Blog

Motivating your team

I’ve been spending some time thinking about the best ways to motivate my team and keep them on track. We’re all located in the same office but have got a lot of other projects to be working on.

One of the first things to look at is the team composition. Who’s involved? What are their objectives? Have they been working together before? Then I’ll ask them what would they have good/ bad for motivating them. Some teams love to have team-building activities and events but others prefer to have more low key events. In some organisations they also give the team time at the start of projects to motivate their teams and build a strong team for the project moving forward.

I then take a look at what’s feasible/acceptable within the organisation and then go from there. Here are some ideas that might work for you:

  1. Celebrating achievements/birthdays
    1. I try to do this on a regular basis and make sure that we stop and celebrate the achievement as a team. This could be in a few ways: it could be through bringing in some cakes/ cookies or it could be through formal appreciation depending on the circumstances and type of reward
  2. Personal congratulations/comments
    1. I like to make sure that the team are aware that I know that they’ve done a good job
  3. Team events/  celebrations:
    1. Towards the end of the project, I like to make sure that as a team we can go out for lunch/drinks as a team and appreciate the success and hard work done by the team
  4. Formal appreciation
    1. Most organisations have some sort of formal appreciation that you can provide for team employees that might formally give them recognition for great or outstanding work. I’ve done formal appreciation when colleagues have gone above and beyond their role in the project to deliver exceptional service to the project.
  5. Personal thanks
    1. I often say thank you to my team. For their commitment and support in the project but also their support of me as a Project Manager. I am only a success because of their work so I make sure that we respect and celebrate our achievements as a team.
  6. Carrot and stick approach
    1. I know that there’s a few Project Managers out there that choose the ‘carrot and stick’ approach for motivating for their team or using ‘threats’ to get them to work in a specific manner but I can honestly say that in every organisation and project that I have worked in, that it has not worked or been a sure sign of success. Teams respect and expect more than being taunted with a ‘stick’

What ways do you motivate with your teams?

Culture Club – working with other cultures

I’ve recently presented a webinar on projectmanagement.com called: Culture Club. Succeeding in a Diverse Workplace. I devoted time to understanding how to work with other cultures, what the common pitfalls could be but also what you can do to work with cultures other than your own.

A few months ago, I ran a poll on Projectmanagement.com to ask the users what cultures they worked with most commonly over the last 12 months and it was great to see such a broad interaction from the group but also indicating just how many cultures they work with on a daily basis. Some examples include: “In my team at the moment, we’re in a global launch so I’m working with someone from every continent in the world!”

2019-02-06 20_15_09-PM.com_cultureClub - PowerPoint

During the webinar itself, there was a lot of great interaction from the audience and it started some great dialogue between what works and also answering questions around the content and what I was telling on the screen.

During the webinar, we went through three different cultures (India, USA and Middle East) and went through the key focus points and then ideas and tips for how to work with that culture. This started a really great discussions and questions around what is important to work with someone from this culture and why it’s important to understand the key subtle differences that exist between our cultures.

2019-02-06 20_15_25-PM.com_cultureClub - PowerPoint

During the Q&A session, I went through a few questions but could not get to some of the questions in time so I’ll be working with the team at projectmanagement.com to get all of the questions answered and published soon.

Since the webinar has been released to the “on demand” audience, I’ve had some great feedback and responses from the wider Projectmanagement.com audience. Examples being:

“I found this very interesting and probably my favorite session to date. ” – Tiffany

“Thank you, nice presentation with some very interesting perspective and thoughts and useful insights on culture and what to keep in mind. ” – Anuj

“Great presentation! I enjoyed the personal anecdotes as well as your practical tips on how to learn about people as individuals as well as the culture they come from. ” – Kathryn

If you have watched it, I’d love to know what you think and if you’ve got any feedback!

 

 

My week at LIVPM: The Leadership conference for PMI Volunteers

Last week, I flew to Philadelphia to participate in LIVPM, which is the leadership volunteer workshop for senior volunteers. In the next year, i’ll be working with a group of volunteers on the R.E.P Advisory Group. We’ll be working directly with PMI staff and how we can influence the transformation that the PMI is currently undergoing.

I really love being able to contribute and volunteer with other like minded individuals.

Not only, was it the start of LIVPM but it was also the start of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the PMI itself. They were kicking it off in style by having all the volunteers, volunteer their time at various initiatives around Philadelphia helping the local community. From school outreach programs to healthy eating programs/food collections, all the volunteers worked together for an afternoon. This was part of an initiative run by PMI to commit to 50,000 hours to support the United Nations global sustainable development goals through their “Global Project Management Celebration of Service”. Over the course of this year, they are asking all Project Managers or those involved in projects to dedicate time for 50,000 hours to help the UN with their goals. You can find out more here.

2019-01-23 16_23_31-media tweets by emily luijbregts (@em_the_pm) _ twitter

During the rest of the days, we were kicking off the work that we will be doing over the course of the year and identifying the key areas of success that we need to work on. It was really valuable to connect with other volunteers and learn about what works best whilst also looking at our own personal development opportunities.

It wasn’t all work and no play! We had some great networking parties and opportunities to connect with other project managers and leaders. I’ve made some great connections that i’ll be following up with to be able to share knowledge with other Project Managers across the world.

One key thing that has really resonated with me was having a discussion with another volunteer and talking about: Trust and how we can effectively build trust within our projects and teams and what it looks like. I’m going to write another blog post on this as I think it’ll be a really valuable knowledge addition to other Project Managers.

2018 Round up

2018 has been an extremely busy for me both professionally as a “Full time” Project Manager as well as being an active volunteer with the Project Management Institute. Here are a few of my highlights of this year:

Presenting:

This year, I’ve had the honour of presenting at several conferences across Europe and it was a personal highlight of my career to be able to speak and share knowledge with my peers. What I’ve learnt from presenting is not just around sharing knowledge but it’s about listening and opening a dialogue with other Project Managers to be able to improve and develop.

PMIEMEA
Photo courtesy of Priya Patra

 

Professional Development:

This year, I’ve started working with a new company and the opportunities for me to grow as a Project Manager and be able to share my experience has been limitless. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some excellent Project Managers who challenge me and encourage me to be a better Project Manager. A few things that have stood out for me:

  1. Work/ Life Balance: I’ve made an active attempt to ensure that I shut down my PC and really work on my work/life balance and this includes making sure that I really commit to both working hard and playing hard. This has been a big change and has really made me strict on what I do on my holiday/evening and weekend time.
  2. Escalate hard and fast: In the projects that I’ve been working in, things move so quickly that there is a demand to escalate hard and fast if issues occur as this can cause major issues to the overall project.
  3. Reach out! One thing that has benefited from my speaking engagements has been a wider network of peers that I can reach out to if I have questions or ideas. I’ve found that sharing ideas and collaborating to be one of the best parts of 2018 and I hope to be able to continue to do this in 2019.
day3
Chatting with fellow PMPs

Coaching:

In 2018, I’ve also taken my coaching role more seriously and have helped several Project Managers who have wanted my advice about everything from how to navigate through a difficult project to more general career advice and helping a Junior Project Manager develop their skills to become a more experienced Project Manager. Coaching has really made me think critically about my experience as a Project Manager and coach for how to develop a strategic plan for their career development.

What does 2019 hold for me?

I do not believe in New Years resolution as I think that it just sets you up for failure but here are a few of the areas that I want to focus on in the next year:

  • Sharing knowledge: I want to continue sharing knowledge with other Project Managers and working with my peers to develop and support sharing in our industry.
  • Developing talent/ my USP: This is one thing that I encourage every Project Manager to do. Over Christmas, I’ve spent time thinking about what I’d like to do in the next year and how I’d like to develop as a Project Manager.
  • Volunteering: Volunteering remains a massive passion for me and I will continue to volunteer and share knowledge with other Project Managers and organisations for the benefit of the overall profession.

If we’ve had the pleasure of working together this year, then I’d like to take this time to thank you for your collaboration, advice and support. If we’ve yet to work together, then I’d like to invite you to reach out and see where we can work together in the next 12 months.

Let’s make 2019 the year that we all become better, more effective Project Managers!

 

Celebrating success in virtual teams

One thing that I’ve been talking a lot about lately is how to manage and celebrate project success when you’re working in a virtual/remote team. In my previous projects we tried to arrange onsite meet ups towards the end of the project so that we could do a lunch/dinner together but this isn’t always feasible or an option. If you’re a Project Manager to a virtual team you could consider doing some of the following that is mentioned below:

I asked on Projectmanagement.com and Twitter what others did to celebrate success and it was great to see the reaction and responses from the Project Management community.

Ways to celebrate success:

1) Team “video” closing parties
2) Sending cakes/cards/little momento’s to say thank you/ good job!
3) Congratulation /thank you emails to the team

2018-11-28 20_34_37-ProjectManagement.com - Messages on Celebrating Project success in virtual teams2018-11-28 20_32_35-ProjectManagement.com - Messages on Celebrating Project success in virtual teams2018-11-28 20_37_03-ProjectManagement.com - Messages on Celebrating Project success in virtual teams

2018-11-28 20_38_53-.png

 

How to make it applicable to your project:

There are a few things that i’d recommend to make these examples relevant to your project:

  1. Look at the size of your project and don’t do too much or too little to acknowledge your team
  2. Consider the company culture/ team culture in what you decide. Would an email to them with their boss in CC be appropriate/ appreciated?
  3. What’s your budget? It’s fine to have grand ideas about flying everyone in to the Project Closure Meeting or giving everyone bottles of wine but if your budget cannot stretch to that, then you might need to consider something else
  4. Talk to your peers. What do they do to recognise success? What has/has not worked for them?
    1. This is vital if you are new to an organisation or want to try something new. It can be useful to see what has already been tried and what was successful or not.

Why is celebrating success important?

This may sound odd but there are a lot of Project Managers and organisations that do not celebrate success. They do not look at it as something that is important in a project and I’ve started a crusade to try and convince Project Managers to make an effort to celebrate their projects, teams and on a wider level. It is not just about celebrating your teams’ achievements but also about recognising the work that you have done, the value that you have delivered and what you’ve been able to achieve.

Communicating within your team – Advice from within

During a recent conference, one question that came from attendees was: How can I improve and become an effective communicator within my team? and I wanted to spend some time to answer this question and also share some knowledge from my experience.

What can you do to become an effective communicator?

1.Listen!

This may sound counter intuitive but to be a good communicator you need to listen to what you are being told but also what you are not hearing. Listening and being an active listener is one of the most important skills of being a Project Manager and it’s something that you cannot underestimate.

2. Be concise in your communications

When you are communicating to your team, don’t waffle! Be clear, concise and use appropriate wording. You need to understand who your audience is and make it appropriate to them. If you’re working a lot with Senior Management, it may not be appropriate to go into technical details.

3. Have a plan

One of the core competencies of a Project Management is having a good communication plan. Are you looking at everyone that you need to be talking to? What should you be telling them? when should they be informed? I’d also recommend getting colleagues/ PMO input to make sure that you’re including everyone that needs to be communicated to and that it’s at a frequency that they will appreciate.

4. Communicate effectively

Have you ever been in a presentation and thought: What on earth am I seeing? or getting frustrated because the presenter hasn’t understood the brief or audience that they are presenting to? When I start a new project, I like to ask the following questions:

  1. What format would you like to receive the project updates?
    1. Examples being: Face to face, emails, presentations etc.
  2. When would you like to receive these updates?
    1. Examples are: Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly etc

Once I have this information, i’m able to create a plan that will allow me to communicate to the right audience and with the right form of communication

5. Make time for your team

One big complaint that I often see from Team Members is that their Project Managers are too busy and they feel bad for talking/ interrupting them. I have an open door policy and will regularly be available at lunch/during breaks to talk to my team and be ‘open’ to them. This may not always be about work but it could also be about personal things but it will also help to build your communication within your team.

6. Don’t lie/ exaggerate

One thing that I often tell to Project Managers that can be a little insecure is for them not to lie/ exaggerate to their team. This is vital for building trust within your team and having an ‘honest’ Project Manager will also help your reputation in the company. Don’t be afraid to say: I don’t know or I’m not sure. You can note it down and work it out and come back to them.

What tips do you have to becoming an effective communicator? What do you do to ensure a smooth communication exists within your team? Let’s chat!

Know the signs

I was recently asked: “What makes a successful Project Manager” and it took me by surprise.  Of course, there is the obvious “Delivering successful projects” but a more subtle one is about knowing the signs when something is going right/wrong. During this blog, I want to give you a few ‘signs’ that you might want to consider and see if they apply to your projects/ organisations.

1. Lack of involvement/ general disinterest about the project/ activities

One of the biggest indications or signs that the Project may be headed for trouble is where team members or specific stakeholders are not attending meetings, contributing to agreed tasks or providing sign off for their responsibilities. I’ve seen this happen in several ways and more often than not, it’s a sign of poor change management within the project. General disinterest could present itself as not contributing during team meetings or being late/ not attending the meetings at all.

If you do find team members/stakeholders that you feel are starting to become disinterested, then I suggest discussing this with them privately. Try to understand if this is the case and then start working out why they’re disengaged and then go from there to resolve their issues or escalate accordingly.

2. Rumour mill / stories

I’ve previously seen a sign where there could have been issues in the project when the rumour mill within the team/company starts churning. Rumours about the changes in the project, changes in leadership, issues within the project being escalated higher than they actually are. When the rumour mill starts, I try to listen as this can be a goo indication of where the ‘concerns’ are within an organisation and then I try to identify where the rumour came from to be able to tackle the issue directly.

As a Consultant, I often see certain types of companies (normally with very rigid hierarchies) becoming victim to the rumour mill and this can seriously damage the reputation of a project and ability to perform their role.

3.Gut instinct

One great instinct that I think is very underrated is about Gut Instinct. It’s a feeling that ‘something isn’t quite right there’. It is one skill that comes with experience and it’s very difficult to learn as a Junior Project Manager. Having gut instincts and knowing where issues could arise can help solve issues before occur. To try and build your gut instinct, I like to read through lesson learned reports and discuss with other Project Managers about the issues that they’ve seen in their project and what could be done to resolve it.

4.Meetings suddenly become difficult

I’ve heard this one from colleagues that have worked in projects with very complex stakeholders. During general meetings, there can be a lot of disagreements or ‘non’ issues appearing that come across as major issues that need to be investigated/resolved. An example from a colleagues project was during their regular status meeting, there was a 30 minute discussion on why a certain action was taken that had already been decided upon and was already known for several weeks.

5.The Metrics indicate that something is going wrong

This is perhaps one of the most ‘obvious’ signs. If you have project metrics that indicate that your velocity is not as high as expected or alternatively that your team is not performing as well as it should be (based upon the history of the project metrics).

I try to do a regular (monthly) review of the metrics and I also use this to verify if my gut instinct or other signs are correct/accurate. Metrics are very black and white though, so they may not show the entire story.

6.Management having ‘secret’ meetings/longer meetings

One indication of a wider issue within your project s organisation could be management taking longer meetings/ holding secret meetings where the outcomes are not discussed. This ‘hidden’ element can lead to #2 (rumour mill running wild). This may not be a strong indications for issues within your project but it could indicate problems in the wider company.

Summary

In general I like to try and keep an open mind when it comes to all of my projects and give everything the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. I do like to look at the possibilities and opportunities that we can have to learn about projects and potential signs that we may not have seen yet.

What signs do you use in your projects to know when something might be going wrong?

 

Drama should only be on the TV and not in your projects

Have you ever had it when there’s been some massive drama in your project and you’re having to deal with it? Either with inter-personal conflict or people turning up the conflict unnecessarily?

During a recent coaching session, I was supporting one Project Manager who is having this conflict at the moment. They are working in a large, multinational company and there are A LOT of complex stakeholders involved. One particular stakeholder wasn’t happy that they weren’t being included “enough” in the project and decided to spread rumours that were false about the project status and how certain team members were getting ahead in the project/organisation. All in all, a very unproductive use of their time and something which was causing the Project Manager to lose a lot of sleep and spend a significant amount of energy resolving.

This is what I suggested that they do and how they handle this situation:

  1. Identify who is spreading the gossip and ‘fake news’
  2. Understand why they are behaving like this and what their motivations are
  3. Look at what you do to mitigate the issue and rumours
  4. Go on a PR mission to resolve and get the Stakeholder on side
  5. Get your stakeholders aligned and onside.

In this example, the stakeholder in question felt that their position in the organisation was being weakened through this project and they wanted to ensure that they remained ‘important’. I coached the Project Manager on what they could do to bring that person onside and what they could to try and mitigate any further issues from appearing.

Then we took on the PR mission and what we could to resolve the rumours from being spread further or causing more damage to the projects reputation. This involved getting key stakeholders on board and supporting the project openly and vocally. This wasn’t an easy thing to achieve.

It wasn’t easy.

What would you have done if you were the project manager? Would you have tried other ways to diffuse the conflict or situation?

Coaching Session: Stakeholder Management

I really enjoy coaching as it stretches me to think about things in different ways / possibilities. Most recently, it’s been about Stakeholder Management.

Stakeholder management had always been one of those things that I never really took any notice of. It was more of “something to do on a checklist” rather than: what does it really look like? How does it work in reality? So when I was asked to support a friend who was struggling with it in their project, I jumped at the opportunity to help.

What does the Matrix look like for you?

There’s a lot of different formats which are used for Stakeholder Management. I’ve said that it doesn’t matter which format you use, it has to be one that’s fit for purpose and suitable for your project!

2018-11-13 13_48_11-Sample stakeholder Register and Power matrix - Excel

What input is needed for the “Power Interest Grid”?

There are a few things that you need to gather before creating a power / interest grid. I’d conduct a full stakeholder analysis with your team to make sure that you’ve included everyone (don’t forget vendors, third parties or other interest groups!). Once you have this, you can either choose to do the analysis by yourself for how powerful each stakeholder is or you can work together with your team to come to a common consensus. I often do this task by myself and check a few of the uncertainties with peers/ the team.

2018-11-13 13_51_40-Sample stakeholder Register and Power matrix - Excel

How do you get this input?

The friend who was struggling with their project didn’t really know who was involved in the project so didn’t know their power/interest so I suggested that they make this a living document and update it along the way once they get to know the team and the dynamics.

It’s important to remember that both Power and Interest for a project can change during a project (both positive and negative).

How to build relationships with people you’ve never met and will never meet?

This can be the most difficult part of Stakeholder Management and one that i’d recommend that you spend some time to work out:

  1. What’s feasible? Is it possible to spend some time on this? Could you arrange face to face to help build the team?
  2. What’s right for the team/ stakeholders: This one can be difficult to assess but you need to understand what’s best for the stakeholders that you want to build a relationship with. Are they someone who just wants emails and that’s fine? or are they someone that you should be making an effort to have a lunch/ catch up with?
  3. Have a look at what’s important and then go from there to know how you can build your relationship.

Some ideas for building remote relationships:

  1. Consider using video conferencing to ‘bridge’ the gap
  2. Look at what onsite meetings you can use to check in and spend some time on team building activities when you get there
  3. Ask them! Ask them how they want to be kept informed. what’s best for them and what they can expect from you. This can also be a great exercise on building relationships within your project.
  4. Try to bring the remote team members into the ‘onsite’ project. This could be with secret santa, silly jumper day etc. Anything to help show them that they are in the team.

Stakeholder management can be a difficult thing to master and it’s one thing that you will need to adapt for every project and group of stakeholders. There is no “one fits all” solution but you can reuse some of the skills you have in other ways.

What are your tips for effective stakeholder management?

Presenting at DITAEurope

I’ve had a great morning presenting at the DITA Europe conference. DITA Europe is a content management conference bringing together the best minds and solutions to provide strategies that you can use directly in your daily work.

The conference was held in Rotterdam with great views of the city! The conference venue was really well set up and the room/ environment was really conducive to a good learning day. There were a series of great talks and also a ‘technology test kitchen’ which had some really great session like: DITA Adoption: How to involve non-technical authors and how to make metadata great again. I find it really fantastic that the audience was a mix of technical team and management.

2018-11-06 14_02_07-Emily Luijbregts (@Em_The_PM) _ Twitter

I was presenting a topic called: The Questions you should be asking your team. This is one of my favourite topics to discuss and it’s great to share knowledge with different groups of people.

The audience was slightly different to the normal people that I present to, which gave me an alternative viewpoint and insight hearing from team members themselves. What was most important for me during this workshop was seeing how they could use the information in the presentation to adapt their working day and the information that they are giving to their management/ leadership.

2018-11-06-14_01_39-emily-luijbregts-em_the_pm-_-twitter.png

During the lively Q&A, I got to learn how other teams celebrate success/ improvements and also some more constructive areas (e.g. how some managers highlight success/ failure). One of the audience mentioned that:

“In a previous company, our management had a massive screw and they used to give it to the employee who screwed up that week”.

One of the areas that gave me ‘food for thought’ was how teams respond to the different motivations and what’s important for them in starting and opening dialogues; “I didn’t like my Project Manager trying to force their planning on us when we knew that it was inaccurate”.

2018-11-06 14_01_13-Emily Luijbregts (@Em_The_PM) _ Twitter

After the session, several people came up to ask questions and as a follow up i’ll be emailing them with ideas such as:

  • How to work with French teams and how you can orientate your questions working in a French environment
  • What’s the best way to manage your mental health as a team member being involved with a difficult team
  • How to work /orientate your questions when you have multiple cultures/nationalities in your team

It’s been a great day and I can’t wait to connect with others on this fascinating topic.