Posts Tagged ‘managers’

The Soul of a Project #18: Beware The Full Moon!

by Gary Monti on June 6, 2012

A strange beast shows up when the full moon rises on a project. It’s the full moon that appears when fundamental changes brought about by the project are free to take shape. The beast seems vaguely familiar while frightening and surprising at the same time. Actually, more than one appears. They are very common. I am talking about the organizational werewolves.

The full moon rises when the impediment to success or progress is removed. It’s right when the project is ready to go into full stride and grow. One of the most common impediments is the Manager From Hell (MFH). The team and supportive stakeholders grumble about the MFH, wondering how (s)he got power since they only seem to hurt situations. While moaning and groaning about the MFH the gossip mill generates enough power to light a small city. Productivity drops. Everyone dreams of a day when this person is GONE!

When that day finally arrives there is a collective sigh of relief. But something odd happens that night. The next day strange creatures show up aggressive behavior, both passive and active, arising at the tactical level.

Where did these creatures come from? Simple…THE TEAM…and stakeholder population!

So what is this all about? Let me explain. When working on projects that bring about substantial change a warning is given at the kick-off meeting and goes something like this:

As we progress impediments to progress will be found. Some will be technical and some may be individuals. A word of caution, “Avoid demonizing the person!” To the extent you’ve been working with and adapting to their behavior you have enmeshed and have issues of your own to address. When impediments are removed do not relax. That is the starting point NOT the finish line! Everyone will be challenged to take responsibility for themselves and see what behaviors of their own need to be changed.

Trust me, no one remembers this. Such a focus is placed on the MFHs people lose sight of their own shortcomings. When this occurs with senior managers the project is in danger. The infrastructure issues that need repaired or built for the first time, in order for the project to succeed, are considered superfluous. It is assumed everyone will do just fine with the project automatically proceeding towards success. It is a simplistic, dangerous view. Think of Yugoslavia after Tito’s death. Freedom! Or at least that is what everyone thought. A new age dawned but it definitely wasn’t what everyone expected. Instead, the slow descent into hell that made international news occurred.

What this all boils down to is taking leadership of one’s own responsibilities and examine where your own performance has slacked off because of the MFH. Where have you given yourself a get-out-of-jail-free card because the environment is harsh? It is time to turn those cards back in, return to the principles that matter, and work in a disciplined way. Build. Get the job done!

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
Share

In meetings, John D. Rockerfeller would sit and not say anything.  Many times he would appear to be asleep.  However when he did speak, it was always a question.  It was a question that would break the status quo of the discussion and bring out new viewpoints on a challenge.  Michael Dell doesn’t speak much in meetings, but when he does it is almost always a question.

As a business school professor I teach by asking questions.  Verne Harnish says “we are good at finding answers to questions, leaders find the right questions”.

Nobody knows as much as Everybody

Business regularly promote the best performer to be team leader.  The top salesman becomes sales manager.  The top programmer becomes team lead.  The top engineer becomes operations manager.

The previous strength of the individual becomes their greatest weakness as a leader.

They know they were the best, so they have the best answers.  When they feel a little threatened in the new role, they stop asking questions.   They diminish the impact of those around them.

Nobody knows as much as everybody.  Even if I were to be technically the smartest person in the room, the combined capacity of others will be more powerful.  We ask questions when we are humble.  Liz Wiseman, author of “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter”, says we ask good questions when we are not thinking “I am the smartest person in this room”.  Liz calls this leader a “multiplier”.

John Baldoni offers 4 ways to improve your questions in the Harvard Business Review.  Learn to Ask Better Questions:

  1. be curious,
  2. be open-ended,
  3. be engaged and
  4. dig deeper.

Uncertainty and Frustration stop you from Leading Others

Last week, I was with a good friend and our 3 kids at the beach.  We left the beach at sunset and cycled home.  When we reached home, I discovered that we were locked out of the house.  I had left another key in the inside of the lock, and was now unable to open the door from outside.  It was getting dark and our 3 kids (between the ages of 3 and 5) were hungry and asking repeatedly “why are we outside?”

I felt stupid.  I stopped communicating.  I was getting frustrated by the kids asking “why are we outside?”  I was angry at myself.

I didn’t speak much to my friend and our kids.  First, I searched see if any windows or doors were open.  After 10 minutes walking around the house, no joy.  Fort Knox.

I asked my friend “do you have your mobile?”  I made some calls to get the number of the security company.  I finally spoke to someone who said they would send a car, it would probably take 40 minutes.  I said “ok”.

It was only now that I took a deep breath and explained the situation to my friend and our 3 kids.  I could see that my daughter had really wanted to help and she felt bad that I had ignored her.  My well-meaning actions had alienated the others.  Luckily my friend had created a little game to play with the kids while we waited.  He got the towels from the bag to wrap the kids and keep them warm.  I was no longer the leader in this group.  My friend was the emotional centre of the group.  I was an individual specialist who had emotionally abandoned the group in a moment of need. I lost control because of my frustration at myself.

I stop asking questions when I am angry at myself, feel overwhelmed or uncertain.

The Territory of Leadership is Uncertainty

Managers deal in improving the status quo.  Management is about doing the same things a little better.  Leaders deal in uncertainty.  Leadership is about giving others the confidence to move forward, helping them believe their own answers.

A friend of mine, Jacques, is the father of a tennis player.  If she loses, he asks “when did you know you were going to lose?  Why did you not stop right then?”  A leader must be able to regain belief.  When a team is winning, the captain can be a manager.  When the team is losing and doubt is in the minds of the players, the captain must become a leader.  He must take control of emotions.  First his own.  Then he must project his certainty out to the group.  Leadership is emotional work.  Leadership is about making sense of emotions and helping everyone reach a mental state that allows for performance.

A great leader believes in people and asks questions that help them perform.

John DeMartini talks about a transformational moment in his life.  He was 17, living in a tent and surfing the beaches of Hawaii with no purpose or plan.  A 93 year old man was talking with a group on the beach.  John listened.  At the end John approached the man.  The man asked him about his life and what he wanted to do.  John found himself answering that he would be a teacher.  The man listened and when he finished, looked him in the eyes and said “This is going to happen.  You are going to be a great teacher.  What will you do next?”  The man said these words with such conviction and belief that John knew it would happen.  John’s goal in life is to do the same for a 17 year old when he himself is 93 years old.  Leadership is about helping people believe in themselves.  It is helping someone reach enough certainty to take action.

The Best Questions…

  • The best Leadership Question:  “What is the next right thing to do?”
  • The best Teaching Question: “What do you think?  What other options do you see?”
  • The best Coaching Question: “You have achieved what you set out to accomplish.  Imagine yourself there.  What does it feel like?”
  • The best Friendship Question: “How are you?”
  • The best Parenting Question: “What was the best moment of your day?”
  • The best Sales Question: “(I understand that price is important.)  What other criteria are important in making this decision?”  (The implicit question: “What are you comparing this to?”)

What question will you ask?

The Origin of Leaders

The next post in this series will turn back inwards and look at why you would choose the path of leadership and stick to it for life.  What is a fulfilling life?  How can you live so that you reach the last day and say “I don’t want to go, but if I had it over again I would live much the same way.”

Conor NeillConor Neill is the professor of Leadership Communication at IESE Business School in Barcelona and an entrepreneur who has founded four companies. Years ago, he was a manager in the Human Performance consulting practice of Accenture. He loves rugby, mountain climbing and will run a marathon next march. Conor frequently blogs at conorneill.com and tweets as cuchullainn
Share

As the Paradigm Shifts #L: Loneliness

by Rosie Kuhn on June 29, 2011

You probably thought that since we are talking about spirituality in business that love would be the L word for this week. No. Everything we’ve discussed and much of what we will be discussing engages and exercises the muscles of love. No need to go there today.

Though we spend hours with our cohorts, colleagues, team members, rarely do we engage in such a way that we feel heard and seen for who we are and for what we really bring with us to the office.

Loneliness is a spiritual crisis for every individual on this planet. It is isolation from ourselves, our highest truth and our highest good. It’s self-abandonment and self-deprecation that shows itself by the company we keep and the companies we work for.

We can’t blame anyone for this malady from which we all suffer and to which we all contribute. All we can do is to begin to cultivate the awareness that each of us can contribute to the resurrection of the Self through conscious and thoughtful connection with everyone at work.

It isn’t hard to cultivate connection– we’ve been discussing it all along. It’s just a matter of deciding what you are committed to. You heal others and the reward is you heal yourself at the same time.

Time to Google

There was a part of me that was unsure how accurate I was regarding the degree to which loneliness permeates our corporate cultures. Not every company or corporations is afflicted with employees that suffer from loneliness but there are enough.

I googled Loneliness in Business and found one website in particular that shared many views of loneliness and how sometime the loneliness and isolation experienced in the working environment led to depression, illness, stress, lack of motivation and the reality that nobody really cares!

Emily White, author of Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude has a blog site on Loneliness & Work. It is an open invitation for those who experience loneliness at work to write and share their experience. Here are a few comments that I found valuable to share:

“I feel invisible at work more and more. I’m a manager and my job is to promote the great work my staff does, which they do, but I find myself feeling sad that the people in our organization don’t come to me for questions and the like.”

“I used to work for a small advertising agency and in the beginning, I felt it would lead to more friendships, but it didn’t. … there were also the usual stresses of personality conflict and turf battles in the office. Plus, the … already well-defined cliques …”

“I work from home myself and the isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming. I do have to go to meetings occasionally, and I meet people for lunch every week, but it isn’t enough.

HR regulations that ignore the fact that in many cases we spend more time with the people from work than we do with anyone else in our lives. Regulations in our lawsuit-fearful, spineless management work lives are imposing isolation – not alone-ness – on all of us. We become so fearful of lawsuits or invasions of our private lives by corporate attorneys claiming that associating in our private times with workers is the company’s business that we avoid making meaningful relationships or even attempting.

A Lack of Shared Values

I asked a friend of my, Jen, about her experience of loneliness while she worked in the corporate world in Silicon Valley. She expressed that she had a lot of friends at work but found they didn’t share the same values. This gave her a sense of disconnection and isolation. As she spoke about it today, eight years after leaving her job, she realized that she was unaware of the degree to which she felt disconnected from those with whom she spent the majority of her days. She didn’t have the awareness or the language to even know her own feelings. Her current lifestyle fulfills her requirements for connection and for solitude, which she says is so important to her.

Bringing awareness to the quality of life we live within ourselves and within the environment within which we not only work but create most of our significant relationships and with whom we spend the greater part of our day – this can only begin to break the barrier of silence we’ve created within ourselves and those around us. It means interfacing with vulnerability – as is always the case when growing ones spiritual intelligence.

Residuals of childhood patterning too often are the foundations for the choice-making process we enter into to create the social and professional environments we find ourselves in. Choosing to choose intentionally what it is you are wanting to create for yourself and others regarding your work environment will contribute in phenomenal ways to the actualizing of such a place. The question to ask is — What is it you are wanting?

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
Share

Spirituality in Business: As the Paradigm Shifts

by Rosie Kuhn on April 6, 2011

If I were you, perched on the edge of your seat, curious enough to click on the topic of Spirituality and Business, I’d be readying myself for what – I’m not quite sure. I know I’d have a couple questions in mind.  I’d be curious about the philosophy or beliefs of this individual. I’d also be curious about what this topic has to do with me, personally. I’d wonder if this is going to be some righteous, woo-woo individual who’s going to preach some dogma about what’s right and what’s wrong in the corporate or business world. Is she going to tell me to meditate or pray before, during and after every meeting? That’s what I would be wondering if I were you.

Spirituality in Business

My beliefs and interpretations regarding spirituality and more specifically, spirituality in business emerged through my own personal experience of exploring the edges of my comfort zone, and also through the empowerment of many individuals who’ve felt the need for a thinking partner as they began to bushwhack a spiritual path of their own. My perspective is pretty simple; Regardless of the context, be in personal or corporate, I define spirituality in the most foundational and pragmatic terms possible. Spirituality is living in faith; faith not as religion but faith as in practicing trust. Shifting from what you know to what you don’t yet know, letting go of what you may be firmly attached to for something that may be tenuous at best, takes faith. I say a leap of faith is the essential and most fundamental practice of spirituality. That’s it!

For me, what’s required to even consider the possibility of engaging in life from a spiritual perspective is the willingness to be curious about who you are and how you be you. It’s being willing to consider cultivating awareness by exploring how you choose to choose what you choose. This practice of being curious leads to self-realization, which leads one along the continuum of enlightenment, one degree at a time. Another aspect of spirituality that’s just as important is the practice of actualizing your self – taking actions in the direction of how you want to be – maybe even who you want to be in the world.

Practice

You can hear that I am emphasizing the concept of practice – exercising and developing the muscles required to be curious and cultivate awareness, and to exercise the muscles necessary to put this newfound awareness into action. Both practices take faith and the implementation of our faith leaping muscles.

Here’s a good example:

Research shows that only one person in five find fulfillment in their work. What that means is that to some degree, most of us are unhappy and unfulfilled with our jobs! Is that a spiritual issue?

Let’s say that you are one of those who are unhappy in your job; how does your unhappiness impact on a) your relationship to the work you are doing; b) your relationships with your co-workers, managers, bosses and direct reports; and c) your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends?

When you are unhappy, what’s the quality of that experience? How do you be unhappy? Seriously! Everyone’s answers will be different, but more often than not I hear the following: I am withdrawn; withholding; shut down; unavailable; and numbed out. My creativity disappears; I eat more; exercise less; and I waste a lot of time at work. So what’s that got to do with spirituality?

Here’s another question: If you are one of the unsatisfied, what is the source of that unhappiness or that lack of satisfaction. What is it that creates that lack of fulfillment?

Again, each of us will have our own unique list of responses to this question, and what I hear quite often is: I really don’t care about the product or service of my company; the company treats its employees like we are robots; This place has no soul; I’m here for the money and the prestige of my position but I have no passion for what I’m doing; No one listens to my ideas; I’m not being challenged in the way that was promised; I’m afraid that if I leave my current position I’ll never have the stability or security I now have; I can’t make the kind of money I want doing what I’d really like to be doing, so I’m stuck.

Being stuck, unhappy and unfulfilled actually are choices we make based on our wants and desires. Too often we have more than one desire that wants fulfillment, and through the practice of choice-making we have to priorities our desires. Listing our hierarchy of desires will give us a good picture of what has us choose to choose what we choose.

It doesn’t matter if you are an individual, a small business or a large corporation; on an ongoing basis you will be choosing to choose what you choose in service to your hierarchy of desires. The questions is: Is your choice-making process currently working for you? If it’s not working for you, would you consider seeing things differently in service to having more fulfillment?

You can say no, I’m not willing to see it different. That’s good to know. However, I may ask another question: what has you say no – what has you not willing to see it differently?

Faith

Our commitment to limiting ourselves to only what we know keeps things just as they are. Just the willingness to consider possibility takes faith. It causes change and disruptions. Most of us would like a change but we don’t want the disruption that comes with change. For many of us, maintaining invulnerability is at the top of our list of priorities. Exploring, experimenting, expanding our comfort zones requires a willingness to take risks, to be vulnerable. All new beginnings require vulnerability and a leap of faith.

Research and statistics indicate that kindness and compassion within the work environment is profitable; people are happier, more creative and are more likely to stay longer with their current company. Great! With all of this being true, how does an individual, a business or organization begin bringing spirituality into the work place? From my perspective it’s best to start with the practice of being curious about how you be and what you do. Enjoy the adventure

Editor’s Note: This is the start of a new Series “As the Paradigm Shifts” by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, who will be taking you on a Spiritual journey in the land of Business, in her subsequent articles.

Photo Credit: Missy McDonald Sauer

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
Share

Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership

by Tanmay Vora on November 23, 2009

change through leadershipWelcome to the penultimate post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first ten posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…

#QUALITYtweet Critical question: Knowing that

people will change only if they want to, how do you

make sure they “want” to change?

Process Improvement is a “change” game and implementing change isn’t always easy. In case of process improvement, the challenge is to change habits and behaviors of your people. That makes it even more difficult.

People change, not by “force” but by their “intent”. With force, people may dispassionately comply with your processes, but for true involvement, their intent needs a direction. With this as a given, critical questions are:

  • How do you make sure that you implement change by driving intent of people?
  • How do you make sure that people are passionately involved in change?

The answer to these is “Change Leadership”. Leading a change means undertaking right initiatives, mobilizing resources, addressing soft aspects like motivation, overcoming hurdles and aligning the teams to make it happen. How can change leadership drive process improvement initiative? Here are a few pointers:

  • Accurately define what needs a change: Apply 80:20 rule to identify what needs improvement. It is easy to align people when they know that they are improving the right areas that have maximum business/operational impact.
  • Create a change time line: Humans work best when they work against a time line. We often tend to get complacent when there are no deadlines. Reasonable pressure helps us become more creative. Create a time line by when change will be implemented with a step-by-step action plan. This also creates a sense of urgency.
  • Engage people: People tend to commit themselves to things they are involved in. Involve practitioners and managers in defining the change. They are the ones who will be impacted by the change. Engage them by explaining them the larger context, vision and business need. When they know the larger picture, they can align their actions accordingly. They also need to know the “What’s in it for me?” part. How will they become more effective? How will this change help them improve their performance? They want to know this.
  • Review progress periodically: If you don’t monitor your people, you give them a reason to slow down. Have short and effective meetings (in group or one-on-one) with people involved in change. Take a stock of how things are going. Understand their problems. Help them do better. They get help and you get the broader picture. If you hit some roadblocks, you still have chance to re-align. Review early and often. This is also your opportunity to share progress and motivate people involved in improvement initiatives.
  • Lead: Give them the context and set them free. Micromanagement on tasks can kill creativity and morale. Be there to help them, but let them do it on their own. People learn the most when they try to do it themselves. They will make mistakes. Help them overcome and share the lessons learned. Set right examples for them to follow.
  • Share rewards: when you link participation with rewards, it will help you get voluntary participation from people. But after they have participated, it is only your leadership abilities that will keep them going. You will still have lot of people who will willingly participate.
  • Keep rotating teams: Once a change cycle is implemented, induct new team members in the improvement team. You maximize the opportunities for everyone to get involved in defining improvements. Broader the participation, wider the acceptance of change.

Last but not the least, people engage when they see continuity of effort. If your improvement initiative is temporary or ad-hoc, people will not engage beyond the first cycle. When people see consistent results from a process improvement group, they willingly participate.

Process improvement is a journey and not a destination. Who you travel with matters a lot. Choose the right people and get them to swing into action. Your business will thank you for that!

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
Share