Leadership: Sell Versus Tell for Successful Projects
Leadership is a journey. Events in our personal and professional lives shape us as leaders. In a heartbeat, how we lead and its impact can change our lives, those of our loved ones, and the people around us. The most trying of these events come in our personal lives. Personal events, such as serious illness or death of a loved one, are high-stress, emotional situations where we must be leaders with little or no authority. A skill that is also indispensable in the office, for instance, when working for a difficult boss, being fired, or any number of other circumstances where we have little or no control. These “leadership passages” shape us as leaders. Understanding how these situations affect our leadership strategies, traits, and actions that make up our leadership style, helps us overcome seemly insurmountable challenges.
One cornerstone of leadership is our personality traits. Leaders need to develop and hone nine core traits—accountability, ethics, inspiration, decisiveness, awareness, empathy, confidence, focus, and humility—to ensure they can lead a diverse workforce. This session is a deep dive into these traits using a roundtable discussion format—the audience voices their opinions of what the trait is and the presenter moderates the discussion and giving guidance on what the trait means in a business setting. This highly interactive format session is called a "What Would You Do?" style. In this session, 5 to 10 minutes is spent talking about what trait, what the trait means, and hearing from the group on how they have would exhibit the trait. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education.
Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education.
Salespeople, Project managers, and business leaders, to name a few, need to change their leadership style for every situation. Situational leadership is more important for these roles than nearly any other role in an organization. Central to this leadership style is commanding the six core strategies—directive, expert, consensus, engaging, coaching, and affiliative. These sets leaders the foundation for building the most appropriate leadership style for the conditions surrounding the current events, people in the room, and external conditions. In this roundtable session, which we refer to as a "What Would You Do?" format, the audience debates the use of each strategy as the presenter poses various conditions and dilemmas that face leaders daily. This creates an educational, interactive and entertaining presentation that builds cohesiveness in your group and relationships that last long after your event.
The project team has an obligation to tell leadership or the customer when they think the direction of the project is wrong. However, at some point the team must follow management. They have to trust management has the insight to know what needs to be done. I call this "Finding Religion." People must act on faith believing the direction is best for the company. This is often contrary to data that is in front of the team and indicates another direction.
Have you ever had a boss that simply wants to stand in your way? They avoid making even the smallest decision, never providing enough information to understand their objections. It is more common than most of us would imagine. In fact, this behavior is the central to every sales interaction. Even though you may be repulsed at thinking of yourself as "selling" to your boss, that is exactly what is required with any idea you are pushing. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to employ the same techniques used to sell large systems. If you think this is rubbish, as one of my esteemed readers once eloquently said, I will posit that you are already using sales techniques, just the wrong ones—the ones car dealers use. Changing this approach will subdue your unruly boss
A project manager's job is to deliver value. Achieving the original schedule, budget, and features is meaningless if the customer does not receive value. As with all simple statements, this much easier said than accomplished. Projects managers must assemble adaptable teams that use flexible, lean methodologies. Arrogantly selling the latest technology or tool is narcissistic. Focus on the customer. Be vigilant at ensuring the information is always available for the customer to reassess the project's value and for the project team to reevaluate their proposal.