Author Archives: Kimi Ziemski, MBA, PMP, CSM

How You Lead is How You Behave

Flying is simply part of how I “commute” to work.  Sometimes, just like on highway 88 in Illinois or 101 in California, you can run into really interesting examples of human behavior.

In Los Angeles, the other day, I had an opportunity to witness some of it.

At the rental car return 7 of us, then 11 of us, were waiting for the shuttle to take us to the airport terminal. Then it was 12 of us. One of the twelve was quite vocal about the annoyance this was causing her.  Her voice, her complaints, resonated with most of us. Then she kept demanding answers from a manager who didn’t have any answers.

Another car rental company’s shuttle driver approached the drop off area for a second time, assessed the situation and chose kindness.

“I’ll take you,” he offered.  “Come on – I have a couple of people waiting to get back to the airport that I need to pick up around the corner then I can take all of you.”

We swarmed down to his bus and, with many “thank you’s!” we boarded.

Along the way, the same traveler suggested he change his route – it would, she asserted, be faster. He politely declined; he had a route mandated by his boss. On the third time she tried to redirect him, he asked, looking up at the ceiling of the bus, “do you want to drive too?”

I was one of the last people he dropped off. I gave him a tip as a thank you for going out of his way.  He was pleasantly surprised and, almost as an afterthought, said that this was the only tip he had been offered.

I was embarrassed on behalf of my fellow travelers. I muttered something about how I appreciated what he did and walked into the terminal, shaking my head.

Many of the travelers that driver helped out were easily wearing more on their backs than he would make in a week. But that was not the heart of my distress.

What really bugged me was this:

Have we become so entitled that we believe that saying ‘Thank you’ to people covers it all? – even when people go out of their way? That’s it?


I hope not.  In this increasingly divided economic reality fewer and fewer people struggle to get to the end of the month without facing hard budget choices.  I mean hard decisions like “how much can I spend on groceries without having to call a few friends to see if we can carpool to work?” It may mean going in a couple of hours early or staying late but it would save critical money.

I don’t mean choices of “I really wanted to buy those shoes, that suit, that backpack, but I’m also saving for a Caribbean cruise so maybe I should hold off”.

When you choose not to be kind or generous in return for treatment that has been kind and generous it tells me something. It suggests that you are pretty sure that you are more important than they are.

Are you? Are you just in too much of a hurry to turn your attention away from yourself to a gesture of appreciation?

So what is it that keeps civility and good behavior going? Sometimes it’s the way we were raised. Sometimes it’s the surety of a “heaven or hell” type of choice.  Sometimes it’s being aware that the extreme focus on whatever we care about in that moment is making us blind to our fellow human beings.  And, while we may not always realize it, sometimes it’s our mirror neurons kicking in when we are around civil and well-behaved people.

The scary part is that those mirror neurons also pick up on patterns of behavior that, if we really think about it, we don’t actually want to adopt.  So I am taking a stand.

I don’t waste time and energy being frustrated by people who are self-centric, dismissive of the needs of others, or simply oblivious to the guidelines of ethical and humane treatment of others. I have decided, instead, to view those experiences as object lessons.

  1. Your example reaches further than you may realize – you don’t get to choose how many people your behavior will affect but you do get to choose what effect you make.
  2. It only takes a moment, a few dollars you may not even miss by the end of the day, to show appreciation for service you’ve received that was above and beyond.
  3. Reach for the ‘anti-goal’. I take it as an example of what I do not want to become – not even accidentally – and commit myself, as I will likely have to do a number of times, again, to a standard of kindness and generosity I can be proud of….even if it might get kind of lonely.

Will you join me there?

The Horrible Truth(s) About Feedback

As leaders – whether team leaders, project leaders or community leaders  – feedback is an integral  part of your responsibility to your team.

The reality is that it is hard to give feedback – both reinforcing and correcting feedback.

Gail  Golden,  who  specializes in coaching executives and teams of senior leaders, wrote about some of the challenges of feedback

What  particularly struck me? She isn’t  talking about the giving of feedback  – she focuses on the receiving of feedback.

The first horrible truth about feedback is we need to work on how we receive it – not just how we deliver it. It truly is a gift. Just like that strange looking candle that turned out to have the most heavenly scent, try to consider the gift of feedback based on the spirit in which it is given.

The second horrible truth about feedback is we are always learning how to do a better job at delivering it. In the Harvard Business Review the topic of feedback receives deep coverage – including coverage of changes in perspective about how feedback is or is not effective.

The third horrible truth about feedback is there can be multiple triggers driving both the giving and receiving. In Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well  (Penguin Books, 2014) they identify 1) truth triggers, 2) relationship triggers, and 3) identity triggers.

Confront these truths, these triggers. Make conscious decisions about how  you will both offer and receive feedback.  As a leader your approach to this critical issue will also serve as the example the rest of your team takes as a cue for how they handle the powerful and sometimes sensitive issue of feedback.

In a leadership-centric approach to project management you can raise your team’s productivity and effectiveness – and feedback can be a critical tool or a harmful weapon.  How will you help your team use feedback more effectively?

Thanks for joining me.

The Issue of Inclusion


The Issue of Inclusion

Recently a former boss of mine, Lora Stenard – amazing coach, by the way, shared an article on how Tim Ryan, is asking the PWC community to go forward  after the tragic death of one of their young  colleagues.

Because this is what leaders do – it’s one of the most important things that leaders do.

Face a horrid situation. Give the people around them specific steps to take on the way to recovering a higher level of themselves. Give that community of individuals the opportunity and direction to evolve to higher levels of mutual respect, enlightened cultural norms. Be there every step of the way – having their back and being at their sides.

This is true regardless of where your leadership is sourced. When your leadership is based within your own identity and ownership of how you can effect positive change in your world it means that your leadership has a particular double-edged sword.

It’s leadership that can’t be taken away.  And yet, you are also the only person who can execute on the specifics of how you craft your leadership style and message.

Is your message, as Tim Ryan’s is, that we will not pretend it didn’t happen and we will learn to become the community where it will not happen again?

Is your message, as Dr. King’s was, that we can achieve it – that dreams can come true?

Your teams look to your leadership for cues –  and they find it in how you behave. They find it in how you express your expectations of their behavior, not just their deliverables.

This is how they can grow their Collaborative Spirit with your support – with the direction that the leader is responsible for.


Tim Ryan Leads by Example

This is a chance to share stories about the amazing leaders who have taught you by example. How did someone teach you the power of leading by example, Oliver F. Lehman,MSc., PMP; Mark Leheny, Agnieszka Maria Gasperini, Candice Thompson, MBA, PMP, CSM, SSBB, ITIL, CWTS; Rosemary Hossenlopp; Corinna Martinez; Andy Kaufman, PMP, PMI-ACP?

Lead by Example – Humor

Recently a client of mine came to me with a problem I hadn’t heard about in a long time.

He had the funny feeling that his boss didn’t actually like him as much as he kept saying. It was a series of little things.

When he told me what his boss had said, I told him that he wasn’t wrong – but that he also might not necessarily be correct.

His boss was notorious for having a laugh at someone else’s expense and then protesting ‘What’s wrong? Can’t you take a joke?’.

That isn’t a joke. It’s passive aggressive bullying.

In her recent article , Rebecca Morgan, an international coach on growth and leadership, takes this subject on with clarity and courage. I say courage because she lays bare her own struggle with this type of humor. In childhood she had been taught that it was a form of affection – even as it subtly and insidiously chipped at self-worth and self-confidence.

Rabbi Edwin Friedman wrote ‘A Failure of Nerve’,  addressing some key points where he believes we, as a society and as individuals, fail ourselves and our organizations. In it he suggests if you truly want to understand a person’s leadership you must understand the organizational culture of the first organization they were a part of – their family.

The culture of your team will evolve whether you guide it or not. In leadership-centric project management we believe every aspect is one that you positively affect. How you encourage or discourage the use of humor and language is a big part of it – and it’s accomplished by leading by example.

So when you start to make a ‘funny’ ask yourself: Would this comment invite a defense of ‘Where’s your sense of humor?’ or ‘Gee, I was just kidding!’?

If it would prompt that kind of defense, then just don’t say it. Build your team members up – be the project or team leader that helps people grow and progress, not question and hold back.

Upcoming Events

  • Critical Thinking and Better Problem Solving June 10, 2019 Washington DC
  • Critical Thinking and Better Problem Solving June 11, 2019 Washington DC
  • Critical Thinking and Better Problem Solving June 12, 2019 Washington DC