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Review of “Build Your Service-Based Project Leadership Skills” by PM Lectures

Posted by iammarchhare on 31 July 2009

I was invited by The Project Management PrepCast™ to do a review on the project management lecture “Build Your SBPL Skills” by Cornelius Fichtner, of The Project Management Podcast, and Jack Ferraro, the author of PM Lectures Introduction to The Strategic Project Leader.  It is worth 3 PDUs.

This set of lecture modules is about 3 hours long, but since it is broken up into modules and submodules, you don’t have to view it all in one sitting.  In fact, I encourage you to not try to run a marathon and view it all at once.  Not only is there a lot of information, but there are worksheets which will make the lessons that much more meaningful.

In order to download the presentation, I had to fill out an online form.  Filling out the form was hassle-free, which I can’t say for a lot of sites.  I put the lecture into my cart, input my information and was taken to the download screen.  I downloaded the PDF that had the download instructions in it.  I then downloaded, unzipped and scanned the actual presentation, which took a while because it is 95.8 MB zipped.  It is chock full of multimedia files.  I then started the presentation as per the instructions.

I got a “dashboard” of the lecture listing the lecture modules.  You can select video or MP3 audio only.  There is also a column for worksheets on some of the modules.  The first video menu item took me to a presentation that oriented me to the player controls.  The controls are somewhat evident, but this player has a few extra features, so it is better to go through this overview one time.

As a side note, I recognized the voice of Cornelius Fichtner right away from some podcasts he has done.  That’s not critical for this review, but you might recognize his voice as well from the Project Management Podcast.

One thing that was odd is that the first two modules are listed for information only.  Evidently, they are part of an introductory series, but they aren’t strictly necessary for the subsequent modules.  This is explained in more detail in module 3, the first of this particular presentation.

On somewhat of a side note, there is a suggested reading assignment for Ferraro’s book, The Strategic Project Leader: Mastering Service-Based Project Leadership (Center for Business Practices).  I’m not sure how PM Lectures wants to market the presentation, but it might be helpful if the book is suggested as a package with the lecture.

I want to summarize all of the modules, but I expand upon module 3 a little more because I see relationships as being a lost element in the way we in the US conduct business today.  However, I also don’t want to repeat the entire presentation here, but hopefully it will be enough for you to see the value in pursuing it yourself.

Module 3. Trust-based relationships

There are rational and emotional relationships.  There is a need for a  balance in trust-based relationships.  It cannot be all one or the other.  Trust-based relationships hold people together with “positive energy” – needed to counterbalance negative energy.  Organizations need these relationships to push for change, to motivate and to get commitment.

Trust-based relationships must be built upon credibility and reliability.  They are 2 of the building blocks of a trust-based relationship.  These relationships are built upon knowledge, experience, skills and expertise, first of PMs and then of SMEs.  This supports the layer of trust.  When you think about this, it makes a lot of sense in the business environment, where your competencies are more highly valued than non-business relationships.

Intimacy is a 3rd building block.  Intimacy is defined in terms of sharing of personal, closely held emotions.  It is a sharing of information at a deeper than superficial level.  Risk is inherent within intimacy.  The other may or may not respond, as well as other risks.  However, the benefits outweigh the risks.

One thing that drives to my heart is that intimacy can be more difficult to build on a virtual team than on a team that is co-located.  Ferraro goes into the fact that it is possible to build intimacy on a virtual team, but that it takes longer.  He emphasizes that you still need the credibility and reliability to build upon or else the other can short-circuit conversations that might otherwise lead to intimacy.

Fichtner makes a concrete example of building intimacy.  Personally, I think the subject of virtual teams could have been elaborated upon with more concrete examples, as I can speak from experience on just how difficult it is, even though it is fairly common in companies today.

Self-orientation is the 4th building block.  A PM with a low self-orientation focuses upon others rather than oneself.  From the presentation:

Stakeholders recognize a PM with a high self-orientation.  Such Project Managers:

  • Relate everything to themselves
  • Quickly finish others’ sentences
  • Fill empty spaces in conversations
  • Won’t admit when they don’t know something
  • Use passive listening
  • Exhibit a lack of focus

[somewhat off-topic soapbox]

I’m elaborating upon this because I’m amazed at how many companies and individuals don’t get this.  Crass self-promotion is not the key to being a successful PM.  It is the key to being a self-interested jerk, and nothing more.

A good manager has high praise for their team.  A good manager highlights team accomplishments.  A good manager asks advice, whether from peers or from management, in overcoming obstacles.  A good manager does not put the spotlight on their self!  This often flies in the face of the business attitude of “tooting your own horn”, but the reality is that self-absorbed managers alienate their teams, their customers and management rather than build bonds of trust.

[/somewhat off-topic soapbox]

One of the problems with a PM with high self-orientation is that a jump can be made to a solution when all of the facts are not known.  Communication failures often are the result of this as well.  Patiently listening and acknowledging the others’ feelings and concerns are the antidote.  Low self-orientation and listening cannot be separated.

Module 4. Advisory & Consultative Leadership Skills of the Service-based Project Leader

Module 4 is easily the longest module, and it is broken up into 3 parts: 1. Leadership & Power, 2. Engage, Listen and Frame and 3. Vision and Commit.

Consultative leadership is the next level up on the pyramid from trust-based relationship.  “The consultative leader acts as an advisor because she seeks to serve the best interest of her stakeholders”.  Perhaps you have heard of a participatory leadership style, in which decisions are shared.  Consultative is similar, but key decisions are still more centralized.  The leader concentrates on advising and serving stakeholders.  The leader is still responsible for guiding the team in the right direction.

According to Ferraro, consultative leadership “allows others to be leaders”.

Ferraro makes an important point that part of advising is giving a recommendation to the stakeholders, after giving them options and educating them on their options.  Businesses want recommendations.  Sometimes, PMs are hesitant about recommending a course of action.  However, the stakeholders want recommendations based upon facts.  Therefore, the process outlined in the presentation is pretty important to walking this line.

The building blocks of the consultancy skills are Engage, Listen, Frame, Vision and Commit.

Ferraro doesn’t even duck the sticky issues of managing expectations and dealing with resistance.  He handles them like the other topics: head on.

This module has a worksheet, but this worksheet has a portion that your team fills out.  It is sort of a team self-evaluation, but you can use the results to work on areas to build trust relationships.

Module 5. Summoning Courage to be a Service-based Project Leader

Module 5 is the shortest module, but it is in only one part.

The copy I got is obviously not the final product as there is a placeholder at the beginning of the module. 🙂

Courage is presented as the mortar that holds together service-based project leadership.  The module gives insights to bolster the courage to move towards a service-based project leadership mode.  It covers attitudes, behaviors and a workable plan to build leadership skills.

Different environment impacts as well as convictions and attitudes towards risks are discussed.  An environment may be positive, neutral, hostile and uncertain environments are discussed.  In the positive or neutral, attitudes drive behavior.  In a hostile environment, the environment drives behavior.  In the latter, risk attitudes drives behavior.  Convictions also play a key role as to whether or not leadership competencies grow or stagnate.  It is easier to look at the diagrams in the presentation than to describe them.

Interestingly, Ferraro ties risk attitudes all back to the base of the pyramid, the level of relevant skill, knowledge or expertise.  If it hasn’t struck you before how much thought has gone into his model, you realize here that he has analyzed this from various angles.

This one also has the longest worksheet associated with it, but many of the questions were also asked in the presentation, so you should already be thinking about these things.

Conclusion

This review obviously only scratches at the surface of a thorough, well-researched presentation on service-based project leadership.

Throughout the presentation, honesty, truthfulness, trust open communication and clarity are stressed.  These are values I have found to be key to being a successful project manager.  Ferraro does an excellent job of weaving the themes of integrity and open communication throughout the presentation.  It is timely as well, with the emphasis in PMBOK® Edition 4’s emphasis on ethics.

However, he doesn’t stop there, but builds upon these values to come up with a framework or approach to project management that empowers the teams and stakeholders to give to their full potential.  I foresee many of his ideas becoming better known and shaping the future direction of project management.

This lecture set should soon be available on the PM Lectures website.  The first 2 modules, which I did not view, are available there already.  It should be an asset to many in the project management community.

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Management By Walking Around By Any Other Name…

Posted by iammarchhare on 24 July 2009

I have posted before about “’Hands On’ Project Management”.  This fits in real well with this topic.

Jon Emmons of Life After Coffee shared his thoughts on “Management By Walking Around”.  Basically, Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is a technique for managing people by going around, observing, chatting, etc.

What it really means to me is that you cannot manage by sitting around in your office.  You have to get your butt out of the chair occasionally and go see what is going on.  It can be tempting to just sit in the chair and shoot off the occasional email and call it “managing”, but that just isn’t particularly effective.  Get up, breathe the air, see the sights and make yourself available to your team!

One caveat: Don’t run around micromanaging everything.  If you are using this time to run around with a checklist asking, "Are you done yet?  Are you done yet?" then it will be counterproductive.  Save that for the status meetings.  The purpose of this tour is different.

The question, though, is what do you do if the team is remote?  If you can visit them, you should.  Obviously, distance will make the intervals longer, but face-to-face time can be crucial.

What you cannot do with face-to-face, you try to make up for by regular telephone conversations, video conferencing and other means of communications.

Yet, as I try to step back and view what it all really means, I realize what we are talking about in essence is something that just plain is lost on most businesses today: relationships.  People are socially geared, and they need relationships.  By constantly communicating, observing, etc, you are building a relationship.  Hopefully, you are building one of mutual respect and trust.

Posted in Leadership, People Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Blessed Passover Season and a Look at Balance

Posted by iammarchhare on 9 April 2009

Looking at life-work balance

This will be one of those scheduled posts.  I’m not really here pushing the buttons, as today is a religious holiday for me.  People ask me if I am Jewish, and it confuses them when I tell them I am a Christian that keeps Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.  Enough of that, though…

One of the reasons I have been going on about soft skills this week is because they truly are important.  One of those is balance.  It is important that you realize you are not the job.  Seek a balance between work, relationships, spirituality (which is really a special relationship with God) and time for yourself.

There is more to life than work.  Strive to seek an adequate balance in your life.  If your home life falls apart, what is the worth of your work then?  If you take no time for yourself, then your overall growth will be stunted.  A life that is not spiritually balanced tends to become selfish.  A life without work is unfulfilled (and usually broke).

Remember, work will be there tomorrow.  And, even if it is not, then why kill yourself for it today?  Your friends and your family might not be.  God will surely be there tomorrow, but will you be?

Something to consider: If your funeral was tomorrow, what would you want the eulogy to be?

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Which Relationships Really Matter?

Posted by iammarchhare on 8 April 2009

Let’s not overlook the obvious

I was reading a TechRepublic article “Everyone matters a little but not everyone matters a lot” in the IT Leadership section by Benny Sisko today with some interest.  His main point was overcoming his desire to be liked by everyone around him.  Some relationships matter more than others.  To sum up, he had learned to prioritize those relationships, and he shared his reasoning behind the prioritization.

So, I wrote an article on Associated Content called “Prioritizing Relationships in a Rocky Economy“.  Are you concentrating on the ones that really matter?

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