2014 in Review
Here is the WordPress.com helper monkey stats for my site in 2014. Not sure this is of interest to the general public, but if so, here you go!
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
Be Friendly – Not a Friend
As a leader, you can be friendly with your team but you can’t be friends. This is one of the hardest transitions to make as you move into a leadership role. In the early part of your career, you’re “one of the guys” and that works when you’re a member of a team. But you can’t be one of the guys once you are responsible for leading people.
First off, it’s awkward. You’re no longer “one of the guys” and acting as though you are will only make people uncomfortable. One of the guys can’t fire you or request that the project sponsor have you removed from the team. Luckily, your best people probably don’t want you to be their friend – at least not while they work for you. Strong teams want strong leaders – not best buddies. A strong leader focuses on making smart decisions on the team’s behalf and not on making friends. Unfortunately, your weaker players probably do want a best buddy, assuming that “friends won’t fire friends.”
Not being friends doesn’t mean you have to be a cold, calculating automaton. Leadership is about influence, which is earned by everything you do, say or write. Being friendly is a leadership style and while it doesn’t mean kissing up to your team, it does mean being a decent human being and maintaining a positive, open attitude. It’s easier to earn influence if you’re friendly and approachable.
Being friendly is a good way to put your team at ease and to foster open and regular communication – the lifeblood of any good functioning team. This also sets a positive example for your team on how to relate to other people. A team that regularly earns influence within an organization will strengthen their ability to execute and get things done. This is a key cultural goal for any leader in building an effective team.
Being friends with people on your team gives the appearance of favoritism and may alienate some of your more effective resources. Instead, seek to earn your team’s respect by setting a good example and by being friendly and open to their ideas. You’ll be surprised how forgoing friendship while working with your team will often result in true friendships after your professional relationship has changed….and I’m speaking from personal experience.
© 2014, Mark E. Calabrese
YouTube Channel – Do or Don’t?
One of my mentors here in Carmel has suggested I set up a YouTube channel. A few other people have encouraged me to do the same. Now it’s not that I don’t like to hear myself talk. Many friends and one spouse will most likely readily acknowledge that. I have double concern about how I will come across in video and having video of me “holding forth” out on the web. But I have another question – will it add value?
My goal with this blog is to produce ideas, frameworks and tools that others can steal and use themselves. I also like getting the feedback on if it worked and I really like it when people share back how they’ve modified some of my material and how it worked for them (letting me “steal back”). I like this kind of stuff. So I ask myself, how valuable would a video be as opposed to the written word?
Anyway, I’m open to thoughts if anyone cares to share them. Let me know what you think.
Making Your Needs Known: Three Questions To Answer
Your boss and your business partners get lots of requests. How do you make sure that your requests get the visibility and action that is needed for you and your teams to be successful? The key is simplicity – be brief and clear. There are three key pieces of information that should be included in your email request:
- What do you need?
- When do you need it?
- What will happen if you don’t get it?
What You Need: Keep it brief and clear. Don’t provide a detailed history of the request, technical details, long horror stories, etc. Do provide enough information so that the reader gets it on the first pass – be as clear as possible. The desired response to your email is a “yes” and not a long thread with Q&A about the details, so take a moment and ask yourself if you are being clear.
When Do You Need It: This is your message to the world that you and your team are likely to fail unless your request is granted. This is not necessarily a time to try and “game the system” by asking for something on Tuesday when you can wait until Friday. Use your own judgment if my advice here will get you in trouble at your own company. Another tip – don’t just give the day, but also give the date and (if relevant) the time. Finally, it may be worth your time to explain why you need it when you need it.
What Will Happen If You Don’t Get It: This is the key part of your email. Avoid the temptation to be dramatic. Instead, be clear as to the operational and business implications of you not getting what you are requesting. Keep in mind that yours will not be the only request crossing your boss’ desk, so framing the implications in a business or operational context will help her make the best decision for the business and will also help brand you as a leader who can think past his own silo.
Although you are clear about what you need and the implications of your not getting it, sometimes your boss is going to say ‘no’. Therefore, make sure you have options either in your head or in your email. This way you are less likely to paint your boss in a corner if she simply cannot honor your request at present.
A good leader doesn’t just surface problems. He also offers options/solutions and a recommendation. Help make both you and your boss successful by sharing your thought leadership and presenting her options if your request can’t be honored. Don’t drown her with details. Instead, keep it simple and focus on the business impact.
© 2013, Mark E. Calabrese
Late last year, I left my position with Thomson Reuters to take a GM role with internet start-up, ChaCha. The firm was founded by serial inventor, thinker and entrepreneur, Scott Jones. Initially, I went down to Carmel, Indiana to see what this was all about after being contacted by Doug Rowe, who runs ProfyleTracker – an Indy recruiting firm. A good friend and colleague, Greg Siefert, served as their CTO for a year.
After only a few hours with Scott, listening to his vision for ChaCha, I was hooked. The current site doesn’t really give a good indication of what’s to come. Check the App Store in mid/late March of this year and try out our application. We’re taking internet Q&A to the next logical level and make it far more interactive than it’s been before.
Much more to come!
I got a nice mention regarding i.c.stars and their i.c.idols competition. I’ve worked with Aaron Cox, participating in and supporting this competition for this very worthwhile group. I highly recommend i.c.stars to anyone out there, looking for a way to give back to the greater community. Good people doing good things!
Project Management in an Agency Model: Acting as a Steward (Part 5)
Another thing worth mentioning about project management in an agency model; things tend to get busy during Q1! After quite a few weeks of business-imposed hiatus, I’m back to finishing up this post.
To get us caught up, in reviewing Project Management in an Agency Model we’ve covered the opportunity available to project managers, what it means to manage the project experience and how knowing the business impacts your ability to add value to your client, your firm and your own brand/career. In this installment, we’ll talk about what it means to act as a steward to your client and your firm.
A quick check of www.dictionary.com defines ‘steward’ as “a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs.” This is your role as the project manager. You are responsible for advising your client on how to best manage their project investment to successfully solve their business problems. By so doing, you are also helping manage your client’s reputation within their firm and, depending on the scope of the project, within their industry.
As trusted advisor and steward to your client, the best approach is to treat their problems, their investment and their reputation as if they were yours. Your knowledge of the product or service you are implementing, as well as your understanding of their business and industry puts you in a unique position to help your clients achieve success. Partner with them, taking the attitude that this is also your project and while you are aligned with your client, their interests and yours are one in the same.
Likewise, you are a steward and advisor to your own firm. As noted previously, every word you speak or write, every conversation, every meeting, even how you hang up the phone at the end of a conference call builds on your firm’s brand and reputation. As with your client, treat your firm’s brand and reputation as your own.
The same is true with your firm’s money. As the project manager, you have an opportunity to drive profitability (especially in a fixed fee model) by managing your project in such a way as to make the best use out of every hour spent. By managing your project efficiently, you not only maximize the output from the team but you can also free up enough time to allow team resources to focus on other billable work.
You also are in a good position to leverage the firm’s primary investment – talent. How you manage your project team, how you deal with conflicts and issues internally, all help brand you, your PMO team and your delivery organization within the firm. By focusing on making not only your project, but everyone associated with the project successful, you contribute to making your firm a great place to work. This is how you can help keep your firm’s top talent WITH YOUR FIRM.
Ultimately, the best thing you can bring to your clients and your firm is your solid commitment to uphold and live out your values as a project management professional. Acting as a steward and trusted advisor makes you effective at delivering on your specific tactical objectives, but also makes you a major strategic asset to your firm in retaining both clients and talent. Act as a steward, focusing on making your peers and clients successful.
© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese
A friend of mine out in Baltimore used to tell me, “Should-hood leads to Shit-hood”. This is particularly applicable to those of us in management roles. Whether you’re managing a project, a team or even your own life, focusing on the ‘should’ can be a good thing or a bad thing.
“Should-hood” – the mindset of focusing on what should be – isn’t bad in the right context. Focusing on what ‘should be’ is how we apply our core values to our own words and actions. ‘Should’ is a very powerful mindset…..when applied to oneself. The problem comes when we focus on what ‘should be’ when it comes to the words and actions of others.
There are countless factors that impact everything we do and while we have varying amounts of influence over each of these factors, rarely do we have control of them. The good news is that there is one element in every situation over which we have 100% control – ourselves. The bad news is that we often focus on those elements that, even on our best day, we can only hope to influence….which inevitably leads to “Shit-hood” – that terrible feeling that nothing is as it should be and that life and work are hopeless.
So what to do?:
- Accept the fact that you can only hope to influence anything or anyone that isn’t you. Even if you hold a gun to someone’s head and tell them to start dancing, they can always say “screw you – shoot me.”
- Instead, focus your efforts on the elements that are 100% within your control – your own words and actions
- With this fact in mind, work to observe and listen to others to gain an understanding of what IS
- With an understanding and acceptance of what IS, focus your energy on what you can do, say or write to influence those elements of your work that you need to manage in order to be successful.
Ultimately, “should” is a word best used when looking in the mirror. Obsessing on what ‘should be’ when dealing with others will provide you countless ways to be frustrated and unhappy. Focus your energy on those elements of every situation that are 100% within your control – your own words and actions – and avoid ‘Shit-hood’. It’s not that nice a neighborhood anyway.
© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese
Apologies to anyone following my blog, wondering why there haven’t been any recent posts. My motherboard died on my Sony Vaio. I took my laptop to Abt (for those of you who don’t live in Chicago, Abt is the electronics toy store for adults – let’s face it, it’s mostly for guys, as we like things that plug in, light up and make noise), as I have an extended service contract with them. At first they told me they’d put a 2-day rush on the part. Then a few days later they told me it would be 7-10 days. THEN they told me it would be a few more days. THEN they told me they’d give me a loaner….then I found out that they had receive the motherboard and installed it…..but that the keyboard and mousepad were also fried and that those parts were on order.
Mind you, this all transpired over two weeks and one day. I’m starting my third week with no laptop, but through the generosity of a good friend, I finally have a loaner. I’ll be calling Abt later today to find out if the parts will REALLY be in on Tuesday and if I’ll get my laptop back on Wednesday. In the meantime, I’ll be using this very nice temporary laptop, which is far, far better than typing up all my emails on my Blackberry using my thumbs.
HAT TIP: To Art Hopkins and Steven Getto for the spell check on ‘hiatus’!