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Posts Tagged ‘mindset’

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Feedback: Tips to help calm the nerves I was recently asked to contribute a ‘customer’s perspective’ to a room full of people who are delivering to customers (like the one I shared with this software vendor). It took a lot of time and thinking to come up with a way to frame up a few insights in a way that I hoped would be heard by the audience I was speaking to. I kept coming back to Brené Brown's (BB) advice and guidelines in ‘Dare to Lead’. I’m paraphrasing her advice on feedback, but the things that stood out for me were: Make sure you’re bringing the right intention Preparation is key; prepare yourself and the other party. Self-preparation is thinking about what it is you’re trying to get across, what the desired outcome looks like. If you need to write it down to help sort through your thoughts, then do that.  Try to consider the situation from as many points of view as possible. If you’re delivering a message that might be hard to hear, let the other person know that something is coming they might find hard to grapple with. BB’s advice; don’t give feedback until you’re ready to sit next to the person you’re talking to. If you can’t sit next to them and put the problem in front of you both to work on together, then you’re not ready. It’s a simple yardstick and I am a fan of things that are simple and easy to remember. It’s a great ‘guide’ for my own state of mind and whether I am coming from the place of problem-solving or coming from hurt or annoyance. Examine even poorly delivered feedback for truths There are those truths that you have a visceral reaction to, which to me is the ultimate tell on whether feedback contains truth and over years of living and learning I have gotten better at noticing this when it happens. I had a recent experience on a project where I had sat with a team several times to talk through the approach and assured them they were part of the decision-making process and would be consulted, but I kept getting feedback from the project sponsor that they didn’t feel heard. It was difficult to hear and to figure out what to do with this information because I felt like I had given it time and attention. I had restated in as many ways as I could that we were not moving on without including them in the decision process. We did finally have a breakthrough when the project sponsor explained that the horizon for this piece of work was shorter term than they were expecting. A lesson in continuing to look for the source of the problem! Build on what’s already working Sometimes it’s hard to name exactly what is working, especially if you feel like nothing is. This article in HBR challenged some assumptions around feedback and why we think it’s a good thing. My lived experience is that there are some things that it’s hard for me to see about myself, and when others have shared their observations, I’ve found that helps to better understand how I might be perceived and to potentially adjust my behaviour. And this one didn’t come directly from BB but from me; it’s about making things more palatable and acknowledging that we’re all bound to fall flat on our faces from time to time Bring a bit of humour and humanity with you If we’re not talking about life-threatening situations where security of state or person is at risk, injecting these conversations with a bit of light laughter at the situation, at ourselves and at the flawed condition of being human can make difficult conversations easier to navigate. The more we normalise being clear about ‘what’s working/ what’s not’ and having conversations directly with people, rather than putting energy into getting agreement from others on what annoys us, the easier it becomes to listen for ‘what’s useful’ and improve our working relationships. To discover more - contact me or comment below to share an experience you've had.

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Energy Audit: How Do You Manage Under Pressure?

In this article Tony Schwartz shares some alarming numbers he sees when conducting his 'energy audit' with groups of senior managers and leaders: 77% said they had trouble focusing on one thing at a time. 80% said they take too little time to think strategically and creatively, and spend too much of their time reacting to immediate demands rather than focusing on activities with long-term value and higher leverage. 54% said they often feel impatient, frustrated or irritable at work, especially when demand gets high, How effective can people possibly be when our energy is so compromised? Which is to say nothing of the distraction, impatience and irritability that we can end up taking home with us to the ones we love the most! Maintaining energy is not something that only senior mangers need to focus on, it's relevant for all of us. This article reminded me of an energy exercise I did too. "Energy is like a bank account" said Nikki Fogden-Moore, "think of the things that you do and the people that you’re with as either making deposits or withdrawals in that account." I am writing down, in two columns as instructed, the things that renew my energy in column one and the things that deplete it in the other column. As I’m finishing this exercise I can almost feel the light bulb go off over my head. I can choose to manage some of the additional pressures when I’m under work pressure to keep the pressure cooker from exploding and leaving a mess on the walls by just making some small adjustments that will keep my energy levels in a better place. It was a great exercise and I highly recommend that you give it a go, it's really a head space that you need to get into to really think about what renews and what depletes.  Here are some simple guides that I’ve developed over years of project delivery to keep myself nice(ish) when the delivery tunnel hits. Reduce the stress by reducing contact (where possible) with people and situations that are a stretch. This doesn’t mean I get to opt-out of project delivery or stop working with people who I find difficult, dysfunctional or not as diligent and competent as hoped. That must continue to get the project finalised and over the line with everyone in the best possible state. It means that channelling what I have into the project delivery and family is all there is. Almost everything else must pause; therefore reducing pressure in areas of my life I can control. Opting out of some of the more discretionary social engagements, and opting in to things that create good sleep and help me to maintain my health (both mental and physical). I will catch up with those people after the project pressure has passed. Getting each day off to a good start has been a continuous improvement project for years! I’ve varied my morning routines over the years and often get fed up with it and change it about. The fact that the guy who owns the café where I’m sitting just greeted me with ‘it’s like groundhog day’ means that others note there’s a routine. Habits and routines reduce decision making, which means some tasks like exercise and what to eat for breakfast go onto auto-pilot. If I don’t have to decide it makes it easier. We’ve been talking about good habits this quarter (internally) and the 6R team are all committed to morning exercise and getting moving. Some of us are more committed to caffeination than others though, but we all try to... Find ways to create little mental breaks in the day. Building in small sanity breaks also makes the day easier and keeps us as a team, in better mental health (even just a walk to move the car). It gets the body moving and gets us out from behind the screens to just take a little break. I’ve also, this year, adopted a small break approach to holidays. This was not the exact plan, but when I  found that a ten-day break was just not workable, we made the best of five days and found that it was more than enough! Doing something different from the regular routine meant I returned feeling refreshed with new energy. Not to say that there isn't more to go on the development side - no one is ever done on the improvements but these small and practical things have helped me get through energy slumps.

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Decision Making is Easy (when you ask the right questions)

"In good decision making, frugality matters," says Malcolm Gladwell;taking complex problems, and reducing them to the key levers that help us choose is a critical skill. Getting to the heart of the decision, however, isn’t always so easy! I was recently reminded of this; a project team spent weeks designing, dreaming and negotiating what could be achieved with their new website design. There was a list of requirements that was like an out of control Christmas list, and everyone was very excited at the idea of something new that would improve the customer experience. But one thing had been forgotten. Just a small matter of how much they had to spend. We’ve all been there, beer budget but champagne taste (I do it all the time). So, in the end, the decision was easy and the constraint of having to work within the budget helped them decide. Constraints help the decision making process I  noticed a similar pattern years ago whilst waitressing. When customers came into the restaurant, if there were no bookings, it didn’t matter where they sat. Gesture to the restaurant's ‘sit anywhere you like’ would result in much debate back and forth.  They would often choose one table only to move to another and then another. Whereas, if I gestured to a specific table and said, "would you like to sit here?" customers would either accept the offer or ask to be seated at another table. It’s that old chestnut about cognitive load. If the decision is made for you, it is either accepted or not, but being forced to make an active choice and decide for yourself from the whole restaurant is much harder. The project team were constrained by the limitations of what they had to spend. How much time and effort could they have saved by getting this basic building block in place before the requirements even got underway? The decision could have been made a lot earlier in the project. Finalising the budget and the business case before the project starts helps make the decision process smoother because it’s obvious to everyone the boundaries we’re working within. As soon as we were able to articulate the right question(s) the decision was easily made. Projects are all about working with constraints. Usually, there’s limited budget, time and people.  Clearly articulating the constraints that are going to drive a decision early in the process, can save a lot of time and energy and reduce frustration and disappointment all around. Why does restricting options help us to get on with good decision making? There has been a lot written on the topic of 'choice' and I particularly like the advice of Sheena Iyengar, who highlights 4 ways to help with decision making: (Read more)

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Persistence and Practice; Project training essentials

Years ago, I worked on a project where we took a legacy horse race rating system used by a bookmaker and upgraded it to a modern technology platform. I spent a lot of time with guys who were professional gamblers, they were incredibly knowledgeable about horses and horse racing. They had a methodical practice that took hours each day, doing what they called, ‘rating the race.’ This was a practice that to an external observer (me) involved watching the same horse race over and over again until you had gleaned every last piece of information possible from it and had ‘rated’ (or scored) each horse in that race. After that, the race itself would be rated, and so would many other details that they had been trained to look for. This bespoke system they had developed of rating horses, races, conditions and riders all contributed to their knowledge about how the horse would perform over time. What they had observed over years, was that a horse would improve incrementally for a period but was also capable of ‘jumping’ very quickly up a few levels in performance and it was this jump that they carefully watched for in their rating statistics. It was their ability to be ready for improvement that gave them a competitive edge. Like horses, us humans, can sometimes give the impression of making an improvement very quickly the quintessential “overnight success.” Improvement requires practice and it’s never quite clear when we’re learning something new, when we’re going to improve or whether that breakthrough will happen at all. The constant practice and search for improvement can be a bit daunting and demoralising at times. This week, I was lucky enough to be present for one such improvement breakthrough moment. One of the users we’ve been working with on a project appeared in the doorway of the cupboard/ workroom that we’ve tucked ourselves away in. “I’m so happy, I have to share!” He was beaming from ear to ear. He went on to explain his breakthrough. He has been on the project team since the beginning and has been an active participant the whole way, but it has been difficult terrain. His commitment has never wavered, but we can tell that he’s struggled with the way the new system works, there have been a lot of confused looks and ‘why are we doing this?’ moments over the last few months.  His breakthrough was the result of persistence and practice. He reminded me of the importance of practice, and the absolute necessity of training for the job that people will do with their team. It’s a much more exploratory to learn but it pays off in these moments when someone gets the reward of their own efforts. We’ve spoken before about what it takes to deliver training in a project.  Over the many projects that we've worked on, and people that we've worked with, we learn more about how to better deliver training.  This breakthrough highlighted to me, the importance of persistence and practice. In this situation, we had also used the technique of having a ‘training buddy’ someone to work things out with, a fellow explorer in the new system. This mirrors a development practice in agile process, where two developers work together at the one screen. So the week's learning has been: Practice, practice and more practice! Celebrate the breakthrough moments (we did!) and acknowledge people for their persistence; Buddy up – two heads have more observation power than one! If you are struggling with the best way to train on a new system, get in touch.  We buddy up with retailers to equip internal teams for the project efforts ahead. Our project management tools are light and flexible for retailers. The 6R team work behind the scenes, leading through project management, testing, training and team building to deliver project success.

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Managing energy in Projects; 3 essential habits from experience

While time is a finite resource, energy is infinite, although it may not always feel that way. That is because it doesn't just happen by itself, you have to establish rituals to build energy. Individuals and businesses that understand this succeed and as a result both the individual and the business grows.   Managing energy in the build-up (or countdown) to live might be one of the most mentally and physically challenging parts of a project. Energy has, in this last week, been in short supply, it’s been a week that has challenged even the most match fit of us.   When times get challenging some of the most successful techniques I have used to keep energy positive, are to keep to the routines and habits that I rely on to keep my physical health in a good place, and to create the space that allows me to step back from the chaos of getting sucked into the task level detail to think. (Read more)

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Project Close | Overcoming the fear of finishing

Whilst on a practice hike preparing for a trip to the Kokoda track earlier this year; I overheard one of the teens on the hike, who had done that particular track before, relate that the last kilometre of our day would be the longest, there was a collective sigh of agreement. So too, it can be with the close of a project, it can feel like the longest part of the journey. There is plenty of good advice on how to face the fear of finishing and close your personal projects... but, what’s the best way to close out a project for a client, leaving it in a good state? Improving my own focus in this area has been the 'sub project' (read personal goal) of the last month or so. (Read more)

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