Week 106: Summer Running, A Treat for the Senses

As you know I am a runner. I have been a runner for less than two years but have accomplished a lot in that time. I have participated in about a dozen organized races averaging about one per month since my first Operation Melt 5k. I have completed two half marathons cutting a full twenty minutes off my time. I really enjoy running!

After taking it a little easy for the past week, to get through some pain, I went for a long run on Saturday morning. My #Sweaturday long run if you follow me on social. I did about five total lakeside miles in 80-degree heat and sun.

While I was running, and sweating, I started reflecting on my running experience a bit. I have now run through all four seasons and there are things I love about each one. But running in the summer is my favorite. Summer runs are a treat for all five senses.

Sight

In the summer there are lots of fun sights to see on a run. All of the plants are full, the sun is shining and all of the wildlife is out playing and doing the things that animals do. There are also are more people out and doing yard work, house work and their own exercise and I love people-watching.

Sound

While most runs are primarily accompanied by the sound of my music or podcasts the summer adds additional players to the symphony. First and foremost are the birds, hundreds of birds, and they are all signing. This definitely adds delightful background music on top of my normal running playlist.

Unfortunately the other common sound is that of machinery. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers, motorcycles and many other power tools cut through the pleasant sounds but do add to the soundscape.

Feel

One of my favorite parts of summer runs are feelings. Two feeling in particular make summer running more fun: the sun and the sweat.

Running during the summer usually means that your body is bathed in sunlight. The warm energy of the sun feels good on your skin – properly protected of course. Of course the hot sunlight and its magical vitamin D is there in all four seasons but it is particularly potent in the summer when the earth is closest to the sun.

The warm sunlight produces the other feel: sweat. I love the feel of sweat coating me during any exercise including a run. The more sweat I produce the more I feel like I was productive and that I worked hard. There is no shortage of sweat during a summer run.

Smell

Separate from the sweat there are lots of smells during a summer run, some good and some not so good. As I was running along the lake I did encounter the smell of dead fish and roadkill occasionally but those smells are the exception. I also had smells of flowers and trees in bloom, the lily pads on the water, the smell of boat motors and many others.

Yes there are smells year-round during runs but, again, summer seems to amplify them.

Taste

The final sense that is treated during summer runs is taste. This one is a little tougher but it is still absolutely engaged and not just when you accidentally eat a bug.

As you are running on summer afternoons it is very likely that people have their grills or smokers going. When that aroma gets going you can absolutely taste it as you run. Similarly, during early morning runs, you get the aroma of bacon cooking and that aroma sets up shop on your taste buds. I think it should almost be a crime to cook bacon while people are running.

At risk of being gross the other taste during a summer run is sweat because it is going to get into your mouth.

Are you a runner? If so please make sure not to miss out on the summer running season. When you are out for a run try to keep in touch with your senses.

Thanks for reading!

Fit to Lead: Know Where You Are Starting

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my 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. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

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

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Know Where You Are Starting

You just took over leadership of a new team: where do you start?

In my fitness journey I learned an important lesson that can be applied to how to get started in a new leadership journey. Use a current state assessment to where you are starting. Then you can build a plan form there.

When I first decided to lose over 100 pounds in under a year I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it. I started by completing a fitness audit. I observed, logged and noted everything that I was doing in my current health and fitness life. What was I eating, how was I burning calories, what was my water intake, how was I sleeping, what was my stress level and so on. By looking at how I was doing today and assessing the good, bad and ugly my plan jumped out.

Similarly, when taking over as the leader of a new team you should start with an assessment of how things are working today. Once you get a good picture of current state and input from all stakeholders you can build a solid action plan.

Talk to Everybody

Start your assessment by talking to people.

Starting with your team. Meet with each person individually to get to know them and to get their input. Ask them who they are, what they do, how they think things are going today. Then, most importantly, ask them what one improvement they would make if they could improve anything on the team.

Repeat this process with each of your team’s customers and stakeholders through the organization. Don’t forget to include your boss! Get to know each stakeholder and how they interact with your team. Ask what is working well and what needs to be improved.

This step isn’t just a good way to collect input it is also a great way to start building important relationships.

Observe and Measure

Talking to your team, your boss, your customers and all of your stakeholders is definitely an important first step and a good way to collect input. Just remember that each person’s input is just their perspective. No one person’s input is an inherent representation of the facts.

That is why your next step needs to be more empirical in nature. The second step on the  assessment process is to observe and measure.

Observe your team in action by sitting in on their meetings and other activities. Watch your team perform and ask lots of questions. Use this as not only an opportunity to observe but also a chance to learn first hand. Seek to understand why each team member does what they do and how it does and doesn’t not work for them. Show genuine curiosity in learning more about how they apply their craft or their art.

Then do the math!

Review all of the key performance indicators for your team to assess what the facts say about their results. Are they delivering their projects or their service on time? Is the budget being used effectively? Are each of the team members participating in professional development activities? Is the workload accurate? Is the quality measured and does it fall within the acceptable range?

The numbers that you look at will vary based on your team but there are likely dozens of things you can measure to evaluate performance. This is another parallel between fitness and leadership that we will discuss more in a future post.

Make a Decision

Now that you have collected all of this input there is just one thing left to do: make a decision.

Consider all of the facts and opinions shared during your assessment. Your team is now in a known state and you know where you are starting.

Now it is time to take action. Identify and prioritize what the team is doing well and the opportunities for improvement. Make sure not to skip looking at what is going well; it is important not to just try to fix what’s broken. Choose the highest priority successes and opportunities and focus on those first.

Follow these steps with your new leadership role and you will start off your journey on the right foot.

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.

PM Tips: What’s Changing?

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!

What’s Changing

Nearly every project is undertaken to make a change. By definition a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. So, based on that definition, a project by its very nature creates something new. The epitome of a change.

Do you know what that change is in your project?

Good project managers have a deep understanding of what change their project is making. While you do not need to be an expert in the subject matter you do need to have enough working knowledge that you know what is changing.

One of the core responsibilities for a project manager is to ensure that the project achieves its results in a playful and efficient manner. If you don’t know what is changing you won’t be able to help steer the journey and you won’t be able to help get your stakeholders from point a to point b. If your stakeholders don’t make it to the finish line with you, you will likely fail to achieve your objectives.

Here are three quick steps to help you know what’s changing.

Map the As-Is

Start each project by making sure that the team understands the “as-is” environment. Often times this means that you will need to map and document the current state processes, even at a very high level. Just make sure it is sufficient to ensure that the project team knows the what things are done today.

Mapping the as-is process doesn’t need to be the role of the project manager. In many projects, particularly technology projects, the team will include a business analyst who will take the lead on documenting the as-is processes. Alternatively you may want to leverage a subject matter expert (SME) from the impacted area to document their own current processes. If none of these people are present or if your SMEs don’t really know their current processes (more common than it should be) you may have to lead the way.

You might catch a lucky break and the current state processes may already be documented and you won’t need to map them in your project. When this happens you may want to insert a brief step in your plan for “as-is process validation” to make sure that these previously documented processes are still accurate. In many ways a flawed understanding of the current state is worse than no understanding.

Regardless of the approach you take just make sure that your team (and you) have a working understanding of the way things are done today.

Define the To-Be

Once your team has an understanding of the way things are done today it is time to design the future, or to-be, process.

Spend some time as a team, making sure each stakeholder is represented, mapping out the future process together. This is a good time to use sticky notes and a big wall. Walk through a day-in-the-life in the future. Who does what? Where are the handoffs between people? What are the outputs of each step? What tools will be used along the way? How will the process and outputs be measured and monitored? How will quality be managed?

Get the full process up on the wall and then on paper. Once it is on paper you may need to insert some iterative review and adjustment steps. You may also need to have the future process reviewed and signed-off by your project sponsor and other organizational leaders.

You want to make sure your to-be process is right because it will become your blueprint for the future.

What’s Changing

Finally it is time to compare your as-is and to-be process to identify what is changing.

When reviewing and comparing the processes make sure to catalog every difference between the processes. What are the new steps? What steps are no longer needed? Where are individual responsibilities changing? Where has new evaluation criteria been inserted? What new tools are going to be in use?

Make sure that your team has identified all of the changes because these will likely define/refine the scope of your project. Along your journey each one of those processes need to be thoroughly thought out, designed, implemented and the change adoption needs to be managed. If you miss a step it could mean that your project fails to achieve its objective.

As a final step in the “what’s changing” identification you need to revisit the storytelling that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Make sure that you can explain what is changing in a simple and understandable manner. Build your elevator speech so you can explain it to others and then do so often. The more people understand what changing and why it is changing the easier it will be to ensure your changes get adopted.

That’s it! If you apply these three basic steps (which will require time and effort) your team will have a clear understanding of the work they need to do. Plus, by knowing what’s changing, it will be a heck of a lot easier to complete your work breakdown structure so you can get to a detailed project plan. And that is a step that we all would like to make just a little bit easier.

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 105: New Beginnings

This was a week of new beginnings for me. It was the start of year 3 of my fitness journey and the start of a new job.

I started my new job this week and I really like it so far. I am still working as a consultant but at a new firm called TOP Consulting. I really like their approach and their philosophy and that they try to be fully transparent with their employees which is great!

My first assignment is at OhioHealth. I am working in the Population Health area of their technology organization. This means that I am really getting to use project management to help people live healthier lives! I has only really been three and a half days but I am liking what I am seeing so far! Most of this week was dedicated to learning about the healthcare industry and OhioHealth.

My new job was my main focus of the week so I altered my daily routine for this week. That meant that I didn’t get as much exercise as I would like but I needed to start strong and I had some unusual events on my calendar and I needed to be flexible.

The Magic of an Unexpected Day Off

I was supposed to start my new job on Monday but it got pushed to Tuesday so I had an unexpected day off. I reacted by making it a super productive day.

I believe in paying myself first on bonus days off so I started with a good workout. I did some light running and practicing an improved running posture and stride. Then I did some weight lifting including my first time bench pressing 100 pounds without my trainer there as a safety net. It went great.

Then I spent the morning getting organized and working ahead in Operation Melt.

I had been spread a little thin without a real plan or tracking of my work. Not anymore! I built out a work tracking system using Trello and got my arms around everything that I have going on. Plus I was able to focus and write a couple Fit to Lead and PM Tips posts ahead instead of rushing to do them the night before. Hopefully this mean the quality is a little better and they are more valuable to the readers.

Then I got to have a nice afternoon patio lunch with my wife.

It is amazing what just one unexpected day off can do for your productivity!

I wish I could have one day per week or just per month to be focused on productivity like this.

First Training Session of Year 3

Last weekend was the anniversary of starting my Operation Melt journey so I am officially in year 3. This week was the first workout of year 3.

Unfortunately I haven’t set new goals yet for my workouts and the second half of the year. I need to spend some time reflecting, assessing progress and updating my goals over the next couple of weeks.

So we just kept going on the old goals.

In this week’s session I pushed my bench press weight up to 105 pounds. I am kind of ok if we just keep going and I get to the point where I can bench press my body weight!

This week we also started working on some lower body exercises to help mitigate post-run pain. Essentially I am strengthening my glutes – also know as building butt muscles! As a result Thursday was not the most comfortable day for waking!

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more updates on goals for the second half of 2019. Thanks for reading and your continued support for my journey, it really means a lot to me!

Fit to Lead: We Can Always Get Better

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my 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. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

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

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

We Can Always Get Better

Here’s something we can probably all agree on: if you are reading this you are probably not an elite professional athlete at the absolute top of your game. I am not trying to judge or criticize at all but the probability of any reader being an elite athlete is very low because they are very rare. On the other hand, if you are an elite athlete, I am super glad you are reading my stuff.

Barring you being at the top of your game we all have one thing in common: we can get better.

One thing I love about fitness is that every one of us can get better at our chosen sport or activity. We can run a little faster, we can lift a little more, we can swim a bit harder or we can get a little more accurate with our aim. Regardless of the sport you can always get better no matter how good you are.

Leadership is very similar in that we can always be better leaders.

No matter how good we are there is something else we can learn. There is a new skill we can master. There is an alternate methodology we can learn. There is always something else we can do to improve.

No leader is an expert!

Do you want to up your game as a leader? Congratulations: that is the first step. By realizing you can better, and by wanting to do so, you have taken the first step to improving. Everything starts with the humility to realize you aren’t perfect and a decision to try!

The next step is to strive to learn more. That means reading, studying, researching, talking to people and having a genuine interest in seeking other points of view. Getting additional perspectives and inputs is a good way to continue getting better.

Then you have to try new things. After you have learned new things about leadership you need to try to apply them in order to refine your own leadership style. By trying to apply new things and then evaluating whether they were successful or not you can actively improve your skills.

If you want to get even better there is one more thing you can do: seek feedback. Find a trusted partner with whom you can become a “development buddy.” As you try applying your new skills ask this person to give you candid, honest feedback about how you did. By gathering this critical input you can continue honing your new leadership skills.

Regardless of your approach just remember that we can always become better leaders.

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.