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Category Archives: Managing/Leadership

How to Use tools from Work to make the Holiday Season Easier and Happier

Best Practices, Communications, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management

By Judi Phelps

‘Tis the season to get overwhelmed by holiday parties, Secret Santas, decorating the house, numerous family functions, and all the other festive activities that can take over your life this time of year. On top of that, the end of year is always a busy time at work, as you try to get everything off your desk and out of your email inbox before leaving the office for a week.

I was thinking recently about all we have to do in both our personal and professional lives during the holidays it got me thinking—how can we take the skills we use in the office every day and apply them to our personal lives? If we project managed our personal lives a little bit, perhaps we would be able to increase the quality and quantity of the time we get to spend with our friends and loved ones—not to mention entering 2018 feeling like we have things under control.

Here are some of my suggestions for project managing your holiday season:

  1. This can be overwhelming, but gather the family and begin the conversation to determine what your plans are this holiday season.
    • Prioritize Tasks: Decide what you want or what needs to get done this season, plus which events are most critical or which you are most excited to attend. Make sure you ask your family their vision for what the holiday celebration should be. Then determine the level of commitment from yourself and others—do you have the commitment needed to accomplish all your tasks?
    • Make a Timeline: Look at what is on the schedule. Whether it’s extra choir rehearsals, cleaning, decorating, or addressing envelopes, schedule everything out so you have a clear picture of what needs to get done by when.
    • Identify resources (both physical and financial): Assign roles to complete the tasks. Seek volunteers for tasks no one wants to do (e.g., clean the bathroom before guests arrive; make room in the coat closet). Maybe an older grandson and friend could put the lights on the house. It may not be how you would have done them, but it gets the job done! My 3- year-old grandson actually helped me decorate their Christmas tree this year—this is a great memory and the tree got decorated! Just don’t forget to empower your team—you should be willing to accept imperfect results!
    • Plan for Contingencies: Have a backup plan for when things go haywire. Perhaps you and your best friend had dinner plans but you’ve run out of time for shopping—will your friend combine shopping with visiting?
  2. Change Management: A year goes by in a flash, but 365 days is actually a long time! Some change is bound to happen!
    • Take inventory of your contact list. Marriages, divorces, new babies, moves? Whether it’s updating the Christmas card list with a new address or adding a new nephew to your gift list, make sure you are working with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Communication Management: You can do all the planning and scheduling in the world, but if no one is informed or consulted on what’s happening, then the plan doesn’t mean much!
    • Think about the most effective way to make sure everyone knows what is happening and when. Ask your family/friends which communication method works best—maybe it’s a Facebook chat or a group text. Perhaps a Google doc where everyone can make edits as needed. Just make sure everyone knows what’s going on so they are not left in the dark—remember everyone else has their own plans too!
  4. Work toward the Goal: As you move through each item in this process, remember the goal…
    • …to have fun and celebrate! Perfect is not the goal, and you may find that a little breathing and perspective will make a misadventure a memory!

Getting all of this together may not be possible, but approaching the season with the same skills you use to conquer the business or project issues you deal with everyday could get you further along to a less stressful holiday season. I know I’m working on it!

About the Author: Judi Phelps has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and worked for the State of California for more than 38 years, starting as a part-time clerk-typist and ending as a Staff Manager II. Judi worked almost all of that time in various areas of the Medi-Cal program, implementing program policies as well as working to develop policies. As a consultant, Judi currently works with clients to look for better ways to achieve the mission. Judi loves singing and scrapbooking—sometimes together!—for both the paper-craft and the time with friends aspects. Judi enjoys traveling, entertaining, and making memories (to put into scrapbooks) with her two grandsons.

Applying your Prosci Certification in the Real World

ADKAR, Best Practices, KAIP Academy, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Prosci, Training

By Elizabeth Long

Having a certification like Prosci is valuable in terms of provide knowledge and framework around the Prosci ADKAR® Model. It’s also a great way to show your credibility as a practitioner of change management.

While the certification provides a good foundation—and is something I recommend my fellow change managers think about obtaining themselves—much of the work happens when you get onsite and observe and evaluate the organization with which you’re working.

I’ve seen my share of people come in to an organization with various degrees and certifications and while they can provide a lot of strategic or academic talk, their ability to recommend and implement the tactics is lacking.

If you simply take the methodologies and apply them in a cookie-cutter way, your chances of change management success are slim. Every organization or client is different. The people differ, the company culture differs—you need to be able to take these always-different environments and connect with people on a human level. That is when the action really happens.

So, with certification in hand, how do you integration that human connection into your work, so that people feel connected and valued (i.e., open to change?) Here are some of my best practices:

  1. Build Relationships. Determine who your primary stakeholders are and build relationships with them. Through these relationships, you’ll learn about the organization and its challenges; plus, these folks will also help guide you to determine which methodologies you should recommend to implement. By understanding what the organization needs, you can determine how to best apply the changes. Remember, nothing is cookie cutter.
  2. Be Authentic. You need to genuinely want to develop these relationships and get to know people. If you honor your word—when you say you’re going to do something, do it—then the people in the organization will see that and be more likely to take your recommendations and provide you the opportunity to do your work. Authenticity builds trust with your partners. The recommendations you make will be much more well-received if you have trust—trust that is gained by being authentic.
  3. Be a Leader.I’m currently reading the book, “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin. Among other things, it’s about a Navy SEAL platoon and how they develop leaders within the SEALs. The ‘leader’ is a role on the team, everyone plays a critical role—it is the leader’s main job to communicate the ‘why’ of the mission and explain each person’s role and how it is critical to accomplish the mission. This helps the team develop a belief in the mission. While on a much smaller scale, change management works similarly. The most critical thing a leader can do is share the vision and the mission—the WHY we are doing something. (In Prosci terms, this is referred to as developing the desire.) Being a leader is learned from putting your certification knowledge into action in the field. Leaders make realistic assessments, acknowledge failures, take ownership of issue, and develop plans to improve. Prosci is the framework, but your experience is the engine that will drive your success on the ground as a Prosci leader!

As you begin applying your Prosci certification in your work, remember that it is a guideline—the desire to change and understanding the people you’re working with goes beyond methods and is all about understanding the real-world application.

About the Author: Elizabeth Long is a professional Organization Development Consultant and Curriculum Developer/Trainer. She received her Certification in Organizational Change Management from Prosci and is certified in e-learning development from Langevine Learning Center. Elizabeth has worked in many industries: High tech, healthcare, and state and local government. Currently, Elizabeth works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc. as a contractor working in a variety of California State Departments. Elizabeth has lived in Sacramento for the past 17 years and appreciates the history of Sacramento as well as its convenience to many well-known destinations like San Francisco, Tahoe, and Reno.

7 Tips to Work Successfully in a Virtual Environment

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Team Building

By Angela Darchuk

We live in a world where most of us use technology to do our job, and often that can include being able to do our job from anywhere. With businesses offering work from home or flexible schedule options, many employees now have the opportunity to work in a virtual environment.

Since starting to work in a virtual environment four years ago, I have found ways to make sure working virtually is a success for me and the virtual team I manage. Working in a virtual environment has its challenges and it may not be for everyone, but with some self-motivation and these tips, hopefully you can make your virtual work successful:

  1. Be Open: If you are joining an already established virtual team, and especially if you have never worked on a virtual team before, be open to the process. Virtual teams require a lot of positivity—there is little worse than a team member joining a team and being negative to the process.
  2. Ask Questions: Ask questions about the process, what is expected of you on a daily/weekly/ monthly basis, and seek clarification if you don’t understand what is being asked. It’s a waste of time for an employee or a supervisor to do or receive unnecessary work, so make sure you understand the expectations from the start.
  3. Get to Know Your Team: Getting to know your team can be hard when working in a virtual environment. Talking about your life, your likes and dislikes, and your personality can help open up a dialog and make the team comfortable together.(Working in a virtual environment may mean working solo, but it isn’t just about you doing your job—it’s also about collaboration with others in different locations (and maybe even different time zones!) More tips for virtual team success can be found in our blog post, How to Create a Successful Virtual Team Dynamic.)
  4. Know the Roles Your Teammates Play: Knowing the role of each of your teammates is important. When you know what others’ jobs are, you can leverage their expertise when needed. Additionally, if you are familiar with everyone’s roles, you can start to anticipate what may be needed from/by other members of the team.
  5. Be Involved: Be involved by offering information, providing solutions to issues, and volunteering for action items. A weekly meeting—usually via conference call or video conference—is a must to make sure the team is involved, but if you need more frequent meetings, just ask.
  6. Show Initiative: Showing initiative can be difficult in a virtual world, but if you see something that needs to be done, talk to your supervisor about what you can offer. Your skills and abilities were some of the reasons you were hired, so offer up new ideas to help!
  7. Ask for the Proper Equipment to do Your Job: As a virtual employee, it’s important you have the tools to do your job. This can include software and hardware; in addition, you should have access to tools for conference calling, sharing screens, direct messaging, and project management. However, be mindful of what is a ‘need’ and what is ‘want’—equipment needs to be budgeted and you should be able to justify the request.

As a virtual employee, it is your responsibility to show your value so that you thrive—hopefully these tips help your venture into virtual work a success!

About the Author: Angela has a background in book-keeping and office management. She worked for several small businesses in the Sacramento area before taking a job with the State of California. She worked for Dept. of Child Support, EDD and the State Treasurer’s office before making the jump back to private sector where she feels more at home to voice her opinion and help grow a company. Angela is currently the Administrative Services Manager for KAI Partners. In her spare time Angela loves to read, dance, and go to Disneyland. When she goes to Disneyland, her favorite ride is It’s a Small World. She is a graduate of Penn State University, has been married for 18 years, and has two boys, ages 19 and 13 (who hate It’s a Small World).

Consulting Survival 101: A Project Manager’s Perspective

Best Practices, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP)

By Jamie Spagner

Those of us who have worked in the corporate world—or any type of workplace, really—for an extended period of time know that longevity is not a guarantee. Your job within a company may change due to corporate restructuring, personnel/job role updates, or any number of other factors.

A silver lining may be consulting. For many people, consulting is a logical step to extend a successful career. If you have worked in project management positions throughout your career, transitioning to consulting may be able to provide you more freedom and flexibility, as well as the opportunity to offer your expertise to the people and organizations who need it the most.

It’s easy to believe that your decades of experience and the various letters—PMP, CSM, SHRM, etc.—after your name will be all you need to prepare for this exciting new chapter. Of course, it’s not always so simple.

After 15 years in the corporate world—and six of those years consulting—I’ve discovered some lessons that most consultants learn the hard way:

  • Do not take things personally: As human beings, we are emotional. One of the best things I have done to improve overall satisfaction in both my personal and work environments is learning not to be governed by my emotions. As a project management consultant, part of my job is making recommendations; sometimes these recommendations are followed and sometimes they are not. Either way, I try to be more logical and less reactive to the way a situation makes me feel.
  • Humility over hubris: There will be times when you know more than your client, but boasting about this is rarely a good idea. As consultants, we are teachers, not show offs. Timing is everything—use your intelligence to know when to show your intelligence.
  • Practice patience: Organizations move at different speeds and as a consultant, we advise, but rarely get the chance to set the pace. Be patient and stay engaged—this way, you will have more impact ensuring the final decisions your client makes are the ideal.
  • Trade in your ‘Nos’: As a consultant, you should be prepared to offer an alternate solution to your client, rather than immediately telling them ‘no.’
  • Champion your client:Consultants should support and champion our clients’ successes, not take credit for the wins. Remember, when people say a home looks lovely, it’s the homeowner who takes the credit, not the architect.

Practicing these tips may not guarantee your success in the consulting world, but they may help keep your sanity, and, quite possibly, your job. Remember, these are just recommendations, so use them or don’t—I won’t take it personally (she said, taking her own advice).

About the Author: Jamie Spagner is an Executive Consultant for KAI Partners, where she works as a Project Manager for a public sector health care client. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with the Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies/Public Relation. She is a loving mother of a teenage son named Wyatt. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, spending time with family/close friends, and working out.

10 Best Practices for Setting Clear Job Expectations From the Start

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, Hiring, Human Resources, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

I’ve heard people say if you set expectations then you should be prepared for disappointment. From my perspective as a Human Resources Professional, if you fail to set clear expectations, then the only likely outcome is disappointment.

Expectations are an essential business function. The inability to meet unspoken expectations can lead to frustrations for both the employee and the employer. Not only do clear expectations create an understanding and a guideline, they create accountability for the employee. With clear expectations, the employer knows what to expect from the employee and the employee knows what to expect from the employer and the job itself.

Expectations should be established from the beginning. When I hire for a position, I always include the basic functions of the position, the necessary qualifications, and desired skills I am seeking in the job announcement. Before I have even looked through resumes or interviewed potential candidates, I have already begun to set expectations for that position. Expectations should be further identified through onboarding, orientation, and discussions with team members and supervisors.

Here are some of my tips for setting clear expectations from the beginning:

Guidelines for setting clear expectations:

  1. Expectations should be clear and understood by all parties so that there is no confusion
  2. Expectations should be outlined early and often. Setting them once is not enough—they need to be revisited on a regular basis as job functions can change and evolve
  3. Set attainable, realistic expectations; keep in mind your floor could be someone else’s ceiling
  4. Expectations could be in writing (i.e., in the form of a job description), simply verbalized, or both
  5. Expectations could differ from position to position; they should be specific

 Benefits of setting clear expectations:

  1. Improves performance
  2. Happier employees
  3. Establishes goals
  4. Sets priorities
  5. Enriches team dynamics

Having clear expectations, goals, and objectives is a must if you want your staff to be as productive and efficient as possible. Job success is not simply trying to determine who can sink and who can swim; I think the rate of turnover experienced in certain positions is a direct result of either unclear or unrealistic expectations. If you want quality, high performing employees, then you should give them all the tools necessary to be successful.

What has been your experience with setting expectations in your role as an employee or in a role you hire for or manage?

 About Melissa: Dr. Melissa McManus is a human resources professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

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