagine the world operating in resonance with much success!

Everyone can be a leader with influence. A servant leader communicates well to inspire openness and trust. A servant leader cultivates a great emotional quotient to support others and help them thrive in doing and finding meaning and purpose in life while jointly advancing corporate goals. I think a good daily measure is  to examine how much time you spend polishing and re-polishing to show your manager's position and control vs. working on improving the content to further develop ideas and execute to bring great results as a team.

Are you an entrepreneur who already embraced it and leading by example? If you have an opportunity to seek your company’s executive support for the servant leadership, what would be your "ask"? What will be an effective way to shift the corporate culture paradigm?

Posted by Suzan Cho on: January 10, 2018 11:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Acting out...as a leader?

“Because I said so…”. This is a “powerful” sentence that (almost) every child has heard at least once. When they are criticized, misunderstood or just denied of what they want (with no explanation whatsoever), a child’s first impulse is either to dissolve into tears and/or to push back, puffing and woofing angrily towards the “repressor/enemy” (usually an adult). They want to show that they are in pain (psychologically) and frustrated.

But when you are 4 or 5 or 7 years old, it’s almost impossible to describe eloquently your state of mind, your emotions. It’s much easier to display them. This is why, in those particular moments, children begin to shout, whimper or scream. They actually begin to (what psychologist call) act-out (their feelings/emotions/ frustrations).

And guess what? In the adult world, it’s almost the same.

As adults, we learn to restrain (even repress) ourselves from physically exhibiting our (deep) emotions. We try to explain them, rationalise them as much as possible. However, as soon as somebody is “pushing” (harder) our buttons, we tend to return to our inner (indignant) child. We sulk, puff and woof, retreating from that conversation or, quite the opposite, retaliating in a strong, powerful manner. And, more often than we think, we want  to protect ourselves by being more offensive. Instead of understanding our fears, insecurities and self-doubts, we block them and, most importantly, we turn them back on our opponent/”enemy”.

Didn’t you feel, after a dense, heated conversation and after you had time to cool off, that you might have just overreacted? That some of the actions you took and/or replies you uttered seemed (after you cooled off) exaggerated and inflamed considering the light weight of the topic itself?

That’s because you acted-out your state of mind. In that particular moment, the anger you  experienced came from the fear that you will not get what you need/want, that you are not loved, not respected, not included/accepted by the group.  

Isn’t that exactly how it was when we were kids, only with more psychological “baggage” accumulated over the years? We are adults now, we can be angry and fight back with more power and more means. We can win this one - not like when we were kids.

Oh, this is such an illusion…

Now, imagine all of these for an individual in a leadership position. The number of threats and (possible) conflicts rise exponentially. Higher expectations and greater ambition bring an increased level of stress and anxiety. All of the repressed fears, emotions find an easier way to surface and the individual (the leader?!?) is more prone to act-out in difficult times such as short deadlines, conflicting teams, disgruntled employees, stressful projects and more. Just like in childhood, acting-out brings (most of the time) many disadvantages and problems in any human relation.

Obviously, we wonder if we can avoid these situations as much as possible or, at least, reduce their probability. It’s hard to give a recipe for such a complex psychological matter.

However, I would venture a guess and offer three key elements that, in my opinion, any individual should focus on if she/he wants to be a better person (and, consequently, a better leader). As a side note - these are also core elements of servant leadership and promoted as such.

  1. Self-awareness -  we need to know who we are. We have to understand our fears, our regrets and our insecurities. If it’s not possible to solve them, we have to, at least, learn how to cope with them. Most of the conflicts and harmed relationships come from projecting our raw “bad” emotions onto the “opponent”, emotions usually coming from unresolved (childhood) issues (lack of love, rejection, feelings of not being valued, etc.). . Getting to know all of these and understanding them will bring the necessary balance for us to exist and perform in an efficient and effective manner.

  2. Collaboration - we are not alone. There is too much self-centeredness among individuals. Everyone wants to protect - at all costs - his/her “self-interest”. The laws of physics are pretty clear - pressure equals force divided by area. So, as soon as the “area” is smaller, the pressure gets bigger. Dealing with all the external “forces” alone (unrealistic deadlines, low budgets, bad bosses etc.) will bring too much pressure on the individual, making her/him prone to cave. Having a team with whom to collaborate will deflect the pressure to a larger area, making it more bearable and easier to handle.

  3. Vulnerability - we are not Supermen or Superwomen. Usually, anger comes as a means of protecting your vulnerabilities . Learning how to “let go”, be open, and divulging your feelings is a huge step. In the last century, we encouraged rationality while we tried to avoid anything that cannot be explained scientifically (like emotions or pain). Therefore, any “wounds” that don’t have a tangible cause (such as  from a lack of love or respect) are avoided or “treated” superficially. And these are the “wounds” that last and affect every aspect of our lives.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, I am sure. Emotions, sensations, feelings, fears:  all of them are part of a “world” that constitutes the foundation of any relationship;  being personal or professional. Therefore, we must not ignore them but try to understand and have them work for our benefit as individuals, especially, for the ones aspiring to lead.

To be the leader everyone expects today, we need to heal the “wounds” from yesterday or, at least,  acknowledge and start working on them. And this is the toughest leadership decision that any of us wishing to lead has to make.

Are you up for it?

 

 

 

 
Posted by Catalin Dogaru on: December 06, 2017 07:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

The Elusive PMO

In our jobs as project managers, we often find ourselves thrust into situations requiring us to share our knowledge to help others be successful. But that is not a problem for us: it’s an opportunity to help others become leaders - a main tenet of servant leadership. And what stronger leadership is there than a PMO formed through a mix of best practices from credible sources, collaboration and consensus among the PMs in your organization?

So you are an excellent project manager and your skills have been recognized: a high success ratio in the projects you manage, high technical expertise, outstanding interpersonal skills and an ability to boil complex theory down into comprehensible, practical and applicable processes in your organization. You have been chosen. Now it is time to set up the PMO.

There have been been many books and articles written on how to set up a PMO and how to make it successful. There have also been many written on why PMOs fail, the types of PMOs and whether a PMO should be a provider of good practices or a provider of PM services. You must be well aware of success metrics for your PMO. You must learn lessons from those who have tried and succeeded or tried and failed, and you must know the type of PMO you have been mandated to create.

PMs are a strong-headed bunch. They are in control of their own project organizations, often have a lot of autonomy, and may (believe it not) actually be resistant to change, much like many people in a multitude of organizations. So, you will be challenged with inviting their input, collectively separating the wheat from the chaff, having them feel they have had input and have been part of gaining consensus on ways to change to improve project success rates without undue process and fanfare.

There are a few things I feel require particular focus:

  • Identifying all the PMs in the organization and treating them as you would any key stakeholder in a project - communicate business objectives and intent, involve them, consult with them, and gain consensus on important items.
  • Using industry standard processes, tools and templates (PMI is a great source), but tailoring them to the organization, not just branding, but in content and use. One size does not fit all.
  • Implementing a training, certification, mentoring and coaching program so that help is always at hand, and everyone knows how to get it.
  • Installing a PM vernacular that matches the processes, tools and templates you are together espousing and socializing it within your organization’s PM Community.
  • Establishing a repository for all things PM, preferably online and mobile-friendly, making sure the entry point is highly visible, linking it to your organization’s main entry point to such applications.
  • Making the entry point usable, engaging a user experience expert to design, for example, graphical, clickable and easy to use interfaces.
  • Creating a PM community within your organization and holding regular meetings allowing PMs to showcase their projects, share lessons learned and discuss leading edge PM topics, in person or virtual or a combination of the two.
  • Establishing a virtual collaboration space for PMs, where lessons learned can be shared, where help can be requested and where virtual mentoring can take place.

These are just a few items to consider, of course. A final critically important note is to set up monitoring processes to ensure your PMO has high adoption rates and a robust sustainability plan. How will you monitor its use? If it is not used, how will you fix it so it is? How will you ensure it remains fresh with continuous updating?  How will you ensure PMs stay engaged in the community you collectively created?There is more, of course, and I am sure some of you will share your experiences and lessons learned here.

Here’s to the establishment of your vibrant, well-adopted and fully sustainable Project Management Office!

Posted by Mike Frenette on: November 28, 2017 08:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Expert or Leader? / ¿Experto o Líder?

Categories: IT, Leadership

Expert or Leader?

Those of us who graduate in technology careers, as in my case, tend to have a reputation for being independent and autonomous, and we are often e labeled as "NERDs".

Recall that the stereotype of "NERD" represents a very intelligent person, fascinated by knowledge, expert in technical issues and proud of it, but quite isolated from the environment that surrounds him or her, sometimes experiencing social disorders.

I have to admit that in the first years of my career in software development projects, I found many characters with the aforementioned characteristics: recognized experts highly valued for their knowledge, people who concentrated on their work, hoping that no one interrupts them, enjoying their interaction with computers more than with people.

And the more they specialized, it seemed that some traits of these experts were more accentuated, such as, for example:

  • Overvaluing technological aspects.
  • Assuming that others understand their technical vocabulary.
  • Little tolerance for others’ errors.
  • Difficulty in delegating.
  • Fear of knowing less than their collaborators.
  • Preferring to work alone.
  • Difficulty in managing people.
  • Not promoting teamwork.

Does this mean that experts cannot be leaders?

Are “being leader” and “being an expert” mutually exclusive?

Ginger Levin, in the Prologue of the book "IT Project Management - A Geek's Guide to Leadership", authored by Byron A. Love[1], expresses that successful Information Technology professionals pursue continuous technical training to keep up with technological changes. But the pace of technological change leaves them little time to develop their leadership skills.

As a result, many professionals are promoted to leadership roles based on their technical performance and not on their leadership skills - we call this the "Halo" effect. As a result, teams perform inefficiently.

Precisely, the study “State of the Global Workplace”[2], conducted by the consultancy Gallup, states that only 13% of employees worldwide are committed to what they do. It states: "Committed employees work with passion and feel a deep connection with their company, they drive innovation and make the organization move forward".

This means that just one in eight workers is "psychologically committed to their work and willing to make positive contributions to their organizations."

The rest of the employees are either "not committed" (63%) or "actively unengaged" (24%). The latter are unhappy, unproductive and prone to spread negativity to their colleagues.

Gerald M. Weinberg in his book “Becoming a Technical Leader [3], says that since he was young, he made the decision to enter computer career because he did not want to deal with a leadership role.

However, then Weinberg says that his strategy did not give him the expected result: "As I stood out with my technical skills, my colleagues considered me an expert and respected me for it. Soon they began to consult me and ask for advice. They put me in charge of a team. They asked me to teach courses. The more I resisted becoming a leader, the more I became one. Finally, I had to face the question of leadership, despite my desire to avoid it. "

As described by Ginger Levin and Gerald Weinberg, developing leadership skills is necessary, even in professions related to information technology.

Estanislao Bachrach, Doctor in Biological Sciences and author of the Best Sellers “Agilmente” and “En Cambio”, comments in his lectures, which can be seen – in Spanish - on YouTube[4], that in current times “It does not make a difference being technically good. The real difference is made by being creative, empathetic”.

Based on the previous reflections, we can summarize that, as experts in technology we must become aware of the need to also develop our leadership skills and achieve the motivation and commitment of our colleagues, generating collaborative work teams to obtain the required performance in these times of high competition and change.

We must worry about listening and understanding the concerns of our colleagues, developing empathy towards them, focusing on their needs ahead of ours, helping them develop as professionals and as new leaders, that is, developing a servant leadership model.

This way, we will increase the confidence of our employees, while we increase their motivation and, therefore, the efficiency and effectiveness of our teams.

How to start?

First of all, let the fear of "not knowing everything" go, allowing our colleagues to be the experts while we promote a safe environment to allow them to develop with confidence.

Focus on the goals and objectives,not on the technical details, and delegate  to them, trusting that they will do a good job.

Allow yourself and your colleagues to make mistakes and learn from them.

Understand that change requires time and discipline. We will not make it overnight. Start right now, and enjoy the process!

Are you ready to become a servant leader?


[1] Source: Love, Byron A., 2017, “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, CRC Press.

[2] Source: Study “State of the Global Workplace”, done by Gallup Consulting among 180 million employees in 142 countries.

[3] Source: Weinberg, Gerald M., 2014, “Becoming a Technical Leader”, LeanPub.

[4] Source: Estanislao Bachrach - Creatividad y cambio. Congreso Nacional Argentina CREA 2013. YouTube Canal CREA (in Spanish) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGT4FX3YA9c&t=362s.

 

En Español:

¿Experto o Líder?

Quienes nos graduamos en carreras de tecnología, como es mi caso, solemos tener fama de ser independientes y autónomos e, incluso, muchos somos catalogados de “NERDs”.

Recordemos que el estereotipo de “NERD” representa a una persona muy inteligente, fascinada por el conocimiento, experta en cuestiones técnicas y orgullosa por ello, pero bastante aislada del entorno que lo rodea, llegando a veces a experimentar trastornos sociales.

Tengo que reconocer que, en los primeros años de mi carrera, en proyectos de desarrollo de software, me encontré con muchos personajes con las características mencionadas: expertos reconocidos y muy valorados por sus conocimientos, personas que trabajaban muy concentradas en sus oficinas o puestos de trabajo, tratando que nadie los interrumpa, disfrutando más su interacción con las computadoras que con las personas.

Y cuanto más se especializaban, parecía que más se acentuaban algunas características de estos expertos, como, por ejemplo:

  • Sobre-valorar los aspectos tecnológicos.
  • Suponer que los demás entienden su vocabulario técnico.
  • Poca tolerancia al error propio y de los demás.
  • Dificultad para delegar.
  • Miedo a saber menos que sus colaboradores.
  • Preferir trabajar solos.
  • Dificultad para gestionar personas.
  • No propiciar el trabajo en equipos.

¿Significa esto que los expertos no pueden ser líderes?

¿"Ser líder" y "ser experto" son mutuamente excluyentes?

Ginger Levin, en el Prólogo del libro “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, de Byron A. Love[1], expresa que los profesionales exitosos de Tecnologías de la Información persiguen capacitación técnica continua para mantenerse actualizados con los cambios tecnológicos. Pero el ritmo de los cambios tecnológicos les deja poco tiempo para desarrollar el liderazgo.

Como resultado de esto, muchos profesionales son promovidos a roles de liderazgo basados en su desempeño técnico y no en sus habilidades de liderazgo. Lo que llamamos el efecto “Halo”. Y, en consecuencia, los equipos muestran un rendimiento ineficiente.

Justamente, de esto habla el estudio “State of the Global Workplace[2], realizado por la consultora Gallup, donde establece que sólo 13% de los empleados, a escala mundial, está comprometido con lo que hace. Lo que quiere decir que apenas uno de cada ocho trabajadores —180 millones de empleados en 142 países en donde se realizó— está “psicológicamente comprometidos con su trabajo y dispuesto a dar contribuciones positivas a sus organizaciones”.

"Los empleados comprometidos trabajan con pasión y sienten una profunda conexión con su empresa. Impulsan la innovación y hacen avanzar la organización", establece el mencionado estudio.

El resto de los empleados, o bien “no está comprometido” (63%) o está “activamente desmotivado” (24%). Estos últimos son infelices, improductivos y propensos a propagar la negatividad a sus colaboradores.

Gerald M. Weinberg en su libro “Becoming a Technical Leader [3], comenta que, desde joven, había tomado la decisión de estudiar una carrera de computación porque no quería lidiar con un rol de líder.

Sin embargo, cuenta luego Weinberg que su estrategia no le dio el resultado esperado: “Como me destacaba con los aspectos técnicos, mis colegas me consideraban un experto y me respetaban por ello. Pronto empezaban a consultarme y pedirme asesoramiento. Me pusieron a cargo de un equipo. Me pidieron que dictara cursos. Cuanto más me resistía a convertirme en líder, más me iba convirtiendo. Finalmente, tuve que enfrentar la cuestión del liderazgo, a pesar de lo que me molestaba.”

Tal como lo describen Ginger Levin y Gerald Weinberg, desarrollar el liderazgo es necesario, también en las profesiones relacionadas con la tecnología de la información.

Estanislao Bachrach, Doctor en Ciencias Biológicas y autor de los Best Sellers “Ágilmente” y “En Cambio”, comenta en sus conferencias, las que se pueden ver en Youtube[4], que en estos tiempos “No hace la diferencia ser bueno técnicamente. La diferencia la hace ser creativo, empático.

En base a las reflexiones anteriores, podemos resumir que, como expertos en tecnología debemos tomar conciencia de la necesidad de desarrollar también nuestras habilidades de liderazgo y lograr la motivación y el compromiso de nuestros colaboradores, generando equipos de trabajo colaborativos para obtener el desempeño requerido en estos tiempos de alta competencia y cambio.

Debemos preocuparnos por escuchar y conocer las preocupaciones de nuestros colaboradores, desarrollar empatía hacia ellos poniendo foco en sus necesidades por delante de las nuestras, ayudando a que se desarrollen como profesionales y como nuevos líderes, es decir, desarrollar un modelo de liderazgo de servicio.

Con esto, aumentando la confianza en nuestros colaboradores, aumentaremos su motivación y, por lo tanto, la eficiencia y eficacia de nuestros equipos de trabajo.

¿Cómo empezar?

En primer lugar, despojarnos del miedo de “no saber todo”, permitiendo que sean nuestros colaboradores los expertos y nosotros quienes les propiciamos el ámbito seguro para que se desenvuelvan con confianza.

Enfocarnos en las metas y los objetivos y no en los detalles técnicos, delegando esto último a nuestros colaboradores.

Permitirnos y permitir a nuestros colaboradores cometer errores, y aprender de ellos.

Entender que los cambios requieren tiempo y disciplina. No lo lograremos de la noche a la mañana. ¡Comenzar ya mismo y disfrutar del proceso!

¿Estás listo para convertirte en un líder servicial?

 


[1] Fuente: Love, Byron A., 2017, “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, CRC Press.

[2] Fuente: Estudio “State of the Global Workplace”, realizado por la consultora Gallup entre 180 millones de empleados en 142 países.

[3] Fuente: Weinberg, Gerald M., 2014, “Becoming a Technical Leader”, LeanPub.

[4] Fuente: Estanislao Bachrach - Creatividad y cambio. Congreso Nacional Argentina CREA 2013. YouTube Canal CREA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGT4FX3YA9c&t=362s.

 

Posted by Cecilia Boggi on: November 13, 2017 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
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