STAKEHOLDERS BRINGING IN THE 5TH EDITION PMBOK / “THE CHEETAH KNOW HOW” SERIES

Guest Writers: Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning, and Kristen Medina, CAPM®, Co-Author

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses.

Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become “Cheetahs” using Cheetah Learning’s innovative Project Management and accelerated learning techniques.

Recently honored by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Cheetah Learning was named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 PMI® Global Congress. A dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Michelle was previously recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world.

Michelle’s articles have appeared in more than 100 publications and websites around the world. Her monthly column, the Know How Network, is carried by over 400 publications.

She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Manager’s (OPM) program and also holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton.

PURSUING CHANGE / THE “CHEETAH KNOW HOW” SERIES

By Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning, and Kristen Medina, CAPM®, Co-Author

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word   “change”? For many of us, words like “anxious”, “overwhelmed”, or    “unknown” pop into our head. Why is it that changes and transitions  bring on so much negative energy? One hypothesis is that we may be  wired to fear change. Imagine our ancestors in nomadic times as they  assessed their surroundings for any sign of change and possible  danger, as the two most often went hand-in-hand. Perhaps our DNA is  to blame for associating “same” with safety and “change” with  danger.

Change is a hot topic for PMs right now. Agile takes a different            look at change from traditional project management. Instead of   simply managing change, Agile aims to pursue and embrace change,  using change as a source of strength throughout the project     lifecycle. Another change element that is on the minds of PMs this             year is the changing of the PMP Exam (from the PMBOK Guide Fourth             Edition to the Fifth Edition), which starts on July 31. To thrive in business and in life, we must learn to not only embrace change, but to pursue it and learn to capitalize on it.  When we pursue change rather than running away from it, we can proactively stay engaged, habitually question the status quo, and ensure that we are staying on top of our game.  Here are the top five ways that you can use to help you to let go of your fears and pursue change with abandon:

  1. Love Uncertainties – I am a risk-taker, and some even consider me to be a daredevil (while driving around on my Harley, I sometimes feel like one).   And while I love uncertainty, I make sure I’m prepared for the risks that I may encounter.   For instance, before I bought my Harley 1200 CC Sportster, I gradually worked my way up to driving such a big machine, starting out with a small 200 CC scooter, then graduating to a 500 CC scooter. I also took a motorcycle safety class to help me make the transition from an automatic scooter to a manual clutch motorcycle.    When I got the Harley, I also bought the best gear so that I could protect myself in case I took a dive. This still didn’t protect me when my 600 pound Harley fell on me in a simple slide out as I was leaving a parking lot, but I learned and put engine guards on the bike so that it would not fall right on me again.   Every time I go out on my            Harley, it is an adventure. While I love what I encounter, I make             sure that I am as safe as I can be.  Life is filled with uncertainties. To fully embrace life, I love uncertainties; they test my metal when I get into situations where I have to figure out new, creative ways to maneuver through them to a successful outcome.  Time and time again, I discover, much to my delight, that the riskier the situation, the more uncertainties             there are, and the greater the rewards.

  1. Accept your Internal Strength to Weather Change. One of the biggest reasons why people fear change is because they think, “Maybe I can’t handle this new situation.”  The reality is that human beings are pretty darn adaptable. If you’ve ever jumped into a pool of really cold water, you probably felt a terrible shock at first, and thought, “This was a terrible idea – why did I just do that?” That is our physical reaction to change – your body was shocked from the cold water and, at first, rejected it.  Then, as you swam around, the temperature began to feel invigorating and it turned into a great experience – one that proved your internal strength. The pool water did not change – you became accustomed to the temperature. Instead of resisting these types of experiences, try to  find every “cold pool” (figuratively speaking) within your reach,  and dive in. These cold pools in our life come in many different forms: reorganized division at work, a move to a new town, or a new group of friends. While you may fear jumping in the cold pool that you are facing, know that you can handle it, and more than that, know that you will thrive and be glad that you jumped into it in the first place.

   3. Tackle Tiny Fears.   Our minds are pattern-seeking,           habit-forming, information-processing machines.   Whether we are    conscious of it or not, every day we are programming ourselves in        ways that can either empower or disempower.  If you have a strong change-fear connection, here is an easy way to  start to reprogram your mind for a different response pattern:  Each  day, do something small that frightens you just a bit.  Maybe talk  to your boss about that trip you want to take this summer, but are  afraid to bring up. Or present your change idea to your team of  colleagues that you have been too afraid to talk about due to fear of rejection. By tackling these small fears, you will realize that the thought of the action itself is more fearful and stressful than the actual action. This is how change is as well. When you can see your fear for what it is (oftentimes over-exaggerated), you can  better pursue change in a way that helps you grow personally and  professionally.

 4 – Communicate Through Change. We tend to fear what we don’t understand. If you are the one initiating a change, make sure to communicate the purpose of the change to all stakeholders, and get their buy-in. Conversely, if you don’t understand why something has to change, don’t be complacent; ask questions until you get the answer. When we have a clear understanding of why someone is pursuing change, we can better get behind the change effort.

5 – Stay positive. When considering whether or not to pursue  change and the subsequent unknown outcome, we are faced with a risk that this outcome might be bad. What we often overlook is that the            outcome may very well be an improved condition over the previous            state from before the change. Being positive will not only help ease             your fears, but will also help a positive outcome actually occur as  it will free you from “fear paralysis” and will help you to pursue positive change. Project Managers – pursue change in your life today! Whether it is in your personal or professional realm, you can make great waves when you are one of the few people that not only accepts change, but proactively pursues change to create better outcomes for everyone.  “Business as usual” has never produced greatness. Push the  boundaries of what is possible, and discover true greatness when you actively pursue change.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses.

Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become “Cheetahs” using Cheetah Learning’s innovative Project Management and accelerated learning techniques.

Recently honored by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Cheetah Learning was named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 PMI® Global Congress. A dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Michelle was previously recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world.

Michelle’s articles have appeared in more than 100 publications and websites around the world. Her monthly column, the Know How Network, is carried by over 400 publications.

She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Manager’s (OPM) program and also holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton.

“INTERPERSONAL SKILLS AND YOU” / THE “CHEETAH KNOW HOW” SERIES

By Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning, and Kristen Medina, CAPM®, Co-Author

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Please hold for a scene from the movie The Office:

Bob: “What would you say ya do here?”

Tom: “Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn

customers so the engineers don’t have to! I have people skills! I am

good at dealing with people! Can’t you understand that? What the

hell is wrong with you people?”

And we’re back. For those of you who have scene The Office, you most likely know this scene. For those of you who haven’t, watch this short clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCC_PxRWVI4   – as it is imperative for the intellectual debate we are about to delve into.

Interpersonal skills often get a bad wrap as being “common sense” or fluffy”, with people giving more of their time and attention to

develop their technical skills. But the truth is, the more we lose

focus on the importance of interpersonal skills, the more at risk we

are to have a poor emotionally intelligence, which can hurt our

relationships and our careers. Interpersonal skills are becoming

such a hot topic, that this specific subject even has its very own

appendix in the PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition (which will be tested

starting July 31, 2013).

So why are interpersonal skills so important to project managers?

Let’s take a look at 11 aspects of interpersonal skills stressed in

the PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition, to get a better understanding of

how interpersonal skills shape your projects and shape your career.

1. Leadership – When you are able to lead from a place of trust and respect (rather than from using punishments to illicit fear) your

project team will be able to accomplish so much more. When you are a good leader, you have the ability to get things done through others,

and use each individual’s strength to the advantage of the entire

team. To be a successful leader, you can’t just create a submissive

team – you need to create an inspired team that shares your vision

and understands how their contributions are helping to achieve that

vision.

2. Team Building – You can’t put together a group of people that

seem to make a good team “on paper” and expect reality to align with your expectations.  And, unless you are really lucky, a team will

need to proactively work on team building in order to be effective.

The team can do this by openly and honestly talking about their

expectations in their unique team roles, deciding how they will deal

with conflict should it arise, and focusing on problems in terms of

possible solutions – not in terms of blaming people for the

problems.

3 Motivation – How do you get a committed team who will work hard toward a project’s goal? First, you need to find out how to motivate them. This task may be more difficult than you originally think, because not everyone is motivated in the same way. One person may be  money motivated, while another is better by professional achievement and growth. Get to know your team and what motivates them, and develop a strategy to improve incentives that speak to those motivations.

4. Communication – As you most likely already know, communication, or lack thereof, can make or break a project team. While a communication plan can greatly help in ensuring effective

communication, there are many other interpersonal dynamics that

impact effective project team communication, such as cultural and

communication style differences. 

5. Influencing – The skill of influence is very powerful, and can be

used either destructively or productively. You, as a project manager

with good intentions, have it in your greatest interest to improve

your influence skills to a level where you have the power to make

significant changes and improvements in your project team and

organization.

6. Decision Making – How will you and your team make important project team decisions? Will you as the Project Manager make decisions on your own, or will you involve your team for most

decisions? Its important to take some time to think about the

decision making process that will take place in your project team,

as it will effect many other areas, such as motivation and team

building.

7. Political and Cultural Awareness – The days are gone where a Project Manager can live in an isolated bubble of their particular

circumstance and experience and expect to be able to relate to

others. In today’s global environment, successful project managers

do not only recognize and accommodate cultural diversity – they

capitalize on it.

8. Negotiation – Think about how many times you negotiate every day. Whether it pertains to what you watch on TV that evening (if I get to choose the restaurant, you can decide what we watch afterward) to what currency in which your newest international deal will be conducted – negotiations permeate every part of our life. The more you listen to the other party and understand their needs wants, as well as your own, the better you will be able to find a mutually beneficial solution that is win-win for both parties. 

9. Trust Building – Can you imagine working on a project team where each person only has their own interests in mind, and neither trusts or likes anyone else on the team? Neither can I. Trust is the

foundation of a good project team, and give the entire team the

flexibility they need to accomplish tasks in the way they best know

how.

10. Conflict Management – When we hear the word “conflict”, we often think of fighting, relationship deterioration, and stress. But this  negative connotation does not have to be your project team’s

reality. Turning conflict into collaborate problem solving is one of

the best experiences a team can have, as it addresses the validity

of dissenting opinions and aims to make the situation better than it

was before.

11. Coaching – A project team reaches the ultimate level of

productivity when each team member feels empowered to reach their full potential.  When you invest in your team in the form of

training and formal or information coaching, they will in turn

invest in the project and organization with their time, skill, and

expertise.

So the next time someone asks you – “What would you say ya do

here?” You can say with confidence that you are a Project Manager

that utilizes your interpersonal skills (“people skills”) to create

effective and successful project teams that can move mountains.

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About the Author:

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses.

Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become “Cheetahs” using Cheetah Learning’s innovative Project Management and accelerated learning techniques.  

Recently honored by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Cheetah Learning was named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 PMI® Global Congress. A dynamic keynote speaker and industry thought leader, Michelle was previously recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world.

Michelle’s articles have appeared in more than 100 publications and websites around the world. Her monthly column, the Know How Network, is carried by over 400 publications.

She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Manager’s (OPM) program and also holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton.