Team building for success - from the Project Manager up!

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Passion for project management combined with a passion for people creates energy, enthusiasm and engagement. Engagement leads to success. It is when we are most engaged that we will "run through walls" for others. This blog focuses on ways to keep our project teams engaged and the way we can keep ourselves engaged and effective. As Lori Wilson (projectmanagement.com) described it "Project management is like tap dancing on a moving floor". Let's LEARN TO DANCE!

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Seeing is Believing: The Maggie Method

Appreciating the Undervalued Strength of Appreciation

#PMIEMEA19 - On tour with character strengths!

Influence, the Project Motivator’s Best Friend

Project Managers More than just Plate Spinners and Ball Jugglers

Appreciating the Undervalued Strength of Appreciation

Appreciating Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence – the strength booster!          

“That is a strength? I never thought of it that way…” that is what one workshop participant said when we debriefed character strengths. Her top strength of Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence is not something she had ever identified as a strength or even special. And yet, as she explored that strength further, she started to recognize that (a) not everyone experiences appreciation as deeply as she does (b) this strength is her go-to strength to create balance, perspective, hope and happiness.

Character strengths

For those of you who have not read about Character Strengths before, here are five facts to know:

  1. They are the backbone of the science of Positive Psychology – aka the science of peak performance or the study of human flourishing.
  2. Researched by Doctors Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson and a team of dozens of experts, supported by the Mayerson Foundation they are:
    1. Universal
    2. Cross-cultural
    3. Easily recognized
    4. Supported and revered by society
    5. Elevating to self and others
  3. There are 24 strengths classified into 6 virtues (See graphic above from the VIA Institute on Character)
  4. The VIA Institute on Character was established to further the research into and practice of Character Strengths.
  5. The free VIA Character Strengths assessment, which provides you with your rank order of the 24 strengths, takes 15-20 minutes to complete, is available in multiple languages and has been taken by over 7,000,000 people to date.

The Cream of the Crop

My top character strengths – my signature strengths – consistently include Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Curiosity, Fairness, and Gratitude. Others wander in and out of my top five, but my top 10 -12 stay pretty consistent too…

My #1 strength is always Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence (hereafter Appreciation!). It is core to who I am. I cannot imagine a day without it. But what does having a top strength of Appreciation mean?

Appreciation is ranked as a top strength (in the top five out of 24) by approximately ¼ - 1/3 of the population[i]. After 20 years of research into character strengths, we have not yet discovered much about Appreciation.  It is not one of the five happiness strengths (which are Hope, Curiosity, Gratitude, Zest & Love)[ii]. It is not strongly correlated with any of the seven team roles of Idea Creator, Information Gatherer, Decision Maker, Influencer, Energizer, Implementer or Relationship Manager. It does not particularly support lower stress or higher self-esteem. All in all, we don’t have much to say about Appreciation as a strength and what it might be helpful for. I could find only one positive reference to Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence[iii] which as about how it contributes to an appreciation of life and to post-traumatic growth. The same research that identified the happiness strengths highlighted Appreciation (along with Judgment, Humility, creativity, and love of learning) as being the least correlated with happiness!

And yet, as important as my other strengths are to me, I would be nothing without Appreciation. In my mind, it is the supercharger for all my other strengths. Curiosity is so much more gratifying when I sprinkle in appreciation of the research, the skill, the work that has gone into a research paper or a new gadget. As I ask, “what does that do?” I am also thinking, “who came up with that? It is amazing that someone could think of that!”

As I am trying to be fair and take the interests of all parties into account, I cannot help but think about, the way in which each person got to where they are, their unique experience of life, the unique path they have followed and to appreciate that they are special.

 

When I am feeling grateful, it is magnified by being specific about what I am grateful for – appreciating the skill of a musician or … my dentist! The beauty of the surroundings at my house or during my walk. Or the opportunity to appreciate the clouds from a plane. It is so much easier to feel gratitude when I have Appreciation to shore it up!

 

 

 

 

Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence - seeing the best in people and things around us! VIA Institute on Character defines Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence as “you notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

Research shows that Appreciation has three components.

  1. Appreciating natural beauty - experiencing AWE and WONDER
  2. Appreciation of skill and talent - experiencing ADMIRATION
  3. Appreciation of virtue and good deeds by others - experiencing ELEVATION and INSPIRATION

There are three types of "goodness" for which individuals high in Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence are responsive to:

  1. Physical beauty. This may be visual such as seeing a wonderful view, auditory such as hearing the dawn chorus, tactile such as touching the roughness of the bark of a tree, or abstract experiencing a sense of wonder at everything around us. This type of goodness produces awe and wonder in the individual experiencing it.
  2. Skill or talent (excellence). This is often energizing and makes the individual want to pursue their own goals. It produces admiration. This could be watching and listening to a virtuoso musician, reading about a great scientist, politician, or invention, admiring the way a writer tells their story or a filmmaker weaves the components of a great movie together.
  3. Virtue or moral goodness (moral beauty). Moral goodness makes the individual want to be better, more loving and produces feelings of elevation. Seeing someone do something that seems “right” and “fair”. Observing someone taking the high ground. Listening to speeches but great influencers such as Martin Luther King.

The Power of Appreciation for Project Managers

Appreciation can help us as project managers in several ways. It can lead to a general sense of wellbeing - for example, lifting our mood when we take a walk outside or feeling excited by a virtuoso performance.

And at work, this strength can be really helpful when it comes to noticing and highlighting the good work – and strengths - of others. Using appreciation makes it easier to provide recognition when someone goes above and beyond, and we are more likely to feel comfortable showing recognition in front of others, sharing their accomplishments and downplaying our own - supporting the strength of humility. When team members feel their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated, they tend to give more discretionary effort to project tasks. And people who give discretionary effort are engaged, and get more done!

Other strengths that are closely related to Appreciation are Gratitude, Curiosity, Love of Learning, Kindness, and Creativity[iv]. You may want to focus on one of these related strengths to help boost your strength of appreciation. You can practice using appreciation by looking for experiences that create a sense of awe, admiration, elevation, and inspiration. As you identify those experiences, you will hone your skill with appreciation.

I am an avid strengths spotter. I will point out the strengths I see in people wherever I go, whoever they are. I trust that my strength of Appreciation will guide me wisely and make my feedback feel authentic and warm. This strength gives me the confidence to speak up when I might otherwise observe and say nothing. I will give you an example.


"A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet" Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

The other day I was riding my bike through our neighborhood. Every day I have been exploring because we only moved to our new location a few months ago. As I was riding on this particular day, I noticed that one front yard had the most amazing display of roses. It reminded me of the rose garden at a historic home I used to visit with my parents when I was growing up. In that historic garden, the perfume was intoxicating. I found myself wondering whether the blooms in this particular garden had that same wonderful perfume – so many flowers seem to have no smell at all these days. I moved closer to the garden, took some photos and leaned in to smell. The aroma was at once sweet and aromatic. The perfume was beautiful and rich. Taken aback by the beauty of the flowers and the wonderful smell, I wanted to express my appreciation and gratitude. How could I let the owner know that in some small way they had made a difference to someone else’s day? I wanted to knock on the door to express my pleasure, but the unwritten rules of neighborhood living, social mores that make approaching strangers at best risky and for some people downright threatening, made me pause, but then I thought about how I would feel if I rode away without saying anything.

I climbed off my bike, took off my helmet and sunglasses, and walked to the front door and knocked. I could hear a dog barking inside and appreciated the way it was warning its owner of a stranger at the door. A woman came to the door looking puzzled through the glass. She opened it tentatively, and I immediately apologized for disturbing her and for if what I was about to say seemed like a thing a stalker would do but told her I wanted her to know how much I appreciated the sight and smell of the roses in her garden. She beamed with pleasure and took me out to show me the different roses, explaining that they are her husband’s pride and joy. In that moment, we two strangers were united in our enjoyment of a simple pleasure.

That day my Appreciation boosted my Bravery and Gratitude.


When talking about Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, one of my favorite clips to share is from The Journey of Purpose - (Google "TJOP - Follow Your Heart"). The images show great feats of expertise and skill. And they make me smile and I feel a great sense of awe at the feats that we can accomplish when we dare to try.

I feel equally moved when I see a blue lizard on the path in front of me, beautiful intricate bark on a tree, all the shades of green on a hillside. Another favorite video of mine is an amazing musical group's performance of the Eagles' classic song Hotel California. (Google "Hotel California Cubanos Acapella") I feel admiration for this band as they make this beautiful music with no musical instruments except their amazing voices!  And I feel inspired to try my hand at new things. I am also moved by movies – the bravery, perseverance, social intelligence, self-regulation, love, and kindness in my favorite movie, V for Vendetta, and the richness of the costume and the music, the creativity, love, kindness, humor, forgiveness, and self-regulation in Moulin Rouge.

June 1st marks the 25th anniversary of my immigration to the US and I have just reached 150 consecutive days of meditation. To celebrate I am starting a daily Appreciation post! In it, I will share an example of Appreciation every day. As photos will be the best medium for this, I will share on Instagram and on Twitter - check my profile for details at https://www.projectmanagement.com/profile/ruthpearce/. Twice a month I will use appreciation to explore another strength because as I mentioned earlier, I believe appreciation boosts my other strengths like no other strength in my profile. Those posts will be longer, and I will share those here.

Why not share your experiences of appreciation whenever the mood takes you? What gives you a sense of awe and wonder, what inspires you? Who or what do you admire?

Share your experiences using the hashtags #appreciation and #sbpm and #mbpm

 


 

[i] McGrath, R.E. (2017). Technical Report: The VIA Assessment Suite for Adults: Development and initial evaluation, Cincinnati, OH: VIA Institute on Character

[ii] Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 23, 603–619.

[iii] Posttraumatic growth in various dimensions corresponds with particular character strengths: improved relationships with others (kindness, love), openness to new possibilities (curiosity, creativity, love of learning), greater appreciation of life (appreciation of beauty, gratitude, zest), enhanced personal strength (bravery, honesty, perseverance), and spiritual development (religiousness; Peterson et al., 2008; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995). 1. Peterson, C., Park, N., Pole, N., D’Andrea, W., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2008). Strengths of Character and posttraumatic growth. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21 (2), 214–217. 2. Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (1995). Trauma and transformation: Growing in the aftermath of suffering. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[iv] Niemiec, R. M. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston: Hogrefe. p141

Posted on: May 31, 2019 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

#PMIEMEA19 - On tour with character strengths!

When I die Dublin will be written in my heart.~ James Joyce, writer

For a few days, a group of project managers gathered together in Dublin to talk…. Project management. For some people that sounds a little like watching paint dry. For others, it does not convey much at all!

What does it mean when 900 project managers get together to talk about project management? Are we talking about schedules, budgets, planning tasks, deliverables? Did we sit around in groups planning each others' projects? Did we compare the color coding on our GANTT charts? Or were we telling war stories and success stories?

As it turns out we were talking about a broad array of topics from Agile, to Sociocracy, to Millennials, disrupting behavior through thoughts and feelings, to design thinking, to quality assurance, to virtual teams to whether women make better project managers!

@Jamil Qureshi & Ruth Pearce at #PMIEMEA19

The event got off to a great start with a Keynote on leadership. The opening speech by Jamil Qureshi– "The Disruptive Leader – explored three principles.

1.    Changing behavior by changing thoughts and feelings

2.    Changing outcomes by changing Response Ability – E(vent) + R(esponse Ability) = O(utcome)

3.    Changing leadership by challenging Belief Systems.

But where do I take you from here? I can regale you with stories of great sessions – but some of the ones I missed were just as great as the ones I attended. Instead, I will tour the event through the lens of a few character strengths:

Touring the conference through the lens of Character Strengths.

Appreciation of beauty and excellence – my appreciation was through the roof. The level of organization was terrific, the speakers were amazing, the party nights and the variety of options for us to explore our craft were excellent. Hats off to the amazing PMI Ireland chapter for hosting – here are JackieFrances, and Norma!

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@Geetanjali Bhat presenting on Agile Quality Assurance

Bravery – there were a lot of seasoned speakers here but there were new ones too. They overcame their nerves to jump in and share their expertise with us. We need new topics, new speakers and new viewpoints in order to take the art of project management into the next 50 years.

Curiosity – my curiosity was piqued at every turn. I could not completely satisfy it because I could not be in all the sessions at once. Every single session seemed to have something special – and novel to offer. For example, I don’t think I have seen anyone present on Sociocracy (Dynamic Governance for Portfolios/Programmes/Projects with John Buck and Teodor Darabaneau at a project management event before. And what was that session on Why Women Make Better Project Managers from Jordi Teixido? Hopefully, there will be other opportunities to find out!

Sunil Prashara & Ruth Pearce at #PMIEMEA2019

And one area where my curiosity was satisfied was about our new PMI CEO Sunil Prashara. He went out of his way to be around and available to speak with anyone and everyone. It will be great to see how he moves things forward as he becomes more oriented.

 

Fairness – this is a key strength for me. The most obvious way that I saw this show up is in the way that the “names” made themselves available. As already mentioned, Sunil Prashara was accessible to everyone throughout the event. Our keynote Jamil Qureshi not only stayed around and made himself available to people with questions, but he also attended other sessions. Jim Snyder was wandering the halls and ready to speak to all of us.

Spot the Keynote speaker @Jamil Qureshi grabbing coffee with the rest of us

Spot the Keynote Speaker!!

Gratitude – this is overflowing. I am grateful to the fantastic audience who jumped in and participated wholeheartedly in our Social Intelligence session on the first day. I am equally grateful to those who made my book a sellout in the PMI Bookstore. Special thanks to Derek who was my room moderator. He sat down and joined in the session! I am grateful to all the speakers, organizers and attendees. Thank you, Kristin Jones, for making me get over my anxiety about Facebook live! And extra appreciation and gratitude to all the people who greeted me and chatted with me all through the event! Special thanks go to Manolis Papadakis who was the first to greet me on the first day and the last person I spoke to before I headed back home to the US.

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Curiosity & Love of Learning

Amongst all this, I did attend a few sessions!! They included:

  • Project Managers - Get Your "Game On" to Usher Success - Priya Patra showed us how we can use gaming to make learning more fun.
  • Embedding Quality Processes in Agile Project Delivery - Geetanjali Bhat demonstrated with colored paper and pens how hard it is to meet customer requirements. Her session reminded me of this great sketch called "The Expert" 7 Red Lines (look for it on YouTube!)
  • Successfully integrating Design Thinking into Your Projects - Bruce Gay explained how design thinking helps analysts to truly appreciate the needs of the user. A simple but effective exercise asking what, why, how about a photo of a user really helped clarify the approach.

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  • Turning Ambition into Achievement - Jamil Qureshi took us deeper into the topics from the first day and helped us explore what it would take to turn our current teams into super teams - in just one word!
  • Working with Those Working Toward a PMP - A Millenial Perspective - Brittany Miller took us through the characteristics of the various generations in the workplace today and in a room full of people on their phones (just kidding), urged us not to jump to negative conclusions about our colleagues' behaviors!
  • Enhancing Virtual Project Leadership Effectiveness - Michael Oliver explained the importance of effective communication in engaging teams across the globe. He used one of my favorite videos to highlight the pitfalls of collaboration tools! A Conference Call in Real Life (check it out on Youtube)

And just a couple of the ones I missed that I know I wish I had seen!

  • Dynamic Governance of Portfolios/Programmes/Projects - John Buck & Teodor Darbaneanu (this was a presentation that explored Sociocracy!) For those who don't know anything about sociocracy there are primers from Sociocracy for All online (John also has a Ted-X talk about octopuses and dynamic governance you YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3s6Ak-iCug
  • Why Women Make Better Project Managers - Jordi Teixido. This session "sold out" fast! The title was intriguing enough and those that attended said the content was very interesting as it explored the future of leadership and the traits we need as project managers of the future.
"I came with curiosity. I wondered what all this was about. And now I want to go deeper to learn more. My love of learning has kicked in!" Session attendee.

Connecting

But conference events are much more than a collection of fun and informative sessions. They are an opportunity to network, make friends, connect with people we have only “spoken” with online. For example, during the event, I met Manolis (see the picture above). He is the first person I spoke to on day 1 and the last person I spoke to on the last day! He is also the person who took the VIA Character Strengths survey and bravely shared his strengths online.

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I met Priya, and Geetanjali – fellow honorees during @Elise Stevens #celebratingwomeninprojectmanagement earlier this year. Bruce Gay and I traveled 3000 miles to say hello in person! And I met Jim Snyder, co-founder of PMI 50 years ago!

How did your top character strengths get excited by the event? If you don’t know your character strengths, you can take the free assessment by searching for the VIA Institute on Character. 

If you want to know more about how character strengths improve relationships, workplaces, teams, and health, email me at through this platform or sign up for my monthly strengths newsletter at: Project Motivator Newsletter

See you in Philly October 5-7, 2019 for the 50th Anniversary PMI Global Conference!

Posted on: May 26, 2019 03:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Three more things PMs want to know about Character Strengths

Over the last few months, since the publication of my book Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strengths-Based Project Management I have been speaking to project managers from all around the world about how the science of Character Strengths can help us build engagement, increase productivity and creativity and help us to get stuff done.

I have been sharing my study of over 250 project managers who have taken the free VIA Character Strengths Survey to get their personalized 24-strength ranking, which shows that on average project managers are lower in Social Intelligence and Perspective than our colleagues, but are higher in Teamwork, Perseverance, Prudence and Forgiveness.

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Source, ALLE LLC Study (unpublished), 2019

The feedback from the audiences has been terrific, and here I am sharing the three more answers to questions I frequently receive:

Q1. Is there a difference in the PM strengths rankings between men and women?

A great question came up in a recent webinar when we were discussing the results that show that PMs tend to be lower in social intelligence and perspective than the population in general. Is there a difference between men, women, and others in the results?

I had not looked at the data in this way before, so I immediately went back to the results. Unfortunately, we do not have enough respondents in the other category to look at their data in isolation, but we do have enough in our samples of men and women. And they were very interesting.... it was a resounding NO there is no significant difference between male and female PMs according to my data.

In this colorful, and complicated graph, you can see the strengths of the US population plotted alongside ALL PMs in my sample, Female PMs in the sample (182) and Male PMs in the sample (82).*

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In general, the results are very similar. It seems that female PMs rank creativity lower than their male counterparts, and appreciation higher, but otherwise there is remarkable consistency between the group overall and the two sub-groups.

* later this year I will review additional data that has come in since this dataset was analyzed. I look forward to reporting the updated results.

Q2 Does a person's profile change over time?

There is remarkable consistency between the survey results of an individual over time. Here is the example of my survey taken in 2015, 2017, 2018.

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Generally, strengths don't move around much. Within the different groupings of signature strengths (typically top 5), middle strengths (approximately 15) and lesser (bottom 3-4), they may shuffle a little, but a lesser strength is not likely to become a top strength or vice versa.

There are two key ways that strengths may move up or down the ranking:

  1. Life events - marriage, having a child, a significant loss or other trauma - may cause us to change our strengths profile. Having a child, for example, may result in more focus on Love and Kindness, or Prudence and Judgment.
  2. Deliberate practice - we can focus on the strengths that we want to elevate. Character Strengths Practitioner Michelle McQuaid, emphasizes that we are not likely to achieve major shifts in our strengths from practice motivated by a sense of social validation or social pressure. It is just not enough of a motivator for change. But if we truly value a strength and are committed to consistent practices to boost the strength, great change is possible!

In my profile, you will notice that many of my tops strengths have remained consistent. The movers are Hope which has gone up from 12th to 3rd and Bravery which has moved down from 2nd to 10th. These two changes coincide with me recovering from a lifetime of struggle with a phobia and associated anxiety. Bravery was a key strength for me because it was the "feel uncomfortable and do it anyway" strength. Hope floated upwards as my outlook became more positive. Of course, the big question is did hope float because I became less anxious, or did I become less anxious because I boosted my strength of hope?

I still lean heavily on my bravery strength - it has become a phasic strength for me which is one that is generally in the middle of a profile that shows up strongly under specific conditions. For me, for example, bravery is key when I have a speaking engagement.

Q3 Where do I start with Character Strengths?

In the SBPM model, there are six stages and the first three relate to YOU. Start by taking the free VIA character strengths assessment to find out about your profile. Then pick a few strengths - the top ones are a good place to start - and start noticing how you use them, how they make you feel when you use them, and how others respond when you use them. Then look for new ways to engage those strengths. You can look for different domains to express them - work as well as home for humanity strengths, community as well as work for wisdom strengths for example. And then start mindfully modeling your strengths to others.

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You can find out more by watching my webinars on ProjectManagement.com here: https://www.projectmanagement.com/videos/533121/Introduction-to-Strengths-Based-Project-Management---Finding-Your-Strengths--Part-1-​

and 

https://www.projectmanagement.com/videos/533121/Introduction-to-Strengths-Based-Project-Management---Finding-Your-Strengths--Part-2-

Or by messaging me here! 

Posted on: April 04, 2019 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Three things PM want to know about Character Strengths

Over the last few months, since the publication of my book Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strength-Based Project Management, I have been speaking to project managers from all around the world about how the science of Character Strengths can help us build engagement, increase productivity and creativity and help us to get stuff done.

I have been sharing my study of over 250 project managers who have taken the free VIA Character Strengths Survey to get their personalized 24-strength ranking, which shows that on average project managers are lower in Social Intelligence and Perspective than our colleagues, but are higher in Teamwork, Perseverance, Prudence and Forgiveness.

No alt text provided for this image

Source, ALLE LLC Study (unpublished), 2019

The feedback from the audiences has been terrific, and here I am sharing the three most common questions I receive:

Q1. What do I do about my lowest strengths - my weaknesses?

Let's clear up this unfortunate misconception right way. It is a misconception for three key reasons:

  1. Our lesser strengths - the ones at the bottom - are not weaknesses, the survey only measures strengths, not weaknesses. These are just the strengths we lean on the least.
  2. We all have all 24. We have some strengths that are easy, energizing and empowering. We feel good when we use them. And we have others that take a little more work. We may have some that we have allowed to erode over time. But they are all there.
  3. Research has shown that we get a boost in wellbeing from working to lift our bottom strengths, but we get just much if not more of a boost from using our top strengths in new ways - expanding their repertoire.

So love all your strengths! They are all there for you when you want and need them.

Q2 What if my top strengths don't seem to have anything to do with leadership? I don't even have the strength of Leadership in my top 10!

Across the world, the strength of Leadership ranks somewhere in the middle on average, somewhere around 11 out of the 24. Being a great leader is not about using a specific strength well or a lot, it is about using the strengths you have to best effect AND about seeing strengths in others and helping them to use theirs too.

Gallup research shows that up to 70% of the difference between staff turnover between different teams is related in some way to managers. We are managers, and so we are part of that statistic. Further evidence from Gallup and other researchers show that when managers help staff see, appreciate and use their strengths at work each day, staff are more likely to report feeling engaged, and seeing work as a calling and are less likely to leave.

So don't focus on what you don't have, focus on the strengths you do have and how they can help. In the book, I share this profile and explanation from someone who was identified by management and staff alike as a leader. (Leadership ranked 12 for her.) Her self-analysis of how she uses her strengths is below.

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Source, Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strengths-Based Project Management p124

Q3 Where do I start if I want to use character strengths with my team?

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The answer is easy! Start with you. Use the 6 step approach to strengths-based project management (left) and follow steps 1- 3. They are all about you. When you know your strengths, you target your strengths, and you model your strengths, others are automatically influenced. They see your behavior, and your mood and they will follow your lead. Humans are wired to connect and are wired to mirror the behavior and mood of others. So set the tone! Then when you are ready, follow steps 4 - 6 and start applying your strengths knowledge to the people around you!

Want to know more, watch my webinar on ProjectManagement.com here: 

Recording:  https://www.projectmanagement.com/videos/533121/Introduction-to-Strengths-Based-Project-Management---Finding-Your-Strengths--Part-1-

Related Materials: https://www.projectmanagement.com/deliverables/533333/Introduction-to-Strengths-Based-Project-Management---Finding-Your-Strengths--Part-1---Supporting-Materials-Package

or message me here on ProjectManagement.com!

Posted on: March 27, 2019 06:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

From Stakeholder Management to Stakeholder Engagement

In the latest edition of the PMBOK, there was a small but significant change in the language around stakeholders. Instead of Stakeholder management, the focus of the PM is stakeholder engagement. What does this change mean?

Management – a definition

When I think of management, I think of control, of guidance, of constraints. Indeed, when I Googled “management definition” I got the following result “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.”

To me, the key word here is controlling. Even the notion of dealing with stakeholders conjures up images of difficult conversations, and unreasonable demands.

When we engage stakeholders there is much more sense of give and take, and exchange of information, and sharing of perspective and insights. Stakeholders are no longer to be kept at bay or at arms’ length. They are to be woven into the fabric of the project at every stage and their input is to help guide the project to success. This is quite a mindset shift.

There are four pertinent balancing tests to think about with stakeholder engagement.

  1. Who are they? And what do they want?

This is more than gathering a list of people who have an interest in the project or program. This is also the process of understanding what motivates them, how interested they are. How will they be affected – positively or negatively – by the project outcome?

And what they want is multi-faceted too. What do they want from the project? And what do they want in terms of involvement in the project? How do they want to communicate? People have different levels of interest in the project, different reasons for that interest and different ways of absorbing and processing information. We sometimes forget that!

  1. What is their organizational role? And what is their sphere of influence on the project?

This is an exploration of where they sit in the organizational structure - more than seniority or job title, this considers their networks and contacts within the organization. For example, I worked with an operational manager who had great influence over the decision making of the CIO. Knowing that helped me to position my discussions with him to take account of what the next conversation would be – the one with his friend, and consequently what my next conversation would be – with my boss the CIO.

Considering each stakeholder’s sphere of influence looks at the networks this stakeholder has, and any special responsibility they have been given for this project that extends beyond their normal formal – and informal – role. For example, in one organization, an individual had been given a special responsibility on the project to review all procurement agreements because they had experience of this in a past position.

  1. How can they help? And how might they hinder?

Every stakeholder has ways that they can help projects be successful. And those ways are not always the obvious one. Sometimes they have special knowledge, they know the context of the project, the history of past change efforts or know what the real goals are of the organization. Other times they know the right people, have a great understanding of corporate culture and have that special way of getting difficult things done. Or they may have a really good understanding of customer behavior and can help the team make good design decisions.

The other side of the coin is how they might hinder. The most obvious way is not being available when you need them, but there are subtle ways stakeholders can create a drag on a project if they don’t feel appropriately engaged and connected. They may push for conflicting projects or pull resources away from your project to a pet project of their own.

  1. What is the most appropriate form of engagement? And does this change during the project?

This may be the single most important consideration in stakeholder management/engagement. The first part of this equation is to ask:

How do they want to be engaged? What is their interest and commitment to the project and how do they want that commitment reflected?

I have had stakeholders who were willing to be contacted at any time to offer advice, an opinion or just to be a sounding board. They have come to lunch and learns, shared insights into customer needs and desires, shared the organizational vision. They have been project advisors, mentors, and coaches – they are like gold and in some places like seeing a Unicorn!
At the other extreme, I have experienced stakeholders whose role has been to give final approval on big decisions and to ensure that the project continued to align to organizational objectives. They did not want to be engaged day-to-day and their interest was one-way – what the PM and the team could do for them. They wanted cogent communications that laid out decisions based on facts and figures. Understanding their expectations is one side of the equation.
The other side is sharing your expectations. You notice I say “sharing” and not “setting”.

By sharing and inviting feedback it has been possible for me to change the role of a stakeholder. By explaining how I see them supporting the project, why we see them that way and why we want them to engage in that way, it is often possible to craft a role for them that goes beyond their initial expectation.

This is also a great time to use some strengths-spotting. It is often the case that people do not really appreciate what they bring to the table or how they can use it to best effect. I have experience of a stakeholder whose greatest strengths were kindness and teamwork. When he was first assigned to the project as the “Business Owner” he was at a loss as to what he could bring. He felt he had little expertise in what we were trying to do, and his initial request was that I just keep him updated once a week with whatever dashboard I had been using for his predecessor. We had a conversation and it was clear that he was skilled at connecting with people. As we explored his interests and his strengths, it quickly became apparent that he could provide context for the project team, connections to valuable resources throughout the organization and would show up and give the team moral support when things got tough!

Choosing the mode, frequency and content of communications with stakeholders is key. Evaluate every medium. Maybe it is a dashboard, and email update, a weekly meeting, or a phone call at a prearranged time. Or maybe it is a Vlog – a videoed update that you can put in a shared location for people to access at their convenience – a newsletter that is available for download or a weekly lunch & learn. Find out what works for your stakeholders and be prepared to communicate in many ways.

Finally, consider whether the stakeholder’s role will remain static throughout the project. Have a regular check in during longer term projects to make sure the stakeholder list or matrix is current. Review the methods and level of communication periodically to keep things on track.

As project professionals we often spend a lot of time considering our process, and yet experience and research shows the biggest return on investment is from the people. Spend time with the people, and the people will make your project the best it can be.  

Posted on: March 21, 2019 07:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)
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