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Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Thank You (making it specific and genuine)

Thank you Projects by their very nature are often more like a marathon than a sprint. Having water stations along the way in a race creates smaller milestones to look towards and keeps everyone hydrated and less likely to quit from exhaustion. In projects, every win, every milestone, every little bit of progress should be acknowledged in some way. It helps to build momentum, keep everyone engaged and less likely to quit from exhaustion. It doesn't mean that the whole project has to be one long pep rally, but it's important to keep the focus on what has been achieved and on making sure that positive acknowledgement of those achievements is shared. Small, frequent acknowledgements are better than keeping it until the end. Acknowledging contribution and showing that you're grateful, shows acceptance and builds trust within the team, too. We start our internal meetings with a win for the week or gratitude. It's a really good way to create a positive footing on which to start the conversation. The psychology In positive psychology, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, greater physical health, better sleep, greater resilience and a host of other benefits. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Expressing gratitude to your team for their efforts helps to build motivation and engagement with the task at hand. Laura Trice has a short TED Talk on the power of thank you, and of asking to be thanked the way that you would like to be, she is all about making it specific and genuine.  She shares a lovely analogy about ‘truing’ the wheels on her bike and how this made the bike feel like new. She shares a challenging idea that we can shape the way we are praised and thanked. True your Wheels, be honest about the praise you need to hear. ~ Laura Trice What’s refreshing about this approach is that it puts you back in the driver's seat (being at cause of your own acknowledgements). I try to acknowledge and thank people the way I would like to be thanked. How to say thank you If you’re short on ideas on how to say 'thank you' here are a few: You could send flowers. You can write a card or an email, and when you're writing a card or an email, you really need to be specific about what it is that you're grateful for. You can make a video. You can call out the person who's put in the extra effort and praise them in front of a group. You can buy them a chocolate bar or a coffee (or their beverage of choice) and just acknowledge the work that's been done. You can just say that you're really grateful to have that person on board. These are just a few expressions of gratitude. None of them requires a whole marching band or even a great deal of planning. The most important thing that you can bring to a thank you, that makes it memorable and powerful, is being authentic, which means you need to take some time out to think about it a little and reflect. When I have done this, it has always been that I have felt newly grateful for the person in question and their contribution. And that is something to be thankful for. And when someone thanks you I have a folder that I set up a few years ago, it contains compliments and thanks that I have received. Every now and then, when things seem to be going off the rails and when the series of plans we've made and re-made is not working - I read through these compliments and thanks, and I'm reminded of the positives that I have contributed and the differences that I have made. It’s a wonderful way of lifting my mood and often prompts me to reconnect or say hello to people that I may not have spoken to for a while. Some of the messages are personal, and some are more business and project-focused. I've been thanked for things that to me, seemed like very little, but to the other person made a difference. You never know what a thank you or a compliment can mean to someone else, so be generous with them. With that in mind, thank you....for listening, for sharing and for being part of the conversation about projects, life and everything. If you’ve received a wonderful thank you, I’d love to hear about it and what made it special.

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Communication in Confinement

Communication. How we describe events and experiences shapes our attitude to them. The word language comes from the Greek word logos, which means category or concept. With language we categorise, we distinguish and we create our reality. Whilst there are different opinions about to what extent this works, the way we describe things is a powerful contributor to the way that we experience them. But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought ~ George Orwell In projects, it’s one of our guiding principles in the '6R Team Playbook' that we name things plainly. Avoid jargon We try to avoid jargon where possible (at least until everyone has learned the new terminology). If we mean people, we say people rather than the very dry and somewhat demeaning project terminology ‘resources’, which can refer to either people or other resources (financial, technical or physical). For our projects, we look to name meetings in a way that gives the meeting meaning. For example, we used to have a meeting called ‘State of the Nation’, which was about where everything was up to and what state it was in. Having a meeting name that describes the meeting and hopefully makes it easy to remember. I like names that also describe what happens in the meeting. The way we describe our meetings and our experiences, particularly right now, shape how we see what's going on. The words we choose matters One of the descriptions I keep reinforcing with my daughter is that we're in confinement (at our house at least, I do not speak for everyone). We are not in quarantine because no one at our house is sick; we are not in isolation because we have each other - our friends and our family are there on video, and phones and apps. We have not been locked up (or down) because we are still able to go and get the essentials or do things that keep us from going completely bonkers. We are physically distancing from one another, not 'socially' distancing. We need to be more socially connected now than ever in order to help one another through this. My daughter's school have been very clear that they are in ‘temporary off-campus learning’. Whilst it has resulted in eye rolls from teenagers, it does describe what’s going on. It’s temporary, which is not forever, although I am sure for many students and parents who are working in the same space, that it probably feels interminably long. It’s off-campus - meaning that we’re not at school campus but where students are might not be at ‘home’. It’s still learning, and my are we learning; to adapt, to accept and to be creative about our new circumstances. Remain visible Nothing really replaces face to face exchanges. There is something very useful about being able to ‘read the mood’ of a room. We know that up to 10,000 non-verbal cues can be exchanged in one minute of face-to-face interaction, so turn on the camera! It’s not quite the same as being in the same room, but it really helps to be able to at least see another face. Video meeting tools will be the new essential for building relationships with teams. I know that learning new things is hard and re-share some tips to smooth the way. I have worked some days from home for a while, and whilst I used to cherish this time at my desk, I am now getting a bit sick of the same view. So mix it up, working some days from the kitchen table and some on the couch and finding the best light for zoom calls around the house. Whilst it sounds silly, it is really important for me to get dressed in work clothes and put in a bit of effort to create the right mood for myself. It’s been weeks since I’ve done makeup but I’m embracing lipstick, at the moment, as a way to feel like I’m ‘at work’. Energy matters If you, as the meeting facilitator, are flat or come across as ‘over it’ - it makes it hard for the team to bring the right energy to the table. When we show up as team leaders with positivity and empathy for our teams, then they can tell we care. Better listening can help improve project outcomes, which I share here. Even if you’re not on video, smile when you speak. People can hear it in your voice 😊 Tips for communication in confinement: Apart from the obvious (make sure if you’ve got the camera on that you’re dressed 😉). Choose language carefully (avoid jargon, people are people not resources). Name meetings and milestones in a way that makes them memorable. Turn the camera on – you need the visual cues as much as possible right now. Make a bit of effort on the presentation side of things, it will give you a bit of a lift. Energy is contagious, empathy and care are part of what your team needs. And if all else fails, move your 'desk' around to give you a lift and a change of pace; it might well improve the way you communicate with your team. If you or your team are struggling with the best way to navigate during this time, get in touch.  We work 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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Have You Got These Four People Working in Your Project?

There are four foundation project roles that are essential to ensure your project has in place to start well, keep momentum and finish strong. Like the four wheels on a car, they need to be pumped to the right level and all aligned in the same direction to work at their best. Four Foundation Project Roles Vision Makers/Sponsors are people who want to see the project succeed. They take on financial decisions and have the authority to approve expenses, assist with procuring any additional funds, if needed, and keep Executive focus. Technical experts, or Subject Matter experts with technical skills, are people who know how the software works. They have the right technical skills and ability to advise on the configuration (or development) of the software, and guide, based on expertise, on the match of software to the business process. Business expert or those who will be stuck using the software. These people have insight into how the business process works right now. They will know what needs to be done day-to-day. These are people who've got the right knowledge to be able to contribute to the project in the form of business process and improvements, i.e. Stakeholders, Business Analysts and those who are impacted by the project. Project Managers are people who can co-ordinate, document, articulate decisions, monitor the timeline and stay focused on the goals of the project and keep everyone heading in (generally) the same direction. When we start preparing project teams and selecting (or negotiating for) people to contribute to the effort of a project, choosing the right combination of people from across the business and project partners makes all the difference. Just because someone is available to be on the project team doesn’t mean they should be. Although we don't always get to choose; and we often inherit project participants. In this situation, a skills gap analysis is helpful so that we can build out an inherited team with additional skills. Each project has the need for a different blend of skills and balancing that blend is the job of the Project Manager and Sponsor. When you're coming into a team that's already formed, being able to get a sense of how the team is operating allows you to figure out where the problems are. Good Working Behaviours We've put together some thoughts on what good working behaviours look like and some woeful ones so that if you see them, you can develop a plan to get it back on track: Most of the time we find ourselves helping businesses that don’t ‘do’ projects all the time. So the people who have been handed a project role may have no idea what’s expected of them. This is where clarity of what’s expected of each role is helpful. It’s important to define what each person is responsible for at the outset. Getting clarity about what’s expected and who is required makes it easier for people to plan their own work and contribute when they are most needed. If you are embarking on a new project, we have experience in building project teams that get the job done. We invite you to connect here.

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12 point Christmas Holiday Checklist for Business

Updated 3 December 2019 What do you think when someone mentions Christmas & summer holidays? My mind goes to lazy days spent at the beach, BBQs, warm balmy evenings that go on forever. Relaxation, a chance to recharge and reconnect. Then you remember you are a business owner, you have the lead up to Christmas to get through first, and that ‘ can almost taste summer’ feeling quickly evaporates. But it needn’t be the case if you start preparing early enough. It is easy to get caught up in overwhelm but like all things; The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. – Walt Disney We have put together a quick Christmas Holiday checklist to help you prepare for the "silly season": Christmas Cards Christmas Party Marketing Plans, Goals, Strategies & Steps Schedule Blog Posts, Social Media & Newsletters Christmas Branding Christmas & New Year Promotions Review Subscriptions Review Cash Flow Review Team Cover Review Emails Let People Know Book in for Beautification (Read more)

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How Better Listening Can Improve Project Outcomes

An upsetting recent experience Have you ever felt like the person you’re speaking to is just not listening? Last week, we pulled the plug on a server migration. If you've ever done a move like this, you know how hard a call this is to make. The team had been working on this for the past five months. Multiple teams of people had gone above and beyond to make it happen, and to say we were gutted at this result doesn’t even begin to cut it. What brought about this unexpected and disappointing outcome? In the end, it came down to one question. It was one of the first questions we had for the software vendor. It was asked multiple times through the process, and it turns out, at the last minute, that the wrong answer had been given, multiple times! It was like the software vendor was hearing the words and doing the surface motions of listening but not really getting it! Oscar Trimboli (deep listening expert) really had this covered when he made this comment: 'Projects that run over schedule and budget, (and) customer opportunities that are missed, nine times out of ten can be put down to that we're listening to the words but not the meaning'. Stephen R. Covey, of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame, shares his ideas on effective listening framed as a ‘listening continuum.' Like a ladder of improvement, the pinnacle of his continuum is empathetic listening, at which point the listener has achieved the ability to listen within the other’s frame of reference. We see empathetic listening practised among a variety of professionals who want to help their clients, including counsellors, HR managers, CEOs and VPs. It's an important quality of leadership. One of the key qualities of empathic listening is to stay out of judgement. Christine Porath and Douglas R. Conant researched the turnaround at Campbell Soup and credited an increase in what they called ‘civility,' a vital component of this was ‘listening better.' You can read about their findings here. They talk about the time and effort that is required to create a culture of civility that has its foundations in listening, respect for each other and working to make people feel valued. Like lots of other research, their findings showed that it’s the small everyday interactions that count towards building trust. They heard the question and answered it, more than once, but they missed listening to the meaning. The meaning for us as the client (customer) had a significant impact on the rest of the business. To me, deep listening is a bit like an indicator on a car; right there and available for use but not used as often as would be helpful. So how can we all get better at listening deeply? Well, Oscar is an expert, and he describes four types of bad listening habits. I myself am an interrupting listener at times – seeking to solve the problem before the whole thing has been explained. In the case of our server migration gone wrong, someone seeking to solve the problem might well have helped us out. Some tips for better listening Sometimes it helps to have a physical thing to do, as a reminder or trigger. Some tips that I have picked up along the way that sometimes help me are: Take a deep breath (or three) and calm your own mind. Open your mouth a little (in a relaxed way, no goldfish impersonations required). Studies show that when we’re sitting in judgement, we’ve usually got our mouths firmly closed. Uncross your arms. Developing our listening skills benefits all team (and personal) interactions. This means spending an effort acknowledging people’s contributions and improving our own capacity to listen better. Getting to the meaning of what's really being asked can save you a lot of re-work and time wasted. It might even mean that when you ask that one super important question, your software vendor will really understand what you mean.  

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What if you Treated People as Assets?

Some time ago, (admittedly over a drink), a software provider was heard to wonder… “What if we selected the people we want to work with first, and then figured out the plan and the system?” At the time, this struck a chord. One of my measures of success is to ‘work with great people’, and I had enjoyed working with this provider.  To me, great people are those who are interested in doing the work and bringing their best efforts to it. I had observed how much faster the work flows and how clarity of decision making helps to smooth the path of working with software teams, even remotely! So, have you ever done this? Selected the people first and then figured out the plan? I’ve seen something like a hybrid approach, in that the big picture goal has been worked out, and then the team put together. Making sure you get the right people on the project team and the right mix of skills and intentions is important but how often does it get the level of attention it deserves? Stephen R. Covey in ‘The 8th Habit’ hits the mark, he observes… People are put on the P+L statement as an expense; equipment is put on the balance sheet as an investment. So his point is leading us to ask the question: What if, instead of treating people as an expense, we treat people as assets and look to appreciate their value through development and learning? How would that be on the balance sheet? Imagine an organisation's investment in people increasing in value over time instead of just increasing the liability accrued against their long service leave? "A good team makes the work go smoother (faster and better). Investing time and energy into developing that team means treating people with respect as a baseline", says Christine Porath author of “Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace.” Her study surveyed over 20,000 employees globally and found that employees who felt respected by their leaders reported: 56% better health and well-being, 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction, 92% greater focus and prioritization, 26% more meaning and significance, and 55% more engagement.” Compelling statistics in a tide of what feels like a world of increasing dis-interest, dis-satisfaction and dis-engagement. Patty McCord, author of “Powerful” and a founding contributor to the legendary culture at Netflix, (you know, the slide deck that has been viewed more than 16 million times), documents the path that Netflix took to stripping away bureaucracy and developing strong disciplines in their culture. They developed an environment that encouraged “open, clear and constant communication, the practice of radical honesty that was timely and face to face, strong fact-based opinions and rigour around debate." The focus was to take away as many layers as possible in terms of procedures and policies and create a trust that people already understand what the right thing is to do. What you call it is not the most important part. You can call it civility, or radical candour or a manifesto. The most important part is that the people part of the plan gets attention. And that we revisit it, frequently. The business of the business is evolving all the time, and so do teams need to evolve not just to meet the needs of the business but also the aspirations of the people in the team. In our project work, we work with teams who are at varying stages of development and evolution. Teams who are just starting out need vision and alignment of purpose according to this article and as teams grow, leaders need to adapt their style. Making sure that as your project comes to life you’ve considered how the people plan will evolve is a critical part of your success. We have seen exciting businesses with vision and ideas, with financial workability and operational expertise fall at the first hurdle because they have not thought through how to build out their team or create a decision-making framework that will allow them to move quickly. Making people an asset requires a shift in thinking and the ability to go against the status quo. Are you up for the challenge?

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