Category Archives: Organizational Culture

Human Kevlar

Human Kevlar

Think of an ideal team environment. Got something?

I suspect we can all come up with a physical environment conducive to great teamwork. But have you thought of the ideal psychological environment?

Both are necessary and yes, both are crucial.

As Project Manager, you have to do your very best to keep the team working smoothly and on schedule. Part of that task is protecting them from the sound and occasional fury from the client.

Every project has its challenges and it’s your job to ensure the project team is able to keep working without distraction and unnecessary stress.

As Project Manager, I am the one wearing the Human Kevlar Vest. I take the incoming fire from the client and mediate any issues.

Do I leave the project team in the dark about the issues? No, of course not. But I distill the issues down and, if necessary, suggest a shift in direction or adjustments. And I manage to do that without making the hairs on their collective heads stand up.

Protecting your team from the client is a good practice. So why isn’t it done more often?

I think I know why. It’s lonely being the only one communicating with the client. It can be frustrating not being able to share it with the very people who understand.

Find some colleagues outside the team circle to vent with: maybe some fellow Project Managers. Your cat or dog would do fine, in a pinch. Anyone really but your project team.

Do not throw them off their game. They need to focus on the actual work without histrionics undermining their progress. And unfocused stress can throw a spanner into the engine, shifting team dynamics and as such, workflow. In short, it can have long-term disastrous effects on the project.

If I take all the client’s issues and frustrations and spew them directly back at the project team, I am essentially abdicating my role as a leader. They don’t need to know every little comment or concern expressed at a client meeting. Breaking down the wall between client and project team creates an environment where the focus is lost and the project shifts based on the whims of nervous clients.

You’re the leader. You take the hits, protect your team while moving the product forward with client suggestions and adjustments.

Do you wear a Human Kevlar Suit? If not, maybe it’s time to get suited up….

What better way than to rev up your leadership approach? contactus@ksppartnership.com or call 925-639-4564 – let’s talk about the next step.


Project Managing the Holidays…

Project Managing the Holidays...

It’s upon us. The beginning of the holiday season. A long weekend with family, friends and even a few in-betweens!

If you’re the one who lost the family coin toss and face a throng of your loved humans at the door, then your project management skills are going to come in handy.

You are not going to do it all. No way. You’re going to manage it!

The time-honoured parallel path method of project management is a great skill to call upon. Ask everyone to take on a task suitable to their skills, then leave them to it.

Okay, it may not be that easy with Uncle Rob and his arthritis and Aunt Lucy with her bad leg but you get the idea.

You’ve given the potential turkey gobbling guests jobs. Now trust them. Do not give them new directions or interfere with their tasks. Just leave them the hell alone! They’re capable people!

It’s like an Instant Pot or any slow cooker for that matter. You put the ingredients in and turn it on. Every time you crack open the pot, you stop the process and have to reset it. And don’t even think about adding new ingredients. That slows the process entirely.

Being an exceptional project manager is sometimes about what you don’t do as much as what you do.

Sure, you hire a team, assign roles, set a timeline, deliverables and such. Those are the basics.

If you develop a team and their professional relationships are clicking, then you have to do something that seems counter-instinctive. You have to have the discipline to step back and let the team congeal and work together.

Sound easy? Well, it isn’t. But it calls on your skills as a project head far more than just routine pushing, cajoling and repeating.

Let me be specific. Increasingly I want teams to use peer review as part of their process on a constant and ongoing basis. To be realistic, I want them to do it on an informal basis at first and then develop the skill so they perform it in a non-threatening way.

I introduce it to them in one of the first few meetings we have and hope that a few of them commit to trying it. I monitor the first few reviews to guide them and add pointers and such.

Crucially I don’t chase them around to be in on every single damn review session! To be successful, they have to integrate it into their development process. I’m not going to be around all the time and for good reason. I have to let them evolve and work with this on their own.

They know I'm around but they want to develop an autonomy of their own. No one wants the teacher coming in to mediate every issue that arises for a very simple reason. They may not like the outcome!

You built this team: trust that you did a good job and let them work together with the mechanisms you put in place. Teams have organic energy all their own. Mess with it and you can ruin it.

Just let it be.

This isn’t about the team, it’s about your leadership. You have to be sure enough of your leadership and skill at building the team to know when you’re not needed. Teams want to work and move a project forward. Trust that your presence is felt. They know where you are when they need you. But they just may work better if you give them the room to work together.

During a speech at the Harvard Business School in 2015, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said: “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence."

As I said at the beginning, leadership is as much about what you don’t do as what you do. Trust yourself by trusting your leadership skills. And trust the team.

But back to the turkey crew. You’ve got the skills to turn them into a team! You’ve got this and crucially, they do too! Trust them!

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday – and if you don’t celebrate the holiday? Here’s to a terrific start to the holiday season!

If the crew-to-team-to-ensemble development pattern sounds intriguing give us a shout – contactus@ksppartnership.com – we’d love to have that conversation with you.


Change…One Step at a Time

Change... One Step at a Time

You know you can improve your professional self. Of course you know and of course, you can.

The ‘how’ is the problem.

The mother of all self-improvement initiatives happens the first day of any given year. As we shrug off the lingering effects of the night before, we vow to make some changes to better ourselves. I’ve done it, you’ve done it.

By that, I mean made the vows, not the actual changes. We start off with much promise, signing up for workshops, programs and gym memberships and by March they’re just so many rollover items on our credit card statements making us feel just a bit worse than we did on December 31st. New Year’s resolutions are an excellent example of good intentions gone bad.

So can we change? Well, of course, we can. But it doesn’t involve a list.

Often it’s just one thing. Don't try to change everything at once and forever. Maybe just change one thing at a time.

Here’s why. When we try to change too much at once, the combination of learning those changes while maintaining the rhythm of our lives is just too much for most of us.

Consider any one of the sessions you’ve been in or perhaps led. There are always takeaways, sometimes implicit, mostly explicit, to spur change in our professional strategies.

There is always a PowerPoint slide suggesting you “please go to the action plan and jot down what you will do differently as a result of having finished this module”.

So when you’re sitting down the day after the class, you review the 12 things that you have now committed to doing differently based on the entire class. But, here’s the thing. You're not going to succeed at any of them because you're taking on too big a task, twelve of them to be exact.

So was the session a waste? Nooo, not at all. But how many habits can you really change at a time?

Not as many as we might hope. But even then, it’s not that simple. It’s about the scale and number of the changes. Most importantly, it's about both those factors and you: how many you can handle. That’s not easy to quantify as it involves so many shifting variables; your schedule and your life among them.

Let’s tackle this another way. Let’s go back - or ahead - to New Year’s Eve and changes we want to make.

I think we make the mistake of quantifying the changes too quickly. Consider your desire to be healthier in the coming year.  You’ve learned that aiming for a specific amount of pounds or inches hasn’t worked for you. So, in 2020 you resolve to be healthier. This is good. Now, what does that mean to you?

Does it mean joining a gym, taking up a cooking course focused on healthy eating or just something as simple as walking to work once a week?

This is exactly the process we use when discussing project strategies with clients. What does success look like to them? Do you start with a solution? Ideally, I would hope not. The smart questions center around how they see this project changing their company or business. From there, solutions and strategies develop.

As goes your clients, so go your resolutions. Smart resolutions.

Set your goals, one at a time. But make it a smart goal, be it your health or a new car. Focus on what that success means to you and shape it as you move toward your goal. Let the solutions develop from the goal.

When done incrementally your goals will be achievable. Don't start with a solution. Start with your vision of success for you or a client and let it grow from there.

What does success mean to you? Are they successes or just re-positioned solutions? If you find these ideas key to growing your project management prowess, please be in touch with Kimi or Michael at info@ksppartnership.com.


How the NFL’s work to mitigate head injuries and unsportsmanlike conduct was dealt a deadly blow

How the NFL’s work to mitigate head injuries and unsportsmanlike conduct was dealt a deadly blow

Wow.  Talk about unsportsmanlike conduct.

Last night Myles Garrett dealt a blow that will reverberate for at least the immediate future of his career.  Why do I believe it is only the immediate future?

We don’t seem to have much of an attention span these days.

If there is a lesson to take from this event, then, we’d best take it quickly.

Let’s start with the immediate participants.  Garrett and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph are both, albeit in unequal portions, to blame for this getting out of hand.

Didn’t anyone teach either of them to walk away?

Garrett is quoted as saying all sorts of things – all of which are considered ‘appropriate’. Here’s what I keep looking for.

Why hasn’t he apologized to Rudolph?

If John Maxwell’s principle of 360° Leadership is anything to go by, Garrett shouldn’t have to wait to be told what to do.  His conscience and values should have already informed him.

The NY Times coverage, being my primary source of information here, also cites Brown’s coach and Mayfield, the Cleveland quarterback, as weighing in as well.

Still no apology to Rudolph.

Leadership is not about ducking responsibility. It’s about owning up to the harm your action has caused. And it’s not about you – it’s about the people you have harmed by your actions.

A culture that is truly leadership driven is about everybody.

What is your team’s culture? Does it celebrate the collaborative spirit of each of the individuals or does it tempt people with the rewards for ‘rock star’ standards?

Learn more about how team leaders can create and support higher performing teams at leadershipdrivenprojectmanagement.com or on the KSP Partnership channel on YouTube.

Or, of course – you could always contact me directly! kziemski@ksppartnership.comNFL - Penalty called forNFL - Penalty called for


Civil Discourse and Communication

Civil Discourse and Communication

The harshness of our current political culture has a way of seeping into all aspects of our lives, and yes, even into our work lives.

I find this shift rather disheartening and even disgusting. Harshness means polarization and that means an almost profound lack of communication, respectful or otherwise.

Simply put, it’s about civil discourse. How we communicate with regard to politics should be the same as when we engage our teams and vice versa.

In far too many situations, standing up for one’s self or opinion is done at the expense of caring for others.

There’s been a lot of focus in self-help circles about authenticity, being true to one’s self. That’s fine in theory but when executed, somewhat ham-fisted. I do not believe that standing up for yourself has to mean running roughshod over everyone else.

I’ve noticed that some of the worst drivers on our roads are those with Baby On Board stickers on their rear windows. If your baby is important to you then we should also expect you to be a very good, cautious driver.

It’s not about using the sticker to shift the responsibility for your children’s safety onto fellow drivers. Seeing that sticker signals to me that you are asking us to care for your children as much as you do. That is absolutely wonderful and we will. But you have to as well. When you see that sticker on a vehicle that just cut you off or roared past you on the inside lane, am I the only one who hopes that the baby is NOT on board at that moment – because the care requested by that sticker is not being exercised by that driver.

That driver is also not being respectful to our fellow citizens. This in turn circles us back to civil discourse.

For example, using your views on global warming as a cudgel rather than an incitement to make the world better, is a good example of how not to get your views heard. It’s not about you, it’s about communicating your message to achieve change.

It’s about how we speak to each other, how we communicate our ideas without slamming other’s ideas or even who they are as a person.

The ‘hows’ of communication always win out over ‘what’ you’re communicating. And in fact, it can ensure you’re being heard far more than the presumed veracity of your arguments.

How does the culture of your teams support civil discourse – respectful disagreement? If you believe it could be better we’d love to support that – info@ksppartnership.com.


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