Lifelong Learning

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We all have different aspirations in our career paths. We need to have the passion and drive for continuous learning and improvement. This blog looks into lifelong learning, and how it contributes to project and organizational development.

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Leadership Competencies

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Leadership Competencies

Leadership Competencies 

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.

 

  • Being a visionary: Understand the team’s situation, members’ difficulties, and requirements to improve members’ performance. Envision the end goal and build new or improve current vision with the project and organizational members, taking note of project deliverables and functional activities are dependent on each other. Map out new or improved visions with gradual steps and directions to attain individual milestones and achieve the end goal; and ultimately, reach new organizational heights. Translate and describe the team goals to team members, relate with members and inspire them to envisage the new proposed outcomes; consequently leading members to attain individual objectives and team goals. To be convincing and effective visionaries, leaders need to articulate clearly with inspiring and synergizing effects, which eventually will exude a strong influence on stakeholders in the internal and external environments. 

 

  • Possessing interpersonal skills: When there is interpersonal communication during an interaction, we will have face-to-face conversations with a personal touch in a two-way traffic with both verbal and non-verbal communication. One-to-one coaching and mentoring on individuals’ attributes and skills in a two-way channel, as well as a richer form of team interaction that encompasses exchanging information in a multiple-way feedback channel, are essential to assess emotional cues. Consequently, leaders can fully understand team members’ underlying concerns. Hence, able to build trust, seek consensus or compromise, balance competing or opposing goals; and eventually address concerns effectively. For instance, Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary football manager of Manchester United, had a keen eye on the observation ability that served him well throughout his managerial years. Elberse (2018, p. 14-15) wrote that Ferguson’s strong interpersonal skills provided him with the observation ability to monitor players’ performances, evaluate players analytically, spot concerns not expected to see, and thus able to build balanced and successful squads. 

 

  • Acquiring analytical skills and critical thinking: Having a focused mind with deep concentration will aid in analyzing critically on different kinds of situations in functional operations as well as project duties. Diagnose individuals’ weaknesses and peel back to underlying factors and root causes, and able to relate to members, enabling them to fully understand their weaknesses and how to overcome them. Evaluate the effectiveness of ways of team improvement and executing the initiatives efficiently. The same goes for strengths – analyzing the underlying factors and root causes of one’s strengths and how they can complement others’ strengths and weaknesses. This subsequently brings out the optimal performance in individuals and team and builds resilience, which discusses in the next point. 

 

  • Building resilience: Feelings are experiences and thoughts of current body status and surrounding situations that play out in one’s mind; consequently displaying emotions via behaviors as accordance with feelings. Acknowledge humans’ feelings and behaviors are subject to different changes in one’s personal life such as marriage, moving house, or family issues; and aspects of work life such as individual or team performances, new colleagues, assignments, deployments, and training methods. Hence, the need for awareness of members’ state of mind and resilience to help them to adapt well in the face of adversity and stress to bounce back from the difficult experiences. To achieve that, leaders need to instill the resiliency in themselves first. Mental resilience train cognitive ability to focus on the task on hand (Elberse, 2018: p. 28). Hence, leaders need to improve attention span to strengthen focus ability and mental flexibility in order to examine and incorporate multiple points of view into an objective perspective. Elberse (2018, p. 28) explained that emotional resilience creates an internal climate that drives high performance. Therefore, leaders need to build emotional flexibility to self-regulate and develop a positive outlook to nurture and sustain the team’s optimism. Conversely, it is important to be aware of reality to attain a measured and informed optimism and prevent over-positivity. With own resiliency built firmly, a leader can influence organization members and build an organizational resilient shield to lead the pack and brave the storm.

 

References:

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.

Posted on: May 11, 2019 06:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Why Negative Thinking Is Necessary

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. 

Posted on: December 15, 2018 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)
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