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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Arrogance and Leadership Don't Mix

Arrogant leaders are by nature self centered. They believe their success is because of their own abilities and qualities. They are quick to point out the mistakes of others and rarely take the blame for anything that goes wrong. They are project killers because of their poor listening skills and their inability to see beyond themselves and their narrow views. They know best, and find it burdensome to give others the stage. Challenge them or try to draw them into a debate and watch out! You will be quickly labeled as inflexible and unwilling to accept “what is best”.

In Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” he found through surveys that humble leadership (opposite of arrogance) was one of the many leadership traits that contributed to the long-term success of organizations. Humble leaders get involved, are willing to listen to opposing viewpoints, and have high self-esteem. They have high moral values, which causes them to be centered on doing things right for the right reasons. They energize others, and believe their talents are a gift to be kept in perspective both in the work place and in their personal lives.

Note: This doesn’t always apply, but you would be surprised. Look at what the arrogant leader and the humble leader drive to work. That can tell you a lot about who they are and the image they are trying to portray.

One of the things we know is that leaders can’t effectively lead if they don’t know what is going on. A telltale sign of the arrogant leader is they don’t care about the details. That is because details are beneath them. They also believe that execution is beneath them. They are the grand strategist and don’t have time to get involved in the details. They are interested in headlines, not deadlines. Serving the greater good takes a back seat to serving their own self interests.

Another trait you might see is that arrogant leaders are threatened by the “good” leaders. They fear the good leader’s success and often view them as weak and ineffective (envy is a four letter word). In fact, many arrogant leaders see humility and attentiveness in others as a character flaw. We know by observation that the arrogant leaders are the ones with the weak character, the ones with the poor communication skills, and are the ones with the low self esteem. The arrogant leader’s weaknesses are easy to spot. They don’t fool anybody but themselves. Remember the CEOs of Enron, MCI/WorldCom? At one time they were arrogant, now they are in prison.

Emotional Outburst #1 - Arrogant leaders are organizational pariahs, and are terrible project managers.

A leader that motivates and inspires has to be visible, informed, and respected. Like any good engineer knows, you sometimes have to get your hands dirty to solve problems and gain the respect of the people doing the work.

An arrogant leader is the opposite of a servant leader. Whether they wear a skirt or a suit they are inhibitors to organizational excellence and their thirst for power destroys team synergy and employee morale.

We can sum up this type of behavior in one word...Arrogance -

As taken from the Inner Frontier

"ARROGANCE - Those to whom much has been given sometimes suffer from arrogance; or rather the people around them suffer. Arrogance is doubly a pity, because the talents of the arrogant serve primarily themselves. The arrogant assumes his views and opinions are The Truth. In arrogance, natural confidence goes sadly awry. Rather than the self-assurance born of knowing his own strengths and limitations, arrogance admits no limits. The arrogant brooks no weakness in himself and may even secretly rejoice to find flaws in others. But imperfections are inherent in being human, so the arrogant, like everyone else, always has feet of clay, however well hidden they may be. Fearing exposure, haughtiness forms a hard shell masking inner emptiness."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Use Constructive Behavior

Many of us deal with difficult people using the age-old adage of an "eye for an eye". If we are snubbed, we ignore the other person. If we are disrespected, we in turn show disrespect. This mentality is not only self-destructive, but is damaging to the career of a project manager.

When we reciprocate with bad behavior against another, nothing is resolved. By reverting to negative behavior we have fallen into a lose/lose relationship where nobody wins, and we do as much damage to ourselves as we perceive we do to others. What can we do when we feel bombarded by the negative attacks? There are several things we can do to avoid the trap of a reciprocating fire with fire.

I suggest that you read a couple of books I have found to be enlightening. The first is Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and the other is "Love is the Killer App" by Tim Sanders. Both books offer powerful insight into the human condition, and more importantly offer critical advice you can use everyday.

Some things to be aware of when dealing with others:

Be aware of the perceptions others hold about you

Keep a balance between your emotions and your ctions

Seek first to Understand, then be Understood (Stephen Covey Habit)

Be an Active Listener

Diagnose before prescribing

Consult with others you trust before making important decisions

Be Trustworthy

Don't Coerce, but Persuade

Accept the fact that some people will just be Unreasonable

Be the Solution, not the Problem

The best times in life and the worst times are usually tied to our relationships. Do not be a victim of your relationships, but an example of how others should act.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Don't Be a Victim of Politics (Rewind)

Politics and projects go hand in hand. Team conflict, competing agendas, stakeholder dysfunction, resource constraints, and a myriad of other challenges exist and will send your project careening out of control if not managed properly.

What is a project manager to do? Here is a list of things to keep in mind when managing projects in a highly politicized environment:

Learn to negotiate from a position of strength.

Do everything you can to educate those around you about Project Management. Stress the benefits and overcome the objections by pointing to your successes.

Master the art of influence.

Understand that masterful politicians are sometimes helpful to you and your project, but can also be detriment to your project's success.

An effective executive sponsor can help minimize political time wasting events that slow project progress and increase project budgets.

Recognize that conflict on your project is inevitable and necessary. How you respond to conflict will determine how successful you are.

Mastering the art of negotiation is a critical skill for project managers.

Negotiate up front how much power you will have as project manager, how and where it can be used, and when it applies to securing needed resources for your project.

Realize that for the most part internal politics wastes time and is usually not something that people enjoy.
Team commitment and loyalty will help to minimize project politics.

Don't fight a political system you don't understand and can't influence. Leave that to the experts. (Hint: get these experts to support your project if possible).

A good communications plan will help to lessen the politics on your project.

Every project usually has at least one "politician" in the organization that is out to either sabotage it, or will try to ensure that it isn't fully implemented.

Recognize that change (which is what projects are all about) scares some people and your project's deliverables can lead to a loss of power or influence for certain individuals or departments. Anticipate this and have a plan to deal with the behaviors that will surface.

Successful project managers need to learn to "swim with the sharks" and not get bitten. They need to be determined, focused, and act professionally and ethically. Project managers must know how to relate to people and manage relationships by being effective leaders and by applying the right balance of negotiating skills, motivational techniques, team building, and optimized communications.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Accepting Criticism (Rewind)

The other day while talking with one of my bosses I was told that I can come off sometimes as being pessimistic. I wasn't expecting this remark and had to think for a moment about my response. Basically my response was that yes, at times I can be pessimistic. After the meeting I started to think about my behavior over the past year, which led me to remember something I learned long ago. If we expect criticism we will seldom be disappointed when we receive it.

There are many types of criticism, and usually none of it is welcome. Destructive criticism seldom offers any value to the person receiving it and can cause them to be close-minded regarding any future criticism. While the criticism I received was presented in a constructive way, it still didn't make it easier to take. And for what it is worth, we must remember that criticism is just one person's opinion.

What is my point regarding all of this? Constructive criticism can help make us better by forcing us to stop and think about how we act, and interact with others. We need to remember that a positive, optimistic attitude will help us to build strong relationships and obtain the trust and respect of others.

Criticism is something we can avoid easily - by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing - Aristotle