Welcome to My Project Delight

welcome to MPDI became a project manager by accident. Quite an intro, i can hear you say. Bear with me. More than a decade ago,  the only opening at an organisation I wanted to work for was mysteriously called ‘project manager’. I applied, successfully passed the competition and they offered me the job. I hardly realised back then what the job is about and what to expect. I was all smiles on my first day at the new job. The organisation did its best, but it was also new and in the process of organising itself and the newly arrived team. I continued to put on a brave face. Very soon an avalanche of a multi million Euro projects portfolio, I was supposed to “manage”, challenged my smile with a smirk: “Let’s see your talents now”. Needless to say that as soon as my previous employer got back to me, I returned to the job I felt comfortable at.

In time, project management became a professionally delightful love. This perspective made me cherish my first experiences. I wish back then I had a mentor or coach to talk to, a source of info which would explain the tips and tricks of the trade.  This blog is inspired by my younger self and the every day learner I am aspiring to be. Myprojectdelight.com is my Giving Pledge!

I manage projects mainly in the development management environment, which fosters numerous transferable skills and competences for both private and public sectors. The kings and queens of project management are always welcome to share a tip or two.  “Tips are like hugs, without the awkward body contact” I once read next to a tips box in a Juice Bar in an airport. So are the tips on this blog. Sometimes they are just my two cents :). Anyway, let’s get tipping for a delightful project management experience!

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Words. Not just words

Over the years I noticed a number of phrases we say to each other within the team and the implications they had. It gets down to social awareness, an EQ skill. Sometimes the best of intentions can turn into unwanted results.

The choice of words is as important as the person we address. Subtle implications can make or break a relationship or the desire for future interaction, both in professional and personal set-ups.

Here are some of examples I collected over the years:

“You are too good for that job/position/team”. Instead of an implied criticism, offer support, with some enthusiasm. “Their loss” with the right tone of the voice can work better.

“You always…” or “You never …” said particularly during annual performance reviews. Instead of making people defensive and closed off to your message, simply point out the consequences of their action/lack of action on your time/worload, preferably, everytime it happens. “It seems like you do this often” or “You do this often enough for me to notice” is an opening to finding a solution.

“As I said before” or “As it should have been clear from my previous message/email”. It is clearly a question of how well you communicated initially/previously. So, rephrase, make it more interesting, catchy so that it stays with your receiver. The efficiency of the receiver depends on the efficiency of the source.

“You look tired” vs “Is everything okay?” Instead of assuming, try to ask.

“Good luck” (depending on the tone) carries a doubt in the persons ability. Cast your confidence instead: “You have what it takes” or “You’ll manage, as you’ve done on so many occasions”.

“It’s up to you” or “Whatever” or “Whatever you want” implies indifference and/or desire  to be serviable. Instead, offer a number of options: “I have no strong opinion either way, yet a couple of considerations to bring to the table are …”

“This is a miscommunication” assigns the blame and puts the interlocutor into the defensive mode. Instead say “From our previous communication, my understanding was that …”. It will open the door and help clarify the misunderstanding. Sometimes saying “I am sorry” makes you own your mistake and the respect of others by bringing the talk back into the calm waters.

“I challenge that” is a sure way to put a person into an open fight mode or into a defensive mood. Instead “I would like to bring to the table another perspective” takes the heat out and offers an inclusive and respectful way of dealing with an issue.

Once you become aware of the effects the words have, your communication and relationships will improve. And that is key in any project team.

 

 

 

 

“On Leadership. Practical Wisdom from the People Who Know” by Allan Leighton with Teena Lyons

Yet another of my favorite books I often pick up from the shelf. We all know how important is the leadership in project management. We all struggle from time to time with the “How to” became and remain a leader. This book is like a treasure chest. Every time you need a gem, you open a chapter: Getting Started, Coping with Success, Dealing with Disaster, The Art of Communication, Getting the right team, The Customer is King, Talking to the Media, Business vs Politics, Looking to the Future. As project managers we find ourselves dealing with many if not all of the above. Hence the value of the book for project managers.

The book is written with wit and wisdom. Each chapter feels like going into the offices of the best executives Leighton talked to for this book. Each was generous with insights and advice you would get from very few academic or professional training programmes. It is also highly entertaining and will glue you to learning with fun and motivation to become the best at what you do.

“The new leaders. Transforming the art of leadership into the science of results ” by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Anne McKee

“The glue that holds people together in a team, and that commits people to an organisation, is the emotions they feel” is one of my favourite quotes from this book.

I long believed that all that matters in business and work environments is getting things done. Business and project management literature supported the belief. Recent research on Emotional Intelligence begs to differ and for good reasons. Emotions and moods have real consequences for getting those same things done in any project. To paraphrase the authors of the book, the project manager’s ability to survive everyday surprises depends to a large extent on whether he/she has first the ability to manage his/her own emotions in the face of the change and thus lead the team through unchartered waters.

This book was like a mirror to me. It made me ask myself some important questions. It also helped in navigating better through the repertoire of leadership styles I see around me from visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting to commanding and their impact on work climate.

The authors guide the ones who seek to change through the metamorphosis with practical tips and inspirational transformational real life stories, touching on self-management, team management as well as navigating the world of stakeholders we engage with for outcomes that matter most.

“What makes a leader” by Daniel Goleman

Is the project manager a leader? Does he/she need leadership skills? What kind of leadership skills?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a concept that slowly but surely gets into the pragmatic business world, management quarters and project management. EI is defined by the author as the ability to read and understand emotions in ourselves and in others and to handle those feelings effectively.
It is a valuable book to me also for development management involving international teams spread over many countries.
The book explains why IQ is important to get a management job and why to keep it EI takes over.
I experienced the book the way a novice gets to know the taste of different coffees. Each chapter came with different strengths and flavours for many of a leader’s moments of the day. Simple language explains the affective and social neurosciences behind the EI.
Take away 1: Leaders needs many styles for the very best climate and business performance
The author explains the six styles of leadership he calls authoritative, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, coercive, each with benefits and drawbacks and advice on when to use them either singularly or in combination for best results.
Take away 2: The four competences of EI: a leader needs self-awarness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management to create resonant leadership i.e. match reaction to situation at hand.
Take away 3: Ready to make changes? The author offers a simple and effective five-part process for self-descovery amd reinvention, all based on brain science.
Take away 4: Tools for reflection to regain inspiration. There is quite a choice from reflecting on your past, defining your principles for life, expanding your horizon, envisioning the future to reconnect with your dreams, creating reflective structures to be with your own thoughts to working with a coach.
Take away 5: Followers mirror their leaders. Literally.
Take away 6: the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, a behavioural assessment tool.
Take away 7: the key habit of good leaders is practicing genuine listening.
Take away 8: awareness of different types of focus that makes a person a leader. Inner focus in the 24/7 world, bottom-up relaxed and open attention for creativity and innovation, top-down focus on what is immediately at hand. Outer, Inner and Other focus concepts will get your attention.
Take away 9: to get attention and focus regularly practice meditation or mindfulness, a meditation method stripped of a religious belief system.
Take away 10: our times demand leaders that are not just smart but wise in targeting the greater good of our world beyond the boundaries of one group or organisation.
This book has one shortcoming: it is simply too short. Looking forward to reading more by Daniel Goleman.