Monthly Archives: April 2016

What’s Got Your Goat?

download (29)Some time back my son and I participated in a service project to help a young family clean out a back yard. At one time the yard was a wonderful oasis with a swimming pool, lush garden, and beautiful walkways. The once beautiful oasis was neglected over time and became an overgrown jungle of northwest foliage with its prime resident being thorny blackberry bushes. The blackberry bushes were six feet tall and covered most of the yard. What a prickly mess!

Fortunate for my son and I the homeowner had already cleared out the blackberry bushes prior to us participating in the service project. I asked the homeowner if he hired some goats to do the job. For those of you who may not know, goats are voracious herbivores and can clear out even the toughest blackberry bushes. The homeowner replied that he didn’t use goats but rather used pesticides and lots of manual labor to clear the yard of the blackberry bushes. The job got done, but it took the homeowner a lot of time and energy to clear the yard. This situation got me to thinking about the lesson that goats can teach us about leadership.

In my 30-plus years, I unfortunately can recall plenty of times where my leadership style was not about empowerment, but about micro-management and errand running. When you treat your team as errand runners, they not only will feel less empowered to do their jobs but will also likely not take the opportunity to learn how to do things the next time. This is not only bad for the team member but also makes life harder for you.

When goats clear blackberry bushes their mission is crystal clear to them. They eat until the job is done. They don’t take direction on how to do a job nor do they ask permission to do what needs to be done. They’re brought to the problem, given boundaries to work within, and then they solve the problem. The goats are empowered to do what they do best.

As leaders we can learn something from goats. When there is a problem, be crystal clear with the team as to what the problem is, ensure they know the parameters of what “done” looks like, then get the heck out of the way and let them solve the problem. Don’t micro-manage, insist something is done your way, or frustrate the team with random about-faces. Let them clear the fields and bask in the glow of knowing they did a great job solving a thorny issue.

 

How to Drive Company Growth Part 2: Strategy

download (28)In the last article, we discussed situations that may result in a failure to move the company forward. Even if the business is currently thriving, if you lose sight of the long-term, it may end up causing more harm in the future. Burning through resources will not lead to successful company and a lost leader will not lead to a successful team.

The solution to this problem: small business management. First, let us quickly define small business management as the organization and direction of the different activities that occur within a company. The two aspects of small business management include: strategy and implementation. This article will focus on strategy- what it means and how to develop a successful one for your company. The next article will focus more on implementation.

What is strategy? Strategy is the big picture that your company has developed and is striving towards. As the leader of your company and as such, you want to create an effective strategy and also be able to see it through. A strong leader is able to take action and implement the plans.

The steps to developing a strong strategy are as follows:

1) Allocating time to focus on the strategy

2) Outlining the problems you are facing.

3) Writing down what you’d like to accomplish within a set timeframe

4) Identifying all the resources- and their strengths- that you have available to you

5) Partnering with a small business consulting firm and a business coach

Each of these steps is crucial to understanding the gaps between where you want to be and where you currently are. Without a strong strategy and management, your business may run out of steam, even if it looks like it is currently doing well. What you want, overall, is to be able to drive this company forward and see it grow. And thus, your strategy must honestly address all your strengths and weaknesses- and the plan above is a great way to start thinking about them.

So why do you need a business coach? To put it simply, if you could have solved the problem yourself, you already would have. A business coach is a great investment because s/he can help you become a great leader. S/he can help you see through a strategy that truly fits your company by identifying real causes that may have been holding you back. With the help of the right coach, the first four steps can result in drastic changes for your company and develop your potential as the leader and manager.

For more in-depth information about each of the steps listed above, visit our blog and the article, From Business Strategy to Implementation with Executive Coaching.

How to Become a Project Manager: Can You Learn by Watching?

download (27)Going on a formal project management course is a must for an aspiring project manager. However, there are a number of additional approaches you can use to develop your project management skills. Direct experience is often cited as the ultimate teacher and most would agree that this is undoubtedly true. The problem is though, that you may not always be in the ideal position to be gaining direct experience. In this case, a secondary approach can be taken. I call it the ‘watch, analyse and learn’ strategy.

For this approach to be effective, you need to be in a situation where you have the opportunity to observe a project or a number of projects. Typically, there are always projects going on in any business today. This is essentially due to the fast pace at which the business environment is changing. I find that the most ideal situation requires that you are sitting among or very close to where the project activity is occurring. Because of the modern trend of open plan offices, you get to hear some of the chatter between project team members. There is also the opportunity to have conversations over a cup of coffee.

There are a number of specific things you can look for while observing. Does the chatter sound as if things are going well or not? In each case, see if the success or failure can be attributed to specific ways of operating. Watch how the project team members work together. Are they co-operative or otherwise? If not, why do you think this is? Could anything be done to improve relationships? Are there issues external to the project team members that are affecting their ability to do their work? All of this information is valuable to you as you learn to become a project manager. However, it is only useful, if you are able to come up with alternative approaches that overcome any issues you may be seeing. Always ask yourself how you would do ‘it’ if you were the project manager. Think about what you’ve learned in your project management studies and how some of the theory may apply in practice.

There are some ‘DON’Ts’ that you need to pay attention to. Remember you’ve got your own job to do and you must not compromise this. Your reputation has to be intact if you are to get an opportunity to try out your own project management skills. Don’t get involved in ‘gossip’. Simply listen and observe and draw conclusions that are useful for your own learning experience.

What if you feel you can contribute an improvement? Tread very carefully. Remember, you are an outsider, not involved in the project at all. While you may have an interest, you have not been employed to contribute at all. If your suggestion relates directly to the work of someone you get on well with, then potentially broach the topic carefully. Otherwise, you might try talking with your own supervisor and getting some advice before diving in headlong. When looking for project team members, the ability to work well with others is always a requirement. Hence, be careful to always demonstrate that you are a team player.

In the final analysis, look for things you can learn even if you are not on a project. Some projects work well, some don’t and there is a lot of variation in between. Watching projects can therefore be an excellent way to see the different ways in which the theory behind project management can be implemented.

From this article, you can see that studying a formal project management course is not the only activity that will support your desire to become a project manager.