When I was a kid in Connecticut I went with my Father to take my sister and her infant son to the train station. My sister had a lot of bags so my Father helped her carry her things on to the train. I was standing on the platform waiting for my Father to get off the train so we could go home. Then all of a sudden the train started moving with my Father still on the train! Here I am, an 8-year-old boy standing on the train platform all by myself while my Father is on the train heading to Washington DC. I remember seeing the train start to pull away, and my Father waving at me through the window to go to the ticketing office so I can tell them what happened. This was in the days where there were no cell phones, so my Father couldn't communicate with me to let me know what was happening. I went into the ticketing office and through sobs told the ticket agent that my Father got stuck on the train and I got left on the platform all by myself. The ticket agent was very reassuring and told me that everything was going to be OK. Fortunately the next stop was only about 30 minutes away so I was reunited with my Father in an couple of hours. It was one of the scariest times of my entire childhood, being left on the train platform all by myself.
Some time back I spent about three hours writing and doing emails at one of our local malls. I love this place because there are lots of tables to sit at and the mall has free wireless access so I can be online all the time. As I was exiting the mall I noticed a woman about 20 feet away from the entrance heading into the mall. As I walked out the door I held the door open for this woman for a few seconds. As she walked by me into the mall she said "WOW!" She was surprised that I actually took three seconds out of my life to hold a door open for a complete stranger. Imagine what I could have done with those three seconds that I wasted :-).
Crucial Skills for Today's PM
Project management is changing….it's becoming more strategic, more mainstream, and not just synonymous with technology implementations. Today's PM needs to be more than technically adept or be able to whip out a gantt chart. Get a read on some of these crucial skills the everyday PM will need to succeed:
Leading That Virtual Team
It's happening more and more; managers are being asked to manage virtual teams of people that may or may not have a direct reporting relationship to the manager. Some find it easy to do, but many others find it difficult to garner the respect from team members who don't have to follow the manager. Get a few helpful tips to help you next time you're asked to manage a virtual team.
One of the most over-used, warmed-over leadership terms uttered daily. Leaders high and low espouse their expertise in empowering teams to deliver. Some are very good at it, fostering high-performance teams who deliver great results. Others, though, only think they are good at it but frustrate teams with micromanagement, apathy, vagueness, and randomization. Most anyone who has been around the block has seen both good and bad empowerment examples. As for me, I’ve not only seen it, I’ve committed both the good and bad. It took me years to understand that empowerment isn’t just about delegating tasks to be performed. True empowerment is about entrusting individuals with problems to be solved and supporting them in the process. A high-performance empowered team owns problems or missions and is supported by a leader who provides clarity, gives guidance, and resolves only those issues the team can’t resolve on their own. To put some meat on this, I like to think of empowerment as systematic, with four critical steps needed to ensure its success. I call this intentional empowerment.
“We just don’t work as a team!” Janet, a group manager for a large insurance company, was complaining to Larry, her human resources consultant. “Everyone just seems to do their own thing, they don’t share information, don’t try to help each other, and don’t seem to care about anyone else’s problems. What we need is a team building offsite!” Janet and Larry decided to put together a two-day offsite for the team at a resort about two hours away from work. Janet wanted immediate focus on the problem so Larry worked double-time to put together the event to be held later in the month. Larry put together an agenda full of trust-building exercises, ice-breakers, and brainstorming sessions on how the team could work better together.
It's Not All About The Ivory Tower
What we learned was more than what we had anticipated; not necessarily about their purchases, but about how they worked and the importance of urgency versus importance in their jobs.
As an individual contributor, Joe was praised by his management for his speed in delivering results. His management was so enamored with his ability to get things done quickly that he was promoted to a leader role over a team of ten. Joe’s speed in taking action carried over into his decision making. He saw making decisions fast as a sign of getting “real work done,” versus sitting around talking about things. “Great leaders don’t have all the facts,” he would say to his team, as justification for moving forward without a good understanding of a decision’s implications. Joe’s team learned to just say, “Yes, Sir,” and do their best to execute what Joe wanted done by the time expected. His impulsive decision making came to a head with a new hire named Greg.
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