Posted in books, Business Value, collaboration, Communication, customers, Emotional Intelligence, Personal Brand, personal effectiveness, project management, self-care

Book Review: The 12 Pillars

Ancient marble pillars in elliptical arrangement with orange sky
Copyright 2016 Dollar Photo Club by vigeragp

When his car breaks down in front a mansion called the 12 Pillars, Michael Jones isn’t sure what’s wrong with his car or what to do about it.

As his luck would have it, he ran into someone who could help him fill his gas tank and give him life-changing advice. As a reader of the 12 Pillars, by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener, you get to tag along and eavesdrop.

The book takes its name from the mansion of the main character which has 12 Pillars. The reader soon learns that the 12 Pillars are symbolic of the 12 pillars that he feels are critical to a life well-led.

What do you think they are? I had my own guesses, but instead of flipping to the Table of Contents, I starting reading. Along with the main character, I was drawn in by the invitation to find out what the 12 Pillars were. The story unfolded as if the reader was sitting down for a cup of coffee with an older relative who was dispensing sage advice.

Each chapter was a separate pillar explained in careful detail to the main character. It was an easy read, but it is deceptively simple. This book needs to be read more than once. I will be taking a slower walk through the chapters to see what else I can learn from it.

I don’t want to share the list of 12 Pillars with you because I think this book has its greatest impact in the way it delivers its message. I don’t want to reveal the end of the book for the same reason. I do want to share a few of its quotes with you and encourage you to buy it and let it help shape your thoughts as well.

On Goal Setting:
“…the major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than the goal you achieve.”

“…how will you ever grow and expand if you aren’t consistently and proactively pursuing knowledge and ideas that will move your life forward? ”

On Leaving a Legacy:
“We are but breeze of wind that blow through this world. Here one day, gone the next. No one knows how long they will live. You cannot choose how long you will live, Michael, but you can choose how well you will live. I believe that how well you live is bound inherently with how much you leave for others who come behind you and follow your path.”

I’m sure you can see that this book is well worth the read. Have you read anything you’d recommend? Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is @jgodfrey.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence, health, project management, Sticky Notes

Sticky Notes: January 8th

The first week back at work always feels like the longest week of the year.  The beginning of the year generally finds me in the middle of a very large project that everyone expected to continue non-stop throughout the holiday.  As a result, the first week back is always hectic, noisy and stressful.  Fortunately, the first week is done.  Now I have the rest of the year to enjoy.

After I shut down my computer on Friday, I felt like a great big wad of crumpled up sticky notes that I had to peel away in order to find myself again:

* Forgotten To Dos
* Pending Issues
* Critical milestones
* Reminders
* Things that I learned last week
Composite image of angry face
Copyright Dollar Photo Club 2015 by vectorfusionart

By far the biggest lesson that I learned last week was that I need to take care of my body in order to continue to be effective.  I move every day, whether I’m doing Pilates, Yoga, Weightlifting or Recovery exercises.

Last week, I over-trained and strained my shoulderblade.  I spent most of the week struggling to do my job while my shoulderblade reminded me that I live in this shell called my body.

If I feel energetic and healthy, it can enable me to be my best.  If I struggle to breathe without pain, it can be a struggle to bring anything to the work.  I need to remember to challenge myself, but not force myself through a set with weights that are too heavy.

Are you taking care of yourself the way you need to be in order to bring all of your abilities to the work in front of you?

Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is @jgodfrey
Posted in project management

Looking Back To Gain Perspective

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 - by bravestatements
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 – by bravestatements

“The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

I started this blog back in 2009 after (euphemism alert) a business event forced me to transition into a job search. Blogging was recommended as an opportunity to set myself apart. Over the past seven years, I’ve learned more about how I thought and felt about project management then I learned during my first few years of working in this field.

Running a large project can be like being caught up in a 100-mile-an-hour hurricane. A PM can get caught up in getting the work done and think less about why you approached a project in a certain way or how you addressed a difficult situation. Reflecting on Project Management on this blog has helped me find the eye of the hurricane and think through how and why I approach my projects the way I do.

When I started the blog I was focused on Process and the wonders of the Waterfall methodology. What I’ve learned since then is that there are more ways to manage a project than can be captured in a methodology or a set of Guidelines. I am still fond of Waterfall and the PMBOK, but the more I learn about Agile and Kanban, the fonder I grow of them.

This year I’d like to do more reflecting on Effectiveness:
* By sharing Books that can help us be more effective
* By learning more about how to be more effective with teams, difficult people and situations

Writing this blog has helped me think my thoughts out loud. Thank you for reading them. Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is @jgodfrey

Posted in books, Communication, customers, Emotional Intelligence

Quote: Rule 3: People Communicate with Stories

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 by GStudio Group
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 by GStudio Group

“In conversations, people don’t spit out bullet pointed facts.  Instead, they use stories.  When you listen attentively, you encourage the speaker to expand on and tell more stories.  The clues that lead to their real problems are buried inside these stories. Of course, this requires patience.  In customer service situations, those stories can often sound like run on sentences that will never end.  Remember Rule 1?  A fast way to lose the emotional connection with a customer is to cut them off mid-sentence when they are telling you their story.  As crazy as this sounds, part of the customer experience is telling you her story, no matter how convoluted it might be.  The customer wants to talk – sometimes at you.”

-From People Love You by Jeb Blount

Posted in benefits, books, Business Acumen, Business Value, collaboration, Communication, customers, Emotional Intelligence, people, stakeholder management, stakeholders

Are You Serving Your Stakeholders or Your Project Plan?

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 by pathdoc

We spend some portion of our time every day as customers, but we never seem to remember the customers we serve when we run our projects.

As PM’s we focus on delivering the project: and that becomes our sole objective.  From our customers’ viewpoint, delivering the project is probably not their sole objective.  The benefits they gain from the project or another motive altogether may their aim.  And that’s where we may run into problems.

We take this perspective into meetings along with whatever baggage we are lugging around that day.  And that is the last thing we should be doing.  According to Jeb Blount, author of People Love You,  “..the most successful account managers rely on a firm set of principles and values that guide them in customer relationships much as tracks guide a train.”

The principles he writes about in People Love You provide useful guidelines to follow, but if you’re still carrying your bagging into each interaction then you’ll fail to hold to the principles he describes.  Blout says that we need to shift our focus from being project-focused to being customer-focused in four ways:

1. Assume positive intent

Choose to believe that the customer thought she was doing the right thing or has a reason that is in their best interests behind everything they are doing.

2. Leave your own wants and needs behind to focus on the customers needs.  A month or so ago, I wrote about shifting your ‘sliders’ or key performance indicators to address your stakeholders concerns.  Blount believes we need to be an extension of the customer.

3. Shift the energy from you and your desires to focus on what is important to the customer

4. Flex Your Style – Adjust your approach and interpersonal behaviors for each individual so they are more comfortable working with you.

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 by Gajus
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 by Gajus
Our shift in focus will make it easier to follow the principles he outlines as key guidelines to gaining and keeping your customers’ trust.  To find out more about the principles he outlines, I recommend reading his book.  It’s well worth the cost.  If this post is helpful, leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.
Posted in collaboration, Communication, Communication Management, facilitation, Meetings, Virtual meetings

How to MacGyver Technology Challenged Web Meetings

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 - by rawgroup
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 – by rawgroup

By Joelle A. Godfrey

Ever been in a virtual meeting that’s entered the Twilight Zone?

This is the kind of meeting where the Technology seems to be against you:

  • Whether it’s the bridge (static or noise from a lurking caller)
  • Another caller putting the conference on hold and triggering on-hold music
  • The web presentation software you were using is:
    • Not compatible with your team’s equipment
    • Requires 10 minutes of upgrades in order for them to view the presentations
    • Your password is mysteriously not working so you cannot start the software

All I can say is that I’ve been there.  The clock is ticking and you have an audience waiting – some patiently, some thinking about other work that they have waiting for them. The villagers are holding their torches and looking to set you on fire, PM.

What are you going to do?

There’s only one way to work around these obstacles.  Rather than sitting there, feeling your stress level rise and perspiration break out on your forehead, you need to implement one or more Failsafe Strategies:

Techno-Challenge: The Bridge Is Challenged by Noise

Background noise from callers is one thing – you can ask the team to mute if they are not talking.  When the Technology Faerie decides to attack the bridge with a loud sound or someone decides to put the conference on mute – triggering Hold Music…

FailSafe Response: Have a backup bridge handy.  The odds of both bridges being torked up are minimal.  Announce to the callers that we’re bailing on the old bridge and jumping on the new and send out the new details to everyone on the meeting notice.  Worse case, you’ll lose 5 minutes and may still have time to complete your agenda.

Techno-Challenge: The Webshare technology is Challenged

Sometimes your callers are using incompatible software or equipment and in spite of everything, you cannot get the viewer to open quickly so you can start your meeting.

FailSafe Response: Do not spend more than 2 minutes wrangling the webshare.  Abandon the funky software and send a pdf out to the folks on the call and keep moving forward.

Keep in mind that depending upon your agenda, some of these challenges may not impact what you are trying to accomplish.  If you can discuss your topic without a webshare presentation, then don’t let it derail your conversation.  The key is to keep the discussion moving forward, with as little distraction as possible.

Techo-Challenge: Your Computer Is Possessed

This is one of the more frustrating challenges.  Most PMs live and die by their computers. No computer obviously means no webshare.

FailSafe Response:

If you were lucky enough to send out the relevant documents ahead of the computer meltdown – no problem – you can continue with your agenda.  If your documents are posted to a website that other folks can get to and forward to your callers, this is another option.

When You’re Doomed:

When all else fails and people can’t open your file or the other bridge has the same noise problem, you may need to cede defeat to Murphy’s Law and reschedule.  The best way to know whether you’ve spent the time effectively is to have an agenda that clearly describes your objective.  If you’re unable to make the meeting work with the time you have – reschedule and show your respect for people’s time.

If you have any other suggestions, leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

Posted in books, Business Acumen, Business Value, collaboration, Communication, Communication Management, conflict, decisionmaking, Emotional Intelligence

Book Review: Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts

“If there’s one ‘disease’ that I’m trying to cure in this book, it revolves around our total misapprehension of our environment.  We think we are in sync with our environment, but actually it’s at war with us….If it sounds like I’m treating our environment as a hostile character in our life dramas, that intentional….Our environment is a non-stop triggering mechanism whose impact on our behavior is too significant to be ignored.”

– Marshall Goldsmith, Triggers

Review by Joelle A. Godfrey

Triggers.  We pull the trigger on projects, on goals, on decisions.  We don’t think much about how we are triggered by others words, ideas, events or even environments.  We like to imagine that we are independent actors – freely choosing our decisions and actions.

Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts; Becoming the Person You Want To Be, Goldsmith’s book on managing personal behaviorial change, rips the bandage off of that delusion.  As Project Managers, so much of our effectiveness is being able to manage our emotions and behavior.  When I read his description of how our environment tends to trigger behavior instead of our actions triggering positive change in others, I was certain of it.  This was a book I had to read.

Goldsmith defines a behaviorial trigger as…

Anything that impacts our behavior.

That could be a simple as an flame email or a difficult conversation in a meeting.  How to go about changing your reaction so that you are the positive trigger in the situation, rather than reacting, is the focus of the book.  Where most books on change focus on how to motivate yourself to implement the change – this book focuses on the obstacles that hinder us.

In his view, a few of those obstacles are:
  • We misunderstand who we are.  We are not just the person who plans and then acts.  There are three aspects of our personality that play into our willingness to change – The Planner, the Doer, the Coach.  Without that understanding, our ‘Planner’ may set out to accomplish something that (using the lense of Situational Leadership) our ‘Doer’ may need a little support or structure to complete.
  • We misunderstand the power of our Environment to trigger unwanted behavior.  We may enter a meeting with one intention and leave it with an undesired result due to the power of the environment (that combination of personality/ team/ timing/ topic/ what you ate for lunch, etc that triggers your reaction).
  • We underestimate the power of inertia.  “Given the choice, we prefer to do nothing.”  This can be as simple as continuing not to start the exercise program we resolved to start on New Year’s Eve because it takes more energy to start a new habit.  Rolling over and hitting the snooze button is far easier.
  • We don’t recognize the power of structure to help us change entrenched personal behaviors.  When we forget our New Year’s Resolution or fail to make a personal change, we don’t see the lack of accountability or a structured check as the reason for our failure.

In short, this book hands the thoughtful reader a number of tools and some very sound advice to facilitate change.  It guarantees effectiveness only if you apply yourself to its principles.  To me that seems like a better bargain than most self-help books that offer hope without an understanding of why we fail.

Have you read Triggers?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

Posted in project management

Quote: How Does Your Environment Impact Your Project?

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 - by Wickerwood
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 – by Wickerwood

“If we think about our environment at all, we probably regard it as an expansive macrosphere that is defined by the major influences on our behavior – our family, our job, our schooling, our fiends and colleagues, the neighborhood we live in, the physical space we work in.  It’s like a borderless nation-state bearing our name that reminds us who we are but has no influence on our decisions or actions.

If only that were true.

The environment that I’m most concerned with is actually smaller, more particular than that.  It’s situational, and it’s a hyperactive shape-shifter.  Every time we enter a new situation, with its mutating who-what-when-where-and-why specifics, we are surrendering ourselves to a new environment – and putting our goals, our plans, our behavioral integrity at risk.  It’s a simple dynamic: a changing environment, changes us.”

Triggers, Creating Behavior that Lasts — Becoming the Person You  Want to Be – Marshall Goldsmith, Mark Reiter.

Leave a comment, send a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

Posted in books, collaboration, Communication, conflict, consensus, Emotional Intelligence

What Kind of Discussion Type Are You?

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 - by ellagrin
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 – by ellagrin

“Every person, every system, every product, every idea has faults. In the best-case scenario, an awareness of this fact can lead to a determined pursuit of perfection. But in many cases, focusing too strongly on the flaws of an idea or project stifles the open and positive approach that is essential for good working practices. The basic principle is to take an idea that is not yet fully developed and to continue developing it, instead of prematurely abandoning it.

People often reveal their character in their approach to discussions. Four basic types can be identified, according to how people react to suggestions:

  • The fault-finder: “The idea is good, but…”
  • The dictator: “No!”
  • The schoolteacher: “No, the idea isn’t good because…”
  • The Appreciate Inquiry thinker: “Yes, and we could also…””

The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking by MIkael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler

Posted in books, Business Value, Communication, Communication Management, Emotional Intelligence

Book Review: No One Understands You And What To Do About It

By Joelle A. Godfrey

“You are never really starting from scratch with another person, even when you are meeting him or her for the first time.  The perceiver’s brain is rapidly filling in details about you – many before you have even spoken a word.”

– Heidi Halvorson, No One Understands You And What To Do About It

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 - by apinan
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 – by apinan

After reading No One Understands You and What to Do About It, it would be easy to throw it across the room and give up.  After all, the odds are against you.  You’re fighting the cognitive miser in each of our brains.

I’m sure you’ve read about it in other business books.  The rotten Cognitive Miser. I read about her too, but for some reason, it only became clear to me while reading this book how big a role she plays in our thinking.  Or lack of it.

The Cognitive Miser, for those of you who are new to the term, is the part of our brains that makes snap judgments and decides how we feel about people after the first few moments.  It seems that we are not the only ones making snap judgments.  Apparently, so is everyone else.

It’s not just the first impression you have to fight.  Apparently, there are lots of other ways our cognitive misers try to shortcut thinking.

Imagine the scenario: You’ve dressed up and prepped yourself for the first meeting and you think that the only ‘noise’ they’ll hear is that coming our of your mouth.  Halvorson makes it clear that there are assumptions made that are playing in the background coloring what you say and what they hear.  Those mental shortcuts can lead people to misunderstand you, your behavior and misread your intentions.

What exactly is filling in the details?  Well, a few examples..

  1. Their first impression about you.
  2. The assumption that you are different from them in some way
  3. Their approach toward risk – are they opportunity focused or risk averse?

And those are just a few of the mental shortcuts that can snag you and distort their perception of you and your effectiveness.  The further you read, the more you realize the miser can twist or enhance your words, depending on how you manage the event.

But all is not lost.  Apparently there are some ways to mitigate the cognitive traps and bad impressions that you make.  Rather than going with the flow of the cognitive miser, Halvorson recommends that we take a little more care so that others get us right.  And how would we go doing that?  The book has a number of suggestions that might help us elude some of the snares that lie in wait for the unsuspecting.  A few of them include:

1. Never go into a meeting cold – that is, without knowing something about who are you are about to meet.  Your knowledge about their likes, the groups they belong to, their interests could later play a key role in your ability to come across in a positive fashion.

2. Identify areas of common interests or common groups.  Where you are similar, the cognitive miser is thinking “People who are similar to me in one way are probably similar to me in other ways.”

3. Avoid ambiguity.  To alleviate the anxiety of the risk-averse person, she recommends that you take extra time to be completely clear.

I liked this book for two reasons:

a) She opens your eyes to ways you can misrepresent yourself, without fully understanding why.

b) She reminds us near the end that it’s not always how other people misunderstand you, there are times that we deceive ourselves about how well we come across to others.

Copyrighted by Dollar Photo - 2015 - by Carbonresource
Copyrighted by Dollar Photo – 2015 – by Carbonresource

In the end, her message is that we need to make it easier for people to get us right.  If you’ve read this book and want to leave a comment, please do. Or you can send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.