September 22, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Traits of Leaders in the Digital Era

By Roelof Louw

Many definitions of leadership can be found and in essence leadership is about people, about change and about achieving goals. This article will explore leadership skills in the digital era.

Leaders in digital eraIn an article published on the site, Executives Online, the author, Andrew MacAskill (Feb 18, 2015) identifies “5 Essential Skills of a Future Super Leader” as:

  • Digital savvy
  • An engineering mindset
  • An agile risk taker
  • A true believe in corporate and social responsibility
  • Great self-leaders

Digital savvy

A digital savvy leader must have a solid understanding of current technologies that enables a social and global connectivity to be in touch with the changes demanded or needed in society, industry and the market place. These technologies provide the means to create knowledge from an explosion of information to allow for identification of a change or a trend. A leader also uses these tools to drive the change.

Engineering mindset

A leader must have an engineering mindset to apply new technology concepts and trends such as Cloud Computing, Telemetry and Big Data to enable people to innovate within an industry and thereby leading people to change through applied innovation.

Agile risk taker

Risk is inevitable. MacAskill describes that risk can be valuable when a leader practices intelligent risk taking which is sometimes necessary, to prosper. Leaders must be informed and knowledgeable to know when to take calculated risks, when to avoid it and how to manage risks in particular situations. A leader needs to be in touch and digitally connected to be a successful, agile risk taker.

Corporate and social responsibility

Capitalism in its essence cannot be socially responsible however business leaders live in a capitalist world with a growing demand for social responsibility to ensure sustainability. A true future leader within the digital era must therefore apply technology and innovation to create a mindset or psyche of social responsibility. This requires entrenchment of the concepts of sustainability in the organization, with employees and customers alike and in the community.

Self-leaders

Leadership is not instructional. A leader must be a successful business leader, an upstanding community leader and a followed people leader. In business, a leader must apply him or herself to specialize or master a subject, apply his / her expertise in the community and be in touch with emotions, passions and abilities of people to lead.

It is important to remember that leadership skills can be developed. Leaders of today must become future super leaders as MacAskill describes them where the leadership traits and styles are applied within the context of the digital era.

About the Author:

Roelof Louw is an IT professional with a passion for how people, technology and process are applied in business, community and society to improve, drive change and innovate.  At present Roelof focuses on applying his career experience in IT management and strategy as well as consultation on Cloud, Managed Services and Computing Services topics. Connect with Roelof on Linkedin or mail him at roelof.louw@gmail.com

Leadership Skills for Project Managers

Leadership skills for project managers Good leadership skills are what make a good project manager great. This article will explore the attributes that would make the project manager a great leader.

Inspire a Shared Team Vision

For a project to work, everybody needs to share the same vision for the project. Great project managers help all team members feel like they have an equal stake in a project, and empower everyone to share and experience the group’s vision.  When team members share a similar vision, they are committed to deliver their best.

Integrity

Good leadership requires commitment and adherence to ethical practices. Good project managers abide by ethical standards and reward those team members who follow suit is part of the responsibility of the job.

Great Communication Skills

Project managers need to clearly communicate goals, performance and expectations; and they need to manage feedback coming at them from all directions.  Being accessible, open, and direct is critical for being a good communicator. Further, having the ability to persuade team members to do certain tasks a bit differently, or work overtime when necessary, is equally as important.  Overall, a project manager’s overall effectiveness is often realized by the ability to communicate effectively.

Competency in the Subject Matter of the Project

Team members need to feel like their project manager has some degree of expertise in the project’s subject matter. As such, project leaders should have the ability to lead their team with technical expertise if the project so requires it. Leaders who are seen as competent by their peers have the ability to inspire, enable and encourage.

Promote Team Building

A project manager must understand team building dynamics.  He or she must go through each phase of team development – even when conflict arises – and get the team to focus on the common goal.   Great project managers foster a sense of unity on the team, across personal dynamics.

Good with Task Delegation

Assigning the right tasks to the right people and trusting them to leverage the best of their abilities is a key characteristic of a great project manager.

Good Problem Solving Abilities

Great project managers solve problems by sharing the responsibility with the experts on their team. This means leveraging the knowledge of those team members and stakeholders who have the expert knowledge to assist; and setting a plan to solve tough problems by harnessing that team experience.

Stay Cool Under Pressure

In a perfect world, every project would complete on time, on budget, and on scope. Unfortunately, when the going gets tough, good project managers remain calm. Warrant Bennis stated: “Out of the uncertainty and chaos of change, leaders rise up and articulate a new image of the future that pulls the project together.”  Great project managers stay cool under pressure.

I like this definition of Leadership: “leading is about establishing direction and influencing others to follow that direction”. This is a good indicator of how project managers should lead their project teams.

As a project manager you lead and facilitate the team members to work towards the same goal consistently.

About Linky van der Merwe: Linky is the Founder of Virtual Project Consulting. Her mission is to provide project management best practices and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers.  A certified project management professional with more than 13 years project management experience and a track record of more than 30 successful projects.

7 Key Leadership Actions for Project Managers

Fulfilling the role of project manager for any length of time will call upon your leadership skills.  Especially in today’s complex world, the project management function is no longer a controlling function, but rather a function of leadership and facilitation.
7 Leadership skills for project managers

Project Leadership Skills

It has been said that the true measure as to whether someone is a leader is whether they have followers. Building a following as a leader is a vital component in your success and getting the results that you want. For a project manager your leadership reach is usually the project/program teams that you work with. This means that you don’t have the luxury of earning respect as a  leader over time, but you need to establish your credibility as a leader up front at the beginning of project.

So what are the 7 KEY leadership actions you can take to establish credibility as a leader?

Action 1: Demonstrate Competence

As the leader, people need to have confidence that you are a competent project manager. Being competent is not about being the expert in every area but having enough skill and experience to make effective decisions.

Action 2: Show Your Commitment

Project managers move between different organisational departments, different functional teams and sometimes they move between different companies (like contractors). While working with a particular organisation and functional team, it is of vital importance to demonstrate you commitment by working hard on a day to day basis. This will also set an example of the commitment you expect from your project team members.

Action 3: Be Consistent and Only Promise What You Can Deliver

Consistency is by far one of the key actions to establish yourself as a respected leader to be trusted. Consistent leadership requires you to be consistent with how you treat all people. Closely related to this is to only promise what you can deliver (agreed scope) and then to deliver as per requirements (satisfied stakeholders).

Action 4: Be an Active Listener

Most leaders are excellent at getting their points across verbally and in writing. Exceptional leaders are also exceptional listeners. Leadership requires you to pay attention to active listening.

Action 5: Prepare For Meetings and Presentations

You might have heard the statement, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Running a meeting or making the presentation is the easy bit. The key action is to always be prepared and have specific objectives or an agenda for every meeting.

Action 6: Take Responsibility

You get the rewards of being a leader and at the same time it comes with responsibility. When issues arise (as they always do), make a point of taking responsibility. You are ultimately accountable for the success of the project.

Action 7: Act with Integrity

A golden rule for all project managers in leadership positions is to make sure your behaviours or actions will be authentic and based on integrity.

Leadership is key

Leadership competence is not an optional project management skill, but a key part of being a successful, professional and efficient project manager. Make these 7 leadership actions part of your regular project manager make-up.  Credibility will come naturally as a result of applying these actions in your day-to-day management of projects. Your leadership skills will continue to grow stronger with experience; remember to enjoy the ride….

For future project management articles, please subscribe here, as well as to the blog (to the right).

About the author: Linky van der Merwe is a Microsoft Project Management Consultant and an IT Project Manager with more than 11 years Project Management experience.

She consults with business owners and service professionals about project management and project processes, best practices and successful delivery through projects. She is most experienced in corporate infrastructure projects (upgrades, migration, deployment etc) and process optimisation. She can be reached at linky@virtualprojectconsulting.com

5 Steps To Leadership Success

Keys to successWhat is your Leadership Style?

By Deanne Earle from www.unlikebefore.com

Have you ever been asked to take on a poorly performing team, department, or project in chaos? Do you leap in like the caped crusader to save the world or  are you overly consultative in an attempt to make friends and influence people? We know how challenging these situations are and we also know they can be exceptionally rewarding.

Follow our 5 steps to set the scene, quickly establish credibility, build trust and maximise the chances of success with your leadership skills.

1. Get Clear

If you’re not clear on what it is you’re being asked to do how will you be able to do it? Forget about the rumours and put aside your own thoughts and opinions for the moment because Step 1 is to have absolute clarity of your role by asking the following:

What is it exactly that you’re being asked to do? Do not presume to understand from the first explanation.

What role are you being asked to play? Tough guy, motivator, sort-out, clean-up, deliver, or all of these and more.

Why are they asking you? What is it you do that makes you the choice for this role?

What’s the timeframe? Constraints? Dependencies?

What is the line of accountability, level of authority, and scope of responsibilities?

Important Note – if the person asking you to take this role cannot answer these questions find someone who can. Get clear on your reporting path and purpose. Without this success will be severely limited from the start.

2. Agenda(s)

Find out who has what agenda and why. What are the motivations behind this need and how do they relate to the scope of the challenge at hand? Having this information will help you identify and fill any gaps in the brief and round-off Step 1.

3. Initial Thoughts

Based on Steps 1 and 2 you can now start adding the gossip, grapevine hearsay and corridor conversations you’ve picked up to begin forming your own initial opinions, ideas and thoughts. Many of these will be questions, which you’ll work to answer in Steps 4 and 5. It’s important to reserve judgement and for any opinions to remain fluid until you’ve got all the input because at this stage you’ve only been spoken to by a higher authority and you haven’t yet spoken with your new team.

4. Active Listening

Critical to a successful outcome is consulting with those you’ll be working with. The best way to do this is with 1-on-1’s. Preparation is imperative for effective leadership:

Clear your diary and make 1-on-1 times with everyone. Set expectations via communication:

  • Why you are the chosen one.
  • Set the scene about your role. Stick to the facts
  • Purpose of the 1-on-1
  • Input you expect from each person. Make it clear this is a collaborative session and their opportunity to contribute. You need their input on:
    • what works well now
    • what doesn’t
    • what they see as issues and risks
    • which things they believe can be improved, why and how
    • what level of involvement or contribution they’re prepared to have / give
    • what expectations they have of you
  • Conduct each session from a base of integrity. Approach each on as a blank canvas and with an open mind. Be firm yet fair. Create a collaborative atmosphere. One where trust can be built through honesty and transparency. Let each person know this is a level playing field and that they have as much, or more, to contribute as you do.
  • Let them talk getting their frustrations out while making sure to bring the session back on track if necessary. It’s their opportunity to be constructive and proactively contribute, not just a moaning session.
  • Make lots of notes. Paraphrase back what they say to ensure you have understood their meaning correctly. Where you know something is not possible or never going to happen, tell them. There are things you can and cannot influence so don’t lead them up the garden path.
  • Keep asking ‘what else?’ until you can see in their body language and hear in their words that all is out and on the table.
  • Wrap up the session with a definitive statement about what will happen next.

5. Plan for Action

Now it’s time to consolidate what is actually going to happen, who will do what, the milestones that need to be achieved and their timeline, and what approach you’re going to take to deliver it all. It’s important to invest time and effort here as:

  • you don’t want to destroy the momentum and trust created in Step 4 by paying lip-service to your new team
  • everything you plan needs to remain aligned with the original brief you’ve been given.

Taking all the gathered inputs you can now add your own ideas and opinions to develop a truly collaborative plan. Your delivery style is also critical. Always start how you mean to continue while also being prepared to adapt as situations change. Don’t forget to share the plan! Maintain the momentum you’ve created and maximise the opportunity for success by communicating what is to be done and the part everyone has to play in it. This clarity of purpose ensures buy-in because everyone in your team needs you to specify their Step 1.

These 5 Steps are repeatable and work every time. Use them with each new leadership role or situation and we know you’ll maximise both your and others success.

If you have questions or need further assistance to create this type of change in your business, contact info@unlikebefore.com

For more Leadership articles

8 Skills Needed On The Project Management Road To Success

By Linky van der Merwe

What Are The Project Management Skills Needed To Be Successful?

Find a more current version of this article: 10 Skills for your Project Management Path To Success

Are you cut out to be a project manager? I landed in the project management profession by accident, but I stayed there on purpose. It is because I love what I do and I suppose my natural strengths and skills are a good match for doing project management. Whether you have planned to became a Project Manager or whether it happened by accident, it is important to know what your strengths and skills are and if they match the skills needed to be a successful project manager.

Project managers need both leadership and management skills, with a knack for problem solving.

Project managers are there to plan and manage the work – NOT to do it!

So what is the Project Management Skills Set you need to be a successful project manager? Eight key skills needed for project management are explained here (but the list is by no means complete). 

1.   Be a Leader and a Manager

Leaders share and communicate a common vision (future state or end goal); they gain agreement and establish the future direction. They motivate others. Managers are results driven and focus on getting work done against agreed requirements. A good project manager will constantly switch from a leader to a manager as situations require.

2.   Be a Team Builder and a Team Leader

Projects are often cross-functional in that they use people who may not have worked together before. It is up to the project manager to set the atmosphere of the team, and to lead them through the various team development phases to the point where they perform as a team.

3.    Be an Excellent Communicator

Being a communicator means recognising that it’s a two-way street. Information comes into the project and information goes out of the project. All communications on your project should be clear and complete.

As a project manager you will have to deal with both written and oral communications. Some examples are documents, meetings, reviews, reports, and assessments. A good mental guideline is “who needs this information, who gathers and delivers it, when or how often do they need it, and in what form will I give it to them”.

4.   Be a Good Organizer

Let’s just think of the aspects you will need to organize; project filing including all documentation, contracts, e-mails, memo’s, reviews, meetings, specialist documents, requirements and specifications, reports, changes, issues, risks, etc.

It’s almost impossible to stay organized without having Time Management Skills – so add this to your list!

5.   Be a Competent and Consistent Planner

The skill of planning can’t be underestimated (and neither can estimating!). There are known and logical steps in creating plans. As a project manager you will certainly own the Project Plan, but it must be created with input from the team. Examples are Test Plans, Risk Management Plans, Hand-over Plans, Benefit Realisation Plans, etc. As long as you’re aware that planning should become second nature to you.

6.   Be a Problem Solver

Fortunately, this is a skill that can be learned.

Firstly, you need to identify the possible ’causes’ that lead to the problem ’symptom’. Now, causes can come from a variety of sources, some are: 

  • interpersonal problems
  • internal sources
  • external sources
  • technical sources
  • management sources
  • communication
  • opinions or perceptions

Having found the root causes, the next step is to analyze possible options and alternatives, and determine the best course of action to take in order to resolve the problem(s).

7.    Be a Negotiator and Influencer

Negotiation is working together with other people with the intention of coming to a joint agreement. And for all these you need to have some influencing skills. Influencing is getting events to happen by convincing the other person that your way is the better way – even if it’s not what they want. Influencing power is the ability to get people to do things they would not do otherwise.

8.   Set Up and Manage Budgets

At the heart of this is the skill of estimating – particularly cost estimates. Nearly always the project manager will need certain knowledge of financial techniques and systems along with accounting principles.

Part of the Project Plan will be something called the Cost Plan. This will show the planned cost against a time-scale. The PM will want to get involved in purchasing, quoting, reconciling invoices, time sheets, etc.

The project manager then needs to establish what has actually happened as opposed to what was planned and to forecast the expected final costs.

Well, this is only a summary of the main areas.

If you are new to project management, don’t be overwhelmed by all this – there are well understood methodologies, tools, guidelines, and procedures to help you on your way to developing the important life-skills of Project Management.

Please subscribe to my blog (to the right) to receive more project management tips and articles!

Don’t forget to connect with Linky on her Social Network sites (top right) and share your experiences.

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