Lead the Journey, Not Just the Project

Lead the Journey, Not Just the Project

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”— Vincent Van Gogh

Our walk started with rain and ended with sunshine. We were exploring a new hike that had many small delightful surprises. The picture this week shows the point of the hike where the trail ended at some small waterfalls.

Thinking of the hike later, I realized that too often, leaders in the workplace are more focused on the climactic moment of delivery than they are on the journey.  It is easy to fall into that mentality as there is such pressure to finish the journey and finish it quickly.  Too often, leaders treat the work journey as a forced-trudge.  

However, leaders that focus on the quality of the journey quickly discover there are significant advantages over just focusing on the end result.

  • The quality journey is more likely to result in a quality finish. Rushing through the early stages often results in twisted ankles and slow walks back. It also results in major rework at other project stages and delays to that awaited delivery point.
  • If you are not paying attention to your surroundings, you will miss unexpected delights. As a leader, I am delighted when I find skills among team members I did not know they possessed. We often find new ideas for new products or new approaches.  The leader-in-a-rush often misses these things and is sometimes even annoyed by a falsely perceived delay.
  • The journey is to create and to build skills. Hikes may result in seeing a magnificent waterfall at the end. They also improve our stamina and flexibility. In taking on projects, take on ones that challenge. Use the project to develop your skills.
  • The joy in the journey leads to more projects.  I see some organizations with too much attrition. This problem is often related to the feeling that the project journey is a trudge.  Alternatively, when we lead projects with joy, when people find that the work builds their skills, when people reach milestones with pride, you have not just finished the project you are leading, you have created the loyalty and energy for many more projects to follow.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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BOLD

BOLD

“A fascinating thing about mindsets is that the positive ones build on one another, and the negative ones do too. They spiral, or snowball, one onto the next.”— Alex Goldfayn

I have a great T-shirt that is bright orange with the word BOLD front and center. One of the reasons I love the shirt is that one of my sons enjoys covering up the B which he finds quite hilarious. But my main attachment to the shirt is that my consultant & author friend Alex Goldfayn gave it to me when I bought his book. I was delighted to see that his book is doing quite well. I even found it at an airport display of great books. It is a book about growing “confidence, happiness, and sales”. While the focus is on sales, the lessons in the book are great for any leader. Here are three of the critical lessons I loved.
  • Do the most important things first, even when they are hard or scary. 
    As Frank Herbert wrote in Dune, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Alex writes persuasively about why it is essential to overcome fear – and better yet, how to master your confidence over fear.
  • Be persistent and patient. 
    Even when doing the right thing the right way, you may not get immediate perfect results. Be persistent. Be patient. The book contains many examples that demonstrate why this is key to success.
  • Work with joy. 
    Alex details why no one enjoys buying from someone who is stressed. My own extension of that is that people would rather follow a leader who leads with confidence and joy.

Be bold!  Do good in the world.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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Rest Fuels Speed

Rest Fuels Speed

“The vacation we often need is from our own mind.”Jack Adam Weber

The Relationship Between Sunsets and Leading with Speed

We sat on a Cape Cod beach for hours last Friday night. I found myself completely relaxed enjoying a marvelous sunset.

Driving back home I found my thoughts returning to the work I am doing with various clients.  My subconscious must have been busy as I found 20 new ideas had emerged about how to help my clients go faster to the value they desire.

The need for speed in our marketplace is a real pressure that we all face as leaders. Often people tell me that the pressure is so much that they feel the need to work evenings and weekends.

I find that doing those long hours is periodically useful. However, the secret ingredient to the fastest speed to value is clear thinking that fuels the work.

Take the time to watch a sunrise or sunset. Your brain will reward you.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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Making a Risk Rating More Tangible

Making a Risk Rating More Tangible

“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration.”
— Steve Mariboli

When working on high-importance projects, I often have people tell me about various risks. I ask about the severity of the risk and I generally get answers such as “high impact”. I do have people translate that risk into more specifics such as “how many schedule weeks will the project be impacted?”

We can do better than that.

Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for an appointment is an unusual place to be inspired but as time ticked on I became bored and was reading the walls.

Up there next to the ‘Name That Rash’ poster was the most useful Pain Assessment Guide I have seen.  Instead of just “it hurts a lot” or degrees of frowny faces, there was a scale with tangible descriptions. It ranged from no pain to things like “the pain interferes with concentration” and all the way up to “bed rest is required.”

This led me to start to develop a project risk scale so I can have more tangible discussions with project leaders.  

Here is my first pass of Alan’s Project Risk Scale.

  1. Very low impact:
    If we have the wrong approach, one person can fix it in a couple of days.
  2. Low impact: 
    If we have the wrong approach, it will take a few of us less than a week to fix.
  3. Medium impact:
    If we have the wrong approach, it means a big redesign, and likely significant delay to schedule.
  4. High impact:
    This might not work the way we want ever.We may have to change customer expectations of what they can get.
  5. Very high impact:
    There is a significant safety risk with this approach.

Would this kind of scale help you with getting the language or risk be more tangible?  Let me know at [email protected] 

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
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I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

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Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Learn to Cherish the Tough Spots

Learn to Cherish the Tough Spots

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”— John Muir

There are times of the year when our walks inevitably encounter deep, unavoidable mud.  That mud used to ruin the mood of my walk. I soon realized that it really was all about my own attitude.

I had to accept that there will be mud.

As leaders, you will find that leading projects of any worth also have hard parts that are like difficult slogs through the mud.

As the leader, you have the ability to set the attitude of yourself in a way that influences of all those that follow you through the muddy patches.

You can pick to hesitate.  You can even try to avoid the muddy patch.

You can try and tiptoe through that muddy patch.

You can apologize to everyone with the belief that somehow you are personally responsible for getting everyone muddy.

Or you can leap in and splash through that mud with joy.

Who would you choose to follow?

The dry land is not that far away.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.