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.

09.06 20130

A Job Well Done…

By: michelemuse Categories:Agile

In a car race, the announcer always states, "Gentlemen (and now ladies too, of course), start your engines!"   There is a lot of excitement at this point...many hopefuls and anyone could win; however, who wins is really determined by the skill and techniques employed by the driver.  The race is long, and those prepared to adapt with agility to unforeseen circumstances come to the checkered flag with unprecedented success.
I know lots of people who pride themselves on starting things ...it is such a useless activity to start something if you have no follow through.  I know those with a tag line of  "I start things;" however, my tag line is "I finish things."  The heart of business value and value to humanity is in finishing things ...delivering.  I have heard sports figures boast about being "the mailman" because they always deliver.  We can laugh, but there is a lot of importance in striving to be the one that always delivers.  In business, we should set a goal of "becoming a mailman," a person who consistently delivers through tough conditions.  There is a saying that things are best at the beginning, but I argue that things are best at the end, when you can demo the value you created for the world .  Let's focus less on "starting-up"  and more on "finishing up".  The focus on Agile iterations always is delivering on ideas, not just the ideas themselves.  This focus on delivery lets companies continually modify ideas to turn them into something of value for the world that is released on a regular, frequent basis.
To reach the pinnacle of success, we must move past the excitement of starting to a point that we focus on the precision and hard work of execution.  For those who work hard and strive for excellence, "things are best at the end."  The proper business framework keeps us disciplined enough to not be distracted by the excitement of starting, knowing the real excitement is at the finish line.  For some, things are best at the beginning, and that is because they never reach a satisfactory end.  The excitement of beginning is fleeting... there is nothing more fulfilling than a job well done.

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17.04 20130

What Goes Around

Growing up my brother used to have a saying when he was angry at someone’s actions.  He would say, “What goes around, comes around.”  What does that really mean?  In the programming world it means, “the status eventually returns to its original value after completing some sort of cycle.”  In the language of people, rather than computers, it means that we live the consequences of our actions, whether good or bad. Dale Carnegie offered very pertinent advice for learning how to treat people in his famous book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  Carnegie stated that the fundamental techniques in handling people are:  1.  Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.  2.  Give honest and sincere appreciation.  3.  Arouse in the other person an eager want. To create a world-class organization, the first step in “organizational creation 101” is to hire and retain the best people.  The only way to attract and keep the best people is to treat them right… to be respectful of their contributions and their humanity.  When we treat our people right, then they treat our customers right.  When the customers are treated right, our business grows and so does our ability to profit. What we send out in the world comes back to us in kind.  How we treat our teammates and coworkers will boomerang back to us in the end.    When we create an environment that values the contributions of individuals and respects their humanity, we create an environment that flourishes.  When we create an environment that is abusive and disrespectful of its contributors, we reap negative results.  In order to prosper, we must hire and retain the right people by being respectful of them and their contributions. Another saying that I find true is, “people leave leaders, not organizations.”  It is important to be the kind of leader that retains the organization’s most valuable asset—its people.  People only will stay in an environment and make amazing contributions to a company where respect is common place.      

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31.03 20130

The Power of Progress

Leaders spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to motivate teams.  A variety of methods are employed to attempt to obtain peak performance from organizational teams.  Tangible incentives, recognition for good work, interpersonal support and clear goals are different strategies used by leadership to attempt to maximize output from teams; however, the biggest boost of motivation for teams is a surprise to a lot of managers. The book, The Progress Principle, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, reveals the secret to the biggest motivator of teams.  Creative work depends heavily upon emotions.  How we feel about the work, our environment and our co-workers fuel motivation.  Amabile and Kramer identify the biggest boost to motivation as the sense of progress that people experience when engaged in meaningful work.  The more frequently people experience a sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive. Although the power of progress is fundamental to human nature, few managers understand how to leverage progress to boost motivation.  The Progress Principle discusses key catalysts that help us motivate teams to their highest performance levels.  One of the strategies recommended includes recognizing the power of positive work experiences, and one way to create these experiences is celebrating progress every day.  Incremental small wins are easy to ignore given the demands of modern work, but this type of win fuels big success over time.  Every day team leaders need to take a moment to celebrate and recognize the progress that has been made.  Also, teams need to deal with setbacks constructively, viewing them as learning opportunities.  Small setbacks can really be demoralizing so they must be addressed quickly and effectively when they do happen.  Additionally, team leaders can build on progress by introducing new challenges after success. Scrum is a product development methodology that utilizes small wins and the power of progress to motivate teams.  With scrum, daily stand-ups keep teams focused on completion of daily tasks, driving to an overall two-week project completion goal.  Each day team members are able to stand with their co-workers and identify work that has been completed and progress that has been made.  These daily meetings also allow for teams to quickly address any setbacks and to help each other to overcome obstacles.  As teams deliver small goals, the team members continually push themselves to increase their velocity of their delivery of work.  At the end of each sprint, demos allow teams to display and celebrate the work completed with key stakeholders.  Scrum is an excellent methodology for boosting team motivation through the power of small wins, thus driving meaningful progress in organizations. Oscar Wilde said, “Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.”   Scrum allows team members to have power over their own ability to deliver, to recognize progress on a daily and bi-weekly schedule and to continue to develop themselves every workday.  There is no greater motivator than the power of progress driving ambitious teams under the guise of small wins.

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24.02 20130

Learning the Code

Although in today’s market many people are looking for jobs, in the technology field, there is a shortage of talent.  Organizations need talent, rather than resources, because resources cost money, but talent adds value.  Despite a large pool of people looking for work, the market for the technically talented is tight… talent is usually employed elsewhere, and other companies are continually trying to poach our talent. In the face of stiff competition for talent, what should we do to keep our companies moving?  The answer lies in developing our own talent by hiring those with great potential and placing them in an optimal learning environment.  Established talent is expensive and hard to find; however, those promising candidates with great potential can quickly become invaluable in a learning environment. In his book, The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle talks about how people become fast learners—writers, musicians, math students, chess players, artists and athletes.  Coyle determines that the fastest learner in the world is the kid learning to ride a skateboard.    He describes a kid with a skateboard in hand that starts messing around and before you know it, he is mysteriously skilled without the aid of any coaches, instruction books or classrooms.  Why, you ask?  Coyle’s answer is feedback. Coyle points out that skateboarders learn so fast because they receive a stream of immediate and continuous high-quality feedback… every action creates an immediate and clear consequence.  Mistakes are detected quickly, patterns are intuited and the brain circuitry is quickly built.  Coyle notes that the problem most of the time at work and school is that the feedback we receive isn’t timely or clear.  This lack of feedback causes us to wander and get lost.  The way to develop talent in your organization is to create a superior feedback environment where the right signal is delivered in a timely way. Scrum provides a work environment of intense feedback… interpersonal, co-located  and timely.  Sitting close with workers allows constant conversations that prevent extended periods of work without new information passing between the team members.  Daily stand-ups help keep the team focused on the short-term two week sprint goal.  Demoing the results of the sprint to the product owner at the end of the sprint allows for immediate feedback from the business as to the acceptability and usability of the product created.  The business owner also has the opportunity to take customer feedback and switch the direction of the team on an every other week basis.  At the end of the sprint, the team sits together and talks about ways to improve…discussing what went right and what went wrong.  There is no annual performance review, rather the review happens every two weeks.  This type of interpersonal, timely feedback helps create very usable talent in an organization in a short period of time. As Coyle points out in his book The Talent Code, the same rule applies no matter what industry--the more timely, vivid, accurate feedback you get, the more skill you can build. The scrum framework allows organizations to create a vivid, timely feedback loop.  Fast learners in such an environment will become our most valuable resource.  When we identify the potential in our candidates, we can help them become established talent, and if we provide the right environment, we will produce an environment that retains the talent.            

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