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.

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.

read more
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.”

read more
19.01 20160

A Walk on the Wild Side

I am an inhabitant of North America, but recently, a snow leopard crossed my path. I know that it seems a bit crazy since snow leopards are found in the Himalayas of Asia, but I had an encounter with a snow leopard. Really it was just a business conversation that involved a brief discussion of a snow leopard, but the conversation got me thinking. I immediately began searching for meaning, and this is what I discovered…

It is said that an encounter with a snow leopard never happens by chance. The encounter is always “on purpose,” and there are powerful lessons to be learned from such an elusive and secretive animal when it makes itself known to you. I consulted the Universe of Symbolism and discovered that snow leopards are the symbol for intuition. When a snow leopard appears on your path, in any form, the meaning is that you need to trust your own intuition. If the symbol persists in your midst, then you are being called to trust in what you cannot see.

My thoughts turned to what lessons could be garnered from my encounter. Intuition is important because it can lead you to what you want, as well as point you away from eminent danger and mistakes. Following are some strategies I found for promoting the development of intuition in interactions with others:

ABANDON FEAR AND EGO – Move away from behaviors prompted from fear and ego. Fear and ego cause us to numb our senses instead of heighten our own perceptions of our environment. • SEEK SILENCE – Revel in silence as a way to awaken your senses to hear profound messages. Silence allows us to see otherwise hidden opportunities and dangers. •HEIGHTEN PERCEPTIONS – Become open to perceiving the elements around you. With heightened perception, we see what others miss. The more we use intuition, the more it grows and becomes responsive to our needs. • FOLLOW INNER GUIDANCE – Learn to be in tune with your thoughts and ideas and develop self -trust for following through with your instincts. Pay attention to your own response to ideas and projects… Do the ideas and projects bring tension or a feeling of ease? Tension means you should go in another direction. The path will lead to blocks and rework. Ease means that you will find assistance with your ideas rather than resistance. You may have challenges, but the challenges will make you smarter and stronger. •SHARE LEARNING WITH OTHERS – Impart to others what you have learned. When you impart learning you reach an elevated state of personal fulfillment by benefiting those around you with your ideas and actions.

Legend says that there is a hidden oasis of peace and prosperity in the Himalayas, where the snow leopards live, and that this land is only for those who are in accord with the highest vibrations of being, a personal energy that can promote the well being of all when shared with the world. To find that hidden oasis, we need to use intuition to listen to our own instincts to help us choose the path that makes us smarter and stronger to benefit the world.

Since you are reading this article, the snow leopard now has crossed your path as well, and you should seek to use your intuition to benefit those around you with your ideas and projects. Use intuition in your interactions with the teams and groups with whom you work and let it guide you on a path for the good of the whole.

read more
25.07 20150

Rising Above Vicissitude – How to Build a Team

Recently, I was at lunch with coworkers and conversation turned to vicissitude. “Vicissitude, what is that?” I say.   Someone explained that it is a negative, unpredictable change in your luck or circumstances, a downturn. When talking of the vicissitudes of life, people are referring to the difficult times that we all go through… surprising, unwelcome episodes of pain or strife. In other words, “life has its ups and downs.” What goes up will come down. A high will eventually become a low, many times very unexpectedly, but how do we cope? How do we rise above a vicissitude or low point?

Al Siebert addresses this idea in his book “The Survivor Personality.” He takes a look at those people who meet very difficult life circumstances with uncommon courage and not only survive but thrive. He identifies the personality type of these individuals as a survivor personality. In the study of survivability, Siebert noticed that the Rambo types are the first to go. Survivors do not exhibit a self-centered survival of the fittest attitude, but rather such strong self-confidence that they do not have to act mean or tough. Survivors have a relaxed awareness; their personal radars are always on scan. Survivors are tough, but they show patience. They are pushed hard, but they are tolerant. Survivors hold up well under pressure. Siebert points out that if you go into deadly combat, these are the soldiers that you want to be with. These are the types of people you want to be on your team.

How can you identify and recruit these people to be on your team? Luck or fate is not the reason for survival; rather, something about the people’s personalities tips the scales in their favor. Per Siebert’s study, survivors possess some specific notable qualities. Survivors are learners who are more interested in continually learning, rather than just knowing. A person’s resume may be impressive with education and training, but what is his or her level of curiosity? Survivors incorporate information differently…they do not just take it in, store and regurgitate. They find patterns and make maps. A person may have a lot of certifications, but is he or she creative and engaged in thought processes? Survivors have predictable ways of reacting. Can the person hold a steady course of action?   Survivors maintain confidence in stressful situations. Is the person able to use his or her wits to apply previous training when under pressure?

Can survivability be promoted in existing teams? Siebert asserts that survivor qualities can be learned but not taught. Survivability is a discovery process that no other human can reveal to you. To assist with the development of these characteristics in our teams, we have to promote a culture and create an environment that fosters these traits. Promote a culture of continuous learning and improvement by offering hands-on training. Approach work in small increments, allowing the team to use trial and error to learn from failure. Promote a culture of self-accountability by instituting daily standups. Instill in the team the importance of the self-discipline of monitoring good practices through team working agreements. Use coaching techniques of questioning and guidance rather than direct instruction to allow a person to discover the answers. Be open to questioning the way things work. Develop an attitude of learning from mistakes or failures through regular retrospectives. Promote the Responsibility Matrix model to avoid blaming and victimization reactions. Use adversity to drive change by taking immediate action on learning.

Survivor characteristics are greatly important to both individuals and organizations as people learn to surmount crisis through personal effort, and not only survive, but thrive. Teams of people can learn to pick themselves up after failure or negativity, learn important lessons, set positive goals and rebuild, operating at a higher level than before. They can find growth from the pain and negativity previously experienced, rather than feeling victimized. Siebert profoundly points out that the way we interact with life determines if we will survive and if we will just survive or learn to thrive. Our attitudes will determine our well being more than our circumstances. With the right attitudes we can not only survive the vicissitudes of life but also rise above.

read more