Excellent Projects in 5 “Easy” Steps

Now, come on! You know there is no easy fix to leadership, project management or anything similar. Yet, isn’t easy what we all long for? There are days that striving and working is just not attractive; however, the truth is that this is the only way to achieve something of lasting value. So, while the work and labor is rarely easy, here are five steps to help better manage your next project.

project management

Vision – where are you going? This is the foundation of every project. What is the purpose? Why are you even doing this? Honestly, if done well, crafting a vision takes the most work, but a well crafted vision makes the rest of the project flow better. Don’t shortchange this step, but let it marinate. Also, vision should be short, memorable and have a call to action.

Plan – Now that you have decided upon the “why”, it’s time to figure out how to accomplish the vision. What people, resources and ideas are essential to success here? If my vision, for example, is to build a house, I need to recruit workers, buy supplies, ask the experts, etc. This vision would have no chance if I attempt house building on my own. The plan is a step-by-step process to move from Point A to Point Completion.

Flexibility – Ever had those moments where things didn’t quite turn out the way that you expected? Yep, me too – every day!! This is where a good leader learns to be flexible. People get sick, resources break and ideas begin to shift sometimes right in the middle of a project. There might be a need to pause, move back a few steps and then start out in a different direction. This is not failure, but is wisdom to ensure that the project finishes well. Consider a road trip – if storms wipe out the road you are on, you don’t cancel the trip or drive over ruined roads. You pause, search for the detour and then keep on moving!

Persistence – Yep, this could have been plenty of other things. Patience, focus, determination…you name it. The key is that you must keep on keeping on to see a project through. Rare is the project that finishes on time or early. Often, they move slower than we leaders prefer and we must determine early on to stay the course and persist to completion. Sometimes, the best thing that you can do is simply keep moving and trust the original vision and plan.

Celebration – eventually, your project is complete! Hooray – it’s time for a celebration. Don’t be so focused on accomplishment or the next project that you forget to slow down and enjoy the moment. Celebrate with family, colleagues and anybody else involved in the project. Be overly generous with your praise and throw a party worthy of the task you just accomplished. This is good for future motivation, good for morale and, quite honestly, just plain fun!

So, I know this isn’t rocket science, but having just completed the first phase of a major project at work, this is fresh on my mind. My work project is the culmination of almost four years of conversations, drafts, restarts and misdirections. Now that it has arrived though…it is truly beautiful! All good projects are worth the time and energy to follow this process – don’t put your hand to something that isn’t worth the effort to lead with excellence.

~ Mike


4 Essential Links to your Leadership Chain

Who are you learning from?

This is a common question in leadership circles but is essential to growth as a leader. Once a leader stops learning, their capacity for leading is greatly diminished and their influence is minimized. A typical leader is constantly striving for growth and expansion so learning becomes a requirement for effective leadership.

chain links

John Maxwell talks about the “Law of the Weakest Link” in regards to team building and leadership. We all can identify the weakest link in our ministry or organization and often wonder why the leader won’t remedy the situation sooner.

Today’s links that I am writing about are different – they are the necessary links for yourself as a leader in your learning “chain of influence.” Without these essential links, your chain is incomplete which means your learning is incomplete which means that your influence is already waning.

The first place to look for learning is to the books and authors who have come before you. Writers such as C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers write with such an authenticity and vintage…truth is timeless, Experience is a powerful teacher, whether the experience is positive or negative. Read about Jack Welsh and the G.E. turnaround, or John Wooden and his pyramid of leadership. The amount of information available in our world is enormous – grab a book and a good cup of coffee…and start learning!

Another important link in your chain of learning is your direct supervisors. Whether you like them or not they are there for a reason and can provide a model to learn from. Ideally, their model is positive and one that you want to emulate. If you are in a different situation, strive to learn what does not work and discover how to be different in your area of leadership.

If you are a leader (by definition, anybody who has influence), then you have opportunity to learn from your direct reports. If you are not in a more corporate setting, this could be volunteers, colleagues or even your kids. The point is that we can all learn from those who might have less experience or influence than us…their unique perspective provides another place of learning for your leadership chain. Allow space for others to share opinions, discuss ideas and participate in conversations.

Finally, make sure to include your family in your leadership chain. They know you the best, both the good and the bad, and most often want to see you succeed. Ask for input, insight and inspiration from the ones who are in your corner, regardless of how many widgets you created today.

The bottom line is that great leaders have learned how to gain wisdom from every experience and every person they interact with. Learning is possible in healthy and toxic situations, from positive and negative leaders, and from books written last year and 100 years ago. The more intentionally you work to develop and strengthen your chain, the better the chances are for you to be both an effective and an efficient leader.

~ Mike