Fit To Lead: Don’t Go It Alone

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing 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. 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 many 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.

Don’t Go It Alone

“If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”

African Proverb

Our best results in fitness, project management, leadership or anywhere else aren’t accomplished by ourselves. Call it a tribe, a village, a team or whatever else you want to call it but it takes teamwork to make big things happen.

When you are starting, or even in the middle of, any journey make sure that you aren’t trying to go it alone. You need the support of other people to achieve you goals. Here are some tips for how to make it work.

Do The Research

Weather it is fitness or leadership nobody starts out as an expert. It takes work and dedication to build knowledge. This work starts with doing your research.

Spend time reading and learning more about the things that are most important to you. Leverage the work already done by others to build your own knowledge. This should be a focus every day but especially when you are just starting out in any discipline.

Turning to the internet to find sources of information and learning is a great choice. You can find countless blogs, articles, discussion forums, videos and podcasts to help you build your leadership knowledge and skills. Just remember to apply a filter to make sure you aren’t accepting somebody’s unfounded point of view as reality.

Consult the Experts

When I started my fitness journey I didn’t do it by myself. I consulted with my doctor and other experts for input and to gut-check my plan. The knowledge and experience that these people brought to the table was very important to not only my success but my safety too.

Similarly in the leadership space there are tons of experts who have been in your shoes before. Leverage the knowledge that these experts offer to you. Find a few good mentors to help you with your journey. Build a circle of advisors who you can bounce your ideas off of and from whom you can seek advice.

Be the Expert

Remember those experts who helped you advance in your journey? Remember how they selflessly made time to share their expertise with you? Remember how important that was and how it helped get you where you are today? Your turn.

Now you are an expert!

As you advance in your journey you are building knowledge and expertise of your own. This expertise is absolutely valuable to others who aren’t as advanced in their journey as you are. Be very generous with your knowledge and share with others whenever you have an opportunity. It not only helps the other person in their journey but helps you in your own journey as well.

This is one of the main reasons that I share my Operation Melt blog and spend time contributing to it each week. This is also a big factor in why I wrote my book and why I spend time mentoring others. Give generously in all ways including your knowledge.

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 Your Story

Last week I talked about telling the story about what project management is but the need for good storytelling doesn’t stop there. A good project manager needs to continually be telling the story of their project.

Why Does Your Project Exist?

Similar to last week, the first step to telling your story is to create your definition. This time the definition is about your project versus project management as a whole.

Create a vision statement for your project. You need a basic statement that describes what the future that your project is creating will look like. The vision statement should be something short, clear and motivational that your team or anybody else can easily understand.

For example, if I was going to create a vision statement for these PM Tips emails it would be something like:

PM Tips is a weekly articles series that shares practical tips on how to manage projects better in order to help grow better project management skills that empower people to make their goals come to life.

Build Your Elevator Speech

Just like last week’s tip the next step is to be ready to tell your story. It is time to build your elevator speech. In case you don’t remember, an elevator speech is a quick, prepared statement that you can deliver in the time it takes to ride an elevator between floors.

Convert your vision statement into an elevator speech that you can comfortably deliver to anybody.

Always Start with Vision

Finally you should remind your stakeholders of your vision often. By continually recommunicating your vision statement people will have a clear understanding about what your project is and why it exists. The more that people understand the value of your project the easier it is to get resources including the most important resource of all – support and advocacy!

  • Each presentation that you give about your project should feature the vision statement prominently.
  • If your project team all sits in one place together you may want to enlarge it and put it on the wall.
  • When you give updates in leadership meetings you will want to start by reminding people of your vision.

Seize every opportunity you have to tell your story. Repetition is key.

Are you ready to tell your project’s 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 102: Approaching 2 Years Since the Decision That Changed My Life

The next two weeks wrap up year two of my Operation Melt project. What started as a goal to lose weight evolved into so much more and really turned into a life-transforming experience.

To be sure, I changed myself physically and transformed from obesity to an amateur athlete. But it was bigger than that. I changed how I look at my own health & fitness but also how I look at my contribution to the world. Through all of this I know that I am having an impact that is bigger than me.

At the end of the day isn’t that what we are all looking to do?

Two Years Ago

It was two years ago today that I made a series of choices that lit the fuse that started my Operation Melt project.

It was a Friday and I had just finished a horrible week at work. Several projects that my team was managing took terrible turns. I had relationship struggles with some peers that were causing drama. There were some performance issues in my team that I was not doing well with addressing. It had been weeks since I felt like I had a win. All of this leading me to the conclusion that my time to depart was drawing near.

After work on that Friday night I met my wife and some others out for drinks. This became an extended happy hour and I made poor decisions. Those poor decisions led to me feeling terrible the next day which turned into multiple days. This all drove me to make my first doctors appointment in much more than a decade.

As I describe in Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, this doctors appointment was my “moment.”

Your decision to make a change and to commit to getting fit is your moment. It is that moment in time when everything changes. It is pivotal and can literally become the decision between life and death. Your moment can be the decision between happiness or status quo. 

Over the next two weeks I expect that I am going to be very reflective about this whole journey. There will be thoughts where I mentally kick myself for taking so long. There will be reflections about the exciting events that happened along the way. The negative parts of the past two years will reappear in my thinking – yes there were negative events over the past two years.

All of this reflection will lead up to the big day, June 15th. The day that I made the decision to change my life. That is the day I had that doctors appointment and decided that I needed to make a change…. and then did!

I will celebrate my Operation Melt anniversary day this year just like I did with the first year anniversary. I will be hosting a small 5k run with some of my friends (click here to join us!) in honor of my journey and the journeys every one of us are on every day to make our dreams come true.

Other Notable Events

This was a really big week in my life and in my Operation Melt journey. Unfortunately I am not ready to share the biggest developments just yet. I will be sharing over the coming weeks but just not yet. I only bring it up as a way of saying that this was a really big week for me.

Unfortunately the week started and ended with big weight fluctuations driven by high sodium. Through the long Memorial Day weekend my weight spiked 6 pounds – I was well over my 200-pound maximum desired weight. Then it came back down through the week to where it started. Then I had high sodium days on Friday and Saturday and it went right back up. It is so frustrating how sensitive my body is to sodium!

Another odd setback came this week: I learned that I was under-estimating my portion size on one of my daily foods. I assumed that I was eating 2 teaspoons of peanut butter each morning and I discovered that my portion size is actually 2 tablespoons! Yikes, that is a big difference!

It is hard to say where else I may be under-estimating portion sizes. Pair that with having less cushion in my daily calorie target because I am in maintenance mode and I think I am going to start developing an issue. Being the project manager that I am I decided to implement a strategy to mitigate this risk and I reduced my daily calorie target by a couple of hundred calories. That should help provide some contingency for any other areas of under-estimation.

This calorie mismatch issue was a good reminder that this is an ongoing journey and that I need to be ever-diligent and prevent autopilot from ever taking over again!

My deadline for my bench press goal is rapidly approaching: I want to bench press 100+ pounds by 6/15 after starting at just 55 pounds in September. Well, as I shared last week, I have hit the 100 pounds goal already but now I am pushing myself further. I don’t just want to struggle through lifting 100 pounds in a crappy manner, I want to make it good. So I am continuing on this journey and pushed it up to 105 pounds this week!

I spent most of this week trying not to run. After Monday’s long run I had some pain and discomfort from overdoing it and needed to give myself some rest. This tends to be a struggle for me to do but I did ok with it. Then Saturday rolled around and it was time to run! I did a solo quarter marathon through foggy downtown Columbus at a pretty slow pace but it felt great!

Thanks for reading… check back next week for more.

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.