THE HEART OF THE MATTER / “THE CHEETAH KNOW HOW” SERIES

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Guest Writers:

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®

Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning,

and Kristen Medina, CAPM®, Co-Author

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SEVEN STRATEGIES TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER WITH PROJECT MANAGEMENT / “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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WHOLE BODY LEARNING / “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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PURSUING CHANGE / THE “CHEETAH KNOW HOW” SERIES

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

 ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI - LACER/ACTIONS - 2011

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.

ACTIVATING YOUR NATURAL GENIUS / THE “CHEETAH KNOW HOW” SERIES

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

When you think of the word “Genius,” what first comes to mind?         Perhaps Albert Einstein, Ludwig van Beethoven, or Isaac Newton. You may be imagining someone who is very different from yourself—someone who sits in a basement and tinkers with experiments, and who routinely forgets to use a hairbrush or eat a meal.

ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI . LACER/ACTIONS . LITOGRAPH - IMAGE OF TORN AND DECOMPOSED PUBLICITY POSTERS

It’s time to change what we associate with the word “genius.” Start by getting up and looking in the mirror: Can you spot the genius? If not, you may need to change your perspective, because it is there. The capacity to be a genius is a part of our physiology. The human brain is a fascinating piece of work. It’s a dynamic neural network that makes billions of connections per second. New neurons are being made constantly in response to mental activity and learning. The reason that this is so fascinating and fantastic is because we are not stuck in any holding pattern—the ability to change our minds, literally, and become a genius on a subject matter is within our capabilities. Whether you think that you are born with natural genius, or you obtained it through your experience and environment, the important thing to be clear: You have it—genius, that is. We all do.  Here are some ways to tap into that natural genius.

Know Your Strengths and Challenges. Being a natural genius does not mean you have to have a natural aptitude for every subject matter under the sun. Albert Einstein, a legendary genius, failed his University Entrance Exam. While he excelled in the math and science sections, he failed the rest (history, languages, and geography).

What this should tell you is: “Don’t get down because there are areas where you do not excel.” Recognize them as challenges, and work to mitigate them. But to tap into your true natural genius,  discover the areas that you excel, and work to develop those into true genius status.

The Drive To Fail. Fail? What, are you crazy? For most of us “Type A” project managers, the thought of failing bring shivers to our spines. But the fact is, you don’t know where your limits are until you push them, and in pushing your limits you are bound to fail once in awhile. To tap into your genius, you can’t be afraid of failure or run away from it. You have to chase after, fail, and learn how to fix your mistakes so that you don’t fail (in the same way) again.

Deliberate Practice. Casual Practice is going out and playing on anintramural baseball league. Deliberate practice is going to the batting cages every night until you have perfected your swing. You will strike out a lot more in deliberate practice, but this is the only way you will master your skill. So what does this have to do with you? When you find your natural genius, you have the ability to perfect it with deliberate practice, during which you will rise out your comfort zone to see just how good you can be.

Kick Stress to the Curb. Every wonder why you can’t think when youare rushing around late trying to find your car keys? Once you find them, it’s so obvious that, of course, they would be in your key bowl on the coffee table. The thing is, stress reduces our ability to think. If we live with chronic stress, our brain is taking the majority of the burden, and it’s impossible to tap into your natural genius, let alone your natural sanity. Pinpoint the biggest stress factors in your life, then mitigate them fast.

Somewhere, someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer.”—Louise Hay, Motivational Author.  It’s hard to recognize our natural genius if we are not in the environment that appreciates or needs those specific skills. You can try to change yourself to best fit into a professional environment, but the likely result will be mediocrity. To fully develop your natural genius, you need to find a place to be the “Best of the best,” where you can do what you are best at. Find out what that is, and go there. In 2013, make a commitment to discover your natural genius—it is in you!

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. 

THE YOGI NEGOTIATOR

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

ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI – LACER/ACTIONS PROJECT – IMAGES OF TORN PUBLICITY POSTERS – LITHOGRAPH, 50X70, 2008, FRAMED

Take a calming deep breath and maintain focus on the matter at hand. Find your center and stay balanced, calm, and ready. Now, tell me, are you on a Yoga mat or in a boardroom preparing to negotiate? The reality is that the techniques learned in Yoga can be applied across a broad spectrum of areas, especially in stressful situations such as negotiating.

Yoga requires you to maintain a calm state of being while putting your body under stress. This same physical stress can arise when you are negotiating an important deal. When you learn how to find your inner Yogi in these times of distress, you will be a better negotiator and therefore develop better relationships with whom you are negotiating. Here are some specific ways that you can utilize your Yogi powers to become a better negotiator.

Know Thyself. OK, so you might be thinking—I know myself. I know what I like, what I dislike. I spend 24 hours 7 days a week with myself—how could I NOT know myself?

In Yoga, knowing yourself goes far deeper than what we typically think of as self-awareness. Yogis attest that many of us live with a personal case of “mistaken-identity.” We think that who we are is our job, what car we drive, our likes and dislikes, our education, our amazing sense of humor, and so forth. This type of surface awareness does not take us far when it comes to resolving conflict or solving problems, which are key skills needed to be a good negotiator.

You can tackle the task of getting to know yourself on a deeper level by pretending that you are getting to know a new person. The key is to not assume that you know everything there is to know about yourself. Within your subconscious there is an entire realm of “you” with certain tendencies, self-talk and life theories that you might not even be fully aware of. When you become better acquainted with yourself, you will not only be more self-sensitive, but you will be able to connect to other people better and in a more compassionate way.

Find Your Balance. Yoga practice aims for balance in the body, mind, and soul. For example, assertive is the balance between the aggressive and passive extremes. Deliberate action is the balance between fight or flight reactions. When we are balanced in life, we feel happy, at peace, and content.

When you are negotiating, you can feel the balance of power shifting in the room like a ping-pong ball. Negotiation is a delicate game of balance, where the best outcome is an equilibrium reached when both parties feel balanced and satisfied. Because we live in the real world, this doesn’t always happen easily. If you’re in an unbalanced negotiation situation, where one party has more power than the other, the weaker party still has a chance to get what they want if they strive for balance.

In negotiations there is often real power (physical assets, knowledge capital) and perceived power (authoritative demeanor, quick wit). If you do find yourself at a disadvantage in comparison with the other party in one of these powers, work on increasing your power in the other area to arrive at a better-balanced negotiating situation.

Take a Deep Breath. One of the biggest ways you can lose your cool in a negotiations setting is by responding emotionally rather than objectively. We are all humans, and it is normal to have an emotional reaction, especially in a situation that has turned negative.

If the other party is evoking negative emotions from you by not “playing nice,” remember your inner Yogi and take a deep breath. When you control the flow of your breathing, your heart rate is effectively slowed down, bringing your body and mind back to a calm place that allows a clear mind. This allows you to release all the adrenaline that the other party may have induced.

When you take a breath instead of automatically responding out of emotion, you regain rational thinking and take back control. Having control over your responses is so important for good negotiations—so don’t forget to breathe!

Non-Reactive Presence and Deliberate Action. One important practice in Yoga is attaining the mindset of non-reactive presence. What this means is that you are present in the moment, and not reacting in an automatic way to external stimuli. Yogis strive to simply witness actions around them as well as the emotions that these actions evoke, rather than being subjected to these emotions. This separation allows for deliberate action rather than a reactionary response.

While it might sound all well and easy to remain non-reactive while reading this article, the real challenge is to remain non-reactive when you feel you’ve been personally attacked. This can happen many times in negotiations as people lash out to try to get what they want. When this happens, find your inner Yogi, the one that is compassionate and knows that others actions are not about you at all, and come back to your place of being present and calm where you can go forward with deliberate action.

So the next time you go into an important negotiation, leave your Yoga mat and towel at home, but bring along your inner Yogi to obtain a resolution that everyone is happy with. Also, don’t forget to ask about Cheetah Learning’s Masters Certificate in Negotiations (www.cheetahlearning.com, 888-659-2013) to become a Zen master at Negotiations. Thank you for reading, and Namaste!

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 30,000 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, and her monthly newsletter goes out to more than 50,000 people. 

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. 

FIND THE FUN IN YOUR FIELD

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

Roberto ALBORGHETTI – “No Clouds”, Canvas/Mixed Media, 70×47 – Lacer/actions Project/Images of Torn and Decomposed Publicity Posters

Passionate Pauline is driving down the boulevard in the early morning, whistling to the tune “Oh Happy Day” with a big smile on her face, ready to take on the day with a vengeance and excited to tackle any challenges that may come her way. In the next lane over, Sullen Sue is sulking, and somehow stuck in the slow lane … again! Things don’t typically go her way, she dislikes her job, and she’s dreading the mounting paperwork that is piling up on her desk.

Which driver’s seat would you rather be in every workday morning, 52 weeks a year, for the odd 40 working years of your life? Your career is an endeavor that requires a great deal of your time, energy, and focus. If you’re sitting in Sullen Sue’s driver’s seat, only you can change directions to find a career that ignites the passion in you and makes you find the fun in your field.

Don’t let society define your role.  Why did you choose the career you are currently in? Did it seem like the “thing to do” after you graduated college? Or did you have some time to introspectively analyze your innate strengths and interests, and decide on a career path based on that?

As a single mom, I have heard all types of stories of how hard my life must be. This role as a struggling victim didn’t quite suit me, however, and instead of focusing on what others expected of me in my “role,” I focused on how I could best create a life for my children and myself in the best way I knew how. We are all unique individuals with strengths and assets that direct us to a special purpose in life.  Fuel your career growth by doing your thing, regardless of what society says you can or can’t do.

Change Your Job Description. Who knows you better – the HR director who hired you while they were interviewing 40 other candidates, or YOU? We all have parts of our job that we love, and other parts that we hate. Chances are, the person sitting in the next office space is in the same boat. What you see as boring and tedious, another might regard as satisfying and even fun. In order to create a job description that fits like a glove, make sure to keep an open and honest dialogue with your peers, subordinates, and mangers about what work keeps you energized vs. which work sucks your life force.

Be Proactive.  The happiest workers are those who have a strong sense of control over what they’re doing and why their efforts are important to a company’s mission. If you don’t like the projects you’ve been assigned, be more proactive in seeking your roles in projects – it never hurts to ask.

If there is a certain process that you find to be cumbersome, tedious, and (in your opinion) useless, take the initiative to change it to improve it. Your work is your world, and the more waves you make that are of your own initiative, the more fun you will have. So don’t sit idly by hoping things will get better – jump to it!

Smell the Roses. At the end of the day, we all want to feel that we’ve accomplished something of importance – that we’ve been an asset to our employers, made the world a better place, come a step closer to solving poverty, and all that before lunch if we can. But the truth is we are all human, and sometimes our best intentions can lead to us neglecting what keeps us going.

Every day, make sure to take some time for just yourself to re-energize and refocus so that you can go back to work ready to take on the world’s problems. Try taking a quick walk at lunch and smell the roses. On the busier days simply allow yourself to get up from you computer, and take five minutes to focus on your breathing and to stretch. You owe it to yourself, not to mention your organization, to be at your best. So put it in your Google calendar if you have to, and take your breaks!

We all have the decision every day – which driver’s seat do we want to be in – Sullen Sue’s or Passionate Pauline’s? Whatever your decision, make sure you are making it consciously and with intention. And remember, the Passionate Paulines have more fun!

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 30,000 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, and her monthly newsletter goes out to more than 50,000 people. 

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.