“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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roberto alborghetti laceR-Actions

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. 

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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. 

“THE FASTEST WAY TO SUCCEED IS HELPING OTHER SUCCEED”: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE LABROSSE, FOUNDER OF CHEETAH LEARNING

Interview by Roberto Alborghetti

 

Every month I’m very glad and proud to post Michelle LaBrosse articles. They always rise interest and attention (and a lot of readers!) Michelle LaBrosse 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 ( Michelle’s articles have appeared in more than 100 publications and websites around the world).

She’s an indefatigable woman who brings us passion, enthusiasm, motivations and a deep knowledge of human behaviours and relationships. I have been moved by the idea to ask ker for an interview… Said and done. This is my interview with Michelle LaBrosse. It’s really a great honour for me. I thank so much Cheetah Learning’s Founder for her kind and generous collaboration.

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  • – Michelle, your articles that I post at my blogs always receive lot of consents and warm attention. According to you, why your writings raise such a well deserved interest?

That is a great question, and thank you for that compliment! When writing articles, I write them for the everyday professional who is interesting in learning how to reach their goals fast. My background, and that Cheetah Learning, is in Project Management and Accelerated Learning. In the articles I write I want to make it very clear that you don’t have to be a “Project Manager” to do good projects, but that everyone can benefit from learning basic project management skills.  The truth is, the better we are at managing project, the better we can be in every area of our life. I don’t exclude anyone when considering the audience that I am writing to, and I think that is why people pay attention to these articles. 

You have created and founded a great experience – and a great human, professional and educational reality – through Cheetah Learning and Project Management. When and how have you felt the first intuitions and inspiration to plan them ? Have you moved by personal and particular reasons or aims? 

I have always had a passion for learning. When I was an engineer at Boeing, part of my job was to teach people how to win government contracts. I was so bored with the regular form of teaching (which was really just a practice in keeping your eyes open) that I developed a new fun approach of training that actually worked. This love for teaching and learning tranlated into everything I did. I became interested in Project Management because I saw how it was so important for organization to have professional managed projects to ensure that projects were completed on time and within budget. When I combined both passions, Accelerated Learning and Project Management, out popped Cheetah Learning.

Which are your main inspiration fonts when you create a text, a new activity or new educational tools? Daylife? All what is surrounding you? The human behaviours?

I think it is a combination of all those things you mentioned. I think its important to listen to your customers and people who are in the industry to get a beat on what it is that people want to learn about. I also use my own life as a sandbox to test out different ideas I have, and I like to share those results with others to perhaps save theme time or learn from my success stories as well as my mistakes.

According to you, and your experience in accelerated learning, what human beings need more to improve their life?    

I think one of the biggest barriers that people have to achieving their dreams is often their own belief system. If you think that you can’t accomplish something, you will prove yourself right again and again. When you become good at project management, and at consistenly achieving your goals, your belief system with envitiably change to that of one that speaks to success and competency. 

From your point of view, which is the most important problem that today is altering human relationships?   

I think that many people today have a backward view of the path to success. If you are going about your professional career with only yourself in mind, you will fail. The fastest way to succeed is in helping other succeed. So to answer you question, one of the biggest problems today that is altering human relationships is the “every man for himself” mentality. We are all connected and we need to help eachother succeed if we want to succeed.

Michelle, are you working on new activities? Are you planning further steps for the development of your Company and Institute?        

Yes – always! The newest project that we are working on is our Agile Exam Prep Course (called Cheetah’s Exam Prep for the PMI-ACPsm Exam). This has been an exciting time to launch this course as Agile is becoming more and more important in the Project Management Industry, and is a methodology and practice that I really believe in as it focuses on people over processes, collaboration over contracts, and responding to changes over following a plan. I see Agile as a very practical application for PMs, so it is exciting to be apart of this movement.

I operate in art… I wonder if in the future Michelle is going to point out some reflexion, or planning some programs, about art and how to support art expression and education…

I am a big believer that art is highly integrated with Accelerated Learning. If you’ve every seen a memory map, it looks like a piece of art, with supporting ideas branching off main ideas. Now Art and accelerated learning are similar in that it is the act of creation, not consumption. You create art, and you create learning moments.

–  Michelle, I’m sure that you have dreams… Which is the first one you’d like to make true?   

Great question! One of my biggest dreams is to help the entire world realize their potential when it comes to taking control of their life and reaching their goals. The whole world you ask? YES! This is my dream and you didn’t say it had to be practical. If everyone in the world changed their belief system to one that was positive and geared towards success, the world would truly be a better place. And project management is the path to get us there. Thank you Roberto for your time, it was a pleasure!

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ABOUT MICHELLE LABROSSE

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.