Tag Archives: Professional

Put the Remote Down and Step Away from the TV !!

“I could have done that but I just didn’t have time…”

One of my earlier postings this year was focused on Time Management. Personally, I thought it was a fairly easy-to-understand read and included one very simple recommendation:

Turn Off The TV!!!

Apparently that message continues to elude people. They still complain about “others” who are making progress and getting ahead instead of them. They complain that they aren’t getting “the breaks” that other people are. They complain that “life just isn’t fair!”

While I will grant you that life commonly isn’t “fair”, get over it! You may have been laid off from your last job and can’t find work. You may be in what you call a “dead end job” and your boss is unreasonable. Accept that and move to the next topic: What are YOU going to do about it?

There is nothing that is holding you back but yourself. The critical step in changing your life is to DO something about it.

Whether you are looking for a job or performing one that you don’t like, you need to make some time for yourself. Too much to do to make time? Go back to the title of this posting…

Put the Remote Down and Step Away from the TV !!

How many hours do you spend in front of the TV?

“I only watch a little TV each day. Usually just from when I get home from work just until after the 11 o’clock News.”

Do the math:    6:30P to 11:30P = ~5 hours per day … 35 hours/week (that approaches the amount you spend at work as a full time employee!)

Doesn’t sound right? Actually the 5 hour/day amount is an average taken across ALL age groups.

In 2007, according to A.J. Nielsen Company the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. By the end of 2011, TV watching time increased to more than 5 hours per day, without including any computer or smartphone time. (and those readers in the over 50 age categories shouldn’t be smug … most of those hours came from you!)

Dump the TV in the evenings. 

Do something with yourself instead of being “entertained”. After work, grab a light dinner and then force yourself to take a 5 minute walk. Longer is OK, but 5 minutes (once around a small city block) should be adequate. Your walk will help break the pattern of behavior that has probably lost you several years.

When you get home, don’t turn the TV on. If someone else is there and already watching “Wheel of Fortune“, go into another room, pick up a book or a magazine. Now read for 30 minutes. Don’t just flip pages, but actually read a chapter or several magazine articles from start to finish.

Congratulations. You’ve just taken the first step into your next adventure!

Now get up and do something active around the house. This is where cleaning out your “sock drawer” or “washing windows” can be a positive activity. Your target is to perform another 30 minute activity that keeps you away from the TV. 30 minutes is not a long time, but you’ll be surprised at how much you get done in 30 minute segments when they are spread across a week or two.

It’s probably still early, so go back to your reading. This time, pick up something lighter, but it’s still important keep your focus.

If you are transitioning from years of evening TV, you’ll probably find it difficult to focus even for 30 minutes. The producers and advertisers have training you to focus for 8-10 minutes at a time, followed by a series of 1 minute commercials. You need to retrain yourself to focus your mind.

Alternate back and forth between half hour “activities” and readings until bedtime. I’d suggest that you plan on earlier bedtime, because, at least for the first 2 weeks, you will become tired earlier than usual.

Of course, your spouse or partner will probably think that you’ve lost your mind. Usually, their response will land somewhere between disbelief and harassment. Remember that this change is YOUR change, not necessarily anyone else’s. Your partner/spouse may choose to join your change, but that’s their decision and shouldn’t be linked to your success or failure.

Just say “Good-Bye” to that energy-sucking box, called a “TV”, and say “Hello” to your new life.

Pick your Direction

It won’t be long before you exhaust the casual reading materials and small chores around your home. Now it’s time to step up and look for your “new directions”.

Return to school? Get a degree in a new field? Join a gym? Fantastic directions, but too ambitious for most of us newly-ex-couch potatoes. Pick something smaller … something well defined … something affordable.

Need ideas? It’s time to brainstorm. The Internet is filled with great sites where you can look for something that might pique your interest:

Got an idea? Use a search engine (e.g. Yahoo!, Google) to start exploring in greater detail. Add associated articles and books to your reading list.

Do you want to do something more? Look for volunteer opportunities in your area:

Looking for how-to independence?

Whatever you choose to do, just don’t sit there. Become ACTIVE.

The most difficult step is the first one. The next most difficult steps that you’ll take in making a change in your life are those that you’ll take during the following 3 weeks. It takes about 2-3 weeks before you really change your patterns and behaviors. Stick with it … you’ll be amazed at your results!

What makes a Project Manager, Professional?

The Professional Certification vs Experience Bias

Like many Project Managers, who had “earned their stripes” in the delivery of projects prior to the popularity of certifying organizations, I have often looked at the PMI certification “tags” after a signature with a certain level of skepticism. Was this really a Project Management “Professional” or just someone claiming expertise after paying a fee and taking a test? While it is true that there are many highly skilled and greatly experienced PMP‘s out there, there are also many PMP’s who present themselves as more than they really are.

The value and meaning of a PMP certification, or really any certification, has been well discussed in blog postings across the Internet and over many years. (See below for links to several of those discussions). The posting that hit the mark for me is one from 2006 by Timothy L Johnson, “Those Star Bellied Sneetches“. He sums up the issues,

[The Dr Seuss book] is about class warfare backfiring, but I see many of the same parallels showing up in the project management certification debate … especially in hiring and staffing decisions.

The presence of a PMP “star”, especially in today’s recruiting practices, is often misinterpreted as a guarantee of success and its absence, a sign of risk.

While such assignment may be misapplied, the concept of an organization that certifies the professional skills and experiences of a project manager does have merit. Companies and public agencies today have significant project needs and complex initiatives that would benefit from a skilled project manager … a project management professional.

So What Makes a Project Manger, a “Professional”?

Skills

“Skills” are the organizational structures that a PM brings to a project along with the ability to apply them expertly. Whether these structures are expressed in terms of PMI/PMBOK Processes or an ITIL Framework or some other form, these are the tools that a PM uses to build a project’s definition, plan, execution and control. Expertise in using these tools effectively is a basic requirement for a PM, who falls into the “Professional” category.

Perspective [aka experience]

Classroom studies and readings can provide an understanding of particular PMI or ITIL deliverables, but they don’t explain people or problems. Project management is not about managing “things”. Project Management is about leading and managing people / teams. When performed at a “Professional” level, Project Management utilizes experience (and the perspective can come with it) to help the project teams to be successful in their delivery.

Ethics

While all adults may be expected to conduct themselves ethically, recent years have shown that it not always the case. To avoid any confusion over what is “ethical conduct”, PMI created a formal Code of Ethics and Professional Development  that is enforced under penalty of certification loss:

  • Responsibility — Taking ownership of decisions including their consequences. This includes knowing and meeting all legal requirements, reporting unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate management, fulfilling commitments and protecting proprietary and confidential information.
  • Respect — Being respectful of yourself, listen to others and protect resources entrusted to us.
  • Fairness — Being fair and transparent in decisions including disclosing conflicts of interest to appropriate stakeholders.
  • Honesty — Being honest in communications and conduct.

ITIL similarly places importance on ethical conduct, but handles the topic of “ethics” through its Best Management Practice Partnership with APM Group‘s Ethics and Standards Board.

Ownership / Quality Delivery

Finally, with a “Professional” Project Manager, there is an inherent sense of ownership of a project. Just as a gardener carefully plants a seed and nurtures it as it grows to maturity, the “Professional” Project Manager guides a project through its life cycle.

The end product (the “fruit”) may belong to the business, but the project itself is “ours”. We take pride how well our “seedling” is supported by the project tools and framework that we utilize. We may add more structure along the way (or remove some) to ensure our projects grow fast and straight. The quality delivery of the project is our responsibility as Professional Project Managers.

The Role of Certifications & Organizations

As much as I dislike the inherent inference of expertise that certification monikers indicate today, the certifying organizations do provide effective tools, structures and frameworks upon which project management practitioners can effectively build.

Certifying organizations also have the potential to further their stature by addressing the experience gap. Instead of accepting form-based experience validations, these organizations should consider the creation of modern (project management) “trade” guilds, where apprentices can learn under the supervision of experienced PM “craftsmen” and masters. Instead of discarding certifications, stronger mentoring links with seasoned professionals or structured apprenticeships should be established as part of certification requirements.

[Yes … I am a PMI-certified PMP.]

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The De-valued Professional Project Manager” by Bruce McGraw, 2012, http://fearnoproject.com/2012/03/17/the-de-valued-professional-project-manager/

If you have devoted your career to being a professional PM, like I have, you are frustrated watching companies put individuals into project manager positions who do not have the experience nor the skills to do the job.

Those Star Bellied Sneetches” by Timothy L Johnson,  2006,  http://carpefactum.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/05/those_starbelly.html

[Dr Seuss book] is about class warfare backfiring, but I see many of the same parallels showing up in the project management certification debate .. especially in hiring and staffing decisions.

Project Management – A Modern Profession” by Michelle Symons, 2012, http://www.pmhut.com/project-management-a-modern-profession

But recognition of professionalism is not just about training and qualifications – it is also about continuous professional development and the ability to demonstrate the skills necessary to competently manage complex projects.

License to manage? (On PMP and certification)” by Scott Berkun, 2006, http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/2006/license-to-manage-on-pmp-and-certification/

I just don’t believe that on their own these things signify much about the ability to perform, especially as a manager. To be fair, I doubt any exam or degree can do that, which explains my general opinion about certification programs.

Why I’m Not a PMP“, by Glenn Alleman, 2006,  http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/05/raven_young_pos.html

I guess in the end the PMP moniker doesn’t appeal to me that much. It seems to be a “gate keeping” type badge.

Why Professionalism …

’Professional’ is not a label you give yourself – it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.

These are words of David H. Maister, a leading author and speaker on the management of professional services firms, as noted in his book, True Professionalism.

Too often, especially when working primarily with technical topics or inanimate objects, like keyboards and websites, we slip into a “technician” mindset, just dealing with the problem in front of us. Not that there’s anything wrong with a single-minded focus, but there can be so much more to a  job … if it is done as a “professional”.

What makes a professional? David Maister suggests that great professionals:

  • Take pride in their work, and show a personal commitment to quality;
  • Reach out for responsibility;
  • Anticipate, and don’t wait to be told what to do … show initiative;
  • Do whatever it takes to get the job done;
  • Get involved and don’t just stick to their assigned role;
  • Are always looking for ways to make things easier for those they serve;
  • Are eager to learn as much as they can about the business of those they serve;
  • Really listen to the needs of those they serve;
  • Learn to understand and think like those they serve so they can represent them when they are not there;
  • Are team players;
  • Can be trusted with confidences;
  • Are honest, trustworthy and loyal; and
  • Are open to constructive critiques on how to improve.”

Perhaps the single attribute that I see missing in many of today’s “technicians” is that they fail to “take pride in their work and show a personal commitment to quality”. While they do get the job done, that pride in doing-the-job-right (the first time) is largely absent. Their work products may include the right numbers but their sentences include misspelled words and lack references explaining the details behind the numbers. Respect for the reader (and really their own work) is just not demonstrated in its delivery.

Our educational system commonly views “C” work (a 70% score) as passing. In business, especially in consulting, anything short of 90% is looked at as being somewhat-less-than-acceptable, “un-professional”. That 100% grade is the hard target, but should never be seen as an unattainable goal to be considered later.

Think of how you view a work piece (a document) produced by someone else … Is it clean and well organized? Does it include the simple basics (headers, footers, page numbers) that makes it easier to reference? Are the fonts and styles consistent? Does it deliver the required content without distractions of misspellings or incomprehensible sentences? Does it look “professional” or does it look like it was thrown together at the last minute?

The quality of a delivered document that you produce says a lot about the importance you place on people who read it.

Similarly, the way you perform your job [paraphrasing Maister] is critical:

  • Reach out for responsibility;
  • Anticipate need … don’t wait to be told what to do … show initiative;
  • Do whatever it takes to get the job done;
  • Get involved!

A “professional” steps up and takes on problems, looking for solutions, instead of taking a not-my-job route. While issue escalation is important when working on a team, so is showing the initiative to look ahead and try to solve or avoid an issue before it happens. A professional gets involved in the solution instead of just reporting a problem.

A “professional” is focused on the client, the customer. [again paraphrasing Maister] A “professional”

  • Is always looking for ways to make things easier for those they serve;
  • Is eager to learn as much as possible about the business of those they serve;
  • Really listens to the needs of those they serve;
  • Learns to understand and think like those they serve so they can anticipate [their direction] when they are not there;

That customer-focus allows work to be done-right-the-first-time. It allows greater understanding of what is needed and desired. It provides added-value without significantly increased efforts. It shows that you really care about their business and the assigned project.

Finally, a “professional”

  • Is a team player;
  • Can be trusted with confidences;
  • Is honest, trustworthy and loyal; and
  • Is open to constructive critiques on how to improve.

The end result of the team is what is important to a professional, not the delivery or “success” of one individual. That is reflected in conversations and reviews, as well as in work tasks. If the team is successful, then the individuals on that team were all successful. The professional looks to continually improve and to help others in their efforts to improve. The professional looks at “our” instead of “mine”.

Can a given job be done effectively by either a technician or a professional? Sure … but doing a job well, THAT is what a professional does.

Professionals do their “best” as a matter of self-respect. Having self respect is the key to earning respect and trust from others.

Especially for people starting out in a career, Maister stresses,

If you want to be trusted and respected you have to earn it. These behaviors lead to job fulfillment. … If someone takes a job, or starts a career worrying about what’s in it for them, looking to do just enough to get by, or being purely self-serving in their performance, they will go nowhere. Even if they manage to excel through the ranks as good technicians, they will not be happy in what they are doing. The work will be boring, aggravating, tiresome and a drag.

So step up. Being a professional may look like more work, but the outcomes make the “extra” work well worth the efforts.

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Material included in this blog was reprinted from davidmaister.com
© Copyright 2001-2012 by David Maister

[David Maister has written on a wide range of management and personal excellence topics. I strongly recommend visiting his site and reading some of his books.]