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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Recent Posts

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

Introduction – An Accidental Project Manager

This is the first in a series of posts based on the questions I ask project managers when we explore being a Project Motivator and the concepts of strengths-based project management. I ask these questions of my readers and workshop attendees, but I think it is important to be transparent, so I share my answers too....

How much time do you spend communicating? Keep a few a journal for a few days to track your communication.

When I first did this exercise, I was totally surprised! First of all, I looked up the definition of communication – sharing of information OR building rapport. Hmmm, I thought. As a project manager that is practically all that I do! When I logged the amount of time I was communicating – by phone, in person, email, Powerpoint, using Sharepoint etc, it was over 90% of my day.

And of course, the research by Andy Crowe (shared by PMI) confirms that we spend the bulk of our time communicating. Of course, knowing that is one thing, seeing that in our own experience is another! When I kept a log of what I was doing, it was a real eye-opener.

Some days it was ALL day. Suddenly I was aware of how important communication is and also how important it is to be thoughtful about the means and modes of communication! I really started to pay attention to whether I was using the best means for each message and each member of my audience. After that, I became much more flexible.

I started to look at when I wanted to “push” information and when I wanted it to be on-demand by the recipient – “pull” communication.

I also started to think about whether we communicate so much because we need to, or whether it is because we don’t do it as well as we can!

See my upcoming post about project managers and social intelligence.

What do you do to influence others?

This was another real eye-opener question for me. Rather than just look at this question on my own, I asked other people what I did or said that was most influential. The feedback I received was enlightening. I heard that (i) I model positive behavior. Even when things are tough, I seem to believe that things will work out and that we have the means to make it happen. (ii) Connected with the first one was the feedback that I show that I believe in the team and have confidence that they will overcome obstacles and make things happen. (iii) I don’t ask others to do things I won’t do myself. If there was weekend work, for example, I was there with the team. (iv) I always make time for people to be people – some days they are on top form, others they are distracted. Some days they seem to ace every decision, other days they make mistakes. Some days they are all about work and some days they are focused on their family, their dog or some other area of their life. It is a fact of being alive!

What are three strategies you already use to be an effective project manager?

I think the main strategies I use are (i) I am always learning – about the team, about the project, about the reason for the project. (ii) I accept that priorities change and that we may have to adjust and re-plan and at the same time I recognize that constant change is not something that everyone is comfortable with and (iii) I work with the strengths of my team.

Strategies for Success:

  • Be Hopeful: Believe that you will make a difference and look for ways you can apply a strengths-based approach to your environment.
  • Each time I discuss strengths with project managers, I am reminded of things I want to build on to make a difference to project managers, projects and teams.
  • Be Curious: Observe yourself and others. Ask yourself what is motivating the behavior of the person or people in front of you?
  • I like to follow my observation up with a question to those around me. Checking in with others broadens my perspective and understanding. It also demonstrates that we are interested in what others think and feel and in hearing what they have to say.
  • Be strong: Reflect on your observations to glean insights into the working of your team and to identify actions you can take to build team connection to your goals.
  • There is lots of research that shows that speaking out loud is more helpful than an internal dialog for reflecting on learning and experiences. When we speak out loud, we hear ourselves and hear our story from a different standpoint. Writing things down has the same effect. We process experiences differently when we write about them.
  • Be Brave: Create small actions that reinforce helpful team behavior.
  • The old adage “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is well known and may be overused, but it is still true! Small changes lead to big changes. Small changes stick! We are more likely to repeat a small change that took incremental effort than a big change that was hard to accomplish. Think of going to the gym. When we lift our first weights – big effort – our muscles hurt afterward. If we up the weights from there a little at a time before we know it we are lifting twice the weight, but we no longer suffer the same muscle fatigue the next day.

Posted on: May 09, 2019 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

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)

SBPM Tips: The A-Z of Character Strengths – Engaging Conversations for our Disruptive Times.

On this, Character Strengths Day, 2018, I wanted to share some thoughts about character strengths for project managers.

People who know me already, know that I am always looking for ways to engage the teams I work with. Engaged teams are more motivated, more productive, more innovative and more committed to each other and the goals of the project. I use all sorts of techniques, but one of my favorites is Character Strengths.

A couple of weeks ago I walked into my new doctor’s office for that “new patient orientation” appointment – you know the one, where they ask all the questions about your medical history that you cannot possibly remember or in some cases even know!

Anyway, a young man came in and explained that he was the medical assistant working with the doctor for the day. We got talking and he told me that he had always wanted to be a doctor. He had told his family and friends. Everyone was rooting for him to succeed. He did his pre-med course, and during school started to wonder about this doctor idea. So much debt, not necessarily the aspects of medicine he was most interested in.

He was uncomfortable at the prospect of telling his family and friends about his possible change of heart, but he knew he had to explore his options. So he spent time researching his options. After a lot of exploration, he decided the physical therapy was his “thing.” He would see more patients, see their progress, he would be hands on helping people to recover from injuries and surgeries and he would be helping them to help themselves.

He finally told his family and friends and set about getting a place in school to complete his education.

As I listened his strengths really stood out… Pause for a moment - what do you see in that story? (I’ll give you a clue, it is hard to be wrong!)

Take a look at the list of VIA Character Strengths:

I told him that I saw honesty and bravery in challenging his own habitual thinking and facing up to telling people close to him of his change of heart. I saw curiosity when he asked what else was out there, and love of learning as he explored his options more deeply. I saw judgment as he weighed his options, and perspective as he stepped back and considered his choices for a lifetime and not just as the next step in an endless chain of foregone conclusions. I could have gone on and on, but those were the ones that I shared with him.

To say he looked pleased is an understatement. He looked positively radiant. He was engaged in the conversation and his energy level rose. This is what I see whenever I use character strengths as the starting point of a conversation - even a difficult conversation. Character strengths link to our intrinsic motivation and that motivation leads to engagement.

I use lots of tools to promote that engagement, but one of the best has been the VIA Character Strengths Survey. I discovered this free survey during a course on Positive Psychology, and among all the approaches I was introduced to during that course, VIA made the biggest impression.

It met three important criteria for me:

1.    Accessible

  •  It is FREE – this was important to me as someone with no training or team-building budget.
  •  It is written in common everyday language
  • It is available in many languages and in every country

2.    Meaningful

  • The concepts in the survey and the report are meaningful to us all.
  • Research has shown that these concepts are meaningful across cultures, religions, age-groups, geographical locations

3.    Positive

  • The survey does NOT measure weaknesses or gaps – we have enough tools for that already - it only measures strengths.
  • We could focus as individuals and as a team on what made us strong, the motivational factors that we had in common, and the ways in which we complemented each other.

The story above shows how strengths spotting works! How it boosts both the recipient and the giver of the strengths feedback and how character strengths awareness boosts mood and energy. And that is only the start! Over the years, I have incorporated these ideas into my teams, and the positive change has been significant.

In the coming weeks I will be posting more about team engagement, and the concept of Strengths-Based Project Management (SBPM). I look forward to sharing with you!

And come and find me at the PMI Global Conference in LA October 6th-8th! 

Posted on: September 26, 2018 05:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
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