90% of project leadership involves communication.  Leadership skills that motivate people to reach both business and professional goals are critical to organizational and personal success.


View the PM World Journal online for my review of Adil Dalal’s book The 12 Pillars of Project Excellence.

10.06 20170


It’s the golden anniversary of Aretha Franklin’s gold single --- RESPECT. The queen of soul powerfully demanded … R-E-S-P-E-C-T -- find out what it means to me. The song found meaning for those needing empowerment in not only personal relationships but also in political movements. Fifty years later, what does respect mean in today’s workplace? Respect is a frequently stated workplace value. It is many times lauded in corporate visions and mission statements, but do we truly live up to our stated values? I had a couple of conversations recently about respect that got me thinking. Some people overlook respect issues in a work environment due to fear of losing their livelihood, but I feel strongly that if respect issues on teams are not timely addressed, then there is a risk of total deterioration of the productivity of the team. I believe respect is essential to success for all parties involved in a situation. If you do not receive respect, then your ability to respect yourself suffers. If you do not respect yourself, then your ability to respect others suffers. Tolerating a disrespectful situation creates a vicious circular cycle of lies, fear and anger. Bill Bradley stated, “Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it. No destructive lies. No ridiculous fears. No debilitating anger.” What does this mean … Fair Treatment – treat others courteously with empathy and the golden rule in mind no matter if they are customers, vendors, or employees. Honest Disagreement – promote transparency by eliminating the fear of opposing others views; however, remember that you are disagreeing with the ideas, not the person. Enjoyment of Friendship – foster trusting work relationships. A large part of life is spent with those with whom we work. To have a good life, we must foster the relationships with the people in it. Candid Exploration of Thoughts – be open to discussions of ideas that are very different than the current situation. Innovation can only come when we break free of what it is that we are doing today. If we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we are getting. Work Towards a Common Goal – make honest promises. Have a vision to strive for and be honest about where you are as a group in achieving it. Helping One Another – a greater height and an enhanced range of vision are achieved by lifting others up to stand on our shoulders. As an agile coach, I work with teams promoting the agile values -- Individuals and Interactions, Customer Focus, Working Product, Openness to Change. In order to build high performing teams, we promote the pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. There are no limits to what can be accomplished by a focused group of like-minded people situated in a friendly, fair, respectful environment -- unafraid to disagree, explore new ideas and help one another. Annie Gottlieb stated, “Respect… is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.” In order to truly appreciate others’ uniqueness, first seek understanding and then to be understood. In your environment… Stop, Look and Listen. Each person you encounter comes to the situation with their own set of unique individual capabilities. The best and most creative solutions will harness the capabilities of the individuals of a group to create positive interactions that allow for the creation of new experiences for the whole. Integrate the strengths of the group to benefit the whole by respecting unique individual contributions. John W. Gardner said, “If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them become better than they are.” In agile coaching our goal is always continuous improvement… to become better than we are today. However, don’t just focus on changing what you think is wrong… focus on making the most of what is right. In order to advance any cause, we must first inventory our team for their strengths, respect their capabilities and use those capabilities as a launching place to create a better situation by growing together from a position of strength. R-E-S-P-E-C-T… this is what respect means to me.

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26.12 20160

Season’s Greetings — Keeping It Real

By: michelemuse Categories:Uncategorized

Since childhood I always have loved Christmas.  It has been a magical time for me. In chIldhood, Santa would come and leave gifts for my sister, my brother and me for being good.  Usually,  we were not exceptionally good, but he would leave gifts anyway.

As I grew older "balloon poppers" wanted to tell me that Santa was not real, but I held tight to my belief.  Who would want to let go of the idea that such goodness exists in the world?  It is such grace to receive gifts from an unknown person expecting no return other than we try to follow the example of his goodness.  Even when I came to understand that my parents played the role of Santa, I still believed in the Christmas spirit...selfless love and the pursuit of goodness.

As an adult I stopped receiving gifts from Santa, but  I grew into the role of becoming Santa for my own children...of passing on to them the magic of Christmas... anonymous, selfless giving and the pursuit of goodness, even knowing that we can never be perfectly worthy of the gift.  As a parent, there comes a point when our children ask us if Santa is real.   My answer is yes; I don't want to let go of that goodness... Santa is real; the magic is real; the selfless love is real.  That magic, love and goodness continues on in the hearts of every child who eventually turns into Santa themselves.  There are those who say Santa is a lie, but I refute such a pessimistic notion in that lies do not produce such beautiful outcomes.  Through Santa, the goodness in the world grows exponentially.

My answer to the question, "Is Santa real?"  is "yes."  Santa and the spirit of Christmas is real.   In one of my favorite  children's classic books, The Velveteen Rabbit, the stuffed bunny in the book asks how to become real, and the answer offered is to be loved.  The Christmas answer of how to stay real is to give love.

The holiday season is a time when we pause in our day to day lives to proactively think of others.  May the Christmas spirit of receiving and giving love stay with you throughout the year in all your interactions and all that you do.  Take forward the idea of giving selflessly of yourself and watch the exponential growth of goodness take hold around you in all your endeavors.

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30.04 20160

Being Constructive

"At the beginning of the day you started with a pile of boards. At the end of the day through the work of your own hands and by working as a team you have benches that people can use." My comments were to a group of youth who took a Saturday out of their lives to help my son build garden benches for a community garden for his Eagle Scout project. There were no professional builders in the group but a lot of willingness and effort. At the end, all of the boys were invested in making the benches a reality. This is what happens when people focus outside themselves and work for positive outcomes with guidance and support. That is being constructive. It is empowering, and it moves the world forward to build things rather than tear down. As an adult, too many times I witness the desire to tear down or take away something that exists from someone else. We believe that there is not enough to go around, or that we should be critical of ourselves or others before someone else is critical of us. These are defensive and destructive behaviors and do not add to the world. It is only through building and building up that we can move the world forward to a better place. This is what I love about the scouting program. It teaches youth how to be constructive even during challenges. What is needed to set up an environment where people build instead of tear down? It takes the internal motivation of all people present to focus on a good outcome. It takes people who step outside of their own interests to see the greater good. It takes believing in yourself and those around you. As adult leaders in the world, here are some take aways that we can learn from this youth leadership experience... 1. Set up the environment for success -offer up front training to promote confidence and lean out work flows to try to prevent extra movement of people and supplies to lessen the chance of conflicts and to improve productivity. 2. Be willing to adjust your plan due to availability of people and problems with supplies. Have a plan but adjust it to the current circumstances. Not all people will be available when planned...not all supplies will be ideal. 3. Answer questions and guide through experience and expertise but don't let your own expertise prevent you from using other people's lessons learned or team members' ingenuity. 4. Remove roadblocks for the teams-- as a leader your primary goal is to observe and assist ...don't do the work as this slows the learnings and slows the process since you have only one person working verses many, but don't be afraid to step in and assist when things go awry. Good leaders always help out their teams. It is one of the great joys in life to build and be constructive ...offering knowledge and skills to the world's benefit. I write this to you out of the same desire I had for those boys working on the project. It is a genuine desire to see you succeed in the good that you are trying to do in the world.

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20.02 20160

Up standers

Recently, I accompanied my son’s 8th grade class on a field trip to a local Holocaust Museum. The museum is small and focused, and its primary emphasis is to educate people about the dangers of propaganda and the complacency of bystanders.   How could an entire society become complacent in the torture and murder of millions of human beings? Hitler’s power evolved from people’s desire to protect their own interests and unwillingness to oppose him. Hitler was elected, and then used propaganda to gain popularity and ultimately absolute power. Power that grabs selfishly without benefit to humanity leads to atrocities. No amount of money makes a society run by tyranny and greed worth living in. To maintain freedom, we must defend it… not only against enemies foreign to us, but also from the enemy within.  These are all very noble thoughts you say to yourself, but how many people have the opportunity to stand-up against tyranny in their daily lives? Everyone does. The oppression of groups of people-- whether at work, at home or society at large-- does not happen by large acts, but by an eroding away of “just” behavior. The eradication of oppression and the empowerment of positive change also happen in small ways on a daily basis. It is the ripple effect of casting a small stone into a large body of water. The stone impacts its immediate surroundings, but the environment impacted moves outward. The museum has a memorial area, where visitors are allowed to place a small stone on the monument in honor of the victims of the Holocaust. In Jewish tradition, a stone is placed on a grave rather than flowers. Whereas flowers fade away quickly, the stone is enduring protection to the person. Flowery words and actions carry little meaning; place a stone in protection of those around you by standing up for what is right instead of standing by watching oppression destroy lives. There is a tremendous value in small local actions that billow out to have large global impacts. We all are responsible for creating the environments in which we live. Individuals in a group of people will either promote empowerment or tolerate oppression. At the end of our tour of the museum, a 92 year-old Holocaust survivor, Mr. Jack Repp, spoke to our group about his transformation from a bright, fifteen year-old school-boy into a tyrant’s slave for 6 formidable years of his life. The survivor endured many abuses, but his final comments were that Hitler did not win; he did not defeat him because he still had his mind. Our minds and our thoughts put forth into positive, purposeful actions are what can defeat oppression, both abroad and within our own society. On a daily basis as we interact with those around us, we make decisions to conform to base standards or to try to rise above them. We create home and work environments that are inclusive and productive or are riddled with tyranny and distress. Become an up stander for just behavior for humanity in your daily life. Use the power of your mind and intellect to elevate the situation of yourself and those around you by promoting the collective good in all that you do. Move forward in your life knowing that it is a daily choice to be “up standing” or “by standing.”

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