" He Who is Afraid of Asking is Afraid of Learning... " ~ (Danish Proverb)

It’s My Project, and I’ll Manage It the Way I Want To…

For the past few years, since obtaining my PMP credential, I have wondered “what kind of project manager am I?”

There’s been a recent explosion of project management professionals (PMPs), and the recognition of the field for both its compensation levels and place in the playbook of organizational success is on a meteoric rise. As the field builds its history, one project at a time, the Project Management Institute (PMI) which governs it all, seems to be building itself one certification at a time. So, it’s left me pondering whether I am essentially a project management professional (still the most widely recognized credential), although I know for sure I have dabbled in the world of program management, and have become rather agile. as well…

Although I enjoy practicing project management both at home and work, I am struggling to sort through what all of the different disciplines, techniques and project management certifications really mean and how they translate to real world practice.

Much like the transition from single employee to managing a team is not a linear one, when the project manager’s focus moves into program management managing multiple projects , the focus also moves – from a single circle on a venn diagram to multiple circles that overlap. Each project presents itself with its own personality, comprised of unique requirements, stakeholders, schedules, dependencies and constraints.

And while we are taught that each project should be managed according to a standard framework, using specific steps and templates, what we are not taught is how to modify our approach depending on the project, organizational culture, or constraints involved.

For many project managers (and me), our projects don’t fail. Translate: we do whatever it takes to get the job done, the product delivered on time, and fast-track whichever resources and deliverables we need to along the way. How we accomplish this feat is often a combination of using tried and true project management methods like initiating, planning, managing scope creep, controlling quality, babysitting resources, and keeping a tight ruler along the budget baseline -BUT, we also extend the basic guidelines and make them our own, or our project’s own for that matter, and apply tweaks as appropriate. Exploring alternative project management methods (the “traditional” vs. “agile” argument) or mixing methods on your projects really depends on which techniques will allow you to manage your project to a successful completion, on time, within scope and budget.

Project Management methodology was inaugurated based on the need to quantify projects with the correct techniques and create justification for official project teams that ensure results; additional methods of traditional project management such as Agile were propelled by the need to refine “broken” or less-than-perfect mechanisms within the traditional framework. Regardless, methods won’t be up for heavy scrutiny – results will.

Documentation/ [approach] doesn’t really matter. Addressing the underlying need [in a project] is what actually matters. ~Jesse Fewell, PMP, CST

So, the conclusion of all of this confusion about what type of project manager are you and what is the best way to manage a project is really non-conclusive. No one approach nor credential trumps another. Rather, project management is like a tried and true recipe tweaked to perfection and handed down through the ages – not necessarily the exact science the certification exams want you to believe.

…At the end of the day, call us what you want. We are the ones who get it done.

Wishing You Success,

The “CEO” Gene

I remember penning my book and implying in its title that my journey took me “From Secretary to CEO“…facetious or otherwise, my career path and attitude had taken me on a distinct trajectory in the upward direction. And, I truly believe that – had I continued along the path – the succession planning Gods would have voted in my favor and landed me as close to a CEO position as I chose to be.

At the risk of sounding self-important and utterly overconfident – which I am NOT – I should explain that what I didn’t know then is that I possessed certain key characteristics which, today, are known as “The Five Traits That Get You Promoted to CEO”*:

*Author’s Note: Although aptly named, the article could just as well be called “The Five Traits Which Get You Through Life With Strength and Success…” :)

From his interviews with over 70 chief executives and leaders, New York Times columnist Adam Bryant identified the “X factors” for leading an organization—qualities that can determine who gets promoted to that corner office:

  • Passionate curiosity: Relentless questioning and being infectiously fascinated with everything around you, human nature in particular ~ [N says] It’s not enough to just “learn the lingo” of the industry or organization, you need to learn the players, the art of interacting with them to get things done and how to lose in order to win
  • Battle-hardened confidence: Overcoming—and even relishing—adversity. CEOs most often ask job candidates how they’ve dealt with failure in the past ~ [N says] Failure IS your friend if a) you’re the first to call out your mistake (or as soon as it is discovered), admit fault and ask how you can learn from or avoid the same mistake in the future. Adversity awaits you around every corner; sometimes it’s your fault and other times, it’s someone else’s. So, knowing how to address and mitigate damage as soon as adverse events occur are keys to undoing the ill effects while growing in confidence the next time something goes wrong.
  • Team smarts: More than just being a team player, understanding how teams work and getting the most out of the team (in sports terms, being a playmaker) ~ [N says] Independence is a fallacy- we are all interdependent, and nowhere is this truer than when the collective success of your team = your success. Learn your people- their strengths, weaknesses and buttons so you can guide them to their highest success (and ultimately your own…)
  • A simple mindset: Being concise, simple, and clear in your communications ~ [N says] I speak at length in my book about working for an IT company, where my advanced education was rendered moot by 19-year old hacking geniuses. Had it not been for my command of the written word and the ability to sound like I knew what I was talking about, I would have never made it past the reception desk. Communication skills, both verbal and written are the greatest muscles you can tone. If these skills do not come naturally, find yourself a Business Writing course and Dale Carnegie chapter…
  • Fearlessness: Comfort with the unknown and taking calculated, informed risks; also, seeing opportunities and being proactive about positive change ~ [N says] The operative words here are calculated and informed . Do your homework and once you have earned that battle-hard confidence, taking educated risks, but not risking overconfidence, will become second nature. And yes, with change does come opportunity – so keep your eyes wide open and don’t let the slim opening of opportunity close before you exert a little upfront effort to see what positive influence you can make with or without the promise of reward and recognition.

Whether you are an aspiring executive or the CEO of your own career path…do you possess these traits?

Wishing You Success,

Image Courtesy of You Know You Made IT When…

Personal Branding: Stepping Out or Stepping Aside…?

Imagine a place where it IS all about you. Really. This place lives in the world of personal branding. You do not have to be a major market player, and it’s likely you’re not, to need a personal brand. Don’t you think the likes of Warren Buffet, Suze Orman, Donny Deutsch and others began with only the knowledge in their heads and a willingness to share it? So what made them grow into the household names they are today, aside from likability and knowledge? Who they are and what they know morphed into a personal brand which eventually made its way into our lives, and onto our bookshelves and TVs.

Having branched out myself in the past year, and examined the possibilities and constraints of selling “me”, I had to look closely at what being and becoming a personal brand really means. And, I will tell you what I determined rather quickly – you not only have to have an unabashed belief in yourself but more importantly you must not be TOO SHY to tell everyone – yourself – all about YOU! Particularly with the plethora of social media engines, there is ample opportunity for what I like to call “e-boasting.” From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn and online magazines, I was sure my name, my abilities and my expertise would practically swim themselves out into a sea of marketing opportunities. Oh my, I was so wrong. First of all, the term ’social media’ is not a misnomer!!! You really do have to be a social being to even want to use them. They’re not for the shy, introspective loner at heart. Even after one year, I still cringe every time I pen a new blog and force myself (yes, I repeat, force myself) to post the link to Facebook. But the good news is, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And, of course – if you truly believe in your message and want to share it with others to somehow better their existence, you can chalk up the social anxiety to a greater good. And, as soon as you begin to receive comments on your blog posts or other social media mutterings, the theory proves itself. :)

If you want to go one step further (and I’d really rather not, but am trying very hard to convince myself), you venture into the world of public speaking, conferences with like minded professionals, promotional opportunities and perhaps even an agent.

Having said that, before you contemplate YOU too much:

  1. Identify your core area(s) of focus – for the life of me, I do not understand consumers who buy coffee from McDonald’s. Somehow french fries and fresh coffee percolating just do not mix for me. Nor would I go near a slice of pizza if Dunkin Donuts ever added it to its line-up. By the same token, don’t try to know everything or have your brand encompass too much at first. You will learn, quickly, where you truly want and can direct your efforts with the most valuable outcome. And if it takes some time, try different projects until you’re sure about the ones that make you excited to get out of bed and off to work. I am still learning which “hats” fit me best, but it’s a really great feeling when you find one that’s snug :)
  2. Know your product and be able to recite it to anyone who asks or may need to know – how can you “sell” what you cannot explain, especially if it’s YOU! (Reference item (1) above – you need to know your areas of focus before you can speak of them in a concise fashion.) For an exceptional article on “Elevator Pitches”, check out HR Bartender’s recent post
  3. Let your talents bloom. If you love something and know that the results of your efforts are good, or maybe even exceptional, explore how you can offer them to others! You may just create a brand without even trying and fulfill the needs of others. What begins as a fondness for tending to your garden may just one day become your own landscaping empire!
  4. Award credit where credit is due – especially when it’s not due to you! One of the first and most valuable lessons I learned over the past year was to acknowledge my infancy in the world of personal branding and to applaud those who know more and do it better than I do. Although they say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” I am not completely comfortable mimicking others’ efforts nor walking in the footprints they’ve stamped in the sand ahead of me, but I do observe and watch and monitor and evaluate every opportunity I notice out there and decide which ones may fit my skill sets and comfort levels best. There’s no shame in offering your abilities where they may add value. There is room for everyone to shine! I also award credit to and for the inspirational influence on my work – doling out praise and credit where and when it’s due will pay dividends and may even result in the favor being paid back to you! As a result of recently attending a free webinar, I acknowledged the company in a past article and they soon contacted me to kindly offer me the honor and ability to audit their programs and provide them with feedback and expertise. Fun and flattering, I must say!
  5. Look in the mirror - whether you are a professional, a student, a homemaker, ….we ALL project a personal brand to the world. Know what that is and be proud to sell it indirectly to those with whom you interact. And, most importantly, do what it takes to go to sleep at night with the assurance that you’d want to buy YOU yourself!

Author’s Note: As I venture into writing another book, knowing what I know now about releasing the first, I have to ask myself- am I ready for the world to read the words I kept between me and the keyboard for so long? Like it or not, your personal brand IS you – and if you choose to have one, be sure you want to display it on the world’s shelves.

Wishing You Success,

Failure to Plan = Planning to Fail? Keeping Those 2010 Resolutions…

As we look forward to the onset of a brand new year and decade to boot, New Year’s resolutions will inevitably find their way into one of two categories:

  • The front part of your brain where the voice of motivation (some may call it nagging) resides.
  • The back part of your brain that is like the back of your closet – you put things there and forget they exist and/or are too afraid to go looking for them.

Now, I am no doctor and do not really know the anatomy of frontal lobes versus other parts of the brain, but this sounds about right when it comes to how I think and operate.

Some of our resolutions may be very concrete – lose x pounds, take a trip to Aspen, volunteer at such and such organization, market your business; others may be full of intent and inspired action – work less/relax more, eat more healthfully, enjoy the simple things in life…etc.

Whether concrete or nebulous, when setting goals for yourself does a Failure to Plan constitute a Plan to Fail ?

I am a ‘Type P’ Personality – The Planner. I cannot change who I am nor how I operate, and know there are others out there just like me. Spontaneity is considered a four-letter word even though it contains eleven.

Planning is great – in a world where you must expect the unexpected, planning ahead allows you to handle surprises and catastrophes with the knowledge that you have room and time to spare!

As a project manager, I learned very early on that a project plan (like life) is not static – it is a moving, living document which will require revisions as the project moves forward on its critical path…and, sometimes, the project will require re-evaluation, resource re-allocation, careful risk mitigation, possible postponement of certain deliverables or parallel pathing to get things done on time, be disrupted by acts of God or family…does this sound like your life thus far? It sounds a lot like mine!

So, as a rule and a ruler for your 2010, set your goals and objectives so they remain on your radar and in the front part of your brain, track them in any form you choose (I enjoy Excel), but be flexible enough to re-assess them every opportunity you get to ensure that these are still your goals and that you are giving yourself the best opportunity to achieve them!

And for all my fellow ‘Type Ps’ – work hard to not be so hard on yourselves, and don’t be overwhelmed. A mentor of mine recently told me: “writing down what you want to accomplish can be a good exercise, but only if you are in a position not to be overwhelmed by it.”

If you enjoyed this post, look out for my next book – A PMP’s Guide to Project Managing Your Life – coming in 2010 ( according to my own New Year’s resolution ;-) )

And, as I close out 2009, a goal I set for myself in 2005 was finally accomplished. My first full length non-fiction book, From Secretary to CEO – A Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder is now IN PRINT and available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com!

Wishing You Continued Success…

We ALL have a book in us…to self-publish, e-publish or print-publish is the QUESTION?

So, the title of this blog says it all. I really do believe that we ALL have a book in us, somewhere and on some topic. And you don’t even have to be a “writer,” per se. Check out sites like ScribblePress.com for one, and Shutterfly.com for another!

A man who buys a book is not just buying a few ounces of paper, glue, and printer’s ink; he may be buying a whole new life.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

But the greater question is..for those of us who do take writing to a professional level, what is the best option for disseminating our work?

I have grappled with this question for 4+ years now. After having completed my first full-length independent book (From Secretary to CEO: A Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder Without Losing My Identity) in 2005, I contracted with a traditional print publisher (whose name cannot be mentioned because I am under a legal GAG order); by the end of 2007, with no book even nearly in print, I was left with nothing other than frustration, fear and trepidation about the games being played in the publishing playground. They don’t play very nicely in that sandbox! So, I proceeded to legally break my contract with said publisher and fight for my right…to my own work! Hence the gag order- in exchange back for the very words I myself wrote, I had to agree [in writing] not to blaspheme them in print or web :)

2+ years later, I am no closer to deciding where or how to print publish my work. BUT, I have learned that no solution is perfect, so it’s about choosing the solution that FITS BEST.

So, I ask myself:

  1. What is my ultimate goal? ~ Publishing my book[s] in print is a means to an end. I could just as easily take it to Kinkos and get it bound, but then I would be the only one benefiting. SO: if I choose to share my words and thoughts with others, it has to be accessible to those who would like access. And, since most people still favor books-in-print to those on their PCs or mobile devices, I believe my book needs to have hard copy counterparts to its digital versions. *

  2. What am I willing to lose in order to win? ~ I have arrived at the following conclusion: IF I publish with a self-publishing company, I will maintain 100% control over my work and the rights to it, see my book in print within 8-12 weeks, allow readers access to it (via large distributors such as Amazon/B&N.com etc), continue writing for my love of it, and nurse my bruised ego because I could not get a traditional publishing deal out the door. Whereas, IF I pursue the traditional publishing route, odds are that I will face certain rejection and possibly chase my own tail for years on end until and unless the Random Houses and Hyperions out there take note of little old me. And, if they did decide to adopt my work, it would become theirs and I would lose my rights to it…

  3. Where do I want to begin? ~ Exactly where I am and build on it. So, the only [logical] thing to do would be to research as much as possible to gain a comfort level, and start the process. Make an informed decision and don’t look back [ but do read the fine print before signing another contract of any kind :) ]

You will note that the above 3 questions can apply to any decision – big or small – that we must ask ourselves when faced with taking the next step into unknown territory – not just how to publish a book.

* For the record and on the record, my book has been E-published. Despite my aversion to all things technical, I did brave the world of HTML and E-book converters to successfully arrive at both Amazon.com (for Kindle users) as well as Smashwords.com. I have only great things to say about Smashwords and its CEO, Mark Coker. In the world of e-books and electronic communication, Mark and his organization certainly know how to maintain the personal touch.

For more [ and even better] information on the discussions surrounding self vs. traditional publishing, do yourself a favor and take a look at Mark Coker’s blog.

Wishing You [and me, too!] Success,