When Leverage = ZERO

TarahKeech.com _CreateActionWhenLeverage=Zero

I have been in project management forever. Literally, almost 20 years, so not “forever” in the traditional sense, but holy moly, half my life.

The trick about project management is that everyone has to do what you say or you fail at your job.

Take it up a notch.

When you work with an internal team (i.e. a team of people who get their paycheck regardless of the project’s success or failure), how do you get them to do what needs to be done?

Even trickier, how do you negotiate when these internal teammates say they can’t deliver what you (=your project) need by when you need it?

Am I preaching to the choir here? Can you relate?

You have ZERO LEVERAGE. In the traditional sense at least: There are not consequences you can lay down. No demerits, time outs, or other proverbial sticks to use. You can’t take away their parking space, spit in their lunch or kick them on the playground.

Now, personally, when your project fails to deliver is an easy time to lose momentum. You can hit your wall, or your own personal bottom, question your career, surf job postings or worse - stop caring. When you stop caring, you lose your investment- what you’ve already given to this job, this team and this career. You lose sight of the value in the work YOU do, so you lose your self value.

CARROTS

In the absence of leverage, you must motivate. Some people are naturally motivated - they have an intrinsic drive to deliver and get satisfaction from helping and achieving. Those are your people. I’m talking about EVERYone else.

Positivity

Be a positivity magnet. “Negativity has the ability to reduce your motivation and drag you down.” @murraynewlands Conversely, positivity is infectious. Take a moment to breathe. It’s great to care about your project but you don’t need to “care-care.” @alittleyinyang Care-care about your life, your S.O., your kids, your pets, your causes. This is permission for you to let go of negativity.

Focus on what is possible, what is being done well, what the best possible outcome is - and then make them go make it happen. Positive attracts positive. Put out what you want to get back. Say about others only the truthful (read: fact-based) things you would want said about you. For help to identify, plan for and achieve the best-possible in any project at any state, Tarah Keech Consulting is your best friend and your secret weapon, learn more here.  

When in spin...

When in spin, play collaborator. Acknowledge contributions and challenges, open the floor without judgement, hear concerns, echo those concerns, and after everyone’s talked - address them. Either they’re solvable or they’re not. If not, then you enter cooperative negotiation.

Get your ask in gear

Readiness goes hand in hand with motivation. Prepare and then share statements about what you want and where your lines are: make sure they’re specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic and time-bound to follow George T. Doran’s SMART principles.

Clearly articulate the ideal end game, and the why. “Research has found that having clarity about your goals is essential to having motivation to achieve those goals.” @BenjaminPHardy Why does the testing team care if your deliverable hits the business-need-by release and how does it make their lives and jobs better? Because it makes your clients’ lives better, it makes your organization easier to do business with, and because it’s a X$ revenue driver (all of which they can report in quarterly progress updates or on performance reviews - IF they hit that release). Be bold and say it. “I know your team is looking for ways to improve your perception in the organization, hitting this goal (in the face of these challenges) will give you the win and visibility that will go a long way to improving your brand.”

Make action

Get them to take action. RIP Tom Petty, you legend, but you were wrong. The starting is the hardest part. Not just theoretically, chemically. @melrobbins #5SecondRule is applied to overcome the “activation energy” phenomenon first documented by Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi. This is an amazing tool to overcome inertia and create action for yourself. But what about others?

The surest way to kick start someone else into action is social accountability

The surest way to kick start someone else into action is social accountability on a timeline. Establish regular and predictable social accountability. This can be in whatever method and cadence works for your project but definitely tie their name to it (I like yellow highlighting, bold font and underscoring in documentation plus name calling in meetings) (not bad names, just calling them by their name in a public forum). “Hey, Jane. Your team committed to doing this last week and said it would be done by tomorrow. We’re excited to see it. Will you please email this distribution before noon tomorrow to let us know it’s been done and posted?”

For bonus points: Turns out framing your ask is key to changing your contributors’ meta cognition and making them act. Double dog dare you to use this trick and get them to verbalize this ask of themselves, “Will I help?” (insert your verb of choice here: design, solution, deliver, draft requirements, submit the test data). @psyblog

Bonus Carrots

  • Schrute Bucks

  • Sex (Nooo, not in the workplace). As it turns out, the more helpful people are, the more sex they have. “People who help others out have more sex, new research concludes.” @psyblog

  • We all like to be liked because being liked makes life easier. We want the reward,  the recognition. We want less friction and more perks. Less bad and more good. In summary, tell them “Do this work, be more liked, have an easier life.”  

Want more carrots and less sticks?

This is Compassionate Communication.

Tarah Keech Consulting supports our clients through strategic communication and interpersonal skills training and coaching with productivity, efficiency and performance boosting, culture building, employee retention and team morale.

We offer luxury executive and leadership retreats, customized workshops and 1:1 coaching. Learn more and book your experience here www.tarahkeech.com/booknow or by emailing me directly tarah@tarahkeech.com.

How to Get Off on the Right Foot with a New Boss

Authenticity + Consistent Communication + Manage Up, Down & Laterally with the same

Authenticity + Consistent Communication + Manage Up, Down & Laterally with the same

As an external consultant, I’m often called in to help clients whose projects are in crisis. Immediate alignment with the internal stakeholders is mission critical.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, the client decision maker is not the project “boss” so it’s virtual relationship ground-zero and time is never an affordable luxury.

Here are a few of my personal hip-pocket tools for entering new projects when political environments are extra sensitive and personalities are especially trying.

One of my Fortune 500 assignments in recent years was textbook relationship and communication crisis management. The underlying turbulence was directly attributable to my new boss’ (let’s call him NB) predecessor. NB had inherited a team of lackluster, burnt-out execution leads and enterprise-wide stakeholders who were openly hostile towards the program and this particular project after having survived back-to-back years of incomplete, costly, delayed and defect-ridden delivery.

My role was to get the troops in line, research, analyze, design and deploy a plan for successful delivery, and ultimately help NB establish sustainable and scalable functionality and framework to execute year over year going forward.

Your first objective is absolute authenticity. When the goal is to deliver results, ass-kissing does nobody any good, kisser or kissed. I shared my personal story and background, my why (@simonsinek), admitted my known personal strengths and gaps (framing them as asks) to support my mission in the project. This is a beyond the number-of-kids-and-how’s-the-weather ice breaking conversation. This is personal and true: no fluff. He reciprocated and we had the beginnings of an authentic working relationship.

First, understand the risk's root cause. Then, determine a proposal to solve. THEN, take it to your boss. 

First, understand the risk's root cause. Then, determine a proposal to solve. THEN, take it to your boss. 

The next key tool to working really well with your new boss during crisis mode, is a consistent communication plan. Throughout on-boarding, NB and I had daily stand-ups (eventually they became weekly as trust grew and risks were wrangled). I kept a running list of questions and asks and reported follow ups as closed or in progress. This may seem really elementary but in my experience, consistent execution of stand-ups like this are rare and highly valued by the highly influential. You build immediate trust and credibility when you show up consistently and follow through on items previously discussed.

Third is really a basic rule to being a good human: Do not say anything unless it’s true, necessary and kind. Impactful communication requires clarity. When I met with NB and had an issue, risk or needed advice - I was very clear to call that out (e.g. “So my ask is for you to advise me on _”), and always present it with recommendations.

PRO TIP
If you encounter a new risk, research it first and strive to holistically understand its root cause well enough to raise it hand-in-hand with a recommendation.

If you don’t have a solution, ask for thoughts from the SMEs, seek counsel with stakeholders, and dig up historical documents for context. This helped me educate NB (who remember was new to his role too) on context and gave him the ammo he often needed to escalate up to his leadership. Also, when it came to implement the solutions, he and I were already aligned on the business case and requirements.

Asking for direction, decisions and support is very different from complaining. If you hear yourself saying “I just need to vent,” and you’re talking with your boss, know that they’re thinking, “Why don’t I just do this myself.”

To build lasting credibility and loyal teams - only say what's true, necessary AND kind. 

To build lasting credibility and loyal teams - only say what's true, necessary AND kind. 

The fourth strategy is to manage down and across with the same authenticity, consistency and communication vigilance. For the project supporting NB, I oversaw other matrixed delivery teams and project leads. When NB met with the other teams’ leadership he heard and knew that I was leading them well, addressing questions and concerns before he ever had to hear about them, solving internal conflict without escalation, and transparently, proactively reporting status and risks up to him before they became issues. I was making him look good.

Making your new boss look good, making their life easier and building an authentic, mutually beneficial relationship is the key to getting off on the right foot with your new boss and to creating a reputation that will continually elevate you throughout your career.

If you encounter a challenging boss, client or coworker, Tarah Keech Consulting is here to help.

Our clients leverage our workshops and coaching to gain the communication and relationship strategies and tools that enable them to:

  • Save at-risk client relationships

  • Manage tricky client and internal “personalities”

  • Navigate politically turbulent execution environments, and

  • Transform stagnant, underperforming individuals and teams into engaged and enthusiastic producers

  • Approach and close key business development new sale and up-sell targets

With 15 years in advisory, coaching and leadership roles from startups to Fortune 50s, Tarah Keech Consulting is an executive communication and relationship strategy agency. For more information, reach out at tarah@tarahkeech.com or find us on Twitter @tarahkeech.