How to Receive Constructive Feedback

20160224_165321-01 Receiving feedback in the workplace isn’t always easy. Sometimes it can be hard to take constructive (or negative) feedback and turn it into a positive response. If you have received feedback that was not up to your expectations, the last thing you want to do is cause an emotional outburst. Here are some top tips on how you can control yourself with negative feedback, avoid confrontation and utilize feedback to become a better employee.

  1. Let your boss express his or her ideas fully: always be sure to let your boss finish what she/he is saying and do your best to understand what is being said. Paraphrasing exactly what you are being told and making sure to let the other person finish is very important. This way you can demonstrate that you’ve heard their opinion and that they had full opportunity to express their opinion.
  2. Always evaluate feedback: Looking for particular reasons for a particular feedback you got is important. Be sure to look at the situation and examine some of the underlying aspects. If your boss has expressed feedback in an emotional outburst, for example, you may want to consider some of the other factors like he/she being under overwhelming pressure from management or poor conditions at home.
  3. Keep yourself in check: Responding to feedback with a negative response can put your job growth prospects in danger. Be sure to keep yourself in check with your nonverbal responses and with the emotion in your voice.
  4. Work to alter behavior: the only way that you can use negative feedback is to work at altering your behavior. Use feedback to find workplace goals and then avoid certain behaviors to become a more effective employee.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification: If you are unsure of the specifics of negative feedback be sure to ask a number of clarifying questions on how you can improve or specific actions that you are doing that could be causing inefficiency. A good boss will be able to identify a number of alternatives to your behavior or to your workplace practices.

Use these top tips when receiving feedback from your boss so that you can use it to the fullest extent.

Further reading:

A picture is worth a thousand words

 Don’t get stuck on design without looking into user experience

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Don’t start refinement too early or else you may miss out best solution

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How random data can be interpreted depends upon experience and creativity

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Always remember, keep is succinct as much as possible

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Effective

Credit pictures – Internet. If any of the above shared image is owned by you, please send me complete info and source of image, I will gladly mention credit on this page.

8 Leadership Quotes

  1. Strategy is not the consequence of planning but the opposite, its starting point. – Henry Mintzberg
  2. Run with your head the first two-thirds of a race and with your heart the final third. – Jack Daniels
  3. A good team is a great place to be, exciting, stimulating, supportive, successful. A bad team is horrible, a sort of human prison. – Charles Handy
  4. In adversity, remember to keep an even mind. – Horace
  5. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. – Phillips Brooks
  6. The secret of getting things done is to act. – Dante Alighieri
  7. Constant dripping hollows out a stone. – Lucretius
  8. The first great gift we can bestow on others is a good example. – Thomas Marell

Twitter for Managers and Leaders

Early this month, I spoke about PMI-GLC’s Social Media Initiatives at PMI Leadership Institute Meeting @ Region 4 (at Orlando, Florida).  I found out that majority of project managers and leaders are aware of the social media in some way but not utilizing that much. LinkedIn for networking and Facebook were two tools that most of the PMs knew and had profiles active. I am using Twitter for some time now and finding it very useful and informative.  Here is my Twitter page or follow me @kulveervirk.

In this post I would like to give my readers quick info on Twitter and how it can be used by project/program managers and leaders effectively to advance the profession, help the stakeholders and grow their personal network while learning new stuff.  Next you develop strategy to use Twitter effectively.

Some Basics:
It is evident that more and more professionals are interacting through social media tools and technologies to share the ideas and spread the word.  Social media includes blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Twitter, and many more. There are millions of people using Twitter all across the globe.

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say but keep on saying it.  – Robert Frost

Twitter is very innovative way of communicating with people you choose to communicate with.  It is inexpensive and effective way to distribute information on the Internet. Twitter allows you to communicate in 140 characters.  These 140 character messages you send or choose to read are called tweets.  In this message (aka tweet) you can include a link to any article, post, or blog.  Once you are on Twitter you will choose to follow some of the folks tweeting and you will also have some followers who are interested to read your tweets.  You can choose whom to follow or if you want to block someone from following you.  You can create lists (similar to groups).

First step after setting up your account  for a professional is to search for fellow professionals in similar profession and start following them.  There is minimal lingo involved that you can find it here to get started. Once you start following people and communicating, you are already on your way create, share and discover ideas on project management and leadership.

For Managers and Leaders:
 Twitter is excellent tool to connect to your stakeholders (provided your stakeholders are on Twitter and following you).  You can provide quick info or update about your project, product, service or initiative to your stakeholders.

For example, you have a product that tracks helpdesk tickets and you have new exciting feature that you have incorporated into the beta release, you can keep updating your followers about the progress and also provide the link to your blog when you provide some update.

If you have a flagship software or hardware product and you may have loyal following (as in case of Apple and Microsoft), you can provide info and also read what others are talking about your product and support/service.

One practical use of Twitter is by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to spread the word on health and safety; now a days on H1N1

Other best use is when you are following other professionals in your field, you can find out industry trends, what are they working on, what new things have they discovered.  If can respond to the questions that are being asked or you may have some ask for advice.

You will find and follow many industry leaders and experts are constantly tweeting and you can learn a lot from them.  For example, I follow @kenblanchard, @jack_welch, @tom_peters, @tom_peters, @Padmasree and many more whom I admire.  You may find that your boss or your CEO/CIO is also tweeting, follow him and find out what he says and asks.  Twitter also gives you opportunity to ask direct questions or share ideas.

You can use Twitter to promote your brand.  People from different walk of life might be interested in what you are sharing via tweets and learn from your experience; its nice way to give back to community as well.

There are some drawbacks as well that come with any tool or technologies.  You must be very clear about your objective while tweeting.  Always stay professional and tweet only when you have something useful to share or ask.  A nice motivational or inspiring quote is always better than saying “I am baselining my project plan 7th time in a month.”

Whatever you say (or tweet), represents you and builds your image.  You are building your network and you will get some loyal followers on the way. If you are tweeting about your organization or corporate product, make sure you are authorized to say something. 

You can receive and communicate on Twitter using your smartphone.  If you have Twitter account, you can follow me using @kulveervirk and find out whom am I following.

Thank you for reading and hope that this info will help you in some way.  Let me know what other creative ways you are using Twitter as a professional or project manager.

Useful links:
Why Project Managers Should Twitter
Twitter 101 for Business
Shorten and track your URLs

Trust is very important for teamwork

When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality. – Joe Paterno.

Who else can say better than JoePa?  He is absolutely correct, but key thing is outgrowing individualism.  When a team is motivated to work together, everything seems possible and there is quite a different feeling. I have been blessed to work with some of the best people who knew how to empower team and have experienced how team’s common goals produce stunning results. 

Very first thing is to cultivate the trust in the team.  If there is no professional trust among group members, team will never perform at par. 

We have to be little bit open to our team members (my own perspective). if we become totally professional by delegating tasks and demand results with ‘paid for the work done’ attitude, team will not work.  You got to use some emotional intelligence, you got to connect with the employee.

Next, you being the boss,  have to guide and empower the team.  Every team member comes with unique skills, personality, objectives, understanding.  You got to know who needs direction, and who needs nod; who needs to be left alone and who should be slowing down.  Check Situational Leadership II post on my blog.  You are the one who will make things happen through this dynamic team.

Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments how you made your team perform above expectations and what factors were important to you.

 

Leading Creative Employees


There are always some special people in teams who are very much techie, creative and loaded with specific knowledge.  Lets call these employees creative people in this post.

These creative people provide tremendous value to organization through application of their knowledge and expertise.  These really smart and creative people need nurturing environment and motivation. When leading these creative people, keep in mind that they may

  1. think they know more than anyone (or know everything);
  2. do not want to be led (know what, how and why);
  3. do not want to follow the process (think its bureaucracy);
  4. want to discuss the solution with higher authority (by-pass chain of command);
  5. expect people to come and ask for help (until then they keep quiet);
  6. show their exceptional knowledge in group meetings;
  7. become poor listeners and jump to solution (feel they know problem already);
  8. dislike to say thank you for any assistance;
  9. feel attached to the solution they offered (won’t accept alternate);
  10. stop contributing if ignored;
  11. want praise and recognition (not always care about position);
  12. want challenges and new things to work on.

Leading creative people require smart leadership.  Smart leaders will help these creative employee contribute by creating environment where they feel valuable while making sure that other employees also flourish. 

Smart leaders demonstrate their expertise and authority over creative employees quietly by not pushing them or by not showing them who is the boss.  Smart leader also makes sure that they know what organization’s strategic goals and objectives are; but does not dictate how to achieve.  These creative people can contribute beyond expectations when their leader becomes their coach-cum-mentor-cum-guardian.

Not all the points may apply in any given situation and there might be other examples as well.  I am interested to hear your thoughts on this.  Please leave comments.  Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!

What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There


I read many books in 2007 and one of the best that I want to mention here is What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.This book is all about how successful people become even more successful.  There are tons of books on leadership and management out there but this is something.  In my case, book had very good title that got my attention plus it had Ford CEO Alan Mullaly‘s recommendation on the dust jacket, I decided to give it a try. The book was a wonderful read, I read it very slowly enjoying each page filled with new insights and examples – just like I am sipping tea in early spring morning.

Sometimes people get to almost at top by dedication, integrity and excellent work, and then do not get there (to the real topand achieve greatness and may be fame as well). There are many factors contributing to get there but author has identified 20 habits that hold person from getting there. These are very common bad habits that cost a lot in long run such as – not listening, beginning conversation with ‘but‘, speaking when angry, playing favorites, etc.

Visit author’s website www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com  for more info and free resources. 

Here is link to the list of 20 bad habits identified in the book.

The beauty is the way author has explained these common habits and their impacts on others in organization is just like a sage speaking to you.  I have heard from many of my peers and seniors who read the book on my recommendations,  came to me and thanked me. I hope I get a chance to meet him personally and I would pass all those thanks to Marshall for writing such a nice book. If we are getting such an advice compiled in a book, its the best deal for your career.

I am glad that I read it and would recommend to all leaders, aspiring leaders and managers to read it with open mind and make our organizations more successful and in return we also grow with others.  Let me know what you find out.

Thank you and have a great day!

How to Have Project Kick-off Meeting


Kick-off meeting is the first meeting of the project where you give all the team members good news that project is ‘go ahead’ from the sponsors and also set the tone of your project – is it going to be a success or a failure.  Many hours and days have gone into preparation before you have kick-off meeting. You have worked very hard and now have project charter and project plan is in your hands.Primarily kick-off meeting has following goals-

  1. energize the project team
  2. communicate project goals and expectations
  3. introduce team members and stake-holders
  4. highlight opportunities plus challenges and reiterate importance of project for organization
  5. provide information of processes, methodology, project plan, key milestones, etc.
  6. handout team’s contact phone numbers and email addresses
  7. present communication plan
  8. give time to attendees to ask questions and express views

I would do following extra things to make sure kick-off meeting sets positive tone –

  1. print the hand-out material a day before, also check for meeting room projector etc.
  2. have some project related posters and famous positive quotes posted on the wall
  3. invite one or two senior managment  people to talk about project’s importance
  4. have kick-off meeting around 9 AM (start of the day is better)
  5. block enough time for this meeting (time for refreshments, presentations, questions and answers)
  6. set date of kick-off  meeting and notify all members at-least a week ago
  7. offer light refreshments at the beginning of the kick-off meeting
  8. do not sit and just talk, look and feel energetic
  9. have your project plan and other documents (that you plan to hand out) reviewed well in advance by subject matter experts for accuracy
  10. make sure meeting conveys the message and people walk out with motivation

Are there other key things? I will be interested to hear.  Hope this helps and good luck with your kick-off meeting. 

Keeping in touch with direct reports?

Workplaces have transformed a lot in last few years from people working in same office building to team members scattered over different continents.  This poses some benefits and challenges.  As we all know that we are all connected via communication and our communication skills and capabilities play a major role in our success.

Keeping the communication channel open and alive is the responsibility of the manager.  As a manager you just can not assume that if no one is complaining, all is well.  There are some employees who get chance to meet and talk to boss on performance review day.  I know there might be some employees who always say “everything is good” and prefer least interference as all the routine work is being done on time.

Does not matter what kind of work you are in, keeping in touch with your direct reports does the following –

  1.  Boosts the employee morale (you value the employee by calling or listening).

  2.  Employee feels connected with the organization/department.

  3.  Employee is encouraged to give and receive suggestion/feedback.

  4.  You can coach employee in the right direction as per his objectives.

  5.  Your objectives and expectations are clearly communicated and aligned.

  6.  You, employee and organization, all benefit from this interaction.

  7.  You make the real difference by managing talent.

Employee is a talent.  We know that when we are managing talent in this innovation age, we got to ensure that talent thrives and stays innovative. 

Thank you for reading and have a great day.


Conflict Matters!

Managers face many situations where he has to sort out two opposing actions or ideas. Situation may be very tense as people with conflicting ideas become very much involved and passionate about their stand. 

 As a manager, a positive and constructive conflict between team members may be a good thing (such as some team members in favor of Microsoft based technology and others for Linux based), but how you handle it matters the most. Conflict can be between individuals, teams, groups or organizations.  How you approach the situation tells who you really are.  Does it make you uncomfortable when you face such situation and just pretend it does not exist? Do you just avoid completely being in any conflict and do not share your insights/thoughts?  

I think conflict pushes oneself to test own mental and physical boundaries.  Some people get agitated and quickly loose control over thought process when someone is in conflict and try to trump the other in any way; some may feel nervous and just shut up and opt to get out; while other may listen to opposing views with cool head and try to work out some solution.

When managing a general conflict situation, try following (there might be situations where professional help is needed) –

  1. Stay calm; listen to other views with open mind.  Both sides may be right from own perspective.
  2. Find the real reason of conflict, not the one that is perceived. Observe.
  3. Believe that positive solution will come out at the end.
  4. Acknowledge the concerns and fears.  Find out what are the choices.
  5. Think win-win solution.  Attack the issue not the people.
  6. Make it known what is expected out of situation resolution.  Stay on the issue.
  7. Select the best solution and implement it.

Any other suggestions?  Have a good day!


The Dip – When to Quit and When to Stick

It was my first book from Seth Godin, and he talks about strategic quitting in this book.  Here is my own interpretation of

What is a dip – its a temporary situation when you feel like stuck, the results are not convincing and success seems impossible.  Dip can also be considered as  a situation similar to a dead-end assignment with no progress and feel like wasting time and energy.

Strategic quitting is good – when we know things won’t work out in our favor or input exceeds far beyond the value of output; quitting can be right choice. Its similar to cancelling the project or closing a business when things are not working out the way expected (no profit).

When to stick– is this goal worth pursuing or not?  Are you having fun doing this work, learning some new skills and also extracting some future benefits?  Can you treat it as sharpening your saw (skill) for the next move? Can you treat it as launch pad?  Yes, then sticking is good.

Is it possible to know if its right time to quit – personally, I do not think so.  One has to take chances.  The point is, if you quit- quit without guilt.  If you plan to stick and later find out that you are going nowhere; do not make it an issue of pride; if quitting is the right thing; just do it.  If you have some clue that you can get out of the dip and it will be great reward at the end – hang in there.

My Take – Strategic quitting is just like a well thought out Exit Plan.  Every opportunity has at least some risks involved and an exit plan is always needed.  Dip is a risk if we are not equipped and inspired to get out of it.  Risk planning tells us that we should have some contingency plan in place and build plans to avoid and react to the risk.  One size does not fit all in this case and Seth Godin does not claim to offer any formula; but gives a perspective, another option to consider.

What you think?  Did I get it right?  I am open for your suggestions.  You can find more info on Phil Windley’s Technometrial page on The Dip here.

 Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Who is Planning Your Career?

I am satisfied with my career and I know where I am going.  I hope that you are also doing the right things for your career growth.  In case, if you are doing the same job for last 10 years and now frustrated that your boss (or human resources department) is not doing enough for you to get to next level; you need to do serious thinking where are you stuck.  Why you are not getting the next role?

Very first thing is to know where you are going in terms of career.  Do you have any specific position or a career track in mind?  I know you are doing excellent job year after year and then expecting some else will realize your contribution to your big corporation and will promote you; it can happen but it’s very rare thing.  You got to prove that you are the right kind of material for next role.  Here are some key points I would like to share with my net community –

Continue reading “Who is Planning Your Career?”

Quotes for Sunday

  1. The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive they are while they are there is determined by their relationship with their immediate supervisor. – Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman (First, Break All the Rules)
  2. The primary goal is to satisfy the customer.  If you don’t know what the customer needs, go and find out.  As soon as you become customer-focused, all of the static in the teams just subsides.  It’s amazing, like magic. – Karen Gideon (VP, Amex Life Insurance)
  3. Trust your people, that’s the thing.  Trust your people until they let you down.  And you’ll be quite surprised that they don’t let you down…. I haven’t been let down yet. – Alan Campbell (Production Supervisor, Kenworth Trucks)
  4. Save yourself for the big decisions.  Most of the running of the organization will be done by your direct reports. – Kent Kresa (CEO, Northrop Grumman Corp.)

Have a good day!


The Toyota Way – 14 Management Principles

I completed listening ‘The Toyota Way’ audio-book by Jeffrey Liker.  The book talks about 14 priciples of Toyota Production Systems (TPS).  There are many gems that I think could be of use in Information Technology Project Managment.  Here are 14 TPS management principles –

1.   Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

2.   Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.

3.   Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction.

4.   Level out the workload (heijunka). (Work like the tortoise, not the hare.)

5.   Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.

6.   Standardized tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.

7.   Use visual control so no problems are hidden.

Continue reading “The Toyota Way – 14 Management Principles”