How To Grow Business Acumen and Business Awareness as a Project Manager (PODCAST)

How To Gain Business Awareness
Do You Have Business Awareness

Are you aware of your business? Do you know what’s going on in your industry?

I was recently interviewed by Cornelius Fichtner from The Project Management Podcast about The Growing Business Acumen and Business Awareness as a Project Manager.

Here`s a listening guide to some of the key points and tips covered in the episode:

  • 2:20: 4 reasons project managers should care about business awareness
  • 04:00 – how I use business awareness in financial industry projects
  • 05:30 – how to balance project delivery with business awareness
  • 06:25 – how to build foundation skills in business awareness
  • 07:45 – using the NEWS strategy to understand the external environment
  • 09:30 – discover decision making patterns inside your organization
  • 11:30 – how the organization’s financial health impacts project manager’s health
  • 12:45 – why the projects you choose to work on impact your project management career
  • 14:00 – business awareness includes understanding your competitors (including “non-traditional” competitors)
  • 16:30: how to borrow ideas from other industries to boost innovation
  • 17:00 – the quick and easy way to identify best practices in any industry and grow your awareness
  • 18:00 – the limitations of traditional risk management and how to overcome it
  • 19:30 – how to make business awareness an ongoing habit and improve your project procurement as a result
  • 20:00 – how business awareness improves your ability to network with executives
  • 21:00 – what are the online tools and resources (free and paid) you can use to boost your business awareness
  • 29:00 – using the “rule of 20” to guide your networking efforts

Play Now:

If you are a regular listener to The PM Podcast then you heard me say on many occasions that projects are the mechanism by which companies turn their vision and strategy into a reality. And it is us — the project managers — who are asked to bring these projects to a successful completion so that the business needs are met.

This means that we project managers need a great deal of business acumen and business awareness. But many of us are accidental project managers, who at some point in our career found ourselves to be quite shockingly thrust into the position of a project leader. We were taken by surprise back when that happened and now they suddenly tell us that we also need all this awareness?

Well, fear not because Bruce Harpham is here to tell you how to grow your business know-how as a project manager. In this interview we review what foundational skills you need, how to access internal business knowledge from your organization and how to look for information and trends in the broader environment outside the four walls of your company.

Our goal is to help you grow the situational awareness that you need day after day on your projects by adding business awareness.

About The PM Podcast: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a project management trainer who helps his students with their PMP Exam prep, and since 2005 he has published hundreds of interviews with project managers from around the world. The interviews are free on http://www.project-management-podcast.com/free.

Would you like to hear more podcast interviews? Check out the links below to find a few of the other interviews I’ve done:

Podcast Interview: How to Make Remote Work Productive

Cornelius Fichtner and Bruce Harpham, PMI Congress 2015

Do you work with people in different locations? I often work with people in different offices and countries. It’s an interesting experience to navigate.

This week, I appeared on Cornelius Fichtner‘s excellent podcast the Project Management Podcast where we discussed remote work. As a side note, I recommend the PM PrepCast if you are studying for the PMP exam (created by Cornelius Fichtner’s company).

Here are highlights from the podcast to whet your appetite:

  • 03:20: the two principles you need to learn to make virtual work effective
  • 04:30: what does “remote work” and “remote teams” mean anyway?
  • 07:32: the impact of the shared talent factor on remote work
  • 10:10 the danger nobody talks about when it comes to working from home (nothing to do with web cam mishaps!)
  • 13:00: why you – the project manager – needs to go first with remote work (i.e. lead by example)
  • 14:08: what you need to do before you dive into remote work and work from home arrangements
  • 14:30: why you probably don’t have to buy anything to get started with remote work
  • 17:20: what you need to know about remote work and interacting with executives
  • 19:00: how starting with self-knowledge makes the difference in communicating effectively
  • 21:30: how communication flexibility contributes to your success as a project manager
  • 21:50: what to do if your company says “you can’t buy Slack! Use the tools we provide!”
  • 25:40: get a peak inside my toolbox of the favorite apps and tools I use in remote work

Click Here To Listen To ‘How To Make Remote Work’ Effective Podcast Episode

Does your project rely on virtual teams? If yes, then it means that working remotely is the norm for your project team members.

Are they doing their work effectively and efficiently? And even if you answered yes, there is always room for improvement, right? Good, because how to make remote work productive is our topic today.

Our interview guest is Bruce Harpham who has written about remote workers and how to increase all our effectiveness. He argues that working virtually is simply the reality on many projects and project teams these days.

And so in order to help us improve remote work he recommends the following four steps:

  • Evaluate your current tools
  • Review communication preferences and strengths
  • Analyze the project’s requirements
  • Adjust your communication practices

We’ll go through each of these in detail with lots of examples from his own experience.

About The PM Podcast: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a project management trainer who helps his students with their PMP Exam prep, and since 2005 he has published hundreds of interviews with project managers from around the world. The interviews are free on Project Management Podcast.

JP Morgan Chase & Co Project Manager Profile: Paul Rezaie

Paul Rezaie
Paul Rezaie, PMP

Modern banks offer a wide variety of products and services: commercial banking, loans, credit cards, investment services and more. How do project managers contribute to banking success? In this article, Paul Rezaie, Project Manager at JPMorgan Chase & Co, shares his career journey including what’s he learned working at JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Company Profile: JP Morgan Chase & Co

  • Established in 1799 (The History of JPMorgan Chase & Co)
  • Services and Products: retail banking, investment banking, asset management and commercial banking are the company’s main offerings. In this interview, Paul focuses on the company’s payments products.
  • Global Operations: the bank has operations in over 100 countries.
  • Staff: The global bank has over 230,000 employees.
  • 2015 Revenue: $95 billion (net income $24 billion)

Introduction

1. What did you study in school? What were your favorite areas?

I studied Information Technology at York University, I went to school to learn about technology and I fell in love with philosophy when I took an ethics course. Looking back, my favorite philosophers were Aristotle and Socrates.

2. What was an early project that ignited your interest in the field?

I met the CEO of Loony Host, a web hosting company, and he asked me to create a project to boost his business. In 2005, I worked on improving the business. He gave me free range: I hired sales representatives, technical staff, wrote sales scripts, schedules, product sheets, support documents, and made sales. The project brought in $100,000 in revenue. After running this project, I was hooked on project management.

3. Thinking back to one of your first projects, what was a mistake you made that you have learned from?

I would do a lot of small projects for small businesses and on a couple projects, there were signs that the client wouldn’t be able to pay, but I still moved forward on the project in good faith. I would deliver the project but wouldn’t get paid. I encountered these challenges when I worked with new companies and single person companies. After those experiences, I decided to change my focus and work with large, established firms instead.

4. What is a personal habit you practice to maintain your productivity? 

I have two regular habits to boost my productivity.

First, I use the brainHQ.com website. It’s a cognitive enhancement website that is created by neurologists. After 6 months of practice, I felt like I have a whole new mind. I’ve noticed that I have improved decision making abilities, better memory and improved focus. Second, I have a daily exercise habit where I work out in the morning and in the evening.

Current Role

4. How did you get hired to your current role? What was the process?

I regularly made small talk with project managers in the PMO department at JP Morgan Chase. It turns out that there is little attrition in the department – they haven’t hired anyone in 8 years. But I got my break! I heard there was an opening, I prepared my resume, regularly checked the job board and when It got posted, I was the first to apply. I got an interview, I played my strong suite and then a second interview and got offered the job. My industry experience and the fact that I had a PMP were important factors in landing the job.

5. What is a project you worked on or managed that you’re proud of and why?

I am currently managing the release of a payment product.

Getting the business ready for Debit MasterCard has been a great experience. I worked with a team across North America. I am proud of this project because I got to see all the moving parts involved in payments. For example, I have learned about payment terminals, point of sale payments, credit cards, contactless payments, bank issuers and payments technology.  I feel proud to have brought to market a unique form of payment that will be around for a long time to come

6. What industry trends are important to your work? 

How people spend their money is important to my work. It’s also interesting to notice the rising popularity of credit card and contactless card payments over cash. My work is also impacted by payment terminal upgrades and company budget issues.

7. What is something special about the company’s culture that few people know about?

JPMorgan is a unique company in that the former CEO David Rockefeller paved the way for the financial industry that touches the lives of every person that comes into contact with the monetary system. The company has a huge art collection, and archives that has the first every printed dollar bill in the US. The heritage here goes deep…. 200 years deep and the company proudly displays and shares reminders of the accomplishments and successes. I’m proud of Jamie Dimon, CEO of the company since 2005, for the amazing work he does. Thanks to him, we were one of the few major banks to earn a during the 2008 recession.

Professional Development

8. What was the most valuable professional development activity you’ve completed?

In July 2015, I earned the PMP certification. It has been highly valuable: every company recognizes it and it has a positive impact on compensation.

9. If you could give two books to someone else to help them achieve career success, what would they be?

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. A key lesson from Carnegie’s book: Don’t criticize people.

Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents by William Ury. A key lesson from this book: “You are your biggest opponent” in negotiations.

10. What is your approach to building and maintaining your network? 

I attend Meetup.com events such as Toronto Babel and found it a good way to meet new people. I have also found it worthwhile to attend conferences such as IBM’s Outthink conference about IBM Watson. When I get to know people at events and conferences, I follow up by adding them as a connection on LinkedIn.

Conclusion

11. Any parting words of advice to reader?

Seek help, talk to professionals that can help you better understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. From this point you can work on your weakness and market your strengths.

It’s also to work for a company you believe in. The philosophy of JPMorgan has encouraged me to be a better person, a stronger member of my community and more financially savvy.

12. What’s the best way for readers to get in touch with you?

Add me as a connection on LinkedIn.

FedEx Project Manager Profile: Leigh Espy

Leigh Photo
Leigh Espy, FedEx Project Manager

What is like to work as a project manager? The easy answer is “it depends.” That’s true but it doesn’t really tell us much. In today’s article, you will hear directly from Leigh Espy about her journey into project management success at FedEx.

FedEx Profile

  • Established in 1971.
  • Services and Products: global delivery of letters, parcels and packages to over 200 countries and territories. In 2013, the company delivered 1.5 million items on Mother’s Day.
  • 2015 Revenue: over $47 billion U.S. ($2.57 billion net income)

1. What did you study in school?

I studied political science for my undergraduate degree and went on to earn a master’s degree in sociology. This led me to a project coordinator position in local government early in my career. Through many discussions with my husband – who works in software development – I discovered an interest in the technology field.

2. What was an early project that ignited your interest in the field?

In 2003, I managed a project to set up a new customer at my company’s data center. The customer needed a delivery date that was unrealistic and would not be possible the way it was laid out. It was a growth experience for me because it involved coming together with the customer to identify creative solutions to meet their needs. I had to be comfortable with transparency and being honest about what was realistic, and still demonstrate a willingness to find a way to make it work for everyone. We settled on a staged delivery, and first delivered the most critical components within the customer’s required timeline, yet were able to deliver some components afterward. The project was successful and the customer was happy.

3. Thinking back to one of your first projects, what was a mistake you made that you have learned from?

Omitting impacted parties during planning was an early mistake I learned from. I recall a project where we were close to going live. There was one team that would be impacted and we had not communicated with them. As a result, a key question I ask today on every project is: “Who else is going to be impacted?” I don’t want surprises at toward the end of a project.

4. What is a personal habit you practice to maintain productivity each day?

There are two habits that give me a foundation to perform. Sleep: without a proper amount of sleep each night, my performance suffers noticeably. Watching what I eat matters as well – some foods make me feel tired and I avoid these. There are other productivity habits I layer on top of these, but these are two foundation behaviors that I consider non-negotiable for myself.

5. How did you get hired to your current job at FedEx?

I was hired as a project manager at FexEx in Memphis, Tennessee by applying to an online posting. I knew from others who work there that FedEx is a great company. I sent out a query to find out if they knew of any positions available. Fortunately, I had a friend there who told me about an an opening on his team. I applied and got the job, and now I know first-hand how fantastic the company is.

6. What is a project you worked on or managed that you’re proud of and why?

I led an effort to develop a risk-based software development process. We developed the process with input from the user community, including business partners as well. It had global impact so it gave us a great opportunity to reach out and make contacts around the world. It was a process change that had real impact to the use community, to make their work easier while still maintaining the quality and compliance requirements we must meet as a publicly traded company.

7. What industry trends are important to your work?

My team has adopted the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) in the last two years. It’s been fun to learn new approaches after having followed waterfall methodology for so many years. I realize that Agile is not the right fit for every project, but I’ve enjoyed adding a new approach to my skillset.

8. What is something special about Federal Express’s culture?

FedEx is well known for the expression: people, service, profit. When we take care of employees, profits and other business results will follow. Staff are well supported here through learning and development, employee recognition and support for philanthropic efforts.

In the community service area, FedEx has a lot to offer. For example, some staff volunteer to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. The company is also involved in emergency relief efforts by offering planes and other infrastructure.

FedEx has repeatedly been recognized as a top employer in several publications including Fortune Magazine’s 2013 Best Companies To Work For List.

9. What was the most valuable professional development activity (e.g. seminar, course, conference) you’ve attended and why?

I took two courses with Rita Mulcahy early in my career: a PMP exam preparation course and an introduction to project management. These courses gave me a more solid foundation and added confidence as I transitioned into IT project management. This move impacted the trajectory of my career.

  • Editor’s Note: Rita Mulcahy passed away in 2010. Her company, RMC Learning Solutions, continues to provide a variety of project management books and training resources.

10. If you could give two books to someone else to help them achieve career success, what would they be?

Ryan Holiday’s book, “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.” Drawing on Stoic philosophy, this book shows how and why to view challenges as opportunities for growth. Further, Holiday reminds us that challenges will always be with us.

Steven Kotler’s book, “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance.” This book emphasizes the importance of a flow state in achieving productivity in our work and activities.

11. What is your approach to building and maintaining your network?

My networking philosophy is to reach out and offer value to other people. To succeed in networking, you need to be intentional and proactive. One way to add value is to share good resources with your network by posting on Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m a fan of promoting the great work of others to support their success. It’s easy to do, and can have a positive outcome – either for the producer of the work, or for someone it touches.

  • Editor’s Note: Leigh first introduced herself to me by commenting on a blog post and then joined my email list.

12. Any parting words of advice to reader?

Get comfortable with discomfort! Look for stretch opportunities because that is where you are likely to grow your skills.

  • Editor’s Note: Do you want to get promoted? Author Donald Asher points out that taking on stretch assignments is vital to getting ahead.

13. What’s the best way for readers to get in touch with you?

Readers are welcome to visit my blog, Project Bliss, and contact me by email: leigh AT espy.net.

Insider Perspectives on Recruiting With Ronald Yoon

Ronald Yoon Photo

How does recruiting work? What do recruiters want?

These are some of the thoughts that prompted me to interview Ronald Yoon, Technical Recruiter at EXPERIS ManpowerGroup. I met Ronald earlier this year at a Project Management Institute committee here in Toronto. If you like this article, please write a comment. I have plans for similar interview articles in the future.

Introduction

1. How did you get into the recruiting field?

Early in life, I lived in a variety of places – Montreal, Vancouver and Korea. By regularly moving to new places, I found myself regularly enjoying the process of meeting new people. In university, I studied economics and employment relations at the University of Toronto. During my studies there, I had the opportunity to work for one of the  major recruiting firm. My early interest in meeting a variety of people, my university studies and witnessing potential at the major recruiting firm have led me to the industry.

2. What are some of the misconceptions that people have about recruiters?

Some people have had negative experiences with recruiters. Those unfortunate incidents lead some people to stereotype all recruiters in a negative way. Like any profession, there are good and bad professionals.

3. What does a typical day at the office look like for you?

The details of each day vary. Generally, certain activities occur each day. There are conversations with clients in Finance, Telecom, health sector, Government, IT and engineering. I meet with candidates in person and by phone. I also put time into sourcing and research to find new candidates. I read articles that is related to new technologies and better project management methodologies.  I also put some time into participating in professional organizations like the Southern Ontario Chapter of the Project Management Institute.

The Recruiting Job Market

4. What are your observations on market demand for permanent full time vs contract roles in 2016?

In the Greater Toronto Area, I have noticed an increase in the number of permanent roles in 2016 compared to a year ago. However, there are company specific dynamics to consider. Some companies focus their recruiting on contract roles while others have a preference for full time roles.

5. Where have you seen the greatest increase in talent over the past 12 months for staff?

With my area of work, I see a few areas of increased demand. Candidates who are knowledgeable in DevOps, agile (both developers and project managers) and big data are in demand. There is also steady demand for project managers in a variety of roles. Over time, I have also observed certain seasonal patterns. For example, summer and Christmas time tend to be slow periods in recruiting. I have also found that some clients tend to recruit more project managers at the start of their fiscal years when new projects are funded.

6. Where have you seen the greatest decline in demand for talent over the past 12 months?

Technological change is a major factor.  It is easy to notice which areas and technologies are in demand because there are more requests about it. In contrast, noticing a decline is more difficult. In general, older technologies naturally gain less attention in the IT market and Finance which means declining in demand.

7. Do you see contract roles convert to full time roles?

I have seen some cases of contract roles converting to full time roles. There is no clear pattern to it though. Employers and candidates both have to consider cultural fit in these decisions.

Specific issues for candidates to consider in cultural fit include: management style (i.e. how much are you supported), attitudes to innovation (i.e. is innovation a priority for company) and communication style.

For example, companies have preference on different personalities whether it’s an introverted professional or an extroverted professionals. It really depends on the type of business they are in. Also, it will depend on the timing of the project (i.e. planning, execution, project conclusion) and what they are being asked to accomplish. 

What Candidates Need To Know

8. What do clients need to know about résumés? What oversights do you see on a recurring basis?

The most common mistake I see on résumé concerns dates. Many candidates do not provide full date information – month and year are needed for each item listed in your work history. If you have a gap in your work history, address it. Leaving an unexplained gap in your work history means hiring managers will be unclear so might have to come back to you for the explanation or have a question mark in their decision to bring you in for an interview. Any gap longer than 3 months should be explained.

Some candidates omit critical details about their work accomplishments because they are trying to be brief. For project managers, I would like to see details on the project: how many project team members did you manage, what was the budget, what technology was involved and related points. These details are needed for managers to understand your capabilities.

9. How do you suggest candidates build an effective win/win relationship with you and your peers?

Readers are welcome to contact me by email at ronald.yoon@experis.com In addition, I’m an active volunteer at the Southern Ontario Chapter of the Project Management Institute. I welcome having conversations with candidates even if they are not searching for a new role. It’s enjoyable to learn about people and their careers.

10. What is your evaluation of the certifications and certificates? When do these add value?

In project management, the PMP is the most important certification. Other popular certifications of value include the ITIL and Scrum Master certifications. Many clients like project managers with a technical background because it suggests the ability to communicate well with developers.

11. How can candidates best respond to recruiter questions about salary and compensation expectations?

Have a firm number and stick to it. Constantly changing your expectations in this area creates frustration for you in the long run since your rates are over-exposed in the market. On the other hand, there are situations where you can make the case for higher compensation. If you have recently acquired new skills by completing a challenging project or earning a certification, you can build a case.

My observation is that hourly rates for project managers range from  $50 per hour to $120 per hour, sometimes even higher. The level of responsibility and work experience are factors in play.

12. Any other tips you would like to share with candidates?

The project management job market is alive and well. As long as you keep learning and stay confident, you are likely to find a role. I think some professionals fail to appreciate the importance of confidence.

Your confidence has to convince  a company to give you a large budget, a challenge to achieve and support. Know what type of management style each company prefers. Research companies by talking to your network to study what type of projects you are going into and understand the hiring manager’s career. Finally, always have detailed project examples to share.

 

All You Need to Know About High Level Networking: An Interview With Geoff Woods

Would you like to achieve your goals faster?

The right mentors and counsel have the potential to move you closer to success. In the span of less than two years, Geoff Woods has transformed his career through high level networking. I first discovered Geoff through his excellent podcast, The Mentee Podcast.

Who Is Geoff Woods?

Mentee Picture whiteGeoff Woods is the host of The Mentee podcast. After hearing the Jim Rohn quote that “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” Geoff set out on a mission to surround himself with high level CEOs and successful entrepreneurs. Fast forward just 10 months, Geoff went from sales rep to CEO, partnering up with the co-authors of the best selling book The ONE Thing, to launch a new media company that hopes to disrupt the education system.   Geoff has been featured in Entrepreneur.com and is an expert in creating quality content and turning it into massive income streams.

1. Why is networking important to reaching our goals?

In many areas of life, there is a hard path and an easy path. The hard path requires a lot of effort, random experiments and hoping for the best. In contrast, the easy path I suggest is based on the premise: find someone else who has accomplished your goal and then learn from them.

There is an additional benefit to drawing lessons from successful people: reduced fear and uncertainty. That means more motivation to make progress towards your goals.

2. What Are Some Key Lessons You Learned From Your Mentors?

The fact that we are all accountable for our lives was a key insight for me. For example, I had a situation where my commission income was reduced when a previous employer changed the compensation structure. I choose to take control of my income rather than simply getting upset. That has led me down the path to learn more about real estate, investing and entrepreneurship.

I have also learned the importance of having an unstoppable mindset. The truth of the matter is that everybody hits problems. Successful people do not lack problems, they simply look at them differently. Some people hit problems and they stop. Successful people focus on asking “How” questions such as “How do I learn the skills to overcome this problem?” or “How do I connect with people who can provide counsel on this problem?” Then they keep going.

3. What Is Your Recommended Approach For Internal Networking?

When I joined a new organization recently, I asked the people I worked with for a list of people I should get to know. That’s a great starting point to build an internal network. You could ask your manager or people you work with for ideas.

4. How do you recommend adding value to VIPs?

The starting point is to be curious and ask good questions. Few people have every area of life fully handled. In business, an entrepreneur may be moving into Internet marketing for the first time and they could use insight on how to be successful. Or someone highly successful in business may be struggling with a health issue and you may know a great person who can help them. Once you start to learn what they want, there are a few possible next steps. You may be able to assist them directly. Or, you can arrange an introduction to another person in your network. Finally, you may take note of their needs in case you find a way to help them in the future.

Staying curious about other people and asking “What are you working on?” are excellent ways to get started.

5. What is your approach to connecting with high profile people who are difficult to access?

Many highly accomplished people, including authors and business leaders, are difficult to contact. They have heavy schedules, assistants and it is difficult to connect with them. There are two ways to approach this challenge.

Introducing yourself to the person in person is an excellent way to start the relationship.  Case in point – I met Brendon Burchard, a New York Times best selling author, entrepreneur and consultant, by approaching him in person one of his events. Several months later, he was an interview guest on the Mentee Podcast: Brendon Burchard Demystifies Your Road To Greatness.

The other insight is think more broadly. Let’s see that your goal is to write a book or become an executive at a large company. It’s natural to focus on a single person, perhaps a personal hero, and seek to connect with them for advice and guidance. Unfortunately, there are two challenges with that. First, high profile people are simply difficult to reach. Second, if you are motivated by ego, you are less likely to succeed. Instead of focusing on one person, think of a category (e.g. successful authors) of people and start to approach them.

  • The Silver Medalist Strategy: If your goal is to learn from somebody more successful than you, there’s no need to go for the gold winner. To learn new skills, author Tim Ferriss approached Olympic silver medal winners from a few years ago: “Typically, they’re technically very often just as good as the gold medalist, they just had a bad day, and they’re easier to get a hold of,” he says. “It’s far easier to back a few Olympics to find someone who perhaps is actually closer to you genetically and get spectacular advice, ” he says. “It might cost you 50 bucks for an hour-long Skype session or in person training session.”

6. How do you determine which events are worth attending to grow your network? 

In the early days, I had a broad approach and attended many different events to understand what was available. I eventually learned two ways to find valuable events:

  • Price of admission is a key factor I use to evaluate events. Once event ticket prices reach $500, $1000 or more, the quality of people attending tends to increase
  • Ask for referrals. Once I started to meet a few high level people at events, I would ask them what other conferences, seminars and events they considered valuable.

7. What are some books that have valuable to you in growing your career?

There are quite a few books that have been valuable. Here are a few that stand out:

8. Who do you admire in business and why?

There are many people I admire in the business world for different reasons.

  • Tony Robbins. His ability to communicate effectively with groups and 1-on-1 is impressive.
  • Brendon Burchard. His systematic approach to building multiple seven figure companies.
  • Gary Keller. His long term success in the real estate industry: Keller is Chairman of the Board for Keller Williams, one of the largest real estate companies in the world.
  • Jay Papasan. For lessons in the art of publishing and media. Jay Papasan is a bestselling author that serves as vice president and executive editor at Keller Williams Realty International.

9. Where can readers learn more about your work?

Readers are welcome to visit my website The Mentee Podcast. I also offer a free resource – 7 Easy Steps to Meet the Top 7 Influencers in Your Industry – to help people in building powerful networks.

 

Becoming An Effective Leader In Government & Beyond: An Interview With Steve Ressler, Founder of GovLoop

Have you ever considered the public sector and government for your next career move? Governments face interesting problems and that means there are opportunities to deliver new projects. In today’s article, you will learn about Steve Ressler’s career journey which has spanned from various roles in the U.S. government to launching his own venture, GovLoop. I had the opportunity to meet Steve when he recently visited Toronto. My thanks to Winnie Liem and the PMI-SOC Government Community for introducing me to Steve.

Who Is Steve Ressler?

Steve Ressler is the Founder and President of GovLoop.com,

Steve Ressler is the Founder and President of GovLoop.com, the “Knowledge Network for Government” which connects and fosters collaboration among over 200,000+ members of the government community. On GovLoop, members learn and discuss best practices on key topics in governments through blogs, forums, free online trainings, and research guides.

Mr. Ressler is a 3rd generation public sector leader and spent 6 years in roles at Social Security Administration, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, and DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He is a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar, has won the 2010 GovTech Top 25 Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers Award, as well as the 2007 and 2009 Federal 100 Award.  Additionally, he has been featured in many publications and conferences including the Washington Post, Harvard Kennedy School, World Economic Forum, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Huffington Post, among others.

1. What are the major mistakes you see people make in developing their careers?

Many people are too conservative in their careers (i.e. not taking enough risk). Second, failing to go where the action is – get on the rocket ship!. Specifically, look for areas that are growing in staff, adopting new technology or capitalizing on new trends.

Editor’s Note: Ressler’s recommendation also applies to the private sector. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shared this observation from Google’s Eric Schmidt: “Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.)”

2. Where do you see major opportunities in government to improve productivity, service and other improvements?

I see huge opportunities to use modern cloud technologies paired with design thinking for intuitive services to provide significantly better and cheaper services to citizens.

3. What are the top areas of demand for education at GovLoop?

Huge demands around topics of data analytics, leadership, human-centered design

Tip: If you’re interested in exploring data science careers further, read my article at InfoWorld: Career boost: Break into data science.

4. What are some of the leadership insights you gained from participating in the 2015 presidential scholars program?

The higher in rank you get, the more difficult decisions you have to make.  If it was easy, the decision would have already been made at a level below you.  As a leader, you are often faced with unclear choices with limited data and you have to decide how to manage the process of decision-making (e.g. how quickly have to make the decision, who to consult, what options are available) and in end, you have to make a call and someone will be upset no matter what.

Resource: Leadership and decision making is a complex art. Shane Parrish, author of the Farnam Street blog, has excellent additional insights such as 16 Leadership Lessons from a Four Star General and Creating a Latticework of Mental Models.

5. What do you see as the role and value for in person events and associations?

The Presidential Leadership Scholars program has been hugely valuable for my growth.

Personal Democracy Forum is an annual event that has been quite valuable in connecting me to technology leaders in the non-profit, political, and government space.

6. What are 3 of the most popular articles at GovLoop?

7. Who do admire as a leader or entrepreneur? What insights do you apply from that person?

Mark Zuckerberg stands out because of his huge vision, focused execution (i.e. Facebook serves over 1 billion people), and his ability to take huge bets (e.g. buying Whatsapp for $10+ billion)

8. What books have found found most valuable in developing your career?

Two books stand out:

9. If readers are interested in joining GovLoop, what is the best place for them to start?

Go to govloop.com and sign-up for our daily newsletter where we send our best articles, training materials, and more.

How Charles Byrd Gets It Done: Project Management & Networking Tips

Charles

In today’s Q&A interview, you will learn how Charles Byrd developed his productivity practices, managed products and built relationships. I met Charles in 2015 and have been looking forward to sharing his insights with Project Management Hacks readers.

Introduction

1. What is your background in project management and industry?

I have a deep history in project management. Out of college with a BBA in information technology I started on a help desk providing 2nd and 3rd level support for Cadence, a Silicon Valley software company. I then started managing tech projects while concurrently working on and earning my Master of Science in Information Technology.

I was then promoted to be a project manager and founded our company’s PMO. I led our team of 12 to become PMP certified and personally managed the largest projects in our project portfolio including customer facing projects with budgets exceeding $5 million dollars.

From the PMO I earned a promotion to the director level founding and managing the Social Media and Collaboration department. The roll was also project focused as I created the company technology roadmaps, and implemented the solutions globally, managing international teams.

To forge new paths, last year I founded the company Byrd Word, LLC – specializing in productivity training, marketing, and technology.   My work includes speaking engagements, coaching and an Evernote productivity training product.

 

2. What is a past “favorite” project you led and why?

As it was a passion to enable and streamline modern communication across our 6,000 employee enterprise, I rolled out MS Lync, WebEx, and Salesforce Chatter. I’d have to say the WebEx project was a personal favorite.   We had a great team and a streamlined project management process using Asana. Lync was a favorite with employees and was the most utilized tool company-wide rolled out in 2014. In this project, I knew the marketing campaigns and education strategies would be key. To both make a greater impact, and to have some fun, I invented IT TV – a CNET style series of entertaining and informative video news segments, interviews, and internal commercials.

I used the IT TV platform, which brought in accolades from across the company, to land key communication opportunities in our company-wide communication meetings and mailings. This not only brought a spotlight to the projects creating a buzz, it garnered executive management support along with the company’s prestigious IT Innovation Award. HR and Marketing also sought this creative approach and expertise requesting that I produce IT TV content for their company-wide project roll-outs as well.

3. What would you tell younger Charles about running successful projects?

Running successful projects is all about relationships, communication, and rolling with the punches. Most projects have their hiccups, challenges, and unexpected turns. By identifying the key stakeholders, and really listening to their goals, delivering on those goals is easier. The strong relationships provide the support needed to get through the challenges on the way, leading to happier outcomes. Next would be creating a communication structure and task management system that is streamlined. If it’s complicated, it won’t get used.

I’ve learned the principle of progressive elaboration is in full effect. It means you don’t know what you don’t know until you get there, dig in, and figure it out. I’d also share with a younger self that being overly optimistic about timelines can create expectation resets along the way. When you dig in, things expand a level deeper and broaden awareness regarding choices, and what needs to be accomplished. An Agile approach wins every time in these situations due to its inherent flexibility and delivery focus. I’d also recommend keeping in mind Pareto principle (i.e. the 80/20 principle) and Parkinson’s law (i.e. that work will expand to fill the time available). Both concepts are always at play and must be balanced.

4. What are some of your favourite project management tools?

As a productivity geek, I love combining systems and technology that work in the real world. When systems are cumbersome, they don’t get used.   Managing tasks via email is painful. I recommend using tools like Asana that put conversations in the context of the tasks they are regarding. When updates are received in real time, it reduces the need for as many touch points or status meetings enabling more productive use of time.

5. What role does Evernote play in your project management process?

Evernote plays a KEY role in my projects and daily life workflow. It would be difficult for me to function without it.   I have over 17,000 notes in Evernote at this point. Most people have heard of Evernote, and many have tried it. The missing part of the equation is learning how to apply it to projects, planning, and life in a way that starts making everything else easier – FAR easier.

This is precisely why I’ve created a course to help people and businesses do exactly that called Zero-to-60 with Evernote. It provides basic tool how-to info, but digs deeper with custom workflows, templates, use cases, and best practices that enable you to hit the ground running – quickly. There is a magic feeling you get when you can put your finger on anything – the moment it’s needed.

I use Evernote as a repository and working area for important information that comes in from a barrage of sources: Email, the web, paper documents, PDFs and digital files. I also use it for meeting notes, daily priority planning, and as a working session place to capture ideas, plans and thoughts before further organizing that information where appropriate, whether that is a task management tool, project planning tool, or wherever it’s needed. I then link back to the notes that have the additional detail. Evernote’s tag and search capabilities alone would make it worth using, then it goes way beyond that with its other uses and features such as its mobile simplicity, web clipper tool, PDF annotation and more.

Tip: Did you know you can snap a photo of text, and then search for any word in the photo? How cool is that!

6. How do you use mind mapping and what tools do you recommend?

I’m an advocate and user of mind maps. I use them for planning, and also for quick reference to information. I actually use them in combination with Evernote as well to provide a relationship based structure. For small planning mind maps I use iThoughts on the Mac. I am also a heavy user of a tool called The Brain, which is a dynamic mind map that can handle large volumes of connections yet is still easy to view and navigate.

7. In your current business, what types of collaboration tools and techniques do you find helpful?

In my current business, I use an array of tools, a few of which are noted below.

  • Slack – instant messaging tool
  • Asana – Team task management
  • Evernote – Repository for everything you want at your fingertips, working, and planning area
  • Skype – Video calls and chat
  • Zoom.us – Video conferences with groups
  • Gmail & Google Apps

8. Over the past year, you have grown your network significantly. What was your networking goal and how did you get started?

I’ve always known networking was important. Growing up my dad always told me this and was a master at it himself. I’m a people person, so fortunately it comes fairly easy for me, but I’ll also say it’s a skill to be learned. In the past, I thought I was too busy for networking as there is always so much to do.   When I started my company in 2015, I made a point to make time for it, and all I can say is – it’s totally been worth it. It has led to opportunities it would take years to get any other way – if ever.

My goal was to make one or two connections a week.

I got started in a few ways –

  1. Joining online groups with the people I wanted to learn from and get to know
  2. Attending conferences and mastermind retreats making a friend or two (or more) along the way
  3. Emailing or messaging specific people proposing physical or virtual coffee, to chat and get to know them

Consistently listening and understanding other people’s goals takes relationships the furthest as it gives you a basis to provide them value. This could be strategy advice, system recommendations, coaching, or simply an introduction to someone else in your network that can help further their goals.

In Facebook groups for example I start by making a short list of interesting people who are contributing much to a group. Then I message them to chat a bit and propose a virtual coffee via Skype. The interactions are always beneficial.   Adding people on LinkedIn or Facebook as connections or friends is another great way to get to know them – giving you a jumping off point for a conversation and to identify ways you can provide them value. Bruce and I are friends today supporting each other’s businesses and goals and we hold weekly calls because we met through an online business group.

Sometimes an email goes out, and weeks later I get a reply. It’s how I’ve landed multiple major best selling authors to join me for interviews on my video blog or arrange joint venture partnerships.

Networking Tip: The fortune is in the follow-up!

9. What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know where or how to get started with networking?

Figure out who you want to hang out with and learn from. Read what they read (or write). Research or ask where they hang out, what groups they are in and so forth. Then go where they go. Introduce yourself and get to know them. Find ways to bring them value and build rapport.

I approach this networking activity with two concepts:

  • Show up. Be present. Deliver value.
  • It’s not about you. It’s about them.

Note: You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most socially, financially, health-wise and more. As we strive for continuous improvement, it’s frequently best not to be the smartest person in the room.

10. How do you provide value or support to people you network with?

The way I provide value is by first listening to what people are trying to achieve. Then I think about ways to further that goal, whether by a tool, technique, or process – and also by introductions to others that could be helpful. For example in October I spent two weekends in a row with marketing virtuoso and best selling author Ryan Levesque who is working on his second book along with doing many webinars for his audience. After being in a mastermind group with him and contributing content there, I offered to assist him with a personal training on a great writing tool called Scrivener and specific strategies to improve audio and video in his presentations.   This is a primary example of understanding someone’s goals, then finding a way to help further them. This by its very nature creates good will, establishes you as an expert, and builds the relationship. This led to talks with Ryan about having my company build his flagship course, along with multiple high power introductions he provided.

I did the same for a public speaker and real estate company CEO name Adi Gorel who personally owns 200+ single family homes and manages portfolios of thousands of homes for his International Capital Group clients. I provided multiple Evernote and marketing strategy sessions to significantly simplify his workflow and strengthen his message. Adi then asked me to speak at his real estate conference in San Francisco landing me additional clients along with students for my pilot Evernote course being launched at the time. These connections also led to speaking at a national conference called Ignite at the Anaheim convention center to several hundred eager attendees bringing in testimonials such as this one from publisher Geoff Young:

“I have been trying for a year to figure out how to organize a system that my team could use to organize their lead generation and follow up. Charles did an amazing job of laying out the steps to get this done. I flew 3,000 miles from Philly to LA for a 3 day convention, but it would have been worth the trip just to see Charles’ presentation and get to pick his brain for 20 minutes.”

Without networking and making real connections, these opportunities wouldn’t have existed.

11. What products and services do you offer and where can we find out more about that?

On March 15, my Zero-to-60 with Evernote productivity course is launching. Through the networking techniques discussed above I’ve aligned several partners to promote the course throughout the year that will reach 100,000 people.   Productivity, system, and marketing consulting is also available on a limited basis. On March 15, I will be presenting a webinar for PMI – Evernote for Project Managers – An Introduction (Editor’s Note: ProjectManagement.com members can earn 1 PDU to maintain their certification when you attend Charles’s webinar).

Since you’re reading this on Project Management Hacks, I’ll give you access to module 1 of the course FREE!   Once released you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade to the full course at a special discounted price. A streamlined Project Management workflow (and life) awaits!

Editor’s Note: Contact Charles below to ask about the free offer for his course.

12. Where can readers find you online?