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.

26.10 20140

Environmentally Conscious Relationships

There is a lot of focus now on being green… being environmentally conscious. What does that really mean? It means making conscious decisions about how to treat your environment and choosing options that are not only good for the moment but are also good for the future. It means being sustainable. Not taking more than you are giving. This sort of awareness of how we treat our environment should also extend to what kind of environment that we create in our emotional world.  We should learn to have environmentally conscious relationships. Have you ever been in a toxic relationship? Basically you become a dumping ground for the other person’s toxic materials. How does this happen? It usually starts in a small way… you tolerate a little bad behavior, and then before you know it, you are a dump for the mother load of stinking, rotten, bad behavior. The toxic person is only concerned about themselves and their needs. You feel hurt, taken advantage of and angry. Sure, your life is colorful, but instead of thinking green all you can do is see red, and the angry red takes over. Passive aggressive behavior is the breeding ground for toxic relationships. Direct communication is the only cure. You have to open a dialogue to a possible resolution. If the toxic person is not open to the conversation, then you will know where you stand in the relationship and make future positive plans to move on. I coach teams to become green and rid themselves of toxic waste through a direct communication exercise conducted frequently called retrospective. Feelings are often a topic of retrospectives, and thus many teams want to avoid them and say that they are not a best use of time. You can always tell teams that practice retrospectives from the ones that do not. Some measures of the level of toxicity will be demeanor of the people, productivity, and turnover. There are some symptoms that you will feel if you are on a toxic team; the same ones you experience in a toxic personal relationship. If toxicity is high, it will seem like you cannot do anything right. Everything will always be about others and never about you. You may find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with the team or uncomfortable being yourself around team members. You will feel stifled and not allowed to grow and change. How do you manage a toxic team or individual relationship? There are some generally accepted guidelines for managing a negative situation. First, you have to step out of denial and acknowledge that the situation is detrimental to your well-being and that the situation is holding you back from achieving your potential. You have to identify how you feel in the present and what the perks are, if any, of maintaining the relationship. You can soothe yourself by finding alternative sources of positivity outside the team or relationship… filling the hole that is missing. Being surrounded with people focusing on the art of the possible will allow you to work toward healing until you are at a point that you can let go and move on if necessary. Hopefully, your team or relationship can be salvaged before this point. Good retrospectives are a great place to start. It is important to remember that what we say and do is never as important as how we make people feel. This quote from Maya Angelou is a pearl of wisdom, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you make them feel.” Change the color of your relationships… move from red to green. Make conscious choices about how to treat the people around you. Choose actions that are not only good for the moment but also good for the future. Have sustainable relationships… don’t take more than you give. As Kermit the Frog says “It’s not eazee being green,” but it is well worth the effort. The benefits are long-lasting; they echo into the future.

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31.08 20140

The Critical Inch

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

We all have choices to make. The most important one is what to do with the day that is before us. Will we ignore those around us in favor of living in the past or dreaming of the future, or will we seize the day? If we are all food for worms, what will you do with today to make it matter? Are you always stressed to meet a new goal or distressed about past performance? Are you excited and alive about the work you are doing today and the relationships that you are enjoying? Could you engage more with those around you… take the time to go to lunch with coworkers and get to know them a little more, put the extra effort into the mindless tasks of your day, or make time to engage those personal relationships that you neglected for far off ambitions? To the inch worm, his largest goal is the inch in front of him. Eventually he makes it across the room but only one inch at a time. If he focuses too much on where he is going, he becomes overwhelmed. If he focuses too much on where he has been, he becomes discouraged. He must make every inch count as he spends his life moving inch by inch from one place to another. If there are enough fulfilling inches, then we have a fulfilling life. It will be worthwhile because we have filled it with what matters… the interactions with those around us within our critical inch. The critical inch concept ties back into the first value of the Agile Manifesto… individuals and interactions. All agile work is driven by this value. Our largest ambition or most distant goal is realized everyday on the team level with the daily standup, one task at a time. The interactions and relationships we build with the team are not only what leads to ultimate project success but also ultimately what leads to a fulfilling work life for those on the team. Instead of worrying about past problems or stressing about potential challenges, learn to be present to the moment you living and be present to those around you who are living it with you. Our lives are lived in the moment…not the past nor the future. My wish for you I take from Jonathon Swift, “may you live all of the days of your life.”      

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31.07 20140

Trading Passion for Glory

It’s hot out there. The late summer heat feels like a jungle. Sometimes it feels like we are in a jungle even when it is not hot because the world can seem to be full of predators. A tiger is one of the most vicious predators of the jungle.   A tiger is fast, smart and ferocious. Keepers of captive tigers always have to be on guard for sudden attack. Tigers are tricky.  A tiger has a keen understanding of its prey’s weakness and waiting for the exact moment of that weakness being exposed to attack. Once the tiger’s eye is trained for attack, its strength and tenacity are directly targeted at its prey’s known weakness. When the eyes are seen, the tiger is about to attack, and the battle must be fought based on strength alone verses evasive action. How does prey become the tiger’s fixation? Many times it is our own arrogance and complacency that puts us under attack. Most of us strive to be in a place of glory, to be esteemed as great at our chosen ambitions; however, ironically, achievement of this desired greatness often is the catalyst that leads to our own demise. Passion helps us win; it drives us forward, but when we win, we can become consumed with arrogance. Arrogance causes us to revel in the glory of winning which can lead to complacency and loss. Don’t forget history. He who forgets how he came to a place of achievement is doomed to repeat the process. This is true for great companies and true for individuals as well. We operate in an increasingly competitive environment where there is no room for complacency. There is a song called “Eye of the Tiger.” The song talks about staying alive by focusing on your passion, always in a state of ready. There is a saying that success breeds success; however, in some cases we short change success by becoming complacent. Instead of continually challenging ourselves to move forward, we linger a bit too long in the limelight and don’t see that the eye of the tiger has targeted us. When you let adoration go to your head, you lose your passion for greatness and allow for the kill. Survival is of the utmost importance when you have become the target of attack because even after a significant loss, there is an opportunity for the come back… we don’t have to lose dreams of the past; “we have to fight to keep them alive” … to know that we can push forward in any circumstance. Don’t enjoy successes too much… don’t wallow in failures either. Each is part of life and a temporary state. It is the desire to continually challenge and better ourselves with the situations placed before us—good or bad-- that allows us to stay alive and passionate. Rise up to the challenge by “staying hungry” and developing the ability to survive. Hunger for new strength, new understanding and new skills. Enjoy the thrill of the challenge. Keep your passion … don’t trade it for glory. It has been said people are only truly great when they act from their passions.

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21.06 20140


A shot rings out piercing the air space around it. A bullet speeds towards its intended target. Once released nothing can return it to its previous state of rest. It is traveling on a path of destruction to its intended target or whatever steps in the path between. Does the shooter just walk away oblivious to the moment of impact and its aftermath? No...there is recoil. Recoil is the backward momentum of a firearm once it is discharged. The force of the act that has just been perpetrated travels back through the body of the shooter to the ground and moves the shooter backward in space, but there is no movement back in time because once fired the bullet can never be returned to its previous state of rest. The amount of recoil felt by the shooter is dependent on the mass of the gun. The amount of energy transferred to the shooter depends upon counter recoil forces applied. A gun with free recoil will move the shooter in an angular pattern thus impacting the firing of the gun and the path to the intended target, creating greater inaccuracies and more stray bullets hitting innocent bystanders. I have heard people comment to others "Don't shoot off your mouth." Given the context above this has a good deal of meaning. Anger creates in people a free recoil situation. When a person begins to angrily fire at his or her intended target whether by words or deeds, the angry party has so little aim that innocent bystanders are often wounded. Destructive words and acts move us backward in space, not forward. Recently I heard a speaker talk about the difference between responding and reacting. Our goal should be to learn to respond instead of to react. Let's keep our focus on what we are for, not what we are against. When we focus our energy on what we are against, we create free recoil situations where we create destruction around us and cause stray bullets to harm innocent bystanders. The next time you face opposition think about how you can respond in the positive with what you are for instead of reacting in anger to what you are against. The positive moves us forward and the negative moves us backward. Give great pause before you create war zones in your professional or personal life. Create positive environments that move ideas and people forward and limit the amount of recoil you experience from your own reactions.

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