The ability to motivate and guide members in the organizational environment is the key to successful leadership; and leadership is beyond directing a functional team or project team members with operating procedures, project templates, charts, and performance statistics. Project Management Institute (2017, p. 60) indicated in the PMBOK Guide that the common denominator in all organizations and projects is people, as humans are countable; however, we are not merely numbers. As a leader’s role involves dealing with people, he/she need to be an astute motivator to study team members’ motivations, drive individuals’ behavior, and guide their performance, and consequently direct the team to reach greater heights. In order to perform that, the leader needs to keep striving to improve leadership competencies. There are various competencies of becoming a good leader; this short post narrates succinctly on visionary to inspire team members and influence stakeholders, interpersonal skills to foster harmony, analytical skills and critical thinking, and strong mental and emotional resilience.
Elberse, A. (2018): HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership Lessons from Sports, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Project Management Institute (2017): A Guide To The Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute (PMI), Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, USA.
With the hectic lifestyles that tie us down, it is ordinarily a challenge to find time to volunteer for a cause. Volunteering contributes positively to the community and improves one’s mental well-being. Helping other people or an organization keep us mentally stimulated with a sense of purpose in life. Some large projects may need a long-term volunteering commitment while smaller scaled projects require a shorter commitment. Conversely, both types of commitment can help those in need and improve our mental health.
Volunteering as a Library Service Steward at neighborhood libraries brings me closer to the thing that I love most – books! Surrounded by the realm of bookshelves triggers the senses. Sorting books according to the classification of book genres train the mind and eyesight to be sharp and coordinated. Woody smell from older books and fresh paper smell from newer books invigorate the mind, akin to how coffee and chocolate energize our senses. Carrying of books and being surrounded by them bring back the good old memories of schooling days. The stimulation connects to my emotions, makes me focus my mind to strive to achieve personal development of being mentally resilience with calmness. Besides shelf-reading, interacting with librarians and library patrons is a valuable experience. As an introvert, this is stressful initially. However, I build up confidence by learning from librarians of the classification of book genres, the various functions of online and offline library services, and understanding from patrons of their concerns. Being able to assist patrons of all ages with knowledge of books provides a sense of fulfillment.
Contributing to the project of Library@Harbourfront’s successful launch on 12 January 2019 was a great experience. I am able to connect with senior and younger librarians and learn of their unsung efforts in daily library duties to ensure smooth operations, as well as project tasks to ensure the successful opening launch of Library@Harbourfront. It is located at the southern district of Singapore and set against the splendid backdrop of Sentosa Island. The spacious interiors with ample seats, fixture lighting, and natural lighting are optimal for reading and hosting programs that support digital readiness and lifelong learning. Hence, the scenic view and ergonomic interiors are a great combination for conducive reading and learning.
Image Source: National Library Board, Library@Harbourfront, Reading Lounge 2 (https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Portals/0/library/gallery/harbourfront/Programme%20Lounge%202.JPG)
The NAS is the official keeper of records of national or historical significance. Volunteering as an audio transcriber with NAS brings me closer to our nation's history. Understand from the perspectives of great pioneers provide a captivating history and enriching learning experience. The Citizen Archivist Project is a long-term project that allows citizens to contribute to describing photographs, transcribing and translating documents and records labels, and transcribing oral history recordings. It is an honor to contribute modestly in transcribing the oral history interviews.
The life skills I learn consequently from volunteering with NLB and NAS are building communication, interpersonal relationships, task organization, and teamwork. This is an opportunity to develop and practice social skills from interaction with fellow volunteers and patrons with the common interests of reading and writing. Dedicating to volunteering – regardless of the size of the tasks – allows one to connect to the organizations and communities and improve the communities’ conditions and one’s well-being as well. With the ideal connection and contribution, we can discover our strengths and weakness; thus, improve life skills that help our personal and professional development.
Keen to learn volunteering experience from the Project Management community.
It is natural to be surrounded by optimistic voices – from ourselves and others – advising that “negativity kills ideas and productivity”, we need to “stay positive”, and “look on the brighter side”. Often when we want to be positive, our negativity brings us down. However, our minds are capable to handle the complexity of this cognitive dissonance. Being positive is what we always hear and is an old adage to individual and team success. But being positive is not enough, we need to weigh in the negative aspects as well. In my experiences of working independently and in teams, positivity would backfire on us when it tricked our mind to become satisfied with current progress, as it often subconsciously clouded our cognitive ability to sense risks, make a sound judgment, and provide viable solutions or alternatives. We need to keep in check of the drive that entails from being optimistic as well as the cautiousness that brings us out from being pessimistic.
Here are 3 positive traits of being optimally negative.
1) Negative thinkers have the conservatism trait which prevents complacency. Generally, we are spurred on by words of encouragement and will fare better when being encouraged, but reassurance is a double-edged sword. While reassuring words quell anxiety and boost confidence in one’s ability to manage complex tasks and relationships, on the other hand, it can make us feel complacent when we are doing well using standard and results-proven procedures. This deters us from searching for new knowledge and experiences to learn, leading to organization inertia.
Being negative in a conservative manner can prevent us from being clouded by over-positivism into believing that we have the full capability to manage complexity and overcome any obstacles or uncertainty. We will be more humble, constantly seeking knowledge, and strive for personal and professional improvement. This drive for knowledge will spur us on to learn from the internal environment as well as the external environment of the organization.
2) Instead of being content with current progress, anticipating possible obstacles lying ahead helps one to begin planning approaches to overcome them. I realized that when telling myself not to worry too much, I am not planning for contingencies. Instead of expecting tasks will go as planned, negative thinkers are brainstorming the things that can fail. People who are a couple of steps ahead have the knack of foreseeing possible obstacles, thus they are rarely caught off guard with contingency plans being well planned out.
A practical technique is Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) whereby it studies problems that might arise from malfunctions in organizational processes, products or services. For each possible risk, the risk priority is worked out according to its severity, occurrence, and detection. Root causes are mapped out and viable steps are taken to eliminate or minimize them.
Hence, being negative in an anticipating mode will make us good analysts in both project and functional environments, because besides being able to envisage possible bottlenecks before they appear and seek viable solutions or alternatives, we are able to continuously improve on current progress.
3) Negativity builds resiliency. When an over-positive individual realizes problems, he or she may not have the adaptability to overcome the setback and changed the imminent failure, the team will need a negative thinker who envisages not only possible threats but also opportunities. They have a natural flair of turning possible failures into positive outcomes, as their negativity lead them to learn from past lessons and thus able to deal with difficult situations. Thus, they are well drilled to turn the tide when the waves arise or even prevent the waves from forming.
Past stressful situations create negative emotions such as frustration, fear, anxiety, etc. When reliving these stressful situations with introspective thoughts, we will be able to reframe the negative emotions into possible resolutions with viable actions plans.
When I met with a seemingly impossible deadline to meet for a project deliverable, self-blaming thoughts become whirling non-stop in my head and I am not able to stop the negative beliefs that ensue. I jot down these negative thoughts and beliefs in my mind and on a notebook. By being mindful of the thoughts and ensuing triggers, self-awareness is developed. Next, acknowledge being negativity is a natural human disposition and thus does not need to fight it, but the thoughts can be shifted. Instead of just saying “I am not good enough” and stop there, I tried saying “this is difficult situation and I accept not having the immediate ability to overcome, but I have gone through this before and can draw experiences from the lessons learned”. I scrutinized the individual tasks of a project deliverable to diagnose where went wrong and find the root causes, and then able to engineer prospective solutions to meet the project deliverable.
Do seek support from colleagues and superiors, they will understand where you are coming from and can see that you have worked out some prospective solutions for further discussions. Hence, negative emotions should be embraced as an integrated part of the process of developing and sustaining high-performance mindset with resiliency.
Therefore, being consciously aware of negative thoughts and emotions and accepting them will keep us on our toes. This will help us to eliminate complacency, anticipate possible obstacles, and build resiliency. A project team needs to develop positive-thinking and negative-thinking, but cannot be overly optimistic and extreme pessimistic.