Archive for January, 2010

Confidence

Do you have an obligation to help others build confidence in you as you undertake a new function?  I have been thinking about this lately as I observe a few different people in this position when working with new people, and I do not think it’s something that people always consider as they take on a new role.

Confidence is built in a couple of ways, from my perspective.  Sometimes people build confidence in your abilities over time based on results but other times, you need those around you to believe in you as you are in the middle of a new effort.  Having people around you that have a high confidence level is important to your overall success – both for the project and your career.  When people are confident in your plans and abilities, they will tend to support you more and be there if a point comes where you need their help.

So how do you help others to grow more confident in you?  Transparency, communication, and a documented plan.

First, I would strongly suggest that you are open with them regarding all risks and issues in the effort.  Sugar-coating a situation will only cause their confidence to falter if you run into issues.  Can you recall a situation where someone came to you to ask for help with an issue that they had seen coming weeks or months prior?  This can be frustrating and certainly does not foster a relationship built on trust or confidence.

Communication needs to be strongly planned out.  Review of your plan, regular updates, notification of risks or issues – these are important to keep your stakeholders bought into the process.  Steady progress will help to build their confidence.  This does not mean that you should over communicate – notifying your stakeholders with every drop of a hat.  Build in communication points into your project plan for major milestones and have a clear issue and risk mitigation plan which involves a defined communication plan.  These steps may seem like over-kill but develop these once and you can use them over and over again.

Finally, I would strongly recommend having a solid plan.  Your first time working with a group of people is NOT the time to “wing it” even if the task you are undertaking is something that you have done one hundred times with other groups.  Your reputation might be strong but ultimately they will decide if their perception of you is one of success or failure.  Helping your stakeholders see your overall plan for your effort and to keep them informed of updates will help them to see how your vision will develop into specific tasks, which is like taking a dream and turning it into facts.  Facts build confidence — dreams, not so much.

It’s worth considering the confidence level that your stakeholders have (or do not have) as you plan your project from the very beginning.  Having a group of stakeholders who believe in your abilities and plans will alleviate issues downstream.  You may be able to avoid meddlers in your plans, who will question everything because of their lack of confidence.  You will also have more support for resolving issues that might arise.  Can you be successful without considering this aspect?  Yes but with risks that can easily be avoided.

Let me know what you think!  Do you feel that assessing confidence levels for your stakeholders and building a plan to raise confidence (if it is low) would be helpful in your situation?  Do you have an experience that you can share that would either support or dispute this perspective?

January 25, 2010 at 12:53 am 1 comment

Getting Rid of Labels

Looking outside of labels or org charts can help you find alternative ways to staff a project effort.

Continue Reading January 24, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Half Hearted Participation

Worst professional trait I have ever observed – half-hearted participation.  Why do people feel it’s okay to be assigned to a team effort, show up for meetings, and not contribute a single thing.  Not a thought.  Not a concern.  Not a word.  Just a butt in a seat.

Not everyone is full of verbose phrase.  Not everyone is full of witty comebacks.  I have to assume that if someone assigned you to participate in a team effort, it was so you could contribute.  A person comes to the team with experience and knowledge.  How can they not share?  How selfish?

I know in this world of conference calls it’s easy to multi-task.  In a world full of demands, who doesn’t multi-task.  Instant Messaging, Text Messaging, Social Networks, Email, Voicemail – all consuming parts of us.  I get it – we are all busy.  But it’s about prioritizing your time and being accountable for your commitments.  If someone joins a team and cannot fully participate in a team meeting or contribute to a deliverable, they should say something.  They owe it to the team to say something.  Ask for a delay.  Ask for help from their manager to re-prioritize their efforts.  I would never be angry with a team member for asking me to help prioritize how their time should be spent.  I would be more disappointed with them if they blew off the team and did not deliver at all.

What happens when a team member halfheartedly participates?  They eventually wake up.  Weeks later they realize that while they waited, the team moved forward.  They review the results of the team’s collaboration and realize they probably should have spoken up.  Then they ask the team to take steps backward to readdress something the team thought to be complete.  So now instead of just their own time that they have wasted, they are not wasting the time of the rest of the team through re-work.

How do we solve this issue?  It plagues us everywhere – whether in our personal or professional lives.  Until we speak up and hold people accountable, why would they change?  Why can we not approach these participants and just tell them how their behavior is impacting us, the team, the company?  Nothing disrespectful intended – just honesty and fact-based feedback.  In Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Greeny, they tell us that we should focus on CPR – Content, Pattern, and Relationship.  When starting a Crucial Conversation with someone, it’s best to first address it at a Content level.  “Your lack of participation in our team activity is causing us to lose out on your perspective as an expert in xyz.”  This statement sticks to facts and explains the impact of their behavior on the team.  If this does not break the ice and help bring the person to full attention, the authors suggest you move onto P – Pattern.  “You tend to be distracted in our weekly meetings and it’s causing us to have a lack of data from your team.  We need your participation to be successful.”  Again, you point out the impact of their behavior but show how it’s recurring.  Finally, if all else fails, you focus on R – Relationship.  “Your lack of participation has caused our team effort to suffer but what is more concerning to me is the impact that is having on our professional relationship.  We really needed your opinion in these discussions and you were asked to join this team due to your expertise.  I do not feel like I can support your engagement in this type of activity going forward if you do not fully engage with us.”  This statement is more forceful and should demonstrate the lasting damage the individual’s behavior is having on not only the team they are assigned to but the relationship with you.  And ultimately, we all know that relationships is how work gets done a majority of the time.

In the end, the only person in life we can control is ourselves.   However, holding others accountable for participating in team activities is our responsibility as a leader in our organizations.  It is also our responsibilities as leaders to demonstrate to others a positive example so the next time you are distracted by something while in a meeting, consider the impact of answering that IM, email or text message.  You may think that immediately reacting to someone’s urgent request is doing them a favor but how many people are you letting down in the process?

January 21, 2010 at 3:56 am Leave a comment

Show Me Your Skills!

In today’s job market, everyone is trying to figure out the magic recipe for landing a job.  The right training, the right resume format, the right job search engine… everything is considered as people try to find their next opportunity.  I am shocked that candidates forget to consider the perception of the hiring manager.  A hiring manager is not interested in the difficulty you experienced on a particular project, the executives who routinely commented on your report, or the amount of money you saved your last company.  Hiring managers want to know what are you going to do to make their organization successful.

Job candidates tend to focus on telling their glory stories.  Interviews are usually approached as a way to tell about yourself but you should balance this story telling with the past, present, and future tense.  The best thing a candidate can do is share how their experience gave them a chance to utilize or learn a transferable skill, and then how that skill can benefit the hiring manager.  Candidates should not emphasis the details of their situation but share enough of their story to demonstrate how their skill enabled success and then share how their skills can help the hiring manager be successful.  Don’t expect the hiring manager to decipher your story into a list of skills you possess.  Make their process easy and spell out the skills.  Be clear and concise in your example.

“While working at Company ABC, I was asked to reduce order processing time by 10%.  I worked with a team of architects and analysts over 2 days to review the existing processes and then identified steps that could be combined to eliminate processes.  My ability to elicit process information from a large group, develop an AS-IS and TO-BE process models and develop a data model demonstrating the impact of the changes to the processing times allowed the CIO to validate my recommendations and approve the enhancements.  Upon implementation, order processing was reduced by 17%.  Within the first 30 days of starting this position within your organization, I would want to use these skills and my Six Sigma training to develop an understanding of our processes and identify potential areas of improvement in order to reduce operating expense.”

5 sentences and you’ve demonstrated the skill, made your skills and training clear, and already put yourself into the position with a 30 day plan.

In an interview, a hiring manager is assessing how much work this person will be to ramp-up into the position and the likelihood you will be successful.  Helping them see how your past experiences can turn into future value for them will enable the hiring manager to easily make this assessment and see that you are the right fit for the position.

January 20, 2010 at 2:11 am 1 comment


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