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3 Most Common Barriers Keeping Conscious Business Leaders on the Hamster Wheel



[originally published in the Huffington Post on 25 Nov 2016]

If there ever was a time to realize creative potential inside companies it is now. A quick look at the top issues facing companies of all sizes reveals the usual short list: attracting and retaining talent, managing reputation, with the need to create flexible workplaces and balance benefits with bottom line. While tempting to view these challenges with concern over the bottom line, doing so sabotages gains possible when entrepreneurial spirit applied to innovation is ignited full throttle. Even conscious business leaders, who keep an eye on the horizon (longer term), getting work done and being attentive to workplace dynamics, are still susceptible to running around in circles.

In case the term ‘spirit’ is distracting, a definition is in order. Personal spirit refers to three measurable elements:

  1. initiative,
  2. sense of control, and
  3. outlook on life.

Entrepreneurial spirit combines personal spirit with a sense of adventure, willingness to experiment, an insatiable desire to learn and a capacity to bounce forward.

Without entrepreneurial spirit at play, companies plod through the motions, guided by habitual processes and routine. The company runs on auto-pilot so much so that either the purpose of the task is assumed, or the underlying agenda is to explicitly or implicitly control behavior. Either way, the company falls asleep at the wheel numbing leaders into the same repetitive albeit comfortable cycle. Running hard to wind up in the same place.

Context Drives Behaviour and Regulates Entrepreneurial Spirit

The term ‘conscious business leaders’ applies to a small group since

85% of leaders in the U.S. are operating at the survival level. [See Seizing the Executive Imperative To Expand Consciousness] One source of the hamster wheel is the existence of internal politics. Behind internal politics is the desire to protect personal reputation at the expense of achieving business goals. Aversion to risk, and therefore innovation, is inherent. Entrepreneurial spirit suffocates in working climates where trust is low and expression of diverse ideas is suppressed. In contrast, innovation requires creativity and a comfort with uncertainty.

The Impact of Systemic Barriers

Systemic beliefs add to the pressure of delivering on short-term goals blocking innovation and adaptability. Attracting and retaining talent, or mitigating risks to reputation are restricted to a narrow set of strategies arising from one or more of these three dangerous barriers:

custom_sign_with_traffic_cones_11627Focusing on Recurring and Constant Barriers

Characteristic of problem oriented, adrenaline charged companies is the persistent focus on solving problems. Problems love analytical thinking. Innovation on the other side requires exploratory thinking – the opposite of problem solving. Linear thinking doesn’t help because problem solving tends to assume that there is a singular root cause. In a complex system, multiple causes exist. Unless perception is expanded you will find yourself running in circles: busy but not productive.

Asking leaders to innovate and apply their entrepreneurial spirit while continuing to focus on barriers keeps everyone running in a loop.

Personal Impact:

Leaders find themselves chasing problems. Since what you focus on expands, problems also expand. Adrenaline is addictive as is the illusion of feeling in control. In workplaces designed to control behaviour, business leaders at every level will find themselves repeating the same patterns over and over again.

Insight
Awareness of what you are focusing on helps you develop flexibility in how you perceive (see) the situation. Increasing flexibility gives you more options, while letting go of the need to control everyone else. It is a start at least.

custom_sign_with_traffic_cones_11627-3Falling Unconsciously into Organizational Patterns and Behaviors

Beliefs keep decisions running in a rut and operate without being noticed until you systematically poke them to the surface. For example, walk into a company that believes it exists to purely make a profit and you will find behaviours shaped by those beliefs. Or if, for instance, the core belief is that employees must be told what to do, then selection of metrics and implementation of performance management strategies will reflect that belief. Beliefs drive decisions unless the company and business leaders have deliberately worked with values as a principle-based approach to decision making.

Where habitual patterns operate on unchecked auto-pilot, efforts to explore and experiment (the prerequisites for innovation / entrepreneurial spirit) run smack into complacent thinking. “Do something different, but don’t change anything.”

Organizational Impact:

Take a look at the metrics. Whenever a company focuses on quantitative measures and statistics alone, meaning is likely to be missing. Without meaning there is no inspiration and no fuel to fire up creativity, much needed for innovative responses to uncertainty.

Insight
Reflecting to observe patterns in recurring issues or undesirable results, strengthens ability to pivot.

custom_sign_with_traffic_cones_11627-2Losing Connection to What Matters Most to You

By far the biggest barrier is to sight of what matters most to you as a fully aware and caring human being with a desire to contribute your talent to something meaningful. Yes, food needs to be put on the table but the days of trading your soul for security are gone. Rather than being driven by the need for societal approval or by metrics that manipulate behavior reconnecting to your personal sense of purpose and of inspiration is the only door available going forward.

Insight
Personal reflection to identify what you rely on: social approval, meeting external expectations for instance, enables you to chart a course toward personal fulfillment.

What do you see as the barriers to stepping off the hamster wheel and do what you believe, deep down, you’re truly capable of?

About Dawna Jones:

Dawna Jones delivers customized workshops and insights raising leadership and decision making awareness of a wider spectrum of skills and intelligences. She provides dynamic oversight into organizational change initiatives by spotting the patterns, and openings for innovation and fresh approaches to working with complex adaptive systems. Contact Dawna through LinkedIn or directly at www.FromInsightToAction.com

Follow Great Work Cultures on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GWCLeadLink

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How to Effectively Lead While Running Multiple Projects


Project leadership can be a complicated responsibility, especially when you’re managing multiple ventures at once. It’s important to think proactively and plan ahead to realize success. Gain a solid understanding of the leadership qualities needed to motivate your team and keep them inspired. Learn to delegate effectively, assigning the best possible people to complete each task.

Get Organized

Organization is key when managing multiple projects simultaneously. As the leader of the initiative, it is your responsibility to know the deadlines and goals associated with each project and ensure all activities stay on track. Meet with team members frequently for status updates, so you know exactly where each project stands. Pay close attention to how team members are working with one another to gauge the group dynamic.
It’s inevitable that you’ll incur roadblocks and unanticipated changes along the way, so prepare for these issues in advance. Coach your team on ways to manage change, so they’ll have the ability to effectively cope with potential setbacks and turn them into positive adjustments. Schedule regular meetings with stakeholders to provide updates and communicate changes.

Motivate Your Team

The motivation of team members has the ability to make or break the success of an entire project. It’s your job to lead by example, setting a positive tone for the entire group. When initially distributing assignments, make sure each person has a solid understanding of their responsibilities and your expectations. Ask for feedback and listen to all suggestions, as having a stake in the project allows a team member to feel a sense of ownership.
Maintain a high level of involvement in the project process and regularly acknowledge employees’ positive contributions, as people are motivated by praise. Help your team solve problems and stay focused on their tasks. Create a culture of communication, where people feel comfortable coming to you with questions. When changes need to be made, approach the situation carefully, explaining the need for the adjustment and the benefits it will bring. This can help team members maintain their sense of purpose.

Delegate Responsibilities

An effective leader doesn’t try to control every aspect of the project. Put your trust in employees by delegating assignments out to create a sense of shared responsibility, build trust, save time, increase skills and conserve resources. Make your expectations for each assignment clear and be sure each person understands the importance of their tasks. Provide feedback to let people know how they’re doing, allowing them to learn and grow. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised at what your team can achieve when given the freedom to reach their potential.
Staying organized, learning to effectively motivate team members and properly delegating responsibilities is the key to successful project leadership. When you lead your team the right way, you’re able to manage multiple projects at once without a hitch. Take the time to develop a system that works for your team and you’ll realize results you never thought possible.
Marwa Hijazi | University Alliance | Notre Dame

Marwa Hijazi writes about business topics related to leadership and management on behalf of University Alliance, a facilitator of leadership and management programs online.

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Applying Leverage Points for Greater Project Success


Project, program and portfolio management are people intensive activities, subject to personalities, differing agendas, and misunderstandings. Successful managers are those who, while not immune from these challenges, correctly assess and determine how to navigate political minefields. Personal case studies, along with examples from other people and industries, provide a proven means, first to accept that these challenges will arise, and second to work through them and achieve desired outcomes.

balance_bar_tipped_400_clr_6313Leverage points are activities within a complex system where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. This idea is embedded in legend: the silver bullet, the trim tab, the miracle cure, the secret passage, the magic password, the single hero who turns the tide of history, the nearly effortless way to cut through or leap over huge obstacles. We want to know where they are and how to get our hands on them. Leverage points are points of power.

An example in the physical world:  trim tabs are small surfaces connected to the trailing edge of a larger control surface on a boat or aircraft, used to control the trim of the controls—to counteract hydro- or aerodynamic forces and stabilize the boat or aircraft in a particular desired attitude without the need for the operator to constantly apply a control force. This is done by adjusting the angle of the tab relative to the larger surface. This reduces the work of the engine by reducing the amount of manual control necessary, as well as providing for greater efficiency by keeping the ship in the ideal orientation for the conditions.

What is the equivalent trim tab [leverage points] in the world of people and relationships? L2M2:  Leadership, Learning, Means, and Motivation. Examples where these “forces” apply include:

  • Speaking truth to power
  • Getting past resistance to achieve results
  • Working through a difficult encounter
  • Applying controlled anger
  • Negotiating with reluctant stakeholders
  • “Selling” and implementing a new process

The simple model of key leverage points—L2M2—may perhaps be sufficient as a recipe for greater project success. All four factors are necessary for this recipe to succeed:

Leadership is a well-articulated communication from the organization of what kind of new behavior is required and why it is required, along with a road map of the change that will take place over time.

Learning is the process of supplying the knowledge and skill necessary for individuals to carry out new behaviors. It includes learning support from the PMBOK, project leadership, and business skills, etc..

Means are all the resources necessary to carry out the behaviors, including tools, organizational policies and structures, and time.

Motivation is the formal and informal system of incentives and consequences that reinforce new behaviors. These are differentiated by role so that the required role-based behaviors are supported in all parts of the organization.

Behavior begins to change when all four factors work in concert. Without Leadership, people will not know how to apply their new knowledge and skill in concert with business strategic and tactical objectives. Without Learning, people may know what they are supposed to do from Leadership, but not know how to do it. Without Means, people may know what to do and how to do it, but not have the tools and resources to carry it out. Without Motivation, people may know what leaders want, and how to do it, and have the resources to carry it out, but simply not bother to do it.

Challenges present themselves on every project and program. An attitude of acceptance is required to get past initial paralysis and/or frustration, then to assess, design, and apply an action plan. Base actions on leverage from L2M2.  Foremost, a belief in ability to prevail is required. An individual’s positive attitude that today is a good day and tomorrow will be even better provides the means to embrace and implement leverage points.

It is important to focus on people, relationships, values, and skills. Modify an approach depending on the situation, always knowing there are patterns in how nature and people respond. Tap leverage points in those patterns as a means towards greater project success. Changing a mindset to embrace change or a new approach may perhaps be the simplest and most powerful leverage point for an individual to implement. Apply a key phrase:  “I can think differently about this.”

Examples and a paper on this topic are available from the PMI Global Congress North America 2014.

Randall L. Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy, www.englundpmc.com

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A wide-angle lense for your project efforts


gripWhile some of my peers are still thriving for planning tools and methodologies to strengthen their grip on projects, others offer ten keys to a happier living and pursuing a great dream. It’s the summary of this month’s PMI Netherlands Chapter’s 3rd Summit on the thin line between project success and project failure. Discrete task management as a 20th Century invention, cultivated from the times of Frederick Winslow Taylor‘s book The Principles of Scientific Management to David Allen‘s Getting Things Done. Resemblance with the classic Divide & Rule strategy elements is surprising:

  • creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
  • aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
  • fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
  • encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending

Proven project success factors however are e.g. trust, collaboration, communication, and contribution to a greater cause. Research led Daniel Pink to rethink Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (I bet you know this pyramid) and come up with 21st Century drivers for our professional and personal motivation:

  1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
  3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

sagrada familiaConnecting dots, zooming out of discrete tasks to larger structures up to the organization, value chain or customer journey shows a wide-angled view:

  • Working on brick by boring brick appears to the final stage of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona.
  • A piece of Java code skips a mouse click in an application form, raising chances a customer will continue buying an insurance policy.
  • Implementing legislation in processes, systems and information products avoids penalties and saves cash for investments.
  • A proper configuration of a server keeps hackers out and the business focused on their core business.

A monthly review of your risk log or skipping the benefits section in a mandatory business case for a ‘compliance project’ will get a different meaning, once you understand the effects of your efforts. Costs turn into values. System integration enables business sustainability. Daily routines like a stand-up or check-in become an index of project health or happiness of team members. What drives you home? And back to work tomorrow?

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Top Secrets of a Project Leader to Build a Strong Performing Team


The leadership role is one of the most coveted ones, but also the most challenging one. In the words of Peter Drucker, the father of modern management techniques, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things“. Businesses have evolved over the years and job roles have changed over time, but what remains crucial to success is the presence of an effective leader who has the capability to build a strong team.

Leadership Struggel

While in many cases there are instances of born leaders who have led from a very young age, a large number of leaders are born out of tough situations that push them to perform better than others and thus lead the team. If you have the talent and the desire to excel and be in a  project leadership role, the best way to go about it is to follow your intuitive project leadership skills and have a deep understanding of the fellow members of your team. When handling a particular project, a project leader can hardly move even a step ahead without support from his team. As we delve deeper into what makes a project manager click and become successful, here are a few insights that can help you with the process.

Lead by example

You might have heard this multiple times and eventually learned to ignore it. However, this is one piece of advice that can fetch you many followers in the form of team members who make up a strong-functioning team. As soon as an employee is hired, he or she looks around for a mentor and some inspiration. To be able to create an effective team, it is important to provide positive inspiration that your team members can follow. If you want your team to be in office early, you would have to do the same. If you want a degree of discipline about work deadlines, you would have to submit your work at the earliest opportunity.

It may be tough to always play the role model, but it can also be rewarding in the end when you know you have a strong team that can take on more critical projects in the future. This also ensures that you are training every individual to be a project leader who can carry the mantleon their own once you have moved on to a higher role than project manager.

Be the comrade

Often leading a team or project is equated with being on a higher platform than the rest, and this leads to aloofness from the team and labels a leader as unapproachable. This hinders progress as your team members are not able to confide in you about their problems, be it about their project-related issues or even about their personal lives. Being a friend helps. It helps to know what’s blocking your team members’ progress and stopping them from providing quality work.

Each hire involves a lot of time and money for the organization as well as the team. As a leader, if you are able to be a friend and comrade who can nurture and grow individuals instead of letting them go, it will help in building a strong and tenacious team filled with experience and resilience.

Listen and give recognition

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”This attitude can be very harmful for the role of a leader. When your team members are trying to articulate something in times of a crisis, they should be able to do it without fear of being ostracized from the team or being labeled as over the top. Sharing ideas or apprehensions about a project, without fear, often provides new insight and solutions to existing problems. Contributing to the team and being recognized for it gives a team member a sense of accomplishment. Listening to even the smallest of ideas and promoting experimental processes can excite a team and encourage them to work harder.

Be the pillar

Being a leader calls for being the strong pillar of confidence. Being a straight shooter and asking direct questions can clear up the air and project you as being fair under all conditions. These actions require a lot of confidence and can in turn make you an immediate favorite among your team members. It assures team members that you can take charge of things and will be there to back them up whenever required. The true leader always backs up his or her team even in dire circumstances and always makes them feel safe. Ultimately, this feeling is what helps build loyalty among team members and their team lead.

So, which project leadership skills are you going to inherit? Do you have any other qualities to highlight? Share your thoughts with us.

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How to Gain the Leadership Experience Employers Want


[Guest blog by Michael Keathley]

According to The Job Outlook for the College Class of 2013 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), nearly all of the top ten bachelor degrees for hiring in the current job market involve leadership ability. These include some of the most popular degrees offered online, such as business administration and marketing management (November 2012). Furthermore, even if you are an e-learner who does not intend to pursue a direct supervisory role, “leadership” is an often cited soft skill on most prospective employers’ lists of wants for their employees.

Clearly, leadership is a new trend in hiring, and graduates about to enter the workforce must be prepared to develop and demonstrate that they have this talent. But what is meant by “leadership skills,” and how do students, especially e-learners, attain and document that they have such abilities? To help guide you, here is an explanation of what employers are looking for and ways you can show them you have leadership skills.

leadership definedLeadership Defined

Most experts agree that leadership can be a bit difficult to define. Therefore, David Mielach of Business News Daily went right to the source, the leaders of business and industry, to discover, “10 Ways to Define Leadership” (27 December 2012). The answer that stands out most of all is the definition offered by business consultant, Kendra Coleman:

Leadership is an act — a decision to take a stand, or step, in order to encourage, inspire or motivate others to move with you. What’s more, the most effective leaders do not rely on their title, or positional power, to lead. Rather, their ability to use their own personal power combined with their use of strategic influence are what make them effective” (qtd. in Mielach. 27 December 2012).

Most see leadership as the ability to take proactive, preventative, results-producing action. This has no connection to a job title or position. Rather, the group of experts Mielach interviewed sees leadership as an inner strength that inspires outward results, a sense of vision that envelops others and guides a team to further success.

There are a few additional traits that are often mentioned.

Additional characteristicsAdditional Characteristics

Some additional attributes of leadership should also be kept in mind. Good leaders are:

• Flexible with people and situations: According to author and expert trainer, Ken Blanchard, leadership involves the understanding of when to direct, coach, support, and/or delegate to co-workers as a supervisor or team member based on the context.

• Entrepreneurial/Intrapreneurial: They have the creativity and dynamism to operate outside the box to problem solve and get things done whether you are owning and operating your own business (entrepreneur) or working within an organization (intrapreneur ).

• Communicative: They possess the ability to get a message across to others and to guide the exchange of ideas verbally or electronically.

Note that some of these attributes are broken down separately on lists of skills employers look for in employees.

Ways to Gain LeadershipWays to Gain Leadership Skills

There are quite a few ways that students, online or on-ground, can gain leadership experience. You may even be doing some of these already.

Stand out favorably in class and obtain letters of recommendation from professors, collect relevant feedback (e.g., on assignments from faculty and other students), and save copies of your best work.

• Lead group projects and document what you did and why; be careful to do this in accordance with the characteristics described above rather than in a pushy way.

• Take specific courses related to leadership, and if possible, take some independent study classes that would allow you to work with a professor on a topic specifically related to leadership development in your field.

• Obtain certifications related to leadership by checking what is offered by your school (e.g., See these offerings by Villanova University ) or respected external, career/employer specific programs (e.g., See the U.S. Office of Personnel Management ).

• Participate in organizations, such as Keith Hawkins’s Real Inspiration, Inc. which provides opportunities to train and get involved in leadership from middle school through college.

• Seek out positions of leadership in student organizations at your school. Most will list these on their websites as Aurora University does, or consider starting your own group. Some groups, such as The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) have special leadership development programs and chapters at online universities (e.g., Kaplan University).

• Consider entry-level jobs, internships/externships, and volunteer positions in which you may develop and increasingly demonstrate leadership skills. Your department and/or school should be able to assist you with finding a suitable position.

How to document leadershipHow to Document Leadership for Employers

Now that you understand what leadership is and have some ways to gain skills in this area, it’s also time to think about how you will demonstrate this to employers. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

• Most application processes still rely on the traditional cover letter and resume with transcripts, though often this is presented via an online application site. Follow a functional resume format that will highlight what you can do, and be sure to add a specific (sub)heading for “Leadership Skills.”

• Online applications will often allow you to attach transcripts, additional documents, and/or electronic links. Take full advantage of these options to add scanned copies of certifications, screen shots of your work, letters of recommendation, sample projects—anything you have done or are currently involved with that shows you are a leader.

• Software options exist that will also help you demonstrate your leadership skills to potential employers. Consider using Live Binders, Zotero, or screen capture software to assemble a professional overview of your work; then share a link with prospective employers on your resume or in your cover letter.

• Social media is a powerful tool, and hiring managers are increasingly consulting the digital footprint of job candidates. Carefully brand yourself as an up and coming leader in your field within social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Share links to these sites with prospective employers within your application.

Pursuing, documenting, and demonstrating that you have leadership skills can take time; however, the knowledge that employers are increasingly looking for talent in this area, especially in some of the top career fields, should motivate you to take action. You also do not need to accomplish all of the above steps at once. Rather, try to focus on one or two ways each semester and gradually build an impressive portfolio for employers and online presence that brands you clearly as a leader.

If you have any additional tips or suggestions, please share them in the dialog box below or via Twitter.

Please join Michael on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

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The 3 Keys to Happiness & Success

And, what’s Leadership got to do with it?

GUEST BLOG by Roxanne Kaufman Elliott, President of ProLaureate Ltd.

3 keys-resized-600Long ago in an ancient time, humankind was so abusive of the keys to happiness and success that the great elders and wise women of the time decided to take the keys away and hide them where no one could ever find them again.

But where?

The Leader of the Wise Women decided to call a meeting of the Council of Elders to discuss the hiding place. When they were all together she put the question to the group and asked for ideas and suggestions.

One of the more senior elders raised her hand and said, “Oh, Wise Leader, we should take the keys of happiness and success and bury them in the deepest, darkest depths of the Earth. No one would think to look there and if they did, it would be much too difficult to dig down and find them.”

The Wise Leader thought about this for a moment and then said, “thank you, but no, I don’t think they would remain hidden there. Human kind is very resourceful and will find a way to uncover them.”

Another of the council members raised her hand and said, “I know! Let’s hide the keys to happiness and success at the highest peak of the highest mountain in the world, for certainly, THIS is a place no man, woman or child could ever discover!”

But again, the wise leader said, “No, they will climb the mountain – they will find a way – and they will discover the secret.”

The next council member spoke up and said “then let’s bury the secret to happiness and success in the deepest part of the ocean where no one would dare to go – beneath the sea in a great, dark and bottomless cavern where no one would dare to look or attempt to go.”

The Wise Leader thought for a moment longer and then said, “thank you all for these ideas, but humankind is resourceful and I believe they will uncover each of those hiding places. But now I know where we can bury the keys to happiness and success where no one will ever find them. We will bury them deep in the heart of every person who walks the Earth… for surely, no one would think to look for them there.”

You already possess the keys to your happiness and success. The challenge is getting out of your own way long enough to discover them! And then, to actually begin to unlock your potential; to understand what real happiness and success mean to YOU; and then to start creating and setting a plan in motion to be and to have the best of what life has to ofer – on your terms.

“Success is the continual achievement of your own predetermined goals, stabilized by balance and purified by belief.”

compass indexHappiness & Success

You possess more internal ability than you will ever use. The biggest obstacles you face are the limitations you place in your own mind. Individuals are goal seekers by nature and you are at your happiest when you are working toward the accomplishment of goals that are related to your major purpose in life. True success comes from identifying goals in all areas of life that are important to you, and organizing your time and energy so that all these areas are given the right priority at the right time.

Achievement

Achievement has little regard for age, nationality, gender or station in life.

It bestows itself upon those who dare to aim their sights at noble targets, who move forward even though the winds of opposition try to push them back, who realize their purpose is far greater than any obstacle that may appear to stand in their way.

How we lead our lives determines our future and the future of those around us. You have the unlimited potential to reach new heights for yourself and for others to create… new products, new applications, new solutions, new organizations, new ideas, new and better relationships and even a new and better world.

Sounds like a tall order and a lot of work. It is.

But that’s ‘what leadership has to do with it’… it’s all about SELF Leadership and putting forth the effort to be the best we can be. The rewards are incredible and well worth the efort. It’s all about energizing YOU – the real, genuine, brilliant YOU.

So where do you start? You start by discovering the three keys that are already within you…

hand_drawing_a_to_b_400_clr_11972VISION ~ GOALS ~ ACTION

Do you have a personal and professional vision statement? Planning our lives, our careers, our futures, deserve at least as much energy as planning our next vacation. Yet, typically, we spend more time doing the latter than the former. Perhaps its time to create a vision for yourself – your statement of potential and your vision of the future.

What do happiness and success look like to you? Write them both down in great detail, in the first person, in the present tense – as if it is already real. This is your quest – it is your written painting of what the future will look like – what you aspire to become, do, create and achieve – both
personally and professionally. Begin everything with this end in mind, as this is the image by which everything else you do is measured.

Create your goals both short term and long term. Write them down. What do you need to accomplish to move you closer to your vision – today? This week? In a year?

Then, take action to fulfill those goals. Make a plan and work it. Write them down. Know what you need to do to move to the next step and the next and the next. Once you focus on what happiness and success mean to you, you will be on your way to achieving more of what you desire in less time.

“What lies behind us and what lies in front of us, pales in significance when compared to what lies within us.”

stepThe Art of Changing Yourself

“The art of changing yourself requires the substituting of new habits for old. You mold your character and your future by your thoughts and acts. You cannot climb uphill by thinking downhill thoughts. If your world is gloomy and hopeless, it is because you are gloomy and hopeless. You must change your mind to change your world. Make yourself do what needs to be done. Man alone, of all the creatures of this earth, is architect of his destiny.”

From Wilfred A. Peterson and his book, “The Art of Living”.

Article originally posted at http://free2bproject.org/the-three-keys-to-happiness-success/#comment-19 on July 10, 2013

 

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Project for Passion


Today I have come across an excellent article about passion in design.  It is entitled “The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion.” and has been written by Adam Nash. While Adam talks about design thinking his observations can and should easily be applied to your projects.  Hence, the question is “are you passionate about your project? are you passionate about your team members?”  If not, you better find out what it takes.  Have a look at Adam’s view below:

The Game Has Changed. Design for Passion (by Adam Nash)

One of the most exciting developments in software has been a resurgence in the focus and priority on design.  With the growing dominance of social platforms and mobile applications, more and more people are growing comfortable productively discussing and utilizing insights about human emotion in their work.

Google: The Era of Utility

The progress of the last five to seven years is really a significant breakout from the previous generations of software design.

For decades, software engineers and designers focused on utility:  value, productivity, speed, features or cost.

If it could be quantified, we optimized it.  But at a higher level, with few exceptions, we framed every problem around utility.  Even the field of human-computer interaction was obsesses with “ease of use.”  Very linear, with clear ranking.  How many clicks? How long does a task take?  What is the error rate?

In some ways, Google (circa 2005) represented the peak of this definition of progress.  Massive data.  Massive scalability. Incredibly utility.  Every decision defined by quantifying and maximizing utility by various names.

But let’s face it, only computer scientists can get really passionate about the world’s biggest database.

Social: The Era of Emotion

Like any ecosystem, consumer technology is massively competitive.  Can you be faster, cheaper, bigger or more useful than Google?  It turns out, there is a more interesting question.

Social networks helped bring the language of emotion into software.  A focus on people starts with highly quantifiable attributes, but moves quickly into action and engagement.

What do people like? What do they hate? What do they love? What do they want?

In parallel, there have been several developments that reflect similar insights on the web, in behavioral finance, and the explosion in interest in game mechanics.

Human beings are not rational, but (to borrow from Dan Ariely) they are predictably irrational.  And now, thanks to scaling social platforms to over a billion people, we have literally petabytes of data to help us understand their behavior.

Passion Matters

Once you accept that you are designing and selling a product for humans, it seems obvious that passion matters.

We don’t evaluate the food we eat based on metrics (although we’d likely be healthier if we did).  Do I want it? Do I love it? How does it make me feel?

The PayPal mafia often joke that great social software triggers at least one of the seven deadly sins. (For the record, LinkedIn has two: vanity & greed).  Human beings haven’t changed that much in the past few thousand years, and the truth is the seven deadly sins are just a proxy for a deeper insight.  We are still driven by strong emotions & desires.

In my reflection on Steve Jobs, he talks about Apple making products that people “lust” for.  Not the “the best products”, “the cheapest products”, “the most useful products” or “the easiest to use products.”

Metrics oriented product managers, engineers & designers quickly discover that designs that trigger passion outperform those based on utility by wide margins.

The Game Has Changed

One of the reasons a number of earlier web giants are struggling to compete now is that the game has changed.  Utility, as measured by functionality, time spent, ease-of-use are important, but they are no longer sufficient to be competitive. Today, you also have to build products that trigger real emotion.  Products that people will like, will want, will love.

Mobile has greatly accelerated this change.  Smartphones are personal devices.  We touch them, they buzz for us. We keep them within three feet of us at all times.

Too often in product & design we focus on utility instead of passion.  To break out today, you need to move your efforts to the next level.  The questions you need to ask yourself are softer:

  • How do I feel when I use this?
  • Do I want that feeling again?
  • What powerful emotions surround this product?

Go beyond utility.  Design for passion.

Posted in: Agile, Guest Blogs, innovation

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Guest Blog by Neal Whitten: Some No-Nonsense Advice for Project Success


Today I want to share some of  Q&As from Neal Whitten’s book Neal Whitten’s Let’s Talk: More No-Nonsense Advice for Project Success—Over 700 Q&As! which I highly recommend to anyone seriously interested in project management and leadership.

 

Q. As a leader, is an ego a help or a hindrance?

A. Mostly a hindrance. When you go to work each day, leave your ego outside. It’s not about you. It’s about the success of your project, organization, and company. It’s about good business. An overactive ego can get in the way of making sound judgments, establishing and maintaining good working relationships, and learning and growing from our mistakes.


Q. As a young person, I am not seen as a leader to be treated with respect, even though my teams and projects have received high marks for success. How can I deal with this “handicap”?

A. Savor your youth. Do not wish it away; it will evaporate sooner than you would like. All of us were young employees once. You must channel your energies and passion into performing your best.

But a word of caution: Show respect for the knowledge and wisdom of those older than you. Be open to their ideas, and do not come across like a know-it-all. As much as you think you know now, you will know far, far more in five, ten, or twenty years. For now, you may have to work harder than others, but you will win over some converts.

Q. I don’t look forward to the plethora of problems that confront me each day. As a leader, am I in the wrong job?

A. Perhaps, but if you expect to remain a leader in whatever job you choose, you must learn to like and be comfortable around problems. You should adopt the attitude that “problems are our friends”—without problems, you probably would not have a job. Moreover, your level of salary is likely related to your ability to solve problems.

As a consultant and mentor, if I did not have problems to confront, I would not have a job. I sincerely and enthusiastically look forward to the problems that my clients throw at me. If too many are coming my way, then I will prioritize them, and the most important and urgent problems will be solved first.

The higher you climb career-wise and the more responsibilities you take on, the greater the likelihood that you will be unable to resolve every problem. You will either need to get help from others or accept that some problems take longer to resolve than you’d like. Whatever challenges you must confront, thinking about problems with the right mindset can make all the difference in your effectiveness and enthusiasm.

Posted in: Book Recommendations, Guest Blogs, Leadership, Project Management

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Excellent Knowledge Base for QA Leadership and Practitioners


BQA Knowledge Base is a go-to repository of whitepapers, presentations, and articles intended to keep QA leadership and practitioners ahead of the game. Use the sorting tool in the right column to find the topic you seek.

Recent whitepapers include:

Soon my own whitepaper on Outline of Best Practice Requirements Management will be posted there, too.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Posted in: Guest Blogs, Miscellaneous, Project Management

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