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Relationship Management – PM Tips

A key skill within project management is effective relationship management; I know some exceptional communicators and also know some who think they are exceptional communicators – unfortunately it is difficult to break through a hardened ego shell so this article is aimed at those who remain open minded to improving or honing their skill. Behaviours play a big part of relationship management and building – gaining respect doesn’t purely come from a shining track record of stellar delivery, it comes from a few factors:

  1. Respecting others – show interest in individuals and understand what their drivers are, listen to them and hold on to the information.
  2. Be genuine – we are all human, admit your mistakes and set your limits.
  3. Support others awareness of you, share interests and values.
  4. Demonstrate integrity – practice what you preach, roll your sleeves up and work with others.

handshake

Connect with others by listening, create a positive environment where you demonstrate a personal investment in the relationship, apply appropriate boundaries and gain a clear sense of what individuals are saying, build rapport and encourage others to listen in return.

When in a scenario you should look to apply the following:

  • Acknowledge what is being said, register what is happening.
  • Identify their intentions – what is it they hope to achieve.
  • Review – consider the conversation and either respond there or give a time when you will be able to provide a response.

Always ensure conversations have a healthy balance of input and response, listen, offer support or solutions, listen, confirm understanding, listen, reflect and summarise. Make observations; provide feedback and/or opinions, challenge views, offer relevant examples/stories and advice. Don’t talk over others – let them have their say, but keep in control of the discussion.

Ten ways to motivate your project team

Having worked in a diverse range of businesses from a large blue chip automotive organisation, mid size telematics company to an incredibly small recruitment business I have come across a number of management styles and found some really work and others which truly do need locking away. Most of my motivational work has come through managing globally dispersed teams which is a little harder to execute the below suggestions however I have been fortunate enough to be involved in some fantastic projects in the UK and these tips really do work.

1. Inclusion – this seems more than obvious but how often have you overlooked a team member as “this part isn’t relevant to them”? I agree that it is both wasteful and unproductive to invite members of the team to meetings which aren’t deemed relevant, however an invite should be extended none the less but more importantly ALL team members should be put on copy of the meetings outcome minutes.

2. Meetings with a twist – try to think of ways which will jazz up meetings, keeping them fresh and productive. Set your goals to be met at the start and try taking turns each meeting with different members of the team facilitating – ask each facilitator to use a different method of presentation, keeping the format fresh.

3. Offer up tasks for grabs – there is always a huge list of tasks requiring attention in projects; why not offer some out for other members of the team to take a fresh approach on. The more junior members of the team will appreciate the opportunity to gain insight into different areas and taking this collaborative approach works to pull teams together; ideally the team members picking up the tasks will be choosing them rather than being lumbered with them.

4. Socialise – we may not choose to spend our weekends with our work colleagues, but an evening set aside once a month to go for a bar snack and drink on a Thursday afternoon is a good idea to get the team together in a more relaxed environment. Don’t talk shop – just let people talk and get to know each other outside the pressures of the office. Don’t force the gatherings but ensure all are very welcome to come along.

5. Rewards – some may argue that the reward is your salary, this is the kind of attitude managers with no responsiveness to people management come up with. Rewards can be little things such as food treats and a “thank you” every now and then. But if you have a team working through lunch times over a week to ensure a project is brought to close on time – you could buy the team lunch – either something delivered in or when the project is delivered, take them all out for lunch.

6. Team building events – steer clear of fusty outsourced “motivation” workshops and think about what will really engage the team, an activity which involves some stellar team work such as orienteering for an afternoon.

Leading on to….

7. Team lead activities – ask the team to get involved with designing activities rather than imposing what you think is needed on them.

8. Action based learning – give the team a challenge where they request support but have to define what they need. This type of activity is very beneficial as it promotes reflection on your own actions and doing the activities rather than being instructed.

9. Charity work – give something back to the local community such as getting the team to build a playground, decorate a deserving persons house or clear a wasteland into a nature reserve. Not only will you draw the team together, you will be helping others and what a fantastic piece of PR for the business.

10. Value your team – quite possibly one of the biggest ways to generate team spirit is for management to value the team. Rather than talking about “how much this is costing” but focussing on the benefits to be generated. Be patient, not all results are yielded immediately so accept that real change takes time.

Creative writing in business

Creative writing does not need to be fictional – in fact a good story teller should be able to apply a style to factual events to make them an interesting read. Some readers actually have a greater buy-in to pieces of literature which are true and this often makes for a larger following. As the web has grown into huge proportions and businesses are reliant on websites, Facebook pages and blogs to market their products it has become necessary for copywriters and content writers to look at different approaches.

Having a creative background albeit visually, I found quite early on in my degree that I could apply my abilities to written form – at first it was a lecturer who read one of my journals and said he liked my humorous approach to writing and from there I was encouraged to write more. I did this throughout my degree but when I left University I went on to forge a career in project management and found that a straight forward factually based style was required especially as I was dealing with a number of teams based across Europe so language barriers became an issue. However I believe that a more creative approach to writing presentations and particularly for workshops, the style can be much more engaging than stuffy communication.

Being creativeIt was when I started working for a project management recruitment agency that I found a balance between writing factual pieces of work and being creative – I was quite  heavily involved in contributing to the company blog, newsletter, and I also wrote my job adverts for prospective candidates. I noticed the more inclusive a job advert was that I received a greater focussed set of applications for my jobs. By noting down key elements but also trying to give the reader a flavour of the organisation, I was starting to generate a great deal of interest. Talking through what they could receive in return for working at the organisation such as culture and making a mark, could easily make up for less competitive salaries.

The interest was not just from the prospective candidates but also other businesses who were particularly interested in my style and I was approached on countless occasions by head hunters. It is true to say that this style of writing has also proven very successful for my current business of professional CV writing – taking a bland piece of information and applying a creative slant to the document has struck a chord with my clients and employers. Bringing some personality to the CV and really painting a picture about the individual in regards to abilities, skills, management style and problem solving.

It just goes to show that you can apply your creative writing abilities to many aspects of work and making an extra effort can really help you get the message across… No more death by powerpoint!

What Makes Project Management Interesting – PM CV Tips

Project Management is all about variety and achievement – however it isn’t as simple as getting from A to B, anyone who has managed a project which has run smoothly will appreciate the hassle free approach but in reality this is a rarity. It is the challenges and blockers which really make for an interesting project and can really add value to your CV. These challenges can range from cultural issues, resistance to change and suppliers going under. Not to mention disparate teams and no buy-in from the senior management team – every PM professional I have spoken to has a portfolio of stories to share but it is rare to see any evidence of this on their CVs. Employers are usually aware of the major issues faced within the organisation when looking to bring in fresh talent and sharing these war stories can really add a new dimension to your application and set you apart from your peers. It isn’t about whinging, trust me, a lot of PM professionals feel sharing such detail would come across like this however written in a positive light on how you overcome significant challenges you are addressing some core areas such as management style, problem solving and organisation. Although the other perception is that it is all part of the job, to a point yes it is but it takes real skill to turn around a failing or troubled piece of work and as such why are you not singing your own praises? Focussing on particular aspects of PM such as the people element or process are key skills sought after by employers. Quantifying your skill set with some key achievements is a great way to showcase yourself in your CV and let’s face it; the job market is flooded so it is imperative you are marketing yourself in the document. Choosing a few achievements with some variety and also targeting specific examples for the roles you are applying for will certainly highlight you for the right reasons with employers and the all important gate keepers (recruiters/HR).

Winner

When noting your achievements you should look to set the scene with enough detail to be clear on the challenge then talk through what you did to rectify the issues, followed by the result / benefits. Keep to a short statement (the CV needs to be concise) and don’t be tempted to share more information than is necessary – it always gives the impression you struggle to get to the point with long winded statements; this is not a good impression to make as hiring managers will assume an hour long interview is likely to go on for 3 hours and project meetings will unnecessarily overrun. Remember it is not just the content that is being assessed, are you being clear, concise and demonstrating an understanding of what it is you do.