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Monday, December 26, 2011

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
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The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
by Dr. Gary Chapman

A few years back, I attended a men's conference. One of the sessions discussed improving your love life. I was curious and decided to attend. During the session, we took a profile to help us determine our love language. According to the presenter and this book, there are five love languages. Each of us feel love, affirmation and self-worth in different ways. For some, it is through touch. For others, it's words of affirmation. Or acts of service. And so on. The simple 30 question assessment pinpointed my love language. Something I already knew but couldn't put into words. More importantly, it was difficult to explain to my wife.

Funny thing was, her love language was completely different than mine. While I tried to love her using my language, she didn't get it. And vice versa. She was loving me the way she needed it, but I wasn't translating. Even with the communication gap, we experienced a good marriage.

One morning, I took her to breakfast and had her take the same profile. Immediately, we discovered a key to taking our relationship to the next level. It has been really amazing.

I am excited to read this book. I know human languages have different dialects. Same words, different meanings. Similar phrases with various connotations. I am expecting this book to help me understand the dialect of love I speak, but more importantly, my wife's dialect.

An ancillary goal is to recognize other people's love language. As a project manager, I can use this knowledge to help me manage and influence my team members.

Epilogue: I've finished reading the book. I found the simple 30 question assessment to be accurate, even with additional explanation. In the book, the author gave several additional ideas to pin-point your particular language if you feel two might apply. So, it was a very good read.

What I find to be a little more difficult is applying it to business situations. The principles would work, but you would need to apply them differently. For example, let's say one of your co-worker's love language is touch. It is not appropriate to be going around touching people, especially in inappropriate manners. That'll get you fired and possibly sued. Bringing in gifts for the person who feels loved by receiving gifts may get you in trouble as well.

But, I can say, now that I am more aware of these 5 love languages, I can begin to empathize with my fellow team members and understand their actions a bit better.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

What It Takes to Be #1 : Vince Lombardi on Leadership

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
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What It Takes To Be #1: Vince Lombardi on Leadership
by Vince Lombardi, Jr.

Vince Lombardi is a legend to many who are professional football (American football) fans and to many other leadership students. He is best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s. He took an under-achieving team full of very talented players and created champions who won numerous championship games. Most notably, he created an attitude of winning.

Lombardi is known for his dogmatic approach to life, the desire to win through preparation and dedication to the cause. Some may see him as a tyrant, but after reading this book, I'm firmly convinced his dogmatic approach came from conviction.

The book describes his leadership approach. It explained many common quotes attributed to Lombardi, such as "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." I never really liked that quote because it eliminates the "win-win" situation we project managers try to achieve during conflict resolution. I learned the quote really was, "The will to win isn't everything, it's the only thing." That is a major difference and one project managers can leverage.

Overall, the book did a great job of describing Lombardi's approach to leadership: conviction and dedication to the "goal." Every fiber of his being was focused to align his team to the goal of winning - the performance measure of football teams. For us, the goal might be something else, but the overall theme is intently focusing on the goal. Align our thoughts, attitudes and actions to achieving the desired outcome.

After reading the book, I had two reactions: these principles apply to today, but the approach must change. We no longer live in a world of command & control of the 1960s. I don't mean we live in a world of the manby-pamby, wishy-washy, decisions are made by votes. Leaders need to lead, but leaders must create an environment where decisions and leading take into consideration feedback.

Lombardi used a very top-down style of coaching. It was his way or the highway. Either the players did what he asked, or they were asked to leave. Players had a limited amount of say in how plays were run, practice was conducted, or how the game was played. And it worked back then, but certainly doesn't work in corporations today.

But something has happened since that time. Society has changed over the 50 years since then. Particularly, during the 1960s, we started to question authority, understand leaders have limited views of situations, and those on the ground have important information necessary to make the decisions necessary for success. Dictators are regularly overthrown and despots fall.

That is not to say that leaders shouldn't lead. It doesn't mean we run democracies. It means we must understand our team, its individuals' talents and mannerisms, the members' needs and concerns to factor in the best methods of achieving the goals, to reaching the destination.

This book has some very good points and ideas. I have pulled much from it for use with my teams. But what I have done is to take its principles and tailor them based on my experiences, research and reading other leadership experts information and update it for today's society. Leading people today, especially the younger generations takes skill and understanding that Lombardi did not need or have. So, take the points established by the book and fit them to today.



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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Bus: My Life in and out of a Helmet

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
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The Bus - My Life in and out of a Helmet
by
Jerome Bettis, Gene Wojciechowski

I was perusing the bargain book section at a local book store when I came across this book. Being an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan (I live in a blended family environment – my wife and oldest son are Philadelphia Eagles fans and my youngest son and I are Steelers fans), I noticed this book. I thought it might be a book my youngest son would like to read. OK, I was curious also.

A departure from my normal type of book to read – leadership, motivation, business focus, etc., I felt the diversion was warranted. Every now and then, I like to read a story about a kid who comes from obscurity to become something because it aligns with my life. Jerome Bettis came from the ghettos of Detroit to become one of the best running backs of the National Football League (NFL). Although I didn’t come from the ghetto, I did come from a dinky town in the woods of western Pennsylvania, about as obscure as you can get, even though the area I grew up in did produce several famous NFL players – Joe Namath, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Joe Montana, just to name a few.

Books about humble beginnings to greatness spur me on. It tells me that great beginnings are not a prerequisite for great endings. Greatness is an attitude, not an altitude in life. While I might not be known as widely as others, my significance in life is dependent on what I do and how it influences others.

I learned several things from this book:
  1. Scrappiness helps us achieve our goals – the tenacity and internal fortitude to believe we can actually reach our goals.
  2. Team membership is important – we don’t reach our levels of success by ourselves, we need others, not stepping on them or using them, but through joining forces to accomplish more.
  3. Friendship qualities gains friendship support – we have a desire to help others who we are drawn to, so developing likable personality qualities engenders camaraderie and forward progress. 
Coming from the ghetto, Bettis had to work just a bit harder to break free from his environment than those of us who don’t come from that culture. The ghetto is not a place, but a way of life. Being from the back woods is not a place, but a culture. Being insignificant is a mindset; significance is influence.  To become something different, we must do more than the status quo, break the homeostasis of our life and decide on a new path. Bettis admits in his book he could have stayed in the ‘hood and lead a life of crime and downward spiral. He wanted to become a professional bowler, but through a concerned coach and dedicated parents, he changed his life and impacted many through his accomplishments on the gridiron.


His book details his steps along that long journey, similar steps I’ve taken in very different forms but just as impactful in my live. I’ve never been one to just let life happen, but to envision my future and determine the path to get there. Along the way, I’ve run into many roadblocks and detours. Although I didn’t end up where I originally wanted (retired by 40, grandfather by 45, speaking tour by 50, etc.), I am satisfied with the results so far, but nowhere near finished with the journey. Books such as “The Bus” continue to remind me I am not abnormal, but have suffered similar setbacks, dealt with comparable politics and disappointments, and have parallel paths as many others, famous or not.

This book is light reading compared to my normal business focused books, but getting outside my profession to see others struggles helps put my situations in perspective and cross-pollenates their learning with mine. As a result, I see problems, challenges and opportunities from different angles than my colleagues, sometimes giving different options than traditionally seen. Rather than being myopic in viewpoint, I see the broader vision, the alternate paths and remain flexible to various solutions. As a result, I am more valuable to my clients because I offer other solutions than the normal “we’ve always done it that way” methods. Then I can help them choose the best method to meet their needs.

All materials are copyright (c) American Eagle Group. All rights reserved worldwide. Linking to posts is permitted. Copying posts is not.

Trust Your Next SHOT - A Guide To Living A Life of Joy

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
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Trust Your Next SHOT - A Guide to a Life of Joy
by
Meadowlark Lemon with Lee Stuart

One Sunday morning, the Clown Prince of Basketball showed up at my church. Meadowlark Lemon was always one of my favorite boyhood entertainers along with the rest of the Harlem Globetrotters. I usually watched them on my black-and-white TV, but I did get to see them live when they came to a city near my home town. I was always amazed by the antics and abilities of the players on the basketball court. In the center of attention was Meadowlark Lemon. He was skilled and funny. I learned from his performances you could be professional and personable at the same time. I learned professionalism was no€™t always the uptight, straight-laced, everything-under-control posture most people consider to be professional. I learned you could be approachable even when steeped in knowledge, expertise, experience and ability.


Almost fifty years later, Meadowlark Lemon is still just as jovial and personable as he was back in the Sixties. Although his profession has changed, he is an ordained minister, he is still Meadowlark Lemon. His book, €"Trust Your Next Shot -€“ A Guide to a Life of Joy,"€ is part auto-biography and part motivational. I learned of his humble beginnings and how a wire coat hanger and tin can started his basketball career. I realized it does so matter what you are given in life, it'€™s what you do with it that makes the difference. He set his goal to become a Globe Trotter (it was two words when he was first introduced to the team, but eventually become conjoined around the time he was asked to be on the team) and certainly accomplished it by becoming synonymous with the team. He was asked to become the clown of the team at which he excelled.


His ministry today, from both a spiritual and secular sense, is a life of joy. He brought happiness to many during his career and continues today through his advice on life. After a biographical description of how he attained his status, Meadowlark begins to provide life-instructions using basketball terms. I am not a basketball fan or even knowledgeable in basketball terminology, but I was able to follow and understand how he applied the metaphors to everyday life. Similar to other books that motivate and provide advice concerning living, Trust Your Next Shot reminds me again of the obvious, everyday things I gloss over because of the concerns for the day. Keeping them forefront in my mind helps me realize the current crisis is temporary and with proper attitude and actions, it’ll be overcome. Whether it is a sad, frantic, scary, panicky, or painful situation, using the book'€™s advice, I can return to a life of joy. 


Meeting Meadowlark in person and playing with him in a golf tournament the next day was certainly a pleasant encounter in my life. To meet someone I watched as a boy, remembered as one of my favorite entertainers and actually being able to spend time with such a legend was a very pleasurable experience. Reading his book helped me realize this was an ordinary guy from humble beginnings who reached stardom by doing what he loved. And yet, even with the fame, he was still the same down-to-earth person he started out to be. His book captures his journey and opens his life to me for my learning.


Overall, even though this book provides some light reading, it does cause me to think beyond my technical or business work and continue to hone my skills of being professional, personable and approachable because I can operate from a position of joy rather stern-faced, uptight and stiff-upper lip posture.

All materials are copyright (c) American Eagle Group. All rights reserved worldwide. Linking to posts is permitted. Copying posts is not.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
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Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty
by
Patrick Lencioni

When you pick up a book entitled "Getting Naked" you are not quite sure what to expect. Most of us feel more comfortable hiding our bodily flaws and those around us definitely feel more comfortable when we are dressed. In fact, the older I get, the more I seem to desire to remain clothed. It seems as consultants, I have seen many have the same desire to remain “clothed” when it comes to their ideas, work habits and interactions with clients. They put up a front or exterior that belies the true nature of their work.

In this book, author Patrick Lencioni talks directly to consultants and anyone who provides services, especially advisory services. He promotes the idea clients want consultants to be "naked" - transparent, servant-oriented, and more interested in adding value to the client's business than they are in the money being paid. Make it about the client and their concerns, not about the consultant.

Lencioni uses his signature style of a fable to illustrate his points. A larger, less client-oriented consulting firm buys a much smaller, customer-centric company. The larger firm method of selling and providing their services differ greatly from the smaller firm: pre-sales (gather data and information about the client, create a presentation and slideshow of their strengths and methodologies), impress the client with their ability to get the job done and propose a solution all before learning why the client called in the first place. They baffle the client with the senior consultants' abilities and prestige, and then staff the project with junior consultants possessing very little experience while charging the senior consultant rates. I'm not suggesting any particular large consulting companies stoop to such tactics, but ...

In the book, the smaller firms method of listening to the customer, working with the customer, and creating ideas aligned with the customer’s needs seemed to win the day, especially when they competed head-to-head with the larger firm and certainly proved their business was all about the customer and not the consultant.

Lencioni promotes three fears we consultants must overcome (and these same fears apply to internal consultants and non-consultants alike) in order to operate like the smaller firm and create a bevy of loyal, long-term clients:

Fear #1: Fear of Losing the Business

When you fear losing business, you compromise your work and objectivity - the very things clients hire you for - in order to maintain the business. If we don't worry about losing the business, then we can make bold suggestions benefitting the client. If the client doesn't like those moves or ideas and we lose the business, then they probably were not the type of client we could serve anyway. I've always made it a philosophy of mine to never be concerned about losing the business in deference to the client's benefit. In most cases, the client appreciated the openness. In other cases, we parted ways and I realized I served the client better by not working with them.

Fear #2: Fear of Being Embarrassed

No one likes to make mistakes in public. Very few people like being naked in front of others. Consultants especially don't like to be embarrassed by not knowing an answer, making glaring errors, or just downright appearing incompetent. As a result, we make up answers, dance around the question or simply evade the issue altogether by long-winded answers. Unfortunately, the client sees through such buffoonery.

Lencioni suggests simply admitting when we don’t know or make a mistake. Make corrective actions and move on. Be willing to ask “stupid” questions and make dumb suggestions because many times, in doing so, it generates creativity. If nothing else, the client appreciates the willingness to do what it takes to move them forward.

Fear #3: Fear of Feeling Inferior

Fear of feeling inferior has to do with preserving a sense of importance or social standing with the client. While we shouldn’t let the client walk on us or abuse us, a sense of servitude creates a bond between the consultant and client, one where both sides end up respecting each other.

I won’t elaborate anymore because Lencioni does a much better job with his fable and follow-on discussion. In a day where pride, ego and swagger seem to rule a consultant’s demeanor, this book is a welcomed addition to my library of how to truly develop loyalty between client and consultant.

All materials are copyright (c) American Eagle Group. All rights reserved worldwide. Linking to posts is permitted. Copying posts is not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Dream Manager

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
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The Dream Manager
by
Matthew Kelly

The Dream Manager is turning out to be completely different than I expected. I expected to read about the traits that would make me a "dream manager" for those reporting to me. Instead, it teaches about the need for companies to help people reach their dreams - the reasons for us getting out of bed in the morning.

I am both excited and frustrated by books like these. The ideas are so common sense and can lead to huge improvements in the company's environment, profitability, turnover rates, costs, efficiencies, productivity, etc. Above all, they will really work.

BUT, why is it companies do not implemented such programs? Is it ego, greed, self-centeredness, what? Is it because those who really need to read and implement these concepts never will read or change? Or is it me? Am I too cynical, skeptical and burnt at this point?

So far, it is an excellent book and anyone who wants to create high-performing teams would benefit greatly by reading and implementing its ideas.

Epilogue: I have finished reading this book. It makes so much sense, why don't more companies see and understand the value of putting such practices into effect. Over my years of experience managing small to large projects, from as few as 5 people to as many as well over 400, when I treat people as people, show I care about their personal lives more than the results they produce for the project, they produce higher level results than I originally expected. They finished the assigned tasks early and exceeded the quality levels. And on top of that, they were energized by the work.

Before I learned such techniques, it was difficult getting people to ante up to the work. I did notice, though, when I took personal interest in people's dreams, they responded well to me and did better on the project. I further experimented with the remaining people on the project and saw the same results.

Don't get me wrong, this doesn't always work with everyone. There always has been and always will be the curmudgeon who will reject any try to get better acquainted because they might think you are being manipulative, invading their privacy, etc. That is ok. Let it go. When they see the results others have toward you and if the engagement lasts long enough, they’ll eventually come out of their shell.

I’d have to say, if there is a panacea for getting people to be engaged, understanding what drives them, their dreams as this books discusses, this is as close as it gets. I can attest to the discussion in this book really works.

Here is the coolest part about learning this information. Regardless of my authority level within an organization, I can do this. I have seen the strongest leaders in an organization be the ones lowest on the totem pole. They couldn’t hand out bonuses. They couldn’t increase pay rates. They couldn’t even suggest recognition of someone’s work. But they had the loyalty and a following many “leaders” could only be jealous of. Why? Because they cared about the people around them and helped them reach their dreams.

Finally, here is the biggest thing I learned from this book. “What is my dream?” “What gets me out of bed?” “What am I living for?” “Did I stop dreaming and why?” No, I’ve been a dreamer all my life, for they are the reasons I do what I do.

So, I’ll ask the same question to you – What is your dream?

All materials are copyright (c) American Eagle Group. All rights reserved worldwide. Linking to posts is permitted. Copying posts is not.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Power of Interpersonal Skills in Project Management

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
Print


The Power of Interpersonal Skills in Project Management
by
Deborah H. Herting

For the past several months, I have been thinking about the importance of interpersonal skills for managing projects. It seems the books written about project management focus on the "tools" - schedules, budgets, resource management, risk, change, etc. But few actually discuss the importance behind the skills needed to manage people - or more to the point for project managers - to influence people who have no real need to listen to you. I am looking forward to seeing what this book has to say about those necessary skills.

Epilogue: I have finished this well-researched discussion of the interpersonal skills so necessary for project managers - or any manager for that fact. The bibliography alone takes up five pages! Obviously, the author, Herting, did a marvelous job of researching the topic. She addressed the various interpersonal skills of a project manager: Communication, Leadership, Team Building, Conflict Management, Political Awareness, Cultural Awareness and Multi-Generational Diversity. Each is very important for the project manager to consider, understand and "manage."

The book convinces the reader the importance of interpersonal skills for the project manager. The maturity level of the interpersonal skills of the project manager determine the project success, the project manager's effectiveness, and the quality of the project results. Too little attention has been paid to this area of the project manager's job. This book brings to the forefront the importance of this area.
 
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy

David A. Zimmer
David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief Business Strategist
American Eagle Group
Print

It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship of the Navy
by
Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

I started reading this book and devoured it before I could do my usual book review method: state what I was expecting to get out of the book and then telling you what I learned. This book is good. Really good. "No-nonsense, straight-up, here is what really worked for me" type of book I'd expect from a military guy. It is a shame more companies don't read this AND implement similar practices.

Understand the backdrop here. Captain Abrashoff is given command of the USS Benfold, a ship ranked toward the bottom of the US Navy's grading scale. His job is to command this ship for the next two years. But he decides this ship deserved better than being at the bottom of the list. He decides to simply implement some human decency with those on the ship and literally turned the ship around. But there is a greater backdrop here - he did it in the very hierarchical, bureaucratic, command-n-control environment of the US Navy. I've worked in some very hierarchical, bureaucratic, command-n-control environments, but they pale in comparison. Big Time!

What I learned from this book is huge.

1. Rules are made to be broken - carefully. I've broken many a rules in my time (I abide by gravity and a few other immutable laws, but mainly because of the lesson-learned from breaking them and the resulting consequences). Some rules I broke not so carefully and could have had my head served to me on a platter, but the outcomes served to change the environment for the better - in most cases (I carry a hat box in my trunk for those times the outcomes didn’t go as planned). Abrashoff made it a rule to break the rules, carefully. As a result, he turned the ship from the lowest grade to the most efficient, highest regarded ship of the Navy. According Abrashoff, several of the current Standard Operating Procedures of the Navy were a result of the USS Benfold experience.

2. Regardless of the environment structure, you can make changes that make a difference. As project managers, I quip we have zero authority and one-hundred percent of the responsibility to bring our project to success. Many don't believe it, but we really do have authority to make changes to broken processes, develop good practices, and overall alter chaotic systems to meet the goal of project success. Unfortunately, many of us don't leverage that ability, thus we continue to do the same inefficient, non-productive, ineffective exercises over and over and over. Hey, if Abrashoff can do it in the Navy, why can't we do it in our positions? Reading this book gave me knowledge how to make those changes properly.

3. There is no such thing as over-communications. There is no such thing as too much praise. There is no such thing as excessive encouragement or empowerment. There is no such thing as too high of expectations.

Abrashoff discusses not just the management of people reporting to us, but how to deal horizontally and vertically upward. He covers the gambit.

And finally, he aligns with the mentor leadership philosophy Tony Dungy espoused in his book, “Mentor Leadership.” I’m seeing a pattern in the books I’m reading. True leaders don’t covet glory, power, or ego. Glory and power come from their willingness to serve others and keep their egos in check. I’m starting to look at people differently. I can almost instantaneously pick successful leaders and managers from those who are working hard at it and struggling. Successful ones are hardly noticed and have effective people. The glaring ones have to fight hard to maintain the pretense.

To my fellow project managers, this is one book I’d recommend because it teaches what is possible in impossible environments.

All materials are copyright (c) American Eagle Group. All rights reserved worldwide. Linking to posts is permitted. Copying posts is not.