When Your Project Implodes, 10 steps to sift through the ashes

You just got out of your stakeholder’s office. Most of your tail has been chewed off and the rest is tucked squarely between your legs ….. now what? It is time to let your leadership shine through! Use these steps to pull your project out of the ashes and make things right.

1. If you didn’t take notes during the meeting, go back to your office and write down everything including the good, the bad and the ugly. This will help you to sort out the details instead of trying to do it all in your head which is likely reeling from the chewing.

2. Categorize the talking points into the things you can fix, the things that you cannot fix and the things someone else can help you fix. This will help you to focus on the things you can change without the noise of the unfixable cluttering your mind. Put these on three different pieces of paper.

3. Take a deep breath and step away for a bit. As long as the pain is still fresh, you won’t be able to think very clearly and will likely make a few knee-jerk decisions ….. these will not serve you well.

4. After clearing your head, start formulating your get well plan. Plan out your actions taken from the meeting as well as what you can do to fix the things you could have prevented. This is your own personal lessons learned exercise.

5. Work with the person/people who can help you fix the things you cannot fix yourself. This may be a functional supervisor of a team member that missed key deliverables. This can also be your boss, or stakeholder … asking for help is not a further sign of failure.

6. Communication

7. Communication

8. Communication … keeping your stakeholders uo to date on progress,  risks, issues, and successes will only help to rebuild the trust that was damaged. Don’t wait for the status report, sometimes,  that is too late.

9. Throw away the items you wrote down that were completely out of your control or sphere of influence. You cannot do anything about them so stop looking at them.

10. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go fix it.

Every project manager will experience bad failures at some point in their career.  Sometimes it happens more than once. You are no different, but if you learn from the mistakes …. truly learn from them, then you can avoid making a habit of it.

Good luck, and power on!

What have you done to fix an imploding project?

Are You Malicious?

Are you malicious? I would put good money on your answer being a resounding “NO” if you are reading blogs about leadership and teamwork. You might Look at it a little differently, however, after reading this, and I hope it will change you at least a little bit.

I have recently been a “victim” (for lack of a better word) to piecemealed data. What does that mean? Well, it means that when I ask other resources for data, I get bits and pieces of the data based on the specific question I asked. If I don’t ask the right question, I don’t get the right data. It can be very frustrating, at times, especially when that data is critical. I have also notice this over the years from other colleagues as well that just don’t want to paint the full picture. It is almost like they are wanting to leave things a bit mysterious.

Sure, I understand that management is often times bound by the constraints of “I can’t tell you yet” and I’m not talking about those instances even though they can be very frustrating at times as well. What I am really talking about are the silos of information that exist in corporations all across the world. Silos can be dangerous to a company. Why dangerous? Well, I believe that giving little bits of information can cause other teams to be counterproductive. It can cause them to go down a path of data mining to get the information that someone already has but is not sharing, or it can cause them to spend additional cycles thinking of the “best way” to ask questions so they get the right answers. Within the same company, a full picture should always be painted when the full picture is what is being asked for. Don’t make it sound as if you’re giving all of the information when you aren’t.

So, I ask you again, are you malicious? If you are holding pertinent information back just because it wasn’t specifically asked for, I say, yes you are. If you are not meaning to be so, then you might take a closer look at how you deliver information. If you DO intend to hold on to information for your own power play (remember, knowledge is power) then I urge you to change your ways because you are causing your company more harm than you can really imagine.

Here are a couple of things you can try:

  1. Ask questions to make sure you fully understand what is being asked of you.
  2. Be more open with the information that you have. Remember, good leaders help build others.
  3. If you do not have time to tell the whole story, give an overview and tell the person that you are only giving them a small piece of the puzzle they are asking for and schedule some time to give them the whole picture.

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you been a “victim” of of someone holding on to knowledge that cause you do go down the wrong path?

Have a great day!!  ~Jim

Something Great May be Coming

BOOM . . . it happens!

How do you cope when an adverse situation comes your way and spoils your plans for the immediate future? Recently, a friend of mine lost his job quite suddenly. Not for anything he did, but the company simply decided to take a different approach to the job they were trying to accomplish.

This suddenly adverse scenario provided him with a great opportunity get “down in the dumps” about his situation. After all, he had just gotten a favorable review just two weeks prior and was assured his services were a key ingredient for the success of the project. Sure, he got knocked down, but his response was great.

He woke up the next day, dusted himself off, looked in the mirror and simply said, “That’s okay, I didn’t like the picture on my badge anyway.”

Sour grapes? Not in the least! He is looking for a better opportunity … and hopefully a better picture.

How do you respond to a suddenly adverse scenario? Do you get sad? Do you put your head in the sand and quietly with it didn’t happen? I hope not. If that happens to you, dust yourself off and look for something great to happen next. How you respond may very well determine your future.

I’d love to have your thoughts, please comment below and tell me what you think.

Leadership: Are you Strong Enough?

I was reading a blog this morning on making mistakes, written by the Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell (So You Screwed Up …). The whole post was great as usual, but one point stuck out to me very clearly. Not only did it make perfect sense, but it is also a point within my own leadership that I struggle with.

By the way, if you don’t follow Leadership Freak, I highly recommend you do so. He is a great read and a top blogger. He is looked up to by many, including myself. (Leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

As I mentioned, I was reading his blog and his first reason for making a mistake slapped me like a cold fish: 1.) [Trying to] please others while ignoring your gut.

Ouch! For a self-professed people pleaser, this is a very pointed bullet item and it was pointed right at me. It is no mystery why he has that item at the top of his list. Of course, it causes my wheels to turn faster trying to find out why I had such an issue with the statement. I can tell you I didn’t have to think very long, I already knew the answer.

People pleasers do not make good leaders!

There, I said it! Now, let me explain what I mean. Mr. Rockwell’s first point is right on the money. As leaders, we have responsibilities to do what is right, not only for our companies but for our teams as well as ourselves. Our educated gut feelings can provide us with amazing discoveries and decisions. Ignoring that “gut feeling” can mean we miss out on a good decision that can keep a project on track or even turn it around.

So, can you be a people pleaser and an effective leader? Yes, but it will probably take some work. You need to analyze each decision to make sure it is being made for the right reason. Keep in mind, you don’t have to make a decision that goes against your people pleasing tendencies with a tone of harshness. You can, and should, communicate that decision with a servant leader’s heart and be sensitive to those that are affected by the decision.

Are you a “people pleaser”? How do you get past that to make better decisions?

Do you agree or disagree with me?

Find Your Purpose Today

Do you have something you’re working for?

I was walking through my office the other day after a hard meeting with a team member in which we were not seeing eye-to-eye. The end of the meeting left me thinking critically about what I can do to make that working relationship better. I was racking my brain for days about how to make it work. The end result of all of that brain racking was that I had a renewed sense of purpose. That new-found purpose actually had me feeling better about my current state of mind. I started walking through the hallways of my office feeling renewed, mentally rejuvenated, seeking answers, paying attention to others, and generally (oddly enough) feeling pretty good about myself. Had I found the answer to my question? Not at that time.

That isn’t what this is about. I’m sorry; I don’t have all the answers to dealing with employees that don’t see the world through our rose colored glasses. I sat down at my desk, realizing what had just happened. I started really thinking about what it was that was making me tick and what makes me tick day in and day out. What motivates me? What is it that drives me day in and day out?

Walking with purpose

All day, I found myself walking through the halls a little taller, my head a little higher, and my pace a little quicker. I wasn’t “puffing my chest” at the employee that disagreed with me, nor was I trying to exude superiority. This type of “roostering” has no place coming from a leader. I just…felt better. I had a mission, a goal, a purpose. That new life had me pushing hard all day long to be more productive, to find answers, and to do the absolute best I could do. It felt incredible, despite the hard conversation that sparked the whole thing.

What is it that makes you tick? Do you have something on your to-do list each day that can give you a sense of purpose?

A challenge

We need to find a reason to push hard each day. I challenge you not just to find something to give you purpose every day, but actually, schedule something. Put something on your to-do list that will cause you to think a little harder. Find something new that you can learn. Think of a problem you need to solve.

What are your thoughts on this post? Do you already have a way to give yourself purpose every day? I’d love to read your comments.

Do You Need a “Slapper”?

Sometimes, it is good to revisit a post and try to add to it if possible. Since writing a post about “telephonic” time wasters, I have found that I have slipped back into wasting time not only on my phone (which is NOT actually an Apple product, by the way) but on other things as well.

I was recently inspired by a guy that hired a “slapper” to keep him motivated and focused. What a concept! I wouldn’t actually do this, but I fully understand why someone would want to. Think of it, you have someone sitting next to you during the day as a paid employee, whose sole purpose in life is to keep you on track and focused on what really matters.

Here is the article from Yahoo: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/guy-hired-someone-slap-him-015800416.html

How much time do you spend on something other than work related items? Do you find yourself testing the company proxy servers and filters for something you can do to pass some time? Reading about college football is a nemesis for me; maybe I need a “slapper” for that?!?!?

People never get ahead by spending their days on something other than work related items. Sure, we might need a mental break every now and then, but that time should be used to work out or take a walk. Not only do you get in better shape, but it has also been shown that physical activity helps the brain work even more efficiently.

Put yourself on a “junk site” diet! Get off that news or sports site and get back to work! That guy noticed a 98% increase in his productivity!

What ways to you use to keep focused? Do you have a “slapper”? Post a comment and tell us of your unique ways to keep focused.

It Takes Grit!

I was driving to work the other day when I saw a billboard from a local energy company that said, “InteGRITy”. While the billboard was intending to relay the company’s stance on grinding it out for good energy policy, it really got me thinking about another side of that exact same sentiment.

It takes grit to have integrity.

What do I mean by that? Well, it is simple really. Integrity is not something that we should take lightly. It is an ideal that requires constant action. We should be on guard consistently in our daily lives to ensure we don’t slip and make a potentially fatal mistake. The bottom line is that it takes effort to maintain integrity. I will grant you some require more effort than others, but it is worth it.

What are you waiting for? Are you already displaying integrity? Are you the same person, even when you think nobody is looking? Keep fighting the good fight!

I know it is a short post this time, but I just wanted to throw this out there to you. Do you have additional thoughts on the subject? Please share them by commenting.

Another Look at Integrity, and a Plea

I was having an email conversation over the weekend with an ex-colleague. The conversation did not go well and I actually left it somewhat discouraged and even more determined than I was before to put some level of integrity back into the daily lives of everyone I come in contact with.

Q: What do you do when someone gives you “facts” that aren’t?

A: Dispute those “facts” with the evidence to the contrary.

Why? Well, there are several reasons to do this. One is to simply protect yourself from inaccurate facts that can come back to bite you in the future. Two is to let that person know that you are not as dumb as they apparently think you are. Three, that person needs to know that inaccurate facts and outright lies cannot and will not be tolerated.

I ask you another question……who are you in this conversation? Are you the person who is having to defend yourself from inaccurate information? Or, are you the one who is bending facts to support your argument? I hope you are not the one ignoring the truth.

The truth is a magnificent thing; it is always the truth. It does not care if you have a different point of view. It does not care if you have a different agenda. It does not care if you have a fuzzy recollection. In fact, it does not care if you were given inaccurate information which you are now repeating. The truth is always the truth.

Being truthful is a huge part of having integrity. It is actually the largest part. If you wish to be a leader, you must start by having integrity. The first step of that is to start being truthful……ALWAYS!

So, I ask you again…….which side of the coin are you on? Are you heads above the rest or simply telling tales?

I plead with you to start your journey on the path of integrity.

The truth will always be the truth, regardless if you want it to be something else. Telling tales will do nothing but damage your reputation and prolong the inevitable. I also plead with you to call out those who start and spread lies and inaccuracies.

What do you do when someone tries to bend the facts? Please comment below.

Heated Conversations: Do you Engage?

How do you, as a leader handle heated conversations in your team? Are YOU engaging?

Differing opinions are a part of our daily lives. In fact, in leadership roles, they are essential to the survival of the teams we are tasked with leading. By this, I mean that utilizing different opinions or even different world views will allow us to avoid the damaging and often destructive results of groupthink. While we might think that life is great if everyone agrees with us, it all too often means that something is about to go horribly wrong.

The problem is that differing opinions can sometimes create tense moments during a meeting or even just during an otherwise calm part of the day. Let’s face it, there are many people out there passionate about their work and about their opinions. It is our job, as leaders, to keep that passion somewhat controlled and pointed in a positive direction. If the argument gets heated, or worse, the meeting, whether formal or informal, it needs to stop right then with encouraging words that all disputes can and will be resolved amicably. It is critical that all of our team members feel safe coming to work (emotionally or physically).

In the end, it is important for teams to have differing opinions but in a controlled environment. The biggest thing I can leave you with as a leader is to not engage in such heated discussions. If you get into a strong disagreement with a team member, you either need to take it to another, closed-door room or just table the discussion for another time when you both have had a chance to calm down and reset your passions. Keep in mind that it is possible that you DON’T have the best idea, be sure to set your ego aside too.

Different opinions are essential to business. Without them, we would all wear white shirts with blue pants, regardless of gender, age, race, or nationality. All cars would be white 4-door sedans with gray interior and all houses would be white with blue trim. We don’t live in any such society, not even the ones with the harshest of homeowner restrictions. That doesn’t mean we have to box our neighbor’s ears when we want to paint our house a different color.

The most important single ingredient in the forula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” ~T. Roosevelt

What tricks have you used to stop heated debates at the office? Comment below.