Posts Tagged ‘teamwork’

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Atonement, Hancock, Bonfire of the Vanities…I guess we’ve all got our “sour grapes” list of movies that should have been good, but were not.

As Hollywood has long since shown us, there is no such thing as a sure-fire hit. The potential for creating a product with great characters, an exciting and emotionally gripping plot, and top talent is one thing; executing on it is quite another.

The same applies to books. This thought came to me as I began reading Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race, written by the CEO and Director of Client Services of consulting firm, The Syncretics Group.

On the face of it, this book had it all:

A sexy topic (ocean racing) linked to insights for succeeding in today’s rough and chaotic business world.

A fresh angle on a newsworthy story; as the authors point out, the media focused mostly on the tragedy of the 1998 event—of which more shortly—rather than celebrate the “David vs. Goliath” winning crew.

A “bad guy” in the form of loud mouth, “Ugly American abroad” Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle.

But less than a dozen pages in I began skimming the book, and put it down before things (presumably) got exciting. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with it; the book is well written, offers sound advice and promises a great adventure story. But it just wasn’t engrossing.

The first couple of paragraphs of the Preface began promisingly, pointing out that in the fifty-three years leading up to the 1998 Sydney to Hobart offshore ocean race—held every December 26th—only two out of the 35,000 total participants had lost their lives. But in 1998 all that changed: five boats sunk, “seven were abandoned at sea, twenty-five crewmen were washed overboard, and fifty-five sailors were rescued in an operation involving twenty-five aircraft, six vessels, and approximately 1,000 people.” The event had moved way beyond “extraordinary” to become “extraordinarily dangerous.”

Like a Hollywood screenwriter handed a best-selling novel, this was the fabulous material that Perkins and Murphy had to play with. But they ended up writing a book I wasn’t motivated to skim-read, let alone finish.

Which begs the question: Just how engaging do business books need to be these days? Well, I guess that depends on the purpose for writing them. Some books are written to add “author” to a CEO’s other titles, to help generate business for a consultancy, to have something to sell during events, or to gift to clients at holiday times. Perhaps their writers aren’t really looking beyond that level of success.

Whereas those authors looking for a more widespread, general business readership need exemplary storytelling skills. Some writers have this instinctively: Pink, Gladwell, Johansson to name just a few. Great orators like Steve Jobs and former President Bill Clinton share this ability also.

Sadly, by starting their book with a run-down of the America’s Cup and the Sydney to Hobart race, then introducing us to race veteran Bill Psaltis then his son Ed, the skipper of the winning vessel, then describing how the found their boat, then telling us about various crew members…well, by that time I’d decided it was time to take an alternative journey and go back to the YA novel I was reading. At least that plot had grabbed my attention on page one and wasn’t going to let me go until I got to the end of the book!

As I’ve hinted throughout these columns during the year, knowing how to tell a compelling story is not just essential for business book authors (at least, those who want a sizeable readership), it’s a vital business asset these days. As the author, I would have been inclined to start this book at the height of the excitement, then used back-story to fill in the gaps. As a reader, I would have cared much more about Ed Psaltis and the crew of AFR Midnight Rambler had I met them in the context of doing something extraordinarily courageous, stupid, or crazy, rather than the gentle run-up to the key events that Perkins and Murphy offer.

Which leaves me with just one question for you. What nonfiction book did you have high hopes for this year, that turned out to be a disappointing read?

This is the last Thought Readership review for 2012. Thank you to all those who have read and commented (you’re a rare bunch!) throughout the year. I look forward to sharing with you the good, the bad, and the ugly in books published in 2013. Meanwhile, happy holidays to you and yours!!

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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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
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When I was in the seventh grade, during our school’s annual track and field day, I was assigned to the shot put event.  That was a bit of a problem.  Back then, I wasn’t what you would call skinny – I was downright scrawny.  I could barely pick up the shot put, let alone heave it across the field.  Let me tell you, I was definitely scrawny but I was scrappy too.  I practiced hard.  The gym teacher worked with me and, day-by-day, I got better.  It hurt and I hated it, but I got better.

After what seemed like an eternity of training, track and field day arrived and I threw the shot put farther than I had ever thrown it.  It was a personal best.  And I came in … dead last.  Thirty-seventh out of thirty-seven boys.  I had worked hard, I had gotten better, and I had gone from poor to just a little less poor.  My immense effort went largely unrewarded.  That’s what happens when the talent doesn’t match the task.

The truth is, many of us have been sold a bill of goods.  It started with Napoleon Hill when he said, “Anything the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”  Which is just plain nonsense.  Think about this:  I can conceive of playing in the NBA, and with enough self-delusion I might even be able to believe it.  But I won’t achieve it because you can’t coach tall … or fast.  In other words, I don’t have the talent.

Talent is the capacity for near perfect performance.  It’s something you’re born with or that develops very early in life.  Talent can be cultivated, but it probably can’t be created.  The good news is, everyone has talent of some kind.  But each of us also has some non-talents – some things we just don’t do very well and probably won’t ever do very well.  (My list of non-talents includes anything requiring a power tool, math past the 8th grade level and throwing the shot put.)

If you want exceptional performance in your company (and who doesn’t?) there are two crucial activities that you and all your managers must engage in.

#1 – Identify the talent of each of your people

#2 – Match that talent with a task that needs to be accomplished

Identifying the talent of subordinates and matching that talent with a task that needs to be accomplished just might be the most important contribution to organizational success a manager can make. A wonderful, if somewhat awkward, question is:

Who Does What Well Around Here?

That question focuses on the right thing – it focuses on talent, on what a person can do.  Far too often, managers are in “cop mode”.  They’re on the lookout for what’s wrong.  Certainly there are times when a manager needs to take corrective action.  But great managers spend a lot of time looking for what’s right with people.  To find out more about what great managers do, spend a few minutes with our free online management development course, The Foundation of Management.

Jack-Hayhow Jack Hayhow is Chief Executive Servant of Opus Communications in Kansas City. Opus provides tools and techniques to help business owners build their business. Jack is also the author of two highly acclaimed business books, The Wisdom of the Flying Pig: Guidance and Inspiration for Managers and Leaders and, Breaking Through the Barrier: What Companies That Grow Do Differently
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Project Reality Check #21: Acknowledgement

by Gary Monti on May 10, 2011

Acknowledgement can increase the speed and accuracy of your project and business interactions. Being grounded in honesty it has an added bonus of creating an atmosphere where people can risk being spontaneous and open. This is especially important when discussing difficult matters, not just the “high five” accomplishments. In contrast, lack of acknowledgement leaves people wondering where they stand causing a waste of energy and destabilization of the relationship.

Acknowledgement shows others they are worth the time and effort it takes to think about them. It has proved invaluable when having to evaluate team members, stakeholders, or vendors whose performance has not been up to par…well at least the ones who value the relationship. It keeps the focus on behaviors important for successful continuation of ongoing work.

Providing acknowledgement says,

“Working interdependently with you is important to me.” That open recognition goes a long way towards potentially deepening the relationship by the development of trust, which in turn can increase commitment. Loyalty is promoted.

For those who don’t care about the relationship, the effort spent acknowledging them still has a benefit by bringing into clear focus the need to modify or end the relationship.

Nuances and Weak Signals

Acknowledgement promotes the sharing of nuances, important when building success. It is like an added bonus. Let me explain. Nuance is about the little things; the little things that can make all the difference in the world. In complex situations nuances go by another name: Weak signals.

Successful weak signal analysis (WSA) is one of the holy grails associated with complex projects. WSA is essential on any complex project since it helps determine as early as possible signs of pending success or failure. This information helps the PM change approach in order to enhance the former and dampen the latter and do it in a cost effective way.

The hunt for and analysis of weak signals can keep a project manager up at night causing loss of focus and the development of tunnel vision. The loyalty and trust promoted by acknowledgement encourages others to help the PM stay on track with eyes wide open. The odds of success go up accordingly.

Think of the trusting clerk with whom you’ve built a relationship. How do you feel when they steer you in the right direction regarding a product with which you have little familiarity but need to work correctly right out of the box? That feeling is the payoff, or should I say one of the payoffs. After all, it just feels good to treat people right.

A Challenge to you!

I’d like to put a challenge out to the reader. How much time are you willing to spend acknowledging others? Who would you pick? Why? Keep your thoughts and associated actions in mind for the next blog where we’ll go deeper into the benefits of acknowledgement along with the damage that occurs when it is absent.

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
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Project Reality Check #18: Humility

by Gary Monti on April 19, 2011

All the responsibility and none of the authority,” is the motto of project management, or so it seems. Can anything be done to improve the situation? Yes. If one goes back to 12th century Italy, sound advice was given by Francis of Assisi. The purpose of looking at Francis is to see what wisdom is present rather than espousing a particular religious view. With that disclaimer, let’s move on!

How Much CAN You Do?

I had a client once who demanded all sorts of things. He was pretty much over the top at the time. In exasperation I responded to his demands by simply asking, “If I could do all you are asking would we be sitting here having this conversation? No, I’d be so rich I wouldn’t know what to do with myself!” We had a good laugh.

Inside that tense, humorous situation is a core truth project manager’s need to address.  It has to do with humility, limits, and the generation of abundance.

How Are You With The Basics?

Francis of Assisi wondered what it meant to live a good life. Specifically, he was concerned about how it reflected in community. What he stated rings true to this day:

“First do what is necessary, then do what is possible, and you will awaken to doing the impossible.”

In project management terms he would be saying, “Stick with the nine areas of project management. Learn them well and practice them repeatedly in all project work. Beware of shortcuts. Keep things as simple as possible. By doing that something will be created which can be built upon.” He was talking about being humble and avoiding over-reaching.

Build a Mosaic

It goes further, though. When one gets the reputation of sticking to the knitting, being respectful and doing a good job consistently others who want to build are attracted to that person because they see something of substance being done. This is the payoff and the paradox of working humbly and staying within one’s limits. What do I mean?

A sense of being trustworthy develops. This leads to building a team. The positive energy present pushes the team to leverage its capabilities. The team can’t sit still! At this point a synergy sets in which leads to calculated risk taking. This is a foundation from which abundance develops. It is much like a mosaic. With a few basic shapes and colors plus the flow of ideas from the team awe-inspiring works can be created.

It is important to close with pointing out that being humble is different than being a wallflower or having false modesty. On the contrary, a humble person simply moves based on the principles present and really isn’t looking for approval nor trying to be rebellious. There is strength of character present adding to the attractiveness of the person. People want what they have. If they are willing to work on the team they have a shot at getting it. And the abundance continues to grow!

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
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In our last post we talked about what the organization can do for the new Gen Y hire, to help ensure a successful entry into the group.  In this last of a series of four posts we will see what Gen Ys themselves should be doing to quickly become a valued contributor and team member?  We suggest focusing on six key behavior clusters:

  1. Listen and learn. You almost never learn when you are talking. And in any new job you have a lot to learn.  But most people don’t listen well – – –  they merely pretend to listen while they compose a response to what they are hearing.  To break this habit, take notes while others are speaking.
  2. Know how your boss likes to communicate. HBR still has available online the classic paper “Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker.  Every boss, employee and new-college-hire should read those 11 pages. New GenYs should ask how their bosses and peers want to communicate.  Is your new boss a listener, talker or reader?  This is crucial information.
  3. Join the team for the long haul. One mindset likely to frustrate you and your management is to overly focus on having a sudden intuitive brainstorm that changes the company or launches a new product and catapults you into the President’s office!  Understand that the financial success of rappers and Hollywood stars and others who, with seemingly limited talent have secured nearly unlimited wealth is very, very rare.  Seth Godin calls this phenomenon “The Purple Cow” and his book, same title, is a great read check it out at).  Focus on helping others, learning all you can about your job and becoming a valued member of the team.
  4. Be tactful. *This is the exception to the previous advice to always “Say what you mean”.  Words are powerful things especially when spoken to or about people.  The key here is to separate a person’s behavior from the person.  Only correct a person’s behavior, never labeling the person as problematic.  Another rule that helps me is to never say something about another that I haven’t already said to them.
  5. Be open-minded. Look for things you can learn, not just from other Gen Ys but from Gen X, Boomers and Traditionalists.  These other generations have seen and done things you won’t get to do for decades, if ever.  Some jobs in an organization require experience and that takes time:  you cannot assign three women to the job and grow a baby in three months instead of nine!  Learn from the unique perspectives, experiences and stories of the other generations.  Keep a journal of ideas, possible projects, ways to improve things, etc. and use it in your employee performance reviews with your boss.
  6. Be reliable. Do what you say you’ll do, every time.  And if an unforeseen (and hopefully unforeseeable) problem looks like it will derail your plan, advise anyone who needs to know.  Give them an early heads-up of the possible change in plans.  Under promise and over-deliver.  Control the expectations of others and then surprise them.

Now here is a last-ditch technique for any deeply entrenched Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists out there, stuck in their old ways of thinking and unable to accept Gen Ys into an organization. If nothing else works for you, not the sensitivity training, not the classes arranged by HR, the great videos by Jason Dorsey nor even your boss’s warning that you need to “get with it and learn to play nice with the new-hires”.  Then try this: Train yourself to think of Gen Ys as belonging to a foreign culture.  That’s right, think of them as being from another country entirely.  You don’t expect foreign nationals to behave like you do.  With their different cultures, values and standards for behavior, we expect them to behave differently.  Do the same for Gen Ys.

We have seen this little mental trick prevent the eye-rolls and other knee-jerk reactions some older people have to some of the occasional stereotypical behaviors of Gen Ys (showing up late for work, telling established managers how to do their jobs, texting while you are conversing with them, jumping across multiple layers in a large organization, etc.).  And if we can break the older person’s stimulus-response chain by adding an interim “thinking” step that says “hold on a minute, this Gen Y person’s brain is not wired exactly like mine”, we can perhaps help older workers accommodate the newcomers.  We are going to need Gen Ys’ outlandish ideas and bold thinking to tackle challenges in the years to come because none of us is as smart as all of us.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Chaos and Complexity #3: Managing expectations

by Gary Monti on September 28, 2010

What daily challenges face a project manager or leader in chaotic situations? One of the biggest is unrealistic or distorted expectations. Below are some of the statements I’ve come across in my travels:

  • There’s no organization here. The project is just one big workaround.
  • It’s your fault (PM) things are not going as planned. The project is out of control.
  • You’re the PM. You have all that training. Make it simple.
  • If you’d have planned properly this wouldn’t be happening.
  • The audit clearly shows where your mistakes occurred. Were you asleep at the wheel?
  • If you can’t manage this I’ll put someone else in charge.
  • If you are going to keep on coming to me for help then there’s no need for your position.

These statements all have one thing in common: The belief order can be established and maintained. This is linear thinking. You may recall that chaotic situations are characterized by non-linear behavior. That being the case, what can the project manager do? Focus on two words: power and stability.

Confront Early

Gathering power and establishing stability can be anything but straightforward. There are some steps one needs to go through:

  • Confront the situation early since it is one of the most important activities. The framing of the confrontation is critical. I’ve learned to avoid saying, “No.” What works better is approaching key people and empathizing with their goals, desires, etc., and also talking about the challenges present.
  • Separate “shoulds” (expectations) from “actuals” (limits of what the team can do) by stating as early and as simply as possible the gaps in the situation. Here is where burning the midnight oil may come into play. Why? Expectations can have a high degree of emotionality associated with them. Emotionality clouds a situation and can cause endless discussions in an attempt to avoid consequences. It is like trying to write checks when there isn’t enough money to cover all the bills. What is needed is a clear statement of the reality that is being avoided. Making decisions isn’t the hard part. It’s acceptance of those consequences. So, establish a piercing honesty as in a good SWOT analysis.
  • Stick to the analysis of the situation. Be willing to work and build plans but avoid promises. Stay with risk management. Risks comprise events, probabilities, and impacts. Talk in those terms. The only exception is when there is a real windfall (something positive that can be used right now) or a problem (something currently damaging the situation).
  • Stay close to stakeholders, especially the difficult ones and keep the conversation going. Listen and ask what commitments they are willing to make to improve things.
  • Be a straight talker, always be respectful, and interact in a business-based manner. Get the reputation for being a person of your word.
  • Keep the focus on the goal and ask how the way people are behaving works towards that goal.
  • Look for movement from stakeholders. Distinguish what they need from what they want. Also determine what they are willing to pay for it.
  • State what you believe and work to what can be known in order to drive the situation to a linear, predictable situation. Successful projects have to become orderly at some point in order to achieve the quality needed for the deliverable. It can be exciting and energizing working as an entrepreneur but at some point a stable deliverable is needed.

Gather Power

Performing the above-mentioned activities consistently helps gain power- the ability to influence. It is the consolidation of this ability to influence that is the hallmark of a successful leader. Keep in mind power is fluid and perishable. Converting that power into a plan, which can be implemented in a timely manner, is a major transition point. It is the point at which the chaos and complexity decrease and the linearity (predictability) of the outcome takes shape and grows.

Drive Towards Stability

A good project- or program manager takes the power and disperses it. Any attempt to hold onto it will introduce a stiffness, which cuts down on flexibility, and the power will simply disappear.

What does this mean in everyday terms? The leader becomes a conduit for the power and lets it flow to the team leads and technical people who make up the project. Coordinating the development of the architecture and the subsequent flow into specific design components requires the capabilities of an orchestra conductor. When done right it leads to stability reflected in the flow of work (rather than a positioning that leads to stagnation).

Spread the Credit

Get a reputation for appreciating what people do. Doing this will attract good people and encourage those going through rough patches. The reward is gathering more power that can be carried into the future. This power provides a safety net preserving position and providing more opportunity to do even more in the future.

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
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Character and Personality #6: Humility

by Gary Monti on August 10, 2010

When conducting workshops on complex projects a common question is, “What characteristics must a leader have?” The next few blogs we will break away from temperament and cover several of the important character traits. The first is humility.

Conversations around this word can be all over the map. When asked for synonyms responses include “submissive,” “quiet,” and “unassertive,” and “cautious” to name a few. Let’s see if some clarity can be brought to the situation.

“To Serve”

We took a peek at humility in an earlier blog referring to samurai. “Samurai” means “to serve.” Samurai were humble. They knew their limits and worked within them. Getting the picture? If not, maybe it will become clearer by looking at one of my favorite quotes which happens to be anonymous:

“There are two types of people in the world – those who are humble and those who are about to be.”

Humility has less to do with affect (how we look to the outside world, e.g., quiet) and more to do with awareness; specifically awareness of one’s limitations. One reason teams come about is humility. Together we can work beyond our individual limits. Being humble, we can also pay attention to real boundaries and calculate how to push on them.

Humiliation

This all sounds well and good. But isn’t there an element of truth ringing in the words “submissive,” “unassertive,” etc.? No.

The meaning of humility may become clearer when compared to the word it is commonly confused with  – humiliation. There are two parts to the meaning of each word. The first part is the same, “To go to a small place.” It is in the second part where the words differ dramatically. With humility I choose to go to that small place. With humiliation…you probably have guessed it…I am pushed there by someone else!

Nice People Apparently Doing Bad Things

These definitions are morally neutral. Let me explain. You might know of a couple going through the following situation. One member (A) of a couple gets the job offer from heaven! The problem is it requires uprooting and moving to another city. This can humiliate the other partner (B) who might ask, “What about me?” Assuming A is free of any malicious thoughts of manipulating B, B still is saddled with an unfairness that needs to be addressed.  The challenge of interdependence is present. (For more on interdependence, see William Reed’s blog.) B is going to have to take a risk in order to work interdependently with A.

Fast-Paced Organizations

This issue shows up on the job on an almost daily basis. When a company says they are fluid, flexible, and fast-paced and will work to meet or exceed customer needs a set of questions comes to mind including, “Is the leader humble?” and “Does the leader watch for potentially humiliating situations and work with those who get pushed there?”

The principles by which the leader lives come into play. In the blog on navigating through change management the need for the leader to be steadfast, open, and available is discussed, i.e., the leader staying humble and stable – serving as a reference point for those who are feeling a bit humiliated as well as those who are getting to stay on their chosen path. Both groups of people are part of the success.

The Payoff

It is hard to overstate how much humility combined with interdependence contributes to creating a powerful team. Trust is present which fuels a feed-forward instead of a looking-back-and-wondering-what-happened frame of mind. The awareness of limits leads to better decision-making so not only is the team moving faster there is a higher probability of sustaining success. So, the next time humble pie is being served consider asking for a second slice.

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
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Ever been attracted to someone who will save the day? You know, the White Knight that will save the situation? What about the flip side? Someone showing up in your life you absolutely can’t stand? A leader must pay very close attention to feelings that accompany these situations. Are you aware both situations can have a great deal in common? They can have what I call large “blind spots” associated with them, blind spots into which organizations can fall and disappear.

There’s a curious component to these blind spots since they can have as much or more to do with the leader’s character as the exterior reality. The dynamics of these blind spots and how to deal with them fall under the category of projection. So what is projection? How can one deal with it?

Projection

Projection is shady. It creates false feelings of well being around potentially disastrous decisions. At the core projection deals with the desire to take a shortcut to avoid going to dark places, especially within.

Dynamics

Previous blogs mention we all have portions of our psyche that are quite strong and other parts that are weak. Over time, we tend to build our lives around the stronger components and gradually develop a fear of those weaker ones. The primary reasons for the fear are imagined and real instabilities from which we believe we may not recover. Simply put, our reputation, business, etc., are at stake. We are staring at uncertainty.

The shortcut attempted is trying to find someone, the Other, who will deal with those dark spaces for us. We become infatuated with the Other. The Other is taken hostage. Conversely, the shortcut with the detested person is to simply get rid of him or her. This way the scary work can, again, be avoided. In both cases the leader stays myopic, loses vision, and is unable to see the consequences of decisions. A boss hiring someone to do the more difficult parts of the boss’s responsibilities (read: dirty work) is a good example of projection. It tears the team apart.

So Which is Which?

How does one know if the desired decision is wise and simple or blind and chaotic? In one word, “Options.” In two words, “Risk management.” In another two words, “Assumption analysis.” Let me explain.

Projection is sly and takes several forms. It is a narcotic that puts discernment to sleep. It is a demolition expert wiring explosives to all that has been built. It puts the trigger in the leader’s hand. It intensifies emotionality making pulling the trigger feel oh so sweet. (“Just fire him! Just hire her! Start without a contract! Requirements gathering will slow us down! Cash flow! Everything will be okay.”) Then it waits for the blind decision that irreversibly pulls the trigger and destroys healthy power, assets, and people.

By asking questions around options, risk management, and assumption analysis the door to healthier decision-making opens. Vision returns. Now, all this means going into those dark spaces. It’s hard work, rewarding work. It’s also the simplest work. (There’s never enough time to do it right the first time but there’s always time to fix it.) Keep in mind that just like Hades in Greek mythology, that’s where the real gold not the fool’s gold is!

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
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Do you have a rock star culture in your organization?

by Himanshu Jhamb on January 11, 2010

In a world where heroes are worshiped, superheroes idolized and rock stars treated as gods, somehow it gets lost upon us that the true power lies in high performance teams and not just embodied in one person, however good that person might be. Corporations are in the quest of seeking out individuals who are superstars – you can pick up any job requirement write-up and you’ll see a huge bent towards making sure the person sought after is an expert in at least 5 areas, a one-man-army and then, somewhere down there, in a tiny bullet point you will find a feeble mention that “Candidate must be a good team player”. Am I the only one who sees something amiss here?

Here’s a little story from my early career days:

I worked for a young organization where the team comprised of people who labeled themselves “Rock Stars” (seriously, they used to call themselves that). They were ambitious, competent, competitive, hungry, arrogant and loud. I still remember my first day as a trainee when one of them “Oriented” me on my responsibilities, the product, the customers and the services we provide… all in the space of 2 hours… and I was thrown in the deep waters to sink or swim. When I questioned this process, I was told – “Oh! Everyone has gone through this – after all, we only hire Rock Stars!” Only problem was – I didn’t feel much like a rock star when I was sitting in front of the customer the next day as an expert on the project. As time went by, I saw that my fellow Rock Stars were very talented and savvy but all of them kept “Winging” stuff because the philosophy of being a Rock Star begins with making tall promises (sometimes, unattainable) and then stretching to deliver. Sometimes things worked really well and they returned from projects as Heroes… though, most of the times, projects went awry and there was a lot of “coping” to do… but the label “Rock Stars” stuck to them. The one consequence that mostly all of them faced was they worked very long hours and over time, burned out.

So, what do you do when you see symptoms of a “Rock Star Culture” in your team. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Ask many “How” Questions: This is the part that gets “Winged” most of the time. People make promises based on a “Feeling”. While I am not a total non-believer of this (because sometimes actions need to be committed to before planning – just talk to an entrepreneur, if you want a lively discussion on this one!) BUT many a times, the feeling falls under the area of  a story about things getting done without any thinking on how they will be done and who will do what.
  2. Estimate a little higher: Rock Stars know that in order to retain the mantle, they need to overachieve. Nothing wrong with that – except, sometimes they promise very aggressive estimates and overlook dependencies that are not easily visible at the start of the projects. The little bit of higher estimates gives them room to cope, when unforeseeable situations occur (and they do!).
  3. Make them commit to a Project Plan: A well laid out plan takes care of the concerns around “eating more than you can chew” because it forces you to ask fundamental questions like:
    • What tasks need to be done to achieve the final goal
    • Who will do it
    • What are the dependencies that must be taken care of to complete a task
    • How much effort is needed to complete a task
    • When will it get done
  4. Foster a Team environment: Reward people when they look out for each other, help each other and back each other – all aspects of good teamwork, encourage communication and coordination between team members, Acknowledge individual feats but amplify the team achievements more!

True, teams are made of individuals and the more skillful the individuals comprising the team, the better the capacity of the team… but teams are teams. What we are looking for is “High Performance Teams” and THAT comes not from gathering a bunch of superstars in a group BUT from Focused teams supporting each other at each step of the journey… Yes, by all means, have Rock Stars on your team but in the end what really matters is you need to have a Rocking TEAM!

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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