Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shifting Your Productivity Mindset

Have you ever lain awake trying to get to sleep, but you can’t turn your work brain off? Or you have a whole Saturday to get things done, but it’s as if your motivation walked out the door along with your attention span?

In order to accomplish something, you have to have the correct “brain” turned on. Whether it’s an at-home project or relaxing enough to avoid looking at your phone, you have to shift your mindset to accomplish these tasks. Phil Cooke, author of “One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do,” shares with us some tips around driving productivity through shifting your mindset.

  • At Work: Some days you know exactly what you need to work on, and other days you spin your wheels. Is that because your leadership is unclear, or because the team dynamic has confused priorities? “Teams are great for brainstorming, research, and execution, but at some point, a leader has to make a decision,” says Phil. You can demand actionable direction, and find out who really makes the final decisions. “In military terms, a team can decide how to take the hill, but a leader has to decide which hill to take.”
  • At Home: It’s really easy to bring your work brain home with you. Getting dinner on the table is suddenly the same as pestering your team to deliver their weekly reports. Your kid setting the table is different from an employee sending you a time sheet. “Once you cross the door and walk into your house, it’s time to switch to what author Jim Collins calls ‘legislative leadership,’” says Phil. “Legislative leadership is still leader driven, but it’s softer, more open to opposing ideas, and works because of consensus, not command. From a productivity standpoint, home and family aren’t about to-do lists, they’re about relationships.”
  • Personal Time: Some people like to be really productive with their personal time, volunteering in the community, writing books, knitting clothes, or taking classes. Others want personal time to be for relaxing. And some feel they have no personal time, constantly shuttling kids to activities or coaching the little league team. Either way, there’s another shift in mindset here required to accomplish any goal. You have to be purposeful in what you want to accomplish, and that also means getting the tools you need. “If you’re on the go, this is where mobile technology can make a significant difference, because adaptability doesn’t mean inability,” says Phil. Your phone can keep you connected or allow you to multitask. Or no phone at all can help you relax.
You can be productive, but to accomplish everything from work tasks to relaxing, you have to change your mindset. Doing so requires flexibility, something you demonstrate every day. This is incredibly important in today’s shifting world. “The folks at Change Anything tell us that 83% of employees have been passed over for a promotion because management felt they couldn’t make the necessary changes to move to the next level in their career,” said Phil. Change is good for you, so take these tips to start shifting your mindset.

Article by Emily Jasper for Forbes.com

Managing Multicultural Teams

As project managers in a global environment, we are now more often expected to lead multi-regional projects. This adds the element of different cultures -- both national and organizational -- that adds can add complexity to projects.

Perhaps your experience is similar to mine when working with project teams in a global environment. My multicultural project team consists of senior stakeholders, a deployment team and a technical support team. All team members have varying experience in the organization, but also can come from very different cultural backgrounds.

There can be a struggle when starting a project in a culture that you are not familiar with. How do you bring everyone together to share a common vision and commitment on the project delivery? I have learned that I need to develop strong cultural competencies to manage a multicultural project team effectively and to establish connections with the team members.

I like to use three tactics when on-boarding a new team member from a different culture:

1. Explain the purpose and benefits of the project to help establish the bond between the team member and the project objectives. Stress the importance of his or her role and how his or her local experience and knowledge will benefit the project.

2. Discuss any concerns that the team member may have, such as with language or customs. This can also help break the ice and show that you understand how difficult cross-cultural relationships can be.

3. Emphasize what is important to you, whether it's work ethic or communication methods, and why it's important. Don't assume that all of your expectations are globally understood.

When I manage a project abroad, one of my preferred ways to build cultural awareness is by spending time visiting popular spots where the locals meet. For example, at restaurants, coffee shops, sporting events and shopping centers, you can observe customs, traditions and behaviors.

Your observations in those settings can help to answer your questions about the culture. But it's just not observation that will help you.  People are very proud of their cultures and customs and are often keen to help you understand them. This supports the need to build a rapport with your team, whilst also building your awareness.

It's also important to understand your own culture's norms and behaviors. That knowledge helps guard against interpreting another culture's behaviors in terms of your own unexamined expectations.

Article by Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP for Voices on Project Management .

The Role of Executives in a Lessons Learned Session

In a lessons learned or project review session, your attendees will usually provide feedback freely. Hopefully, they know the purpose of these sessions and their roles in it.

But what about when your sponsor or upper management is present? What are their roles?

Rather than shelter upper management from lessons learned, consider their value in these sessions. Don't have upper management viewed as attendees who just want to hear the rehash of problems that the team doesn't want to relive anyway. Nor should you have upper management included to be a part of the blame game.

Ask your sponsor and upper management to be open minded and supportive advocates in receiving feedback toward improvement.

Here are three ways to get upper management to engage:

Talk: You, the project manager, must engage upper management in the discussion. Review the timeline and other milestones that took place on the project. Upper management could talk about how the goals of the project and the team's successes intertwined with the strategic goals of the company.  The team would appreciate this perspective on the significance of their activities.

Listen: While some discussion points may not be pleasant for upper management to hear, their presence assures a level of impartiality to the team. Knowing someone from "up top" is listening reinforces the team's drive to be a part of a high-performing group. Getting to more favorable end results in future projects would become even more desirable for the team.

Share: Have your sponsor share comments about the purpose of the project and its greater use to the organization, the end users and the community. Have them elaborate on processes. Ensure early on that they recognize processes mentioned in the discussion that could be rewritten or are no longer necessary. This sharing will foster bonding with the team.

Article by Bernadine Douglas, PMP for Voices on Project Management .