Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book suggestions

Here are some key books (in my opinion) that I think will help you be successful as a Project Manager and beyond


  1. The 7 habits of highly effective people  by Steven Covey. This is a classic which every person interested in leadership should read
  2. Made to stick by Chip & Dan Heath. This is about communicating ideas so that they stick with your audience. Naturally this is also a big topic for Project Managers
  3. Influence by Robert B. Cialdini . A classic with tons of useful information about how "influence" works
  4. Getting past No by William Ury. If you want to learn more about negotiating this is the book to start with.
  5. Drive by Daniel H. Pink. Explains what drives people. If you want to learn more about Motivation this is a good book to read.
  6. Mojo by Marshall Goldsmith. He is a famous advisor to business leaders and this book is about how to achieve happiness and meaning in our lives. 
If you read these books and apply what you've learned you will be more successful. But keep in mind that just consuming them and then forgetting about them doesn't help. You have to take some time and really apply the advise that works for you and your situation.  

If you want some advise on relaxing (especially for high stress jobs) I would suggest one book by Thich Nhat Hanh like "Peace is every step" . This can also help in business situations by learning to focus on the moment and not getting distracted. 
Good reading!



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Basic Communication skills

Clear communication is a critical key to most business activities (e.g. Programs, Projects, Business Transformations, M&A, QBR etc. ) . Do you spend enough time on it? Do you get your communications across to the intended recipient(s) as planned? How do you measure if your communications come across as planned?

Basic Steps - This needs to be done at the beginning of every communication effort/project
  • Determine who needs what kind of information - Stakeholder determination 
  • When does he/she need this information? 
  • Who will deliver the information? - keep company culture etc in mind 
  • How will the information be delivered? (e.g. Face-to-Face, phone, email) 
That sounds very easy doesn't it? But as you know in reality this can be quite tricky. Here some notes on what you should pay close attention to.

  1. Keep in mind who you communicate with! Executives prefer high level, clear summaries w/o you going into all the details. They don't have the time for that and rely on you to work this out. For meetings with Subject Matter Experts be prepared to discuss more details. Don't succumb to the trap to use the same communication for different audiences. In most cases this will not work! 
  2. Use words that everyone understands in your environment! 
  3. Really listen before you try to answer any questions! Take your time to answer questions! Note: If you think about the next meeting or planning the next activity in your current communication you are not really paying attention. There is a reason why you have two ears and one mouth. 
  4. If possible do really important communications in person ! (Note: 55% of communication is non verbal!) 
  5. Be aware of cultural differences when you communicate! Check this link and/or check this book
  6. Be transparent in your communications! This will establish trust. 
  7. Keep all your business communications professional at all times 
Lastly, be prepared that you will be a lifelong learner of communications and don't ever stop learning more.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

20 Employee Recognition Idea's for your Team

To recognize our team members/peers is important to keep or establish a good working environment. Most of us spend a lot of time at work and want to do an excellent job at whatever we do so it is important to show sincere appreciation to the people we work with.
Note the goal here is to encourage the best possible performance from all team members (including yourself!) and not to try to manipulate people.  This certainly doesn't mean we all need to pad each other on the back and build a perfectly harmonic environment. In some cases it might be helpful to have a more competitive environment to achieve the best possible goal. In any case there are thousands to books, podcasts, articles etc on this topic. Below I have put some key idea's that I consider a good starting point for Employee Recognition. Note that while most of these idea's are not new we need to implement them to ensure they help our team. Are you doing any of these in your team?

Here 20 Employee Recognition idea's for your team

  1. Say "Thank you!" - In person whenever possible or written to give more visibility to other people. This is easy and probably the most important but unfortunately not nearly done often enough. Note that this needs to be personal and honest! If you need to fake it don't do it!
  2. Offer Job Rotations or consider Job Promotions (for people who show initiative) 
  3. Start a program that allows employees to submit suggestions for improvement. In order to make this effective you need to be ready to implement (some of) these improvements
  4. Allow employees to choose their next assignment
  5. Provide interesting work/project
  6. Facilitate Training (technical and non-technical)
  7. Recognize Anniversaries (Birthdays, long service etc.). When you do that don't give away cheap stuff. This needs to be done sincerely with appreciation or not done at all.
  8. Buy books and magazines for your team (not just business related books but everything that is intellectually stimulating) 
  9. Have a Wall of Fame with Photos of your team 
  10. Provide Gift Cards (e.g. Starbucks, Amazon, Best Buy etc.) 
  11. Cinema/Movie Tickets  
  12. Provide "Work from home" opportunities
  13. Give publicly credit for employees who deserve it. E.g. write a Thank you message to your employees on the entrance door of your building or office, make sure senior leaders get visibility to this as well
  14. Promote Team building activities (e.g. once per week/month/quarter ... whatever works for your team). This could be a company picnic, pizza party, ice-cream afternoons, get together at the end of the day etc.
  15. Provide Educational Opportunities (e.g. ongoing professional development, language, scholarships etc.)
  16. Setup regular Lunch or Dinner with Senior Leaders
  17. Showcase your employees and their work to your leaders. Communicate clearly why they are important to your team. Add pictures when possible and appropriate 
  18. Show sincere interest in your employees' professional development. You need to follow up on this with action to make it authentic. This doesn't mean that you can give everyone what they want but you can help show a way that can get them there. Keep in mind that you will benefit from a strong network as well since your employees will go off to different areas of your company or switch companies
  19. Publicly communicate an employee's ideas and suggestions and their positive impact to your team
  20. Time off for Charity or Volunteer work
The key for all these ideas (and the thousands more that you can find on Google etc.) is that you keep the team motivated, engaged and feeling valued and appreciated. Don't underestimate these ideas they can really make a difference.