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Emotional Intelligence for Project ManagersFeel like you need to brush up your soft skills? Here’s a book that will help. Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers is the book I wish I had written (read my review of it here). Now in it’s second edition, it’s even better and I have a copy to giveaway.

Simply get in touch with the phrase “I’m emotionally intelligent” and I’ll put your name in the hat. Normal giveaway rules apply, but they are very fair!

Contact me today for your chance to win.

The giveaway closes on Monday, 16 March 2015.


Wildlife project case study, Portishead toadsThree years ago, Helen Mason stood outside her home and looked at the road. Every day there were more frogs and toads that hadn’t made it to the other side. The increasing numbers of dead amphibians made her feel that the local population of frogs and toads needed a helping hand to cross the road. So she set up a project to do something about it.

The frog-saving team

The frogs cross a busy road in Portishead to get to their breeding ponds. The toads can’t get up the curbs. Both species sometimes fall down the drains and get stuck. Helen roped in a few more volunteers with buckets and torches to patrol the streets around the ponds between 6pm and 10pm at night: the busy time for cars and dusk for the migrating amphibians.

Together they saved 900 frogs and toads from traffic in 2013 but as with any project it was clear she needed more resources if they were going to achieve more.

Volunteers are onboarded to the project team with a guided walk around the areas, then allocated an experienced mentor and an area to patrol as part of a team. The team wear plastic gloves under their woolly ones – frogs naturally find the puddles to sit in so it’s easy to get wet and cold very quickly. Sound like how you bring people on to your projects? OK, maybe not the plastic gloves bit. [click to continue…]

The Power of Project Leadership [Book review]

Book review of The Power of Project LeadershipA couple of weeks ago I interviewed Susanne Madsen on the topic of project leadership and her new book, The Power of Project Leadership. I read it prior to our interview and it wasn’t at all what I expected.

I expected a book about leadership theory but what I got was a hugely practical guide to actually doing leadership with plenty of stories, examples and exercises. The book takes you from understanding why leadership is important for project managers to uncovering your own motivations and leadership style. Then Susanne introduces the 7 keys of project leadership.

Finally, she covers how to step up and apply the techniques in the book to be a more impactful leader.

The 7 keys of project leadership

Susanne writes about the 7 keys of project leadership that she says are the answer to being a great project leader. These are:

  • Be authentic (she talks about this in her interview with me from last month)
  • Lead with vision
  • Improve and innovate
  • Empower the team
  • Get close to stakeholders
  • Establish a solid foundation
  • Work with intent.

I particularly liked the section on stakeholder management. She writes:

“One of the best ways to address a sceptical stakeholder – or opponent – is to ask for advice and feedback. This is a very disarming move, which instantly opens up the relationship because you show that you care and that you are humble enough to ask for the person’s opinion.”

Susanne suggests that you ask those negative stakeholders:

  • How can we work together more effectively?
  • How can I deiver a better product or service to you? (Customer-centric project management if ever I saw it!)
  • Are there any aspects of the project, like risks, issues or requirements, that you think we have overlooked?
  • Do you have any feedback about the project: what suggestions do you have for how we can improve?

“These questions have the potential to work wonders for you – but only if you sincerely mean it and take the time to really listen to the answer and to the meaning behind the words,” she continues.

Finding the time to lead

“Project leaders are wise because they are able to relate their knowledge no matter the situation and because they put their knowledge into action,” Susanne writes. In order to apply your wisdom, you have to find the time to do it – time when you aren’t running around trying to solve other people’s problems or deal with urgent issues.

Susanne argues that you should spend most of your time on proactive work: she recommends at least 80%. The remainder of your time can be spent on firefighting such as dealing with problems, urgent queries and conflict and then hopefully not much time at all on time wasting activities like interruptions and unimportant calls and mails.

She writes:

“If we don’t seek to put out the fires for good, not only will we get mediocre results, but we may also end up being highly stressed and more likely to burn out. Constantly being on high alert requires a lot of energy and wears us out, physically and mentally. It is much more rewarding to carve out time for the important and to deliberately grown and empower the team to help us create a successful outcome for everyone involved. So be determined to take control of the flow of events; free up time to be proactive and help your team do the same.”

A good book for leaders who want to improve

The Power of Project Leadership is a well-researched book, and the stories from project managers and other experts add to the practical approach as well as providing the motivation to actually do things in a different way.

It’s a book aimed at project managers and those who want to get better at leading and implementing change. The concepts and theories of leadership – the bits I expected – are covered but there’s also a range of practical advice and tips on how to implement behavioural changes through a selection of exercises.

If you apply even half of what this book covers you’ll be a better project leader almost instantly. And if you do need help making your new knowledge stick, there is space to record your personal notes about what you have learned from each chapter and what you intend to do to apply the learning. That’s a useful record and incentive for you to refer back to.

If you’d like to develop as an individual this is a great read, but you’ll get the added advantage of being able to help others apply the same concepts and behaviours. And what’s the most important part of leadership, if not developing others?

057_Management gold headerLast year my book, Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World, was shortlisted in the Management Book of the Year awards. This year, Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy and External Affairs at CMI, shares tips from the 2015 winning books.


Petra WiltonThe best leaders are forever looking for new ideas. CMI’s Management Book of the Year competition scours the pages of the raft of books out there, seeking the brightest pieces of ‘management gold’ to improve your management and ongoing management training.

Here are five great tips to manage better from the very best texts of the year.

1. Embrace uncertainty

Why does the phrase “fear of the unknown” exist? We should all abide by the mantra, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”. Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner walked away with the 2015 CMI Management Book of the Year award thanks to their book Not Knowing: The art of turning uncertainty into opportunity.

The book smashes the traditional idea that the boss de facto knows best, and shows why navigating uncertainty and doubt are at the heart of modern leadership. After all, blind certainty and dependency on ‘experts’ creates huge risks. In a complex and fast-changing world, it’s impossible to always have the answers. Embrace uncertainty so you can face the unknown and thrive, not just survive.

Winner of the Commuter’s Read category and the overall CMI Management Book of the Year.

2. Don’t get lost in translation

The 21st century office is a cosmopolitan place: odds are you manage a multicultural group of people, each of whom brings their own style of working to the table. It’s not always the easiest task to adapt your own style to accommodate others. Organizations and Management in Cross-Cultural Context will illustrate and vanquish all your fears and preconceptions of working in an international environment quicker than you can count to ten in five different languages.

Winner – Management and Leadership Textbook category.

3. Harness capitalism

Are we looking at the wrong people to help us solve global issues? The Key: How Corporations Succeed by Solving the World’s Toughest Problems highlights how 37 of the world’s 100 largest economies are corporations – not countries.

Lynda Gratton shows how big businesses need to lead the way in the battle to overcome worldwide difficulties such as youth unemployment and inequality. Where does that leave politicians?

Winner – Management Futures category.

Collage of Management Gold books

4. Think customer

Having trouble coming up with your next big idea? Chances are someone else has thought of it before you – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A new set of organisations has discovered that it is better to do what people want rather than what you are good at. Consumers are demanding and dictating how to win at business – all you need to do is listen to them, and Customer Innovation: Customer-centric strategy for enduring growth reveals the best tips.

Winner – Innovation and Entrepreneurship. [Got to love any book with Customer-centric in the title, haven’t I? – Elizabeth]

5. Make time pay

Time is money: and sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. The Little Book of Big Management Theories is a gamechanger that shows you how to make every minute count. Each of the 89 management theories is laid out over two pages. Give it three months and you will have added a technique a day.

Winner – Practical Manager.

About the author: Petra Wilton takes a lead role in building strategic partnerships in the public policy arena. She is responsible for promoting the needs of practising managers through engaging with and accessing the views of the CMI’s 100,000 plus members. Petra also leads on the development of customer insight and building CMI’s body of knowledge, and she has co-authored many CMI reports. She also set up the Campus CMI initiative to inspire and create confidence in young people through developing their management and leadership skills. She manages the All Party Parliamentary Group on Management and represents the CMI on various external group, including the recent ABS Innovation Taskforce, the Employee Engagement Taskforce Gurus’ Group, Valuing your Talent and Professions Week.

What I’m reading: February 2015

Project management books Feb 2015This post contains affiliate links.

This post might be better titled: What I haven’t read this month.

I haven’t even started Susan Greenfield’s Mind Change although I did take it on holiday with me. It stayed in the case. Instead I read Slow Cooking and then made a butternut squash risotto when we got home.

I did read Playing the Project Manager by Charles Smith. I don’t want to spoil my review by giving away too much but it’s unlike any project management book I’ve read so far and I had quite a strong reaction to it!

Jack and Oliver were given quite a few books for their birthdays including a couple by Richard Scarry. Remember him? I loved What Do People Do All Day? when I was younger. I didn’t realise his stuff was still in print but the pictures are amazing.

I think Jack prefers Thomas’ 123. “One, two, three, eight,” he goes, pointing at the trains. He’s getting there with counting at about the same rate that Oliver is learning to climb the stairs. We count the stairs up and down – maybe there is a connection?

I haven’t read this month’s Project magazine (that problem should be alleviated soon as it’s going to quarterly – not sure how I feel about that yet) or PM Network but they are in my work bag to read on the train. Hopefully I’ll get through them before the next lot arrive.

What have you read recently? If you haven’t touched any project management books, how about getting a copy of my book Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World  which is currently 15% off on Amazon? Click here to check out the deal.


I used this video at a presentation on managing virtual teams I gave with László Kónya, Head of Solutions & Projects for IT Services Hungary at the PMI Budapest Hungarian Chapter conference for International Project Management Day last year. I think it shows the challenges with conference calls perfectly!

If this has convinced you to try something else, check out these 5 things better than conference calls.