Fit to Lead: Acknowledge Others

Fit to Lead is a weekly series that connects two of my biggest passions to explore the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my new book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. After a lifetime of obesity I made a decision to change my life and went from 325 pounds to finishing a half marathon in just 16 months. I accomplished this simply by turning to my years of project management, data analytics, technology and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

But my transformation wasn’t just about what I lost, it was about what I gained too. I gained a new confidence, a new perspective on and a calling. That calling is to help inspire and empower people to accomplish their biggest goals using strategies based in project management and continuous improvement.

That is where Fit to Lead fits in.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also many lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

These Fit to Lead articles are another step I am taking to help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Acknowledge Others

When I started running and I started working out at the gym it surprised me how friendly the fitness community is. As I am out there running, my head in my music, my focus is on my course but everybody I pass along the way gives me a smile and maybe a wave. Every one of them acknowledges my existence. It is kind of a way to say “hello fellow human, enjoy your version of the same journey I am on” and it is pretty uplifting.

Shouldn’t this be exactly how we behave as leaders?

The first step to building solid relationships as a leader is simply acknowledging the existence of others. Once you do this you can continue breaking down barriers and establishing a solid foundation of approachability. It is amazing just how powerful it can be to send the “hello fellow human, enjoy your version of the same journey I am on” message as a leader.

Star by asking yourself what kind of leader you want to be. I am guessing your answer will absolutely reinforce the value of acknowledging the existence of other people. Who wants to be that aloof, unapproachable and out of touch leader?!

Here are a few tips to help make this happen.

Look Up and Make Eye Contact

First and foremost you need to realize that there is another human being present and this starts with looking up and making eye contact.

All too often we leaders fancy ourselves as too busy. So we go walking down the hallway, eyes down, checking our phones and don’t even see the other human being. How do you think this makes that other person feel? What message do you think this sends about you as a leader?

If you don’t even acknowledge that a person exists when passing in the hallway, how likely do you think that person is to be comfortable walking in and sharing the next big idea that revolutionizes your company? Even if that person doesn’t have the next big idea they are still a human being. Who do you want to be?

Smile

The next step after making eye contact is to smile. Beyond acknowledging that another human being exists a smile shows a little bit of warmth and helps put them at ease. There is enough stress and anxiety in most of our workplaces every day. How much more stress and anxiety gets added when a leader looks at you and grimaces or frowns?

I can tell you first hand that it is relaxing when a complete stranger smiles as they pass you when running. It is even better when it is the boss!

Say Hello… with the Person’s Name

You have made eye contact, you have smiled and the next logical step is to speak.

If you say hello to people in the hallway it is another inviting step that helps indicate that you are open to being approached. Then, if you greet the person by name, they know that they matter you you, their leader. They know that you know who they are – even if this is all you really know about them.

Extra Credit: Engage with People

Finally comes the pinnacle of acknowledging somebody’s existence: engage them.

This can be as simple as asking how they are – though I think “how are you” has become a super cliché question and I usually think the person asking it could care less how I am. So I would encourage you to find something more unique to ask when starting to engage people. Maybe default to “how is your week so far?” Or even dig even deeper and go with something like “what are you excited about this week?” Or maybe you could randomly ask people in the hallway “what is one thing that would make your job easier / more enjoyable / more fulfilling?”That really stops people in their tracks and makes them know that you care that they are there. Plus it may help you keep your finger on the pulse of the business!

An ideal scenario would be to ask them about something that you know is important to them inside or outside of the office. I had a leader ask me if I felt like I was ready for my next half marathon and it floored me! How did that leader know that was something I was working hard on and was top of mine?

When you are a leader who acknowledges other people, smiles, greets them (by name) and engages with them about something that indicates that you really know them you are going to be a leader that people love. They are going to enjoy working for you and will work even harder than if you were the unapproachable guy in the office. Plus you are going to bring a little more humanity into the office and isn’t that something we all need right now?

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I sincerely hope that you can apply some of these ideas to your own leadership journey starting today. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness. Plus, because goals are dreams with a deadline, maybe we can work together to make dreams come true!

PM Tips: Be Ready to Tell Our Story

After fifteen plus years of managing projects in various capacities one consistent theme that I have observed is that our craft as project managers is very misunderstood. I was recently reminded of this fact when I published a book that describes an unconventional application of project management. It seems that words “project management” conjure up many images in people’s heads. And seldom are they the images we want them to have.

We can’t really blame people for not understanding our profession and, in many ways, we have done this to ourselves. With our PMBOKs, our waterfalls, our backlogs, our burndowns and our PPM tools we have created quite the layer of jargon and complexity that obstructs the view of the basics of project management. So people don’t understand our profession and can sometimes start to question the value we bring. Not good!

The good news is that we can fix this! Plus fixing this gives us an opportunity to reiterate our value to our customers, stakeholders, teams and to ourselves. But this is going to take some forethought and some storytelling.

The solution: be ready to tell our story. At every opportunity we need to be able to explain “project management” in a way that resonates with people. Here’s how to do it.

Define Project Management

Start by creating your own definition of what project management means. It needs to be a definition you believe in because you need to be able to confidently explain it to others. Plus it is great to have some diversity in our definitions instead of everybody memorizing page twenty-seven from the PMBOK. (Please don’t fact-check me on the page number.)

Here is my current version of my definition of project management: a structured approach for defining and achieving goals.

Pretty simple, right? Simplicity is important if you want people to understand our profession. It is great that we know terms such as “temporary endeavor” and “progressive elaboration” but that doesn’t help people understand what we do. Plus our jobs are pretty complicated so why bring extra complexity to the definition?!

Build Your Elevator Speech

Once you have a definition of project management that you are comfortable with you need to be ready to tell your story. If you have a definition and aren’t ready to share it you may miss your opportunity. Or when you try to share your message will be eclipsed by a plethora of “umm” and “ah” in your delivery.

You need an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a quick, prepared statement that you can deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator between floors. Prepare how you are going to explain project management to anybody with whom you happen to have an audience. Make sure to practice a few times before show time; you want your elevator speech to just roll right off your tongue and sound completely natural.

By having this go-to way of delivering your message you will be ready to do so at a moments notice.

Tell Your Story Often

Now that you have your definition and are ready to share it, do it!

Find any opportunity you can to tell our story. When someone asks you what you do for a living that is a great opportunity. At project kickoff meetings is another good time to remind people of what project management is so they understand why you are there.

Believe it or not one of the most important times to tell our story is with your friends and family. Your closest circle of people want to be understanding and supportive of you but they need your help. By helping them understand what project management is you are helping them be more supportive of you.

Are you ready to tell our story?

Why am I sharing?

Did you know that good protect management can make dreams come true?

I have proven that you can use project management to literally change your life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better. My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.

Week 101: My Calling, More Goals Met, 5K

Last week I talked about how my journey has turned into more than what I lost I has been about what I gained too. I gained a calling (or did I discover it).

Operation Melt started as a way to share updates about my weight loss journey to help keep me accountable. Then it grew into a platform where I could tell my story in various ways including sharing some of the tips and tricks I have discovered along the way.

Once I learned that people were starting to benefit from what I was sharing it all started to change. I learned that my voice, my story and my approach are inspirational, motivational and instructional to some people to help them achieve their own goals. This is what inspired me to write my book and is what keeps me motivated to keep sharing content every day.

Calling

My calling is to help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

I almost went my whole life without even really trying to fix a problem that has annoyed and embarrassed me since I was I kid. It turns out that the solution was completely within my hands, was attainable in less than a year and was a journey that I enjoyed. Now I am living a life of fitness and confidence instead of a live of obesity and embarrassment.

This story repeats for people every day. While the goal that I achieved that started Operation Melt was getting fit it could have been anything. It could have been going to college, getting a new job, starting a business or countless other goals. It is the same challenge every day. People have goals that just stay inside their brains and die with them. They never even try to achieve them.

That is what I mean when I talk about goals dying of loneliness.

This doesn’t mean that everybody will be successful with every goal at every attempt. Failure will happen. But I believe that it is complete acceptable and admirable to try to achieve a goal and fail. That is how we learn and at least you had the courage to try. Not trying is the problem I want to solve.

I recently read the book Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life by Laura Gassner Otting and it had a big impact on me. One of her key points is that we are all searching for “consonance” in our lives and careers, that feeling that what I am doing aligns with who I am. It comes down to four key components: calling, connection, contribution and control.

After reading Limitless it became clear to me why certain aspects of my career mean so much to me. Being a project manager is a direct connection to my calling. I use project management to help people achieve big professional goals that are expressed as projects. I also use mentoring to help people achieve their own personal and professional goals. I use continuous improvement and technology to help teams and companies improve their probability of being successful.

It all started becoming clear once I discovered my calling.

The Journey Continues

I could never have discovered my calling without my Operation Melt journey. But you may be asking yourself: isn’t that journey done now? I hit my 100 pounds and then 30% more. I ran my half marathon. I wrote my book. I am happy to say the answer is no.

I continue to set and work to accomplish new fitness goals daily. To be sure, I am still focused on maintaining what I accomplished and not moving backwards. But I am not just playing defense in my fitness journey, I am on full-on offense too with new goals.

This week I achieved another one of my goals. I had set a goal to be able to bench press 100 pounds by June 15. I started at just 55 pounds back in September when I set this goal. This week I was able to bench press 100 pounds for three repetition a full four weeks ahead of my goal date. I am going to keep working on being able to do more reps but I did it.

By the way I also set a personal record for squats the same day and have run more than ten miles this week too!

It is critical for me to continue moving forward in my fitness journey.

For too long in my life I have checked things off my list never to look back. That is not how I am going to operate. I am going to keep focusing on making the things that are important to me better every day. That is where my ongoing goals come into the picture.

Fitness Loft Collaboration

I have been a member of The Fitness Loft Columbus for about a year and a half now and love it. They are my go-to for any exercise that I can’t do outdoors and I have been working with a trainer, Teresa Moore, there for more than a year. They have definitely helped me take my fitness journey to the next level.

This week The Fitness Loft started helping take Operation Melt to the next level too. They officially became the first brick and mortar location to buy Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in their gear shop. Then they told their followers about it on social media.

It is exciting to make my first bulk sale of my book. But it is even more exciting to see my book on shelves where people can see it every day. The more people who see the book the more likely it will be able to help somebody who needs it.

Plus this is just he first of several upcoming collaborations between The Fitness Loft and Operation Melt. So stay tuned for exciting new announcements!

Operation Melt 5k

Just a reminder that the second annual Operation Melt informal 5k is coming up on 6/15. The time has move up to 9a due to some conflicts with some of the runners.

This is completely informal 5k (e.g. no medals, t-shirts, run at your own risk, etc.) that celebrates the second anniversary of kicking off my Operation Melt journey. It also celebrates fitness and accomplishing our goals. It is a small group, it is a very laid back environment to walk or run and it benefits a local non-profit, Central Community House.

Central Community House provides a number of services but has a focus on helping get families out of poverty. As somebody who grew up in poverty I can tell you that this is an absolutely worthwhile focus. Plus nothing is a bigger contributor to obesity than poverty.

Thanks for reading… check back next week for more.

Fit to Lead: SMART Goals Are Important

Fit to Lead is a weekly series that connects two of my biggest passions to explore the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my new book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. After a lifetime of obesity I made a decision to change my life and went from 325 pounds to finishing a half marathon in just 16 months. I accomplished this simply by turning to my years of project management, data analytics, technology and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

But my transformation wasn’t just about what I lost, it was about what I gained too. I gained a new confidence, a new perspective on and a calling. That calling is to help inspire and empower people to accomplish their biggest goals using strategies based in project management and continuous improvement.

That is where Fit to Lead fits in.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also many lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

These Fit to Lead articles are another step I am taking to help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Set SMART Goals

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

The secret to making any dream come true is setting goals. Goals translate your fuzzy dream into a clear vision for the future. Defining a good goal often makes the difference between success and failure.

The use of clearly defined goals was a key contributor to success in my fitness journey but is also a very important tool in leadership. Leaders who set good, clear goals establish a foundation on which success can be built. But all too often we skip the goal setting step or build vague goals that don’t do their job.

Get Smart

Before I talk more about the importance of goals I want to talk about what constitutes a good goal. Good goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals, that means they are:

  • Specific: the more specific and clearly stated that the goal is the more likely it can be achieved.
  • Measurable: a good goal must be measurable and must be measured. If you cannot empirically measure your progress towards your goal you will have no idea if you are on track and moving the right way.
  • Attainable: a good goal needs to be one that can be achieved. It is ok to be aggressive and set big goals but if they can’t be achieved they will not do their job.
  • Relevant: goals have to matter. They have to be something meaningful and motivating or it will be too easy to take your eyes off the prize.
  • Time-bound: as the quote said a goal is a dream with a deadline so good goals must specify a timeframe over which they will be achieved. “Eventually” Just isn’t good enough.

Why are goals so important in fitness and leadership? There are three main reasons.

Meaning

Goals establish a common understanding and vision of the future.

Goals give meaning to the work required to make them come true. Without a clearly defined goal you are just chasing a list of tasks without knowing where they are taking you. In leadership this gives the team a common purpose to rally around to stay focused.

Measurement

Goals establish the basis for measuring progress.

As I described above you cannot have a S.M.A.R.T. goal without measurement. Measurement is critical because it is the only way to know if you are getting closer to your dream or not. Measurement is a way that every person involved in your effort can see their hard work paying off.

Motivation

Finally a well crafted goal that you (and your team) have committed to establishes a constant source of motivation. When the going gets tough, and every journey does have tough moments, the goal helps remind you about why you started it in the first place.

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. I sincerely hope that you can apply some of these ideas to your own leadership journey starting today. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness. Plus, because goals are dreams with a deadline, maybe we can work together to make dreams come true!

PM Tips: Brand Your Project

Is your project going to last a while? Is your project important? Do you want your project team to connect with the project? Of course!

Brand your project to help keep your team engaged.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of branding. The original brand was a mark stamped onto the hide of livestock to mark it as your property. But this concept has grown to apply well beyond the livestock world. In today’s marketing world a brand can be defined as follows – borrowed from BusinessDictionary.com.

Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. 

In your project a brand will usually consist of a memorable name for your project, it might include a project logo and maybe even a tagline. The goal is to give your project an identity that resonates with people and isn’t boring.

There are several benefits to branding your project:

  • Make it easier to remember. Giving your project a brand helps it stick in people’s minds and can help connect it back to its broader purpose. Just think how some of the most popular brands in the world resonate in your brain just from a slogan, a tagline or a logo. Three small words “just do it” immediately make you think of one of your favorite shoe (and more) companies.
  • Make it fun. My apologies if this hits too close to home but most of our project names are boring and make me want to run the other way! Project names such as “time and attendance management phase 3” don’t really resonate or inspire. Branding your project gives it a name that sticks and doesn’t make you want to fall asleep. And when the work is more fun people enjoy it more.
  • Give the team a sense of belonging. Finally a brand establishes a broader purpose for your project. This broader purpose is something that you team members can connect to and gives them a feeling of belonging. When a project becomes more than just a set of task list items it is way more engaging. This is one of the keys to establishing and maintaining team engagement.

The next time you are starting a project that needs an engaged and passionate team to get it across the finish line consider giving it a brand. At a minimum giving your project a meaningful name and a logo will help make it something bigger than just a list of to-dos.

Why am I sharing?

Did you know that good Project Management can make dreams come true?

I have used project management to literally change my life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better. My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.