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Issue # 35 May 2011

Pow'Rful Presentations Newsletter


May 2011 - Social Project Leaders


Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas, strategies and techniques to assist readers be more present in life, better project managers and make effective presentations (in all senses of the word).
Disclaimer - depending on your background, and my South African origins, you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be "imaginative".


© Wayne Botha 2011



Project Management = Social Psychology + Plain old People Skills

As Barbara Streisand pointed out "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world." Projects are executed by people. As a seasoned project manager, you have worked with all sorts of people over the years, from the "You mean I need to speak to people?" geek-wizards to "suave, vision and big-picture" senior executives. What have you learned about working with these different personalities over the years? Have you realized that more projects are successful because of your social skills than your scheduling expertise?


If you have mastered the science of project management (i.e. You know how to create and maintain an MS-Project plan), then now is the perfect time to revisit your social skills. You already have some social skills, because you wouldn't last very long in a project management role if you did not.


Here are the areas to revisit and enhance your project success this month, using skills that have proven to work for me over the years.


1. Have a positive attitude. Do you want to be around people that whine all the time? Assume that your sponsors and project team members want to also be around people with positive attitudes. You choose your attitude - make it a positive one.


2. Remember to remember birthdays and anniversaries. Take note of the date that a person celebrates an anniversary and hosts the office party. Remember to enter it as a recurring appointment on your electronic calendar, and sure enough - next year, on the same date, you will be notified of the same anniversary. In the office environment, don't cross the line. Don't ask for this information if it is not volunteered and respect the wishes of others - only celebrate and congratulate anniversaries that the person celebrates. You don't need to remember the date of the celebration. You just need to remember to schedule it into your electronic calendar, and send a short email on the anniversary.


3. Develop your ability for pleasant persistence. As a project manager herding cats, you sometimes need to call, email and hound people to get their input on plans and obtain status. This means you need to keep on calling, emailing and following up to get the information you need to make your project successful. It does not mean that you are a doormat - escalate the situation if your attempts at pleasant persistence lead to fruitless frustration.


4. Work with people when you negotiate and brainstorm. Use words such as "I am on your side", "we are in this together" when you meet with a team member or matrix partner who has different objectives to yours. Your words, attitude and humor make it easier to get your project done and for both of you to succeed. Saying "You must create this additional report, because it is the process" doesn't help when your matrix partner's team is working 14 hours a day just to keep the project moving forward.


5. Keep people in the loop. Report good and bad news. Be transparent. While researching for "Beyond The Certification", one senior program manager phrased it like this. "Business sponsors want to have a continuation in conversation." Each status report and each communication must continue the prior conversation. If your report at the end of month one "Project is green" and in month two "Our hair is on fire, project is red" and introduce a new format of status reports each month, then business sponsors feel out of the loop and that the project is out of control. Your social skills include having a "continuation of conversation."


6. Politely, say "No." Learn and practice the ways of saying "No", politely and without offense. For example, "Thank you for bringing that up. We discussed it at the last meeting and this was the decision. Let's move on."


7. Learn memory techniques to associate faces to names, and make the effort to learn and remember people's names. Greet them when you walk down the hall. I worked in a building where I was called "The Mayor" because I knew so many people in the building. It is very helpful when you manage a project - you have relationships of varying degrees with many people.


8. Enhancing social skills is a contact sport - you can't do it in vacuum. Get feedback on your social skills from someone that demonstrates good organizational social skills. You may have habits or tone of voice that is irritating or downright rude and you have no clue about them or the impact they are having. For example, working with a person who frequently says "I don't mean any harm, but..." or "Let me give you feedback on that," when the feedback is neither wanted nor accurate.


Your social skills may currently be your blind spot to moving your career to the next level. Nobody will tell you this, which means that you may be ignorant to the fact that this is your current blind spot. I identify opportunities for improvement by soliciting feedback from people I trust in that situation. What will you do, today, to assess your social skills?




My latest book "Beyond The Certification" is getting rave reviews, with testimonials such as "Practical tips for project managers to use every day" and "Easy to read and apply." If you want your group to hear the results of my research and answers to the question "What does it take to be a successful project manager in the real world?" then contact me and lets see if we can work together for a win/win/win outcome.


Get more value on my blog and facebook.

Copyright 2017 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897