Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Lifelong Learning

One of my favorite inspirational leaders is Peter Drucker. I first learned about him, during my very first class in college. Decades later, I am still gathering his leadership insights. Peter Drucker lived during multiple wars, economic up and down turns, the industrial and digital age, always staying relevant.

On a recent vacation, I came across this quote from Peter Drucker, "We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn."

In my career, I had the advantage of working closely with consumer product trainers. I leaned a lot about learning styles. I, myself, am a lifelong learner. This is evident by reinventing my own career, transferring my marketing agency operations to the financial tech industry. In both industries, I mentor Project Managers.

This century requires a lot of soft skills, in addition to the required position hard skill sets, including technical acumen. I believe lifelong learning is required to be relevant, just as Peter Drucker demonstrates.

There are four steps of learning, I have developed, applicable to any type of learning - academic, life, the workplace, seminars, online, anywhere.
  • Receive – read or listen, gathering the lesson’s content
  • Absorb – processing and understanding the information
  • Retain – know the information for the relevant time
  • Apply – provide the knowledge/skill where beneficial
The last step may not come immediate. Some lessons provide a foundation for future lessons or teaching others.

Lifelong learning should be in people’s DNA that want to grow and/or succeed. The more you grow, the more value you possess, in any situation.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Break the Routine and See What Happens

Occasionally, I come across an article that speaks to my management philosophy and compelled to share on my blog. The article below is from the Smashing Magazine Editor, Vitaly, and can be found here.

[Article Start]
Daily routine is wonderful — predictable, efficient and comfortable. But when we need to find that one spark of a genius idea, breaking out of the regular schedule can do wonders. In a way, that’s also because we’re used to following patterns in our lives. It’s perfectly reasonable to go to a cinema on a Friday night, but it seems to be a bit off to go on a Monday morning. It may seem fine to be burning the midnight oil, just to realize the next morning how terrible the output of the work was. Last but surely not least, it often feels strange to take off early on a Tuesday, as it’s the beginning of the work week. It doesn’t have to be.

Some of the most profound ideas that I have discovered for my work and life stem took place whenever I broke my daily routine and got away from the hustle bustle of everyday life. I often felt that I have to beat the entire world by working more and working harder, and sometimes even felt awkward when I took a few more days off. However, every now and again we need to step away to see the big picture, so that we can recharge when diving into fine details and keep ourselves going. It’s outside of the comfortable day-work-time when wonderful ideas emerge.

So, what about a little experiment? What if you asked your team members to do something that makes them happy on a Thursday morning? What if you gave them a few extra vacation days, or asked them to work outside of the office on Wednesdays? Or perhaps consider introducing ‘no-meetings-on-Fridays’ or ‘do-what-you-love-Wednesdays’?

But most importantly, perhaps take a bit of time off. You are smart, helpful, and hard-working — so take at least a day or two to step away, and maybe do something kind to yourself and to people around you, or the people you’ve never met. And guess what: the world will keep spinning, and you might finally catch that idea you’ve been chasing in vain all these years.
[Article End]

Here is a practical application example: During a client challenge, which required very long days for the team and accompanying stress, I bought a case of silly string. I literally "forced" the team out of the building, into the parking lot, and spray away! A great tension break and any pent up energy release.

Now, it's your turn.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Project Manager Traits

Having been a Project Manager and managing Project Managers, I have identified three critical traits to be an excellent Project Manager. Currently, I have the privilege to train a team of Millennials, whom have never been Project Managers. I appreciate their anxiousness to learn. Below is what I have imparted on them, not only as a starting point, but also for performance evaluation.

  • Meet Deadlines
  • Raise flags when any element is jeopardizing the timeline
  • Be pro-active on approaching deadlines (internal and external)
The first two bullets seem obvious, but to a new Project Manager, not so much. They bear full emphasis on their key responsibilities.

The third bullet requires the most attention. Without it, inexperienced PMs will wait for the responsible party to fulfill their duties on-time. This is a major process fail point, with potential, and substantial, penalties.

Here is one more piece of wisdom to impart on a new, or experience PM for that matter, that coincides with the third bullet. An acronym that should be a poster on every Project Managers wall.

P - Push
U - Until
S - Something
H - Happens

Ensure your Project Managers lead the schedule and connect with each area on the project, before the deadline!

If Project Managers follow these basic guidelines, the projects' success is assured.

Friday, April 5, 2019

FOCUS

Are you inundated with communication? Emails, IMs, meetings, and if it still exists, phone calls. On any given day, I receive 30 emails an hour, averaging 1 every two minutes, a meeting every hour, sometimes every half hour and lately every 15 minutes, lastly a constant flow of IMs. I’m exhausted just writing about it. Maybe your day is not as bad, but I bet it can still be filled with over communication.

This blog post compliments my tagline, "People plus Process plus Technology." All three elements must blend to be successful at anything, manager, project management, educator, builder, everything. We must learn to balance them. I put the elements in order of importance, so don’t let today’s communication technology override the most important element - People.

Here are few of my communication rules:
  • Emails – all cc’s do not require my response and may not even get read
  • IMs – you really need a response now or used for multi-tasking (listening in a meeting, but not participating)
    • I may, or may not, answer based on my role above
  • Meetings (Skype or live) – require an agenda to determine priority and/or attendance
  • Phone – if someone calls me, it is definitely a priority (and a preference)
Roll all these communication rules into one theme – FOCUS

Only a Super Human can satisfy every communication received, during the day.

Now, a message to management – consolidate information.
  • Plan to send out your communication once a day, at a regular time would be best,  every morning or end of day even better to cover routine items, like process
  • Advise your reports to prioritize their communications
  • Assign specific areas of expertise to qualified associate(s) to reduce irrelevant communications to everyone (focus your team)

In the long term, productivity will increase. I promise.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Management's Role and The Dreaded Performance Review

Management’s Role

In an earlier blog, I described the traits of supporting and non-supporting managers. Today’s blog repeats some of those supporting manager traits and augments them to further define management’s role in providing their reporting associates the necessities to succeed.
  • Disseminate company goals and objectives
  • Provide the tools to execute above
  • Mentor for growth
  • Enforce training:
    • Basic – business writing, presentation skills, communication, process. as needed
    • Advanced – career specific education
  • Exemplify and subject associate accountability
  • Motivate

The Dreaded Annual Performance Review

Everyone dreads writing evaluations, including your self-evaluation. Unfortunately, it is a requirement by most companies. The goal is to provide performance feedback and a guide for future improvement per the bullets listed above. But we all know from a company perspective, it’s to satisfy HR’s legal reasons in order to promote or dismiss an employee. From an associates’ perspective, they just want to know if they’re going to get a raise and how much.

Performance reviews necessity is not under debate, in the blog post. It is more about what the review contains. Typically, reviews solely describe accomplishments related to associate's job description/responsibilities and/or level of competence. If we interject the Manager’s roles listed, I believe they should contain the associates’ strengths and capabilities, not just related to their job description, but to any area that can benefit the company. People possess variegated skills that include their current function, but many people can provide far more. A good manager will observe, obtain, discuss these additional skills and provide an avenue for the associate to exploit them. It is possible for these discovered existing associate attributes can be used in their current position or promoted to a new position. The associate gains the most valued trait – recognition, and eventually growth. The company wins by subscribing to my mantra, "if the associate grows, the company grows."

Now let’s talk about money. How do you determine the appropriate pay increase? Managers receive their allowable associate awards in two manners: 1) department lump sum to be distributed as the manager sees fit; 2) a percent allocated across all associates. Recently, the later has been between one and three percent. I don’t believe in a 1% raise. A 1% raise is gratuitous. Even 3% is an insult to a high performing associate.

My review approach – if an associate is preforming their job according to their job description, they are paid their standard wage. They have not increased their net worth to the company by just performing their established job responsibilities. Therefore, I see no purpose to increase they wage (the only exception is in a high inflationary economy, so they at least break even to the cost of living (I’m not cruel)). Now, take the complacent associate’s or associates’ allocated increase (say 1%) and add it to a high performer’s increase (4% or more). A high performer is someone going above and beyond their job description and performing the newly revealed additional skill sets. This tactic provides motivation to both the standard performer as an incentive to show more initiative and the exceptional performer, by being rewarded and encouraged to continue at a higher level.

Hopefully, this blog post will provide some direction for manager’s roles and where everybody gains a more relevant performance review.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 The Year of Humanity

During my Holiday time, I caught up on some reading and spent time with family and friends. These two events of reading and visits one theme, which my last two blogs covered, was prevalent – humanity. Not once did I read or hear the words "disruptive" or "game-changer." Yet I saw several television commercials using these words. If people don’t really talk this way, why are they so common in the workplace and marketing? As readers of my blog know, buzzwords are one of my pet peeves. 

Truthfully, if I hear the words "game-changer" one more time, I will throw up. "Disruptive" on the other hand, is a very accurate definition of 21st Century marketing. I find all marketing disruptive, from the constant borage of spam emails and social media ‘sponsored" ads in the post feeds. Regarding television, thank God for DVR, the mute button, Amazon Video and Netflix. My ADD rarely lets me finish a broadcast show, as the last 15 minutes of the show are more commercials than content.

If you’re still reading this post, I admit, buzzwords have existed in all decades and generations, probably for millennia. We just have more media channels to inundate our receptors. Thank the Lord we don’t talk to each other personally or in the workplace with colleagues using them.

Let’s make 2019 about people wherever you interact, with humanity, and not let the business world dictate your vocabulary.

Happy New Year,

Jack