Project Management That Works

Real-World Advice on Communicating, Problem-Solving, and Everything Else You Need to Know to Get the Job Done

 Project Management That Works

Authors: Rick A. Morris, Brette McWhorter Sember
Pub Date: August 2008
Print Edition: $19.95
Print ISBN: 9780814437681
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814410882

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There are a tremendous amount of business and leadership books on the market. Some of them will have a profound impact on the reader’s life, but some can be dangerous as well. For example, a new manager, Keith, brought in a star employee (and current friend) for an impromptu coaching session. Keith had been watching his friend and noting several things in his life. In Keith’s observations, he saw the employee start tasks (even personal goals) with great vigor and excitement, but noted he never seemed to follow through. Keith had just finished reading a book on how to motivate employees and was excited to apply what he had just read. He thought that all his staff needed was a conversation to light a fire under him so that he could follow through on the activities he had started. He wanted to discuss the employee’s failure to finish projects at home as well as on the job. Keith launched into a monologue about how he had watched the employee start a weight-loss program, brag about how much weight he was losing, yet it looked like he had quit the program. He had also heard the star employee talk about working with a charity, but hadn’t heard any updates. Keith announced that he was concerned about the employee and felt he needed to learn how to finish what he had started. The conversation focused only on outside activities, not work-related items.

Later, after thinking about their discussion, the employee marched back into the office and angrily said that Keith didn’t know what he was talking about. Yes, the employee had started a weight-loss program, but it required weekly office visits, which the travel requirements for his current position prevented him from attending. He had also started working with a charity, but due to work demands had to leave, but none of that had anything to do with his work. In fact, the new manager didn’t mention it at all and just seemed to be complaining about a general failure to finish things. The employee said he was upset at the approach the manager had taken to discuss this, especially because they were also friends. Keith was stunned, but after he thought about the situation, he replied, “I’m sorry. I’ve been reading a new book on employee motivation, and I guess I didn’t apply the concepts very well.”

Keith was so eager to apply the points in the book that he failed to take several points into consideration. These issues included understanding why the employee had stopped some of the outside activities, what the current relationship was between the employee and manager, and the fact that his friend had never had a conversation like this with him before. Keith also failed to consider that as a supervisor, it was not appropriate for him to criticize choices in his employee’s personal life, even if he thought he was being helpful. He failed to bring the conversation around to any work-related issues.

Another manager, Juanita, went to visit a profound and world-renowned speaker. The advice offered was very straightforward and tough. It was a great approach, however, it was not one that Juanita could see herself using. For instance, when seminar attendees asked how to motivate someone, the speaker would state, “You just tell them to do it. If they don’t, you take disciplinary actions.” When asked how to deal with unrealistic project completion dates, the speaker said that you just reset them. It was an almost arbitrary or matter-of-fact statement. When Juanita dug into the speaker’s theories and background, she realized that he had been a high-level manager at his former company. He had instant authority in his position. Juanita was in an environment where she did not have the same authority. She could not apply his principles because she did not share the same authority level or personality type. She could not employ the “do-it-because-I-said-so” communication type. She had almost no authority at all. She was hoping to learn how to influence teams to perform, not order them around arbitrarily.

These scenarios demonstrate that until you know who you are and how you react to a situation or event, you cannot possibly coach someone else in any effective manner. You are also less likely to craft a proper message that will be meaningful for them. Could the new manager have been more effective had he approached the coaching session with concern versus straight motivation? Can the seminar attendee find the core of the speaker’s message and apply it to her environment?

Communications are based on senders and receivers. Each shares responsibility for the communication. Understanding yourself (and your weaknesses) allows you to compose a more complete message by knowing your communication strengths and utilizing them properly.

It has been said many times that people’s strengths are also their greatest weaknesses. One manager’s strength might be that he can process information quickly in his head. The weakness is that sometimes his mind is processing information before the conversation or event is over, causing him to lose the intensity with which he usually listens, or causing him to miss some key information. Another manager’s strengths might be a passion for project management and for life. The resulting weakness might be that he or she can be overexuberant or even quick-tempered. It is important to be able to identify these traits in ourselves so that we can learn to manage them and optimize our skills, while downplaying or compensating for our weaknesses. It is only once we are able to manage ourselves, that we have any hope of effectively managing others.

Great managers take the time to understand how they will react in a situation and are honest in their evaluations so they can then learn to control and mitigate their weaknesses. When something bad happens and a manager with a quick temper can feel and recognize that inner fire in his chest, he can learn to take a deep breath and control his tone of speech. When a manager hears an update and someone is talking, he or she can wait to take notes until after the speaker is finished. Waiting to do this creates a fear that they might forget a point, and makes him or her concentrate harder and listen more intently than if he or she was taking notes throughout the entire discussion.

■ DISC Profile

The DISC profile was created by William Moulton Marston (Mr. Marston also created the first functional lie detector and the Wonder Woman comics). As the DISC profile has evolved, it has taken on many meanings, but for purposes of this book, we will use Dominant, Influencing, Steadiness, and Conscientious. The profile tests your personality characteristics and places you into one of the categories. Understanding which category you and your employees are in can help you become a better manager (Chapter 2 discusses how to use this profile with your team). Here is a much scaled-down version of this test. For one that’s more detailed, you can take a variety online. Whatever you do, take it (Table 1-1).

Please circle the description in each line that best describes you.

Now count the number of answers in each column. Column 1 is D. Column 2 is I. Column 3 is S, and column 4 is C. Whichever column has the highest score is your dominant personality type. There is a brief description of personality types in Table 1-2.

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