Category Archives: Advice

Lessons Learned as a First Time Medical Device Project Manager

In 2001, I joined Calypso Medical as employee number 18. Our goal was to create a remarkable medical device that could track the location of the prostate to a millimeter of accuracy during prostate cancer treatments.

This level of accuracy is important because the prostate has a tendency to move unpredictably during normal bodily functions, like coughing, going to the bathroom, or passing gas. This makes it difficult to direct the radiation to the correct spot. Healthy tissue may accidentally receive the radiation, which can lead to increased side effects.

We called it GPS for the body. Rather than satellites whizzing around the earth to pinpoint your phone’s location, a sensor array the size of a pizza box hovers directly over the patient’s abdomen. This sensor communicates with three transponders, about the size of a grain of rice, that had been implanted in the prostate in an earlier procedure.

During treatment, the radiation technologist (RT) monitors the location of these transponders. If the prostate moves outside of the radiation beam, the RT is immediately alerted and can reposition the beam so that it is once again focused squarely on the tumor. If you know where the device is, you know where to target the radiation.

For this to work, we needed another system that could determine the location of the sensor array. Figuring out the best way to solve that problem was my job.

Walk a mile in your users’ shoes.

As is typical in small companies, everyone wore multiple hats.  If I wanted to understand what was happening during treatment and how it would constrain my system, I would need to figure that out myself.

[Further Reading: A Look Inside Project Management at StarFish Medical]

Luckily, a local hospital was very helpful and let me hang out with the RTs as they did their job. I watched how they aligned the patients and moved about the room and spoke with the medical physicists about how they calibrated and aligned the equipment. I needed to design my system to work with what was already happening. Ideally, it would be invisible to the RTs and patient.

Build prototypes to simulate products in real-world settings.

After exploring several options, I settled on a ceiling mounted camera system that would see the array and could figure out its location. I used three cameras, even though two would be enough, so that the RTs could move about the room and not worry if they were blocking one of the cameras.

I developed simulations and was confident the system would work. But a prototype is much more convincing and can test errors in your assumptions that a simulation might miss.

I built the prototype with commercial-off-the-shelf tripods and cameras and software that I wrote. In testing we showed the concept worked even if you blocked a camera or the targets.

I then installed my prototype in an unused treatment space at the hospital, and we were able to simulate realistic usage. This work convinced the company leadership that I was on the right track.

Choose your partners carefully.

Once everyone agreed that my concept would work, I was directed to select a partner to implement my concept in a way that would pass muster with the FDA.

The perfect partner would have certain features:

  • An existing solution that could be leveraged for our needs
  • Their team had the desire and ability to customize their solution
  • Their solution had been through the FDA regulatory approval process
  • Geographically close to our office in Seattle
  • Reasonable business terms
  • A team that would be easy to work with over the long-term
  • A company that was stable enough that we didn’t have to worry about them going out of business

Not surprisingly, no such company existed.

One company had an FDA-approved camera-based solution, but the solution didn’t have the resolution we needed and wouldn’t work if someone walked in front of a camera. Any solution they created would have to be built from scratch.

Another company was a spin-off of a university in Munich, Germany. Their solution was technically solid, but they were a startup with no other customers and definitely not geographically desirable.

A third company had a technically solid solution and several customers in the movie business. They were a leading company for motion capture and had worked on movies like “The Hobbit”. Their location in California was not ideal, but at least they were in the same time zone and a single flight away.

The only missing element was that their device hadn’t been through an FDA approval process. We worked with a regulatory consultant and the company to develop an approach that worked for everyone. It’s been over 15 years, and this partner is still providing the camera system for the Calypso tracking system.

Anticipate and prevent product failures using failure mode and effects analysis.

When designing a medical device, it’s critical that it works as it’s supposed to. The alternative can be the death of the patient. One of the tools that we used to accomplish this was failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), a structured way to analyze how a product might fail and what you can do to prevent it. In this context, failure means the product doesn’t deliver the required performance, not that it stops working.

For instance, if your requirement is accuracy no worse than 1.0 mm and a condition results in a location error of 1.1 mm, that’s a failure.

FMEA typically starts with a brainstorming session where you identify ways that failure might happen. Our failure modes included:

  • Changes in the room temperature causing the camera mounts to move, pushing the system out of calibration.
  • The radiation environment in the treatment vault (both gamma rays and neutrons) causes cameras to fail.
  • Partial obscuration of the targets on the array, leading to an inaccurate location solution that doesn’t trigger an error condition.

For every failure mode we stated a severity (how bad would it be if this happened) and an occurrence (how likely would it be to happen). For example, a failure mode that shuts down the system (like a dead camera) would be high, but not the worst. The most severe failure mode is one that could lead to accidentally targeting radiation to the bowel or bladder, resulting in serious side effects.

[Further Reading: Ask a PM: School vs the Real World]

An interesting failure mode that we discovered was exposure to neutrons, sub-atomic particles with no charge.  The process of creating the beam of radiation used to kill the cancer cells also created a flood of free neutrons that might damage our electronics.  I flew our cameras to one of the only two neutron test sites in the U.S. and exposed our camera to 10 years’ worth of neutrons in a few hours.

From that test, we learned that one component was sensitive to neutrons and needed to be replaced.

If we hadn’t done the FMEA work, our cameras would have started failing in the field. Until we figured out the pattern of failures, the cameras would have just been replaced. Once the root caused was determined, we would have needed to replace the part and recertify the cameras, delaying new installations. This would have hurt our reputation, which can be the death knell for a small company.

Take pride in your work.

There’s a special satisfaction of playing on a game system I helped design or seeing drilling equipment I worked on in action.  But nothing matches the satisfaction of talking to someone whose father’s cancer treatment was improved by a product that I worked on.

It’s even gratifying that the photos of the system never include my camera system. It’s a sign that I accomplished my goal of making my part of the system invisible. That helped prepare me to become a project manager, where our contributions are typically critical, but invisible.

Ask a Project Manager: How to Find an International PM Job

Dear Elizabeth: I have been working in project management across several industries for several years – although not formally as a ‘Project Manager’. My spouse (a soon-to-be-retired Army Officer) and I are going through the formal PMP® training now to complete the test by January. We would love to explore some NGO or other overseas work for a few years before coming back to the States and working part time. What advice do you have for us?

Well, it sounds like you’ve got your next moves pretty figured out! There are a few things I would suggest that would support your career goals.

Get Your PMP® Quickly

You probably know that the PMP exam is changing early next year. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time looking at what is going to be new and while there’s nothing particularly radical, there are some technical changes within the processes that will no doubt influence the questions you are likely to see.

Personally, I think the new version of the guidance from PMI is better. It’s longer (it feels a lot longer) but it feels more modern. However, if you don’t want to start your exam prep all over again, book your exam now and take the current version of the test.

This is actually a great time to be getting certified: the change in the 2018 exam is going to really focus the mind! You might find it easier to make the time to revise the material if you know you have a hard deadline to meet.

[Further Reading: Ask a PM: Should I Go Freelance?]

As you know, you need to be able to prove your project management experience in order to take the exam. If you qualify, you won’t have any difficulty with the fact your resumé doesn’t have the job title Project Manager. Your experience, and your PMP credential, will speak for themselves.

Look at PM4NGOs

There’s a whole branch of project management dedicated to NGOs, and there’s a lot on offer at the PM4NGOs website. They have their own certification scheme, but you may find some resources there to help you plan what’s possible for working in a non-governmental organization as a project professional.

Capitalize on Veterans’ Support

I have worked with veterans from the Australian and UK militaries and the people I’ve met with these backgrounds have been excellent project managers. It’s well recognized that veterans can transition their skills into a project management career and there are a number of programs designed to support that happening.

PMI has support available for veterans including being able to join a local Chapter at no cost for the first year (as long as you are a member) and many Chapters have Military Liaison Volunteers. There are Chapters all over the world, so wherever you happen to end up with your overseas work, you will hopefully find one near you.

Be Flexible

Travelling for work as a couple is difficult, especially if one of you gets a job and the other is the ‘trailing spouse’. Having been both the spouse in work and then later the one left at home while my husband worked overseas, I know that it can be tough on both partners.

The ideal for you will be to find an overseas posting that allows you both to work, and work together. That might be possible with NGO opportunities, but is going to be less likely if you decide to take a corporate position overseas instead.

Contract work can be very flexible and well-compensated, so if during your research you decide that a corporate job meets your personal goals for spending time overseas, you could look at contract positions and enroll with some job agencies that specialize in placing managers in those roles.

Be conscious of the paperwork that goes with overseas work. There are visa, permits and all that to work through. Get advice from someone qualified to give it and only choose to work with reputable agencies that have your best interests at heart. And get insurance!

Build Your Other Skills Too

Getting a project management credential is great, but it isn’t the only thing that is going to secure you a job. If you want to work abroad, what language skills do you have? Will that shape where you choose to work?

What tools do you know how to use? You’ve got some project management experience already, so hopefully you’ve been able to use some of the common technologies that help schedule work and plan tasks.

[Further Reading: Ask a PM: School vs the Real World]

Some days it seems as if there are almost as many project management and collaboration tools as there are employers, but there are some big industry players (like LiquidPlanner) that crop up time and time again. Make sure you’ve got some exposure to a few different types of software as that will make you a more rounded potential hire, especially for contract work.

Equally, check out free tools that are commonly used by organizations with tiny budgets for this sort of thing like NGOs such as Google Drive, Skype, and Slack.

Project management is a fantastic career that can open doors and help you change lives. I wish you all the best with your career journey!

Using the 5 Whys Method to Get to the Bottom of Your Problems

When something goes wrong, people always want to know why. Why did this happen? Why did this go wrong? It’s a logical question, but stopping there is likely to lead to a dead end.

To get at the core of why the unexpected event or challenge happened, you need to dig deeper. Instead of stopping at one, you need to ask why five times.

The 5 Whys

The core idea of the 5 Whys system is exactly what it sounds like: ask the question “Why?” five times to understand the root cause of an issue. It was developed by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System.  “Observe the production floor without preconceptions,” he advised his staff. “Ask ‘why’ five times about every matter.”

Ohno used a malfunctioning welding robot as an example:

  1. “Why did the robot stop?”
    The circuit has overloaded, causing a fuse to blow.
  2. Why is the circuit overloaded?
    There was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up.
  3. “Why was there insufficient lubrication on the bearings?”
    The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient oil.
  4. “Why is the pump not circulating sufficient oil?”
    The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings.
  5. “Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings?”
    Because there is no filter on the pump.

If the questions had stopped at the first or second why, it would be tempting to think the problem could be solved with a new fuse or pump. But, the problem would have reoccured in a few months. In this case, the issue was caused by human error. Someone had forgotten to attach a filter to the pump.

By asking and answering “Why?” five times, you can drill down to the core issue, which is often hidden behind symptoms. “The root cause of any problem is the key to a lasting solution,” Ohno said.

When to Use the 5 Whys

The 5 Whys system is most effective when used to solve simple to moderately challenging issues. If you’re using 5 Whys for complex issues, you need to be more careful. With complex problems, there are often multiple causes. Using the 5 Whys could lead you down a single path, causing you to ignore the other underlying issues.

Because the 5 Whys is relatively easy, it can be a great tool for kicking off brainstorming around a problem before you take a more in-depth approach.

A Few Limitations to Keep in Mind

The 5 Whys method does have some limitations.

  • The person leading the 5 Whys must have expert knowledge about the problem and possible issues. If the cause is unknown to the person doing the problem-solving, the method may not lead to the true cause. In the earlier example, it’s unlikely that someone with zero mechanical knowledge would have noticed the missing filter on the pump intake.
  • The success of the method relies on the skill of the facilitator. One wrong answer may completely throw off the questioning, leading to a wrong conclusion.
  • An assumption of the 5 Whys method is that there is that presenting symptoms all stem from one cause. For complex problems, this isn’t always the case. A 5 Whys analysis may not reveal all of the causes that are tied to these symptoms.

How the Process Works

Ready to try it? The 5 Whys method follows a very simple five-step process.

1. Assemble your team.

First, invite people who are familiar with the issue and the process you are trying to fix to the 5 Whys meeting.

2. Select a facilitator for your meeting.

The facilitator will lead the discussion, ask the 5 Whys, and keep the team focused on the issue at-hand.

3. Define the problem.

Discuss the problem with your team, and then focus on creating a clear and concise problem statement. To get started, answer the questions, What is going on, when did it happen, where did it happen, and who found the problem.

Write your problem statement on a whiteboard, leaving enough room to answer the 5 Whys below.

4. Ask why five times.

The first why should cover why the problem is happening. The method will work best if your answer is grounded in fact. No guessing allowed. Avoid going down the path of deductive reasoning, which can muddy the process. Answer each question quickly to avoid going down rabbit holes and jumping to conclusions.

Continue asking why until you feel that you’ve examined each path and can go no further. If your first why generated more than one reason, you can now go back and repeat the process until you’ve explored those routes, as well.

Note: As you go through this process, you may find that someone dropped the ball along the way. Instead of placing blame, the goal is to ask, Why did the process fail? This line of questioning will show what organizational processes need to be fixed.

5. Address the root causes.

By now, you should have identified one true root cause. With the group, discuss what countermeasures can be taken to prevent the issue from happening again. The facilitator may assign responsibilities for these countermeasures to the group.

6. Monitor your countermeasures.

The process doesn’t end there.

It’s important to monitor how effectively your measures solved or minimized the problem. If nothing has changed, you may have identified the wrong root cause and need to repeat the process.

That’s it! While the 5 Whys method was originally developed for use in a manufacturing setting, it can be beneficial in a wide range of applications. Do you use the 5 Whys in your work or personal life? If so, how was the method worked for you?

Ask a Project Manager: How Can I Be More Productive?

“Dear Elizabeth: It feels like I’m spending so much time just staying on top of things. I have systems, but I don’t think they are the best. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel like I’m never getting anything done. Does that make sense? How can I be more productive when working on a project or task?”

It makes perfect sense to me! I’ve certainly had times when I’ve worked really hard and had nothing to show for it at the end of the day. They weren’t productive days, and they made me feel like I wasn’t achieving anything.

I don’t know about you, but as a project manager, I don’t like to feel as if I’m not achieving anything. I get a buzz out of keeping my projects moving forward in the right direction, so unproductive days zap my motivation.

The thing is, productivity looks different for different situations. You’ve asked about being productive on a project and also on a task, and they are different beasts. Let’s break it down.

Task Productivity

It’s hard to be productive if you don’t have a clear understanding of what is required. I was doing some work recently where the briefing from the client was vague, I didn’t have access to the right files, the files I did have were the wrong versions (and they told me that).

I wasn’t productive when that job started, I can tell you. It took a while to get clarity on what was required, how they wanted me to do it, what resources I needed access to, and who was going to give them to me.

And all the while I felt bad because I wasn’t producing anything for them.

Get complete clarity on what the task is. Even if that means asking the stupid questions, or asking the questions again and again until you get the answers you need to start work.

Then, make sure you set aside enough time to actually do the work. Much ‘unproductivity’ comes about because we are too squashed for time.

When you don’t have enough time to do the task, you start to worry about the output – will it be good enough? Can I get it done? And you don’t focus on the work that you can do.

Then, do the work. This is the most important part! If it’s a long job, document where you are, track your progress, and provide updates to your manager (or do them for your own benefit) as you go along.

I wish there was some kind of magic formula for being more productive, but at the end of the day it’s all about focus. Know what you have to do, don’t lose focus, and just get on with it.

Focus, focus, focus.

Project Productivity

Productivity sustained across a whole project is a different matter. You’ve got to facilitate the work of others. Your project needs a clear definition, just like you would need for a task. You need to think about the overall structure of the work, breaking it down into component tasks.

Then you need to structure the tasks in a way that makes sense for the flow of work, ensuring that there are realistic estimates for the work required. Those tasks need to be allocated to the people who can do them best, and who agrees that it is their job to do them.

There’s nothing more unproductive than someone who feels that a task isn’t their responsibility.

Your aim is to set up your task owners for success by helping them be productive. You’re creating a foundation for them to be able to do their work with the right resources and the right inputs (hence why it’s important to have the tasks scheduled at the right time in the flow so that pre-requisite tasks are complete).

It’s a lot easier to be productive over a project or task if you enjoy the work. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you’ll find reasons not to do it, and it’s not difficult to find things that you would prefer to be spending time on!

I know it’s not realistic to love everything you have to do in the office, but the more fun you can build into your day the better it will be for you and your team members. It’s easier to get stuff done when you are hanging out with people who think about work in the same way as you do and are nice to be around.

I’m guessing your next question is: What can I use to help me do all this?

To start with, you can use your common sense to block out your time to do your work in a productive fashion. So no social media. Put your phone on silent if you need to and turn off email pop up notifications. Get into the ‘work zone’ and set yourself up for productive success.

Second, make the most of the project management tools given to you for your own personal productivity too. Track your time so that you know what you are currently spending your day on. This is incredibly important. In my experience, the most productive people know what their priorities are and work on them, without distractions. And they know how they are spending their time.

The tasks you are working on might not fit neatly within your project schedule, but you can still use enterprise project management tools to manage your personal tasks. OK, not collecting the dry cleaning. But tasks related to your work that don’t fit within a project structure, like preparing a quarterly update on the project management team’s training needs for your boss or remembering to track your monthly hours for the PMO.

With tools like LiquidPlanner, the functionality is just there: you can create new tasks, track time, and more. If you’re in a project management role, you likely have some tools that you use daily and are comfortable using. Start treating your personal To Do list like a project and track and manage it in the same way. That’s a sure way to give you clarity, keep you focused and boost productivity.

Getting Your Team to Use LiquidPlanner: Sell Benefits, Not Features

Congratulations–you’re the proud owner of a new project management tool. You made it through the evaluation process, the trials, the executive sign-off.

But your greatest challenge still lies ahead: convincing your team to actually use (and perhaps even enjoy) this new tool.

This challenge is not to be taken lightly. Do it poorly, and you risk failure. You don’t want that. Your boss doesn’t want that. The business definitely doesn’t want that.

So you have to do it right–the first time. Just one slight problem…

Change is hard.

“We’re too busy to learn a new tool.”

“Our current process is working fine. Why change?”

“I don’t use our current tool. A new one won’t help me.”

Convincing your team to adopt (and love) LiquidPlanner will take some work. But it’s definitely possible, and we’re going to help you do it.

Sell Benefits, Not Features

“Features tell, but benefits sell.”

This common refrain, uttered in marketing departments the world over, serves as a reminder to ask, “What’s in it for our customer?” In this case, your customer is, you guessed it, your team.

If you start by rattling off a whole lot of features, you’ll quickly lose their attention. Persuading your team requires a mix of features and benefits. To get to those benefits, you want to use the “So what?” trick.

Here’s how it works: Pretend you’re selling an in-window air conditioner to your team. (Just stick with me here.)

The particular air conditioner comes with a mounting kit.

So what?

It can be safely and easily secured in most windows.

So what?

You can use the unit in any room in your home.

So what?

The in-window air conditioner can be safely and securely installed in any room of your home. You can enjoy the cooling satisfaction of air conditioning without the high costs of installing and maintaining a forced air system. It’s an effective, efficient, and inexpensive solution for hot days.

By using the So what? method, you’ve shown how this solution can meet their needs. This method works for any product, including project management software. Use it to start brainstorming about ways to position LiquidPlanner as a solution to your team’s needs.

To get you started, we’ve compiled talking points around three team-focused benefits: consolidation, collaboration, and autonomy.

Benefit #1: Consolidation

On the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, the New York Times published a video about “all the things this ubiquitous gadget has laid to waste.” The list runs the gamut, from taxis to cameras to small talk in elevators.

What would have once filled a box (address books, photo albums, day planner, alarm clock, watch…you get the point) now fits in the palm of our hand. It’s an amazing feat for something that originated as a way to make telephone calls.

Were you anticipating this metaphor? Here it is: LiquidPlanner is like the iPhone.

Yes, I know. Project management software will never be as far-reaching or monumental as the iPhone. But, for the people who use the tools on a daily basis, it can sometimes feel like it, for better or for worse.

Like the iPhone, LiquidPlanner combines several tools into one:

  • Email (You can’t rid yourself of it completely, but the number of emails sent and received can be reduced.)
  • Slack, Yammer, and other IM communication platforms
  • Time tracking software
  • Spreadsheets
  • To-do lists
  • Calendars

If your team spends a lot of time jumping between different applications, this could be a major selling point. Consolidation also reduces time spent copying and pasting the same information across different applications. All conversations, documents, and plans are in one place.

Here’s a video you can share with your team to give them a quick overview and get them excited about LiquidPlanner:

Pitch It to Your Team

With LiquidPlanner, we can consolidate our project toolkit, workflow, and project plans into one. We’ll no longer need to juggle multiple applications, saving us time and headaches. Plus, we’ll all have real-time visibility into our projects with just one click.

Benefit #2: Faster Communication

Communication is almost always listed in those “5 Top Skills for PMs” listicles. If that’s the case, then why do so many project management tools make it so hard to communicate with the team?

LiquidPlanner knows that teams are often swimming in emails, attachments, and random Slack messages. That’s removing these roadblocks and making communication much easier is a major component of our tool.

Why teams love collaborating in LiquidPlanner:

  • Built-in collaboration features: Commenting within LiquidPlanner moves conversations out of email and IM, creating a “paper trail” that’s linked to the specific project task. @mention comments can be used to call team members’ attention and keep conversations focused.
  • Open, transparent environment: With a shared workspace, everyone can see all the tasks that make up the project and the schedule for project completion. This transparency makes it clear what needs to be done, who’s responsible for doing what, and when tasks needs to be completed.
  • Single, centralized workspace: A project workspace hosted online gives the whole team access to the information they need and a means to collaborate, via any Internet-enabled device. For geographically distributed teams, nobody loses out due to location or time difference. Information is available to the whole team 24/7, and team members don’t have to ask the project manager or wait to be spoon fed information.
  • Documents housed in one location: Team members shouldn’t have to visit several different repositories for documentation or other information they need to get the job done. This eats time and introduces version control issues (e.g., many different versions of the same document being emailed around). Documentation can be stored in the workspace itself, ideally with any associated tasks linked to it, which makes navigation a breeze.

Pitch It to Your Team

Everyone will know who’s doing what and when without having to search through email chains and multiple applications. Documents will be easier to find and organized within project plans and tasks. We can easily share documents, updates, and statuses through LiquidPlanner, giving 24/7 access to everyone.

Benefit #3: Increased Autonomy

Employing practices that make employees feel like robots on assembly lines, micromanaging for example, is a really effective way to reduce employee engagement. This leads to increased stress, higher turnover, and less effective employees.

But give them room to make their own decisions, think for themselves, and take ownership, and motivation will steadily begin to rise.

In his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Really Motivates Us”, Daniel Pink cites a study conducted at Cornell University that looked at the effects of autonomy at 320 small businesses in the United States. Half of the companies granted workers more autonomy, the other relied on top-down direction.

Those businesses that gave employees autonomy:

  • Grew four times faster than the businesses using command and control management.
  • Experienced one-third of the turnover.

Obviously, there’s a fine line between giving employees autonomy over their work and letting the inmates run the prison. And, that’s where a project management tool like LiquidPlanner comes in.

One of the major differences between LiquidPlanner and a tool like Microsoft Project is increased visibility. With traditional PM tools, it’s difficult to fully collaborate. Sometimes only one person has access to the actual tool and, thus, the actual plan. Cloud-based tools allow all team members to access and work within the tool autonomously. No more waiting for updates. No more wondering what to work on next.

Now, everyone will have access to the same information at the same time. It’s easier to stay on top of what’s going on and know what needs to be done next.

And, greater autonomy = greater employee engagement.

Pitch It to Your Team

No more tracking down status updates and wondering what’s next in the project plan. With LiquidPlanner, every member of the team has 24/7, instant access our project plans. That means fewer surprises, less wait time, and the ability to see what upcoming work.

Tying It All Together

You now have three solid talking points you can use to describe the benefits of LiquidPlanner to your team. But don’t stop there. Seize the excitement and momentum of this conversation by introducing your plan for implementation.

These resources will help you build a successful rollout plan:

5 Steps to a Successful Rollout of LiquidPlanner

Preparing for Liftoff: Building an Implementation Plan

Getting Started Video Series

6 Things You Can Do to Keep Challenging Personalities in Check

It doesn’t matter what field you operate in, as soon as you bring in creative experts the potential for both personality and technical conflict increases. The why is understandable: truly creative designers and engineers who have established themselves as experts will tend to have a very strong mental model of what should happen on a project. Sometimes this vision of the future conflicts with the reality of the project scope, schedule and cost.

When this happens, it’s not a human resources issue. It’s a leadership and a project team issue that you need to resolve.

So, let’s start with why some creative-types generate so much drama in the project team. Coming from the perspective of a “creative-type”, I can understand why some skilled engineers and designers can be difficult to work with:

  • Feelings of not being heard has led them to become the loudest voice in the charrette.
  • They have a sense of entitlement built on a track record of success in their designs. This has now gone to their head and they let their ego run rampant.
  • The individual is truly a savant who happens to have a low emotional intelligence (EI) functionality.
  • They are a product of their past, with previous project managers allowing them to behave outside team norms because their technical or aesthetic designs are astounding.

Challenging Creative People Make for Better Project Deliverables

I developed my project management and leadership bona fides in an organization where you didn’t have the chance to simply drop people from the project team. It was my job to create excellence from the people presented, no matter their technical or interpersonal skills. While you may operate in an environment where you can vote challenging people off the team at the first sign of resistance, don’t.

Leadership isn’t about eliminating dissent in a team, it’s about forging a team that accepts and thrives on supportive dissent. What’s that? It is dissent intended to challenge or eliminate group-think and to ultimately lead the project team towards delivering the best quality design that meets scope, schedule, cost and quality. This isn’t going to happen in a homogeneous team where no one questions the design approach or unique risk mitigation strategies.

It’s important to have a status-quo-challenging creative person on the team. It is equally important to ensure that you set parameters, expectations and keep the creative team member on vector.

How to Lead a Creative Team Member for Team Success

In my mind, project leadership entails maximizing the effectiveness of each person on the project team. Most situations will not give you the luxury of selecting each member of the team, so you will be faced with forging an effective team with the people you’re assigned.

Even in situations where you recruit and hire specific team members or bring in outside consultants, you can miss the challenging personality trait and be faced with a challenging personnel problem.

Short of kicking the challenge off the team, let’s consider some actual leadership actions you can take to set up the creative person and entire project team for success:

Establish Expectations Early. Have a one-on-one meeting with the person to explain the norms of behavior, language, etiquette, and meeting protocols. If necessary, set up some type of sign that you give the other person when they are starting to agitate or stir the pot too much – e.g. tugging your left ear lobe or saying a phrase like “that’s interesting” while you stare directly at them.

Main point: ensure they know you will not tolerate disrespect of your project team members.

Prepare the Project Team for Personalities. If you know that a particular incoming project team member will be a personality challenge, don’t surprise the project team. For instance, let’s say you have a design or engineering consultant attending an upcoming charrette who you know to be a challenging personality.

It’s incumbent on you as the project manager to make the project team aware and to let them know why this person is being brought in. Talk about how you’ll react, as a team, to awkward situations (e.g. hot tempers or open challenges to opinions or technical ideas) so everyone is prepared.

As the project manager, visualize how you will react to these situations and at what point you’ll intervene to call a coffee break. Main point: prep the team for the personality and keep your eye on delivering a successful project.

Set a Strict Agenda in Meetings and Charrettes. If you have a full-time project team member who is a personality challenge, ensure meetings are run with a very strict agenda. This means both topical (what is discussed) and time (how long).

Don’t allow a meeting to run any longer than scheduled and if the challenging personality starts to pontificate or derail the meeting, give them the “sign” the two of you established in your one-on-one. If that doesn’t work, simply tell the person that the issue at hand will go “off-line”, meaning it will be discussed outside the current meeting. If you have a temporary team member participating in a charette, such as a consultant or individual on loan from a different division, consider having an outside facilitator run the event.

This person needs to be one with the skills for working with creative designers or engineers, and thus understands how to manage technical personalities and still deliver highly effective results.

When All Else Fails, Document. Not every situation with challenging people works out and you need to be prepared for this. That preparation starts with documenting the individual’s outbursts, inability to work collaboratively, or other instances of friction.

Be certain to highlight what the specific, negative impact is to the project in each instance. You can’t simply indicate that on “Tuesday at 3 p.m., Ted was a jerk”. Be specific and concise, while also being unemotional.

The reason you’re documenting is so that you have a record of performance you can use in private consultation with the challenging individual. If the person is part of your company, make certain that the individuals supervisor (and yours) are informed of the general situation as it develops.

Bad news isn’t like a fine wine, it doesn’t get better as it ages.

Limit Contact. Depending on your project, you may be able to limit the number of people who have to work directly with the challenging person. For instance, let’s say your project has multiple sub-components.

An outside consultant with a challenging personality is only involved in one of these sub-components and that only involves three members of your ten-person project team. Don’t expose everyone to challenging person! Limit the friction and keep the team moving forward.

When All Else Fails, Fire the Person. If, despite your best leadership efforts you can see that the project may fail because of the friction the challenging person is generating, sack them. Terminate their project team membership and ship them back to their division or terminate their contract.

If the individual is part of your company, and you have been documenting performance and sharing your concern with their supervisor, arrange a meeting with HR and their supervisor to close-out the situation. If the individual is an outside contractor, terminate the agreement with specific details on why and the negative impact on the overall project.

In the end, successful, challenging projects require subject matter experts who themselves can be challenging. Effective project managers expect that some people will bring challenging personalities into the project team and visualize how they will handle these situations. Treat this preparation just as you would treat developing risk mitigation strategies. By doing this, you will be prepared for channeling the creative energy people bring to the project while at the same time minimizing the potential for collateral damage that might derail your project.

Looking for more project management and career advice?

Lessons from My Winding Path to Project Management

When you query a group of second graders about what they want to be when they grow up, they’ll say an astronaut, doctor, firefighter, scientist or some other cool job. By the time they’ve started college, the list has expanded to include engineers, teachers, nurses, and other perfectly reasonable jobs.

But no one picks their college because of its top-rated project management program. We are all accidental project managers.

My journey is a bit more unusual than most. I started college wanting to be a scientist and got the education to match—a PhD in Physics from MIT. But I then decided to follow another path, which has led me to project management.

From the beginning, I knew I was following an unconventional path, so I needed to keep my eyes open to the side paths that became part of my journey. It’s a journey that I’m still on and the path to its end (i.e., a comfortable retirement) remains murky, but I believe the tools and lessons that have carried me this far will carry me forward.

I hope some of my lessons can help you in your journey, as well.

Always be open.

In 1996, I had decided to move from academia to industry, but I had no experience, the wrong degrees, no connections, and really no clue on how to make that move. I took the summer off to visit family, spend a week pretending to be an oceanography graduate student, and travel around the Alaskan panhandle by ferry and foot.

On the flight home from Juneau, I started chatting with the person next to me. He was a headhunter who specialized in hiring mathematicians and physicists for Wall Street. I had no interest in moving to New York, but he was happy to share advice working with headhunters. As soon as I got back to Seattle, I followed his advice, which directly resulted in finding a perfect job. How different my life would be if I hadn’t started chatting with him!

Most people are happy to talk about what they do and offer advice. Look for people who have your dream job and reach out to them. Offer to take them out for coffee. Make it easy for them by being flexible about time and meeting near their office. Don’t ask for a job; ask for advice. If they have a job for you, they’ll let you know.

When networking, you should have an interest in what others have to offer. It’s not about you impressing them as much as learning from them. And Karma is a big part of networking: always be on the lookout for opportunities to help others.

It’s much easier today than it was in 1996, which was two years before Google was founded and six years before LinkedIn. Build your LinkedIn profile. If you ask someone to meet for coffee, you can be sure they’ll look you up there before they say yes. Just like your resume, don’t lie or exaggerate, but put your best foot forward.

Always be learning.

In the movie Paycheck, Ben Affleck starred as an engineer who has his memory wiped after every project. I found that premise absurd. Engineers (and project managers) improve by doing the work and learning from their successes and failures. If your memory was wiped after each project, you would stagnate while others kept getting better.

My first job was at Neopath, a company that made an automated microscope that diagnosed cervical cancer. I worked on a host of projects across the company, including optics, electronics, root-cause analysis, and manufacturing. What I didn’t work on was image processing, which was our core technology. But over the course of three years I learned enough to develop image processing algorithms for an automated microscope in my next job.

This happened again when I was at Calypso Medical, a company that developed an amazing technology to target radiation therapy for cancer treatment. I developed a camera system to determine the location of a sensor array, but our core technology used AC magnetic fields to determine the location of the prostate. My next job at Digital Control was developing industrial equipment using AC magnetic fields to determine the location of a underground drill.

My role at Calypso started as very technical, but once I had built a prototype and demonstrated my concept would meet our requirements, I was tasked with selecting a vendor and managing them to deliver a solution using my concept. My role became that of a project manager.

My next role at Digital Control also started out as technical, but I found my newly developed project management skills were more important to a project’s success than my technical ones.

As I found myself doing more project management at companies with no project managers, I looked elsewhere for help. I considered getting an MBA. But I couldn’t carve out the time to make that happen, so I enrolled in a certificate program for “Management in the Technology Sector.” The program included classes in project management, team leadership, and business strategy.

If you’re not learning new skills at work, it might be time for a change. Talk to your manager about taking on new responsibilities or moving to a new group. If that’s not an option, take a class or look for opportunities outside of work that will challenge you. Find a non-profit that you care about and offer to help. Before you know it, you’ll be drowning in learning opportunities.

Always be positive.

My career has had more than its share of bumps in the road. The worst was in 2008, when I was laid-off at the beginning of the Great Recession. Over 10 months, I had one phone interview.  Every day I would look for open positions and networking opportunities.

Finally I got a job running an energy efficiency project funded by the federal stimulus act. I was offered the job because of my volunteer experience founding the energy committee at the Sierra Club and my work as a project manager. Though it wasn’t my dream job, I involved myself in every aspect of the project, including marketing, training, and quality control. I met some great people and the project exceeded our targets. When the high-tech sector recovered, I moved back into product development, now with even more project management experience.

It’s great to have a vision of where you’d like your career to go and to get the experience and training you need to get there, but in the fast-moving world of technology that’s unlikely to be sufficient. So many interesting industries of today didn’t exist twenty years ago. Just in the Seattle area we have Facebook/Oculus doing virtual reality, Amazon in eCommerce, and Blue Origin in space tourism.

No one starting their career in 1997 would have thought to create the perfect path for a job working at any of these places. But if you are always learning, watching for new opportunities, and keeping a positive outlook, you might just find you’re the perfect person for the dream job you couldn’t have imagined five years earlier.

It’s fine for your journey to follow a circuitous route; sometimes that’s the only way to get to where you’re going.

6 Simple Ways Project Managers Can Improve Their Writing Skills Today

I’ve been a “professional writer” for nine years. I should be able to effortlessly crank out the words by now, right? Well, if we’re being completely honest with each other, I’ve spent 15 minutes on this intro alone. It’s a slog. Every. Time.

Writing is a hard skill to master (and that’s coming from someone who does this for a living). And just when you think you’ve got it, you find yourself staring at an ugly first draft, wondering where the magic went.

But here’s the good news: you don’t need to master it. No one expects literary quality from your briefs and emails. In fact, if you’ve done it well, no one will notice your writing.

In business writing, you have a simple goal: to clearly and concisely share your message. You’re not going to begin a quarterly earnings report with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Unless you’re an aspiring business novelist (Eliyahu Goldratt, anyone?), you can leave the prose to Dickens.

Why Solid Writing Skills Make a Difference for Project Managers

When I give this spiel to fellow office dwellers, it’s sometimes met with an apathetic, “Well, I’m not a writer, so it doesn’t matter.”

Hold up, I say. How many emails, IMs, briefs, and memos have you written today? Tweets? Facebook posts? Text messages? That’s what I thought.

You may not have the job title, but I’m willing to wager that you spend at least an hour or two every day writing.

For project managers, solid writing skills become even more important. The success or failure of your project hinges on your communication skills.

It’s likely that a majority of your team communications are via email, IM, or comments. In the past, how many times have you gone back and forth with people who didn’t say what they meant the first time around? How many hours have you wasted trying to decipher poorly written status updates?

Project managers also need to write important documents like project proposals and charters, training documents, plans, and reports. Considering these documents build the foundation of a project, writing plays an important role in successful execution.

Tried and True Techniques

Here are six easy techniques you can use to improve your writing skills.

Think before you write.

Sometimes we panic when we’re presented with that blank page. Just get it out, we think, as we furiously type away. What’s left is a messy brain dump of a document. While that’s a great way to kickstart your writing, it’s not a great experience for the reader.

Those extraneous details muddy the waters, and the reader walks away confused. That’s how balls get dropped, deadlines are missed, and miscommunication happens.

Before you begin writing, answer these three questions:

  • Who am I writing for?
  • What do I want them to know?
  • What do I want them to do?

If you can’t immediately answer these questions, you’ll need to take a step back and collect your thoughts. Everything you write should have a clear audience and purpose.

Get to the point.

In school, we’re taught to spend our first four to five sentences warming up the reader. We then hit them with our main point at the end of the intro. While that format may have impressed your eighth grade English teacher, it’s not going to impress a hurried executive.

Instead, begin with your main point. Dedicate your first paragraph to a quick summary of the situation and the proposed solution if you’re writing longer memos. For emails, use the first sentence to summarize why you’re writing and what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you’re unsure, ask a colleague to read your email and summarize your message in two to three sentences. If he or she can’t do that easily (or gets it wrong), you’ll need to answer the three questions above and work on clarifying your message.

Cut out unnecessary words.

I once had a boss who was a former magazine editor. She was absolutely ruthless. When she’d return my articles, it looked like someone had squeezed a pomegranate onto the page. Red. Everywhere.

Her biggest pet peeve was needless words: very, like, that, in order to, suddenly.

The folder that you need is on my desk.

I’m reading the report in order to prepare for my meeting.

It’s very important to be on time tomorrow.

She taught me how to tighten my sentences by removing the unnecessary. Cut these filler words and your writing will immediately improve.

Empower yourself to ban the buzzwords.

Poor “empower.”

A word that once had so much meaning is now carelessly thrown around in business communications.

I mean, just look at this graph. From 1980 to now, the use of “empower” in publications has tripled.

Data from Google Ngram Viewer

Business writing is full of words like this:

  • World class
  • Circle back
  • Depth and breadth
  • Visionary
  • Disruptive
  • Innovate

While these terms are sometimes accurate for the situation, I’ve found that it’s more often a sign of lazy writing. These buzzwords tend to confuse or bore your reader.

Check out this handy “bizspeak blacklist” from Harvard Business Review for a list of words to ban from your vocabulary.

Read what you write.

Pretend that you’re the reader. Is your point clear and concise? Does it flow clearly from one idea to another? Or is it abrupt and confusing? Is the call to action obvious? Reading your work aloud can be incredibly helpful. You’ll quickly notice jarring sentence structures and words that trip up your reader.

Good writing is like music. It should have a rhythm. Watch what writing guru Gary Provost does here:

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.”

Reading your work out loud (or loudly in your head if you don’t want to interrupt your colleagues) will help you hear the music (or lack thereof) in your writing.

Read other people’s writing.

Finally, if you want to be a writer, you also need to be a reader. Don’t limit yourself to business books. Read novels, newspapers, blogs, longform journalism. As you read, take note of the writer’s style and structure. Think about ways you can apply these things to your own writing.

And don’t forget to enjoy it. After you apply these techniques, you may find that maybe writing isn’t so bad after all.

My Favorite Books About Writing

Check out these books for more advice on writing:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

HBR Guide to Better Business Writing

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

Ask a Project Manager: Should I Go Freelance?

“Dear Elizabeth: I’m unhappy in my current job. I think it’s time I made the leap into another company. The main reason behind my unhappiness is the lack of flexibility in my current role. I’m stuck at my desk all day. I’m thinking that freelancing as a project management consultant might be a good solution. What do you recommend I do?”

You’d actually be surprised at how often I get asked this, so you can at least take comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone!

There are two things you can do here:

  • Get more flexibility in your current role so you feel happier about staying.
  • Leave your job to do something else. (Don’t resign just yet! Read on first.)

Let’s talk about getting more flexibility first.

If you haven’t already, talk to your manager about flexible working. From working part-time or compressed hours (where you do a whole week of work in three or four days) to working remotely, there are plenty of situations that you could put before your boss.

Project management doesn’t lend itself particularly well to part-time working, but it can be done. (I do it.) It does, however, fit perfectly with the concept of working from home.

With a laptop, phone, and online project management tools, you can pretty much do your whole job from your kitchen table. You could ask your manager if they will let you do that one day a week.

Alternatively, you could try to argue the case for core hours, where you commit to being in between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (or whatever works for you both). Outside of that, you have flexible start and end dates.

This works well as long as they trust you to do the hours required and not simply work between 10 and 4 each day, which isn’t the point of it. It gives you flexible options for drop-offs and pick-ups from school, for example.

If trying to build flexibility into your current job isn’t going to work, then leaving might make you a lot happier. If you want to be able to take three months off a year, for example, then you’ll find that flexibility is more likely to work out in a contract role.

Contracting is often seen as a lucrative option, but it’s hard work. You don’t get paid holidays or sick leave. You only get paid when there is a contract, so you have to be good at managing money to make it through the times when you aren’t working. There is no company pension scheme to support you, and many of the other perks that employees are offered won’t be offered to you. In difficult economic times, contractors are the first out the door.

You might be okay with all of that financial stuff, but contractors also lose out in the friendship stakes. When you’re moving employers every year or so, it’s harder to make longer term, supportive relationships at work. You’ll probably end up working longer hours. More will be expected of you than of a permanent employee because day rates are higher, and you’re considered a specialist resource.

Having said all that, contracting can give you a lifestyle that you wouldn’t otherwise get. You can pick and choose your contracts, taking only the projects you feel are a good fit for your expertise. You can take a break between contracts, take every summer off, or whatever works for your family. You get variety in your work that salaried employees can’t. If you like a challenge and changing environments, this would be a perfect fit.

If you weigh up the pros and cons and decide to go with it, start thinking now about how to make the move.

You’ll need some people to give you work, so you’ll want to build a network of decision makers and budget holders. Start collecting references and testimonials from your clients and colleagues. Update your LinkedIn profile and your résumé. Make sure your professional qualifications are relevant and up-to-date, and if you don’t have any, start studying now.

It’s also worth doing some investigation now into the business set-up you’ll need to be able to operate as a contractor. You could work as a sole trader or set up your own business and charge yourself out from that. Or you could register with an agency and take interim, temporary positions within companies in that capacity. Look into what is going to be most tax efficient for you and the least admin overhead to maintain. You might need tools for tracking your time and billing your clients.

Start looking at the job profiles advertised for consultants, and brush up your skills if you notice that they’ve got something that you don’t have.

Set yourself a deadline. If you still feel like this at the end of the year, decide now what you’ll do to help move yourself toward your ultimate goal of contracting. Map out the steps you’ll need to accomplish before you can hand in your resignation. If you have a target date in mind, work backwards from there to create your timeline. Build up a contingency fund so that if you are out of work for a short time you aren’t going to worry about money.

Such a big job change merits thinking carefully about what it will mean for you and anyone who depends on you. It will be so much smoother and less stressful than quitting tomorrow and then panicking about how you are going to pay your bills next month.

It’s all beginning to sound like managing your career transition as a project to me…

Finally, please take all of these comments under advisement. I don’t know your professional background or your family situation, so ultimately you have to make the decision yourself. What’s right for you will feel right, so you’ll know when you’ve hit on a solution that’s going to work. Best of luck with your career shift!

4 Ways a Mentor Helps Move Your Career Forward

When you look at your resume, it’s easy to think of your experience in terms of years, title changes, pay increases―the substantial evidence of your career growth. But your growth as a professional is much more than just the numbers and titles changes. Our successes, failures, challenges, and even interpersonal relationships we build are the moments where actual growth occurs.

When I reflect on my previous jobs, I often think about the influential people that I worked with. In large part, my career growth is not due to moving up a career ladder at each new company. It was due to great mentors.

[Further Reading: How to Find a PM Mentor]

Looking back, there are two people who have had a great impact on my career growth. During my first week at a previous company, I was attending an in-depth product training with all of the trainers on my team. The senior trainers were Roberto and Lori, and I was assigned to work with them on developing a new training program for this product. Not knowing anything or anyone that first week, I listened and observed them a lot. I thought to myself, “These two are so fun and engaging! I’ll never be as good at training as they are.”

That was just the beginning of some great memories working with, and learning from, Roberto and Lori. I’ll share the specific ways that these two helped me move forward in my career because of their mentorship and coaching.

1. See things from a different perspective.

I remember a couple times when an email came through my inbox that really got to me. There may have been steam coming out of my ears.

Each time, I expressed my frustrations to Roberto, who was a great sounding board. But rather than simply assuaging my feelings, he challenged me on the assumptions I was making.

Roberto was often the one who would bring a neutral perspective to our team meetings, as well. When we would have a heated meeting and tensions were high, Roberto was great at helping us take a step back and analyze the other perspectives.

His example has made me more conscious of the way I work and interact with colleagues. In a globally connected society, one can learn a lot from mentors who bring a unique perspective because of their culture, age, gender, or expertise.

2. Observe leadership, communication, and management skills that you didn’t learn in college. 

I’ve gone to grad school, taken a management course, and read a lot of books on the subject. But, I don’t remember much of what I learned in that class!

What I do remember is watching my mentors handle difficult situations and emulating what I learned. I also asked to sit in meetings or trainings facilitated by my mentors. They were always willing to let me observe them in action.

Good mentors don’t just focus on how to uplift your skills and expertise as they relate to the technical aspects of your role. Just by working with Roberto, I’ve learned how to motivate teams in very unique ways. I remember one time, while many teams were having outings for the holidays, our team felt a little disconnected because we were spread across four different states.

Roberto’s solution? A virtual holiday party.

You’re probably thinking the same thing I did. So cheesy. So awkward. He had prepared a gameshow where we sent him pictures of our home offices, and we each had to guess which office belonged to whom. (Confession: Mine was the plywood board propped up in the closet.) It was a fun way to break the ice with our team and bring us into each other’s work space even though we were separated by distance. He even got our competitive spirits going. I’ve never had so much fun at a party, and it was entirely virtual!

I picked up a lot of good tips from Roberto that day, particularly how to think outside of the box! Being able to shadow your mentor and see them in action is a great way to see what you can have ready in your bag-of-tricks next time you need it.

3. Gain a new perspective on ways to develop your natural abilities.

Like most people, I’m my harshest critic. As a very analytical personality, I am different from most others who work in corporate training and education. Many trainers are very expressive, exciting, and crazy fun!

I used to think the way I delivered training was much less exciting than my colleagues. But over the years, I’ve found my analytical side can be a valuable asset.

Once, I was working with Lori to document a new process for training the sales team. As we worked, I noticed several issues that had potential to trip up the sales team. Through Lori’s coaching, I began to realize that what makes me different as a trainer is also the greatest asset that I bring to my role.

Having a mentor who encourages you to harness your natural abilities, rather than pointing out weaknesses, can help you make the most of your natural strengths.

4. Challenge yourself to try something new and take your career to the next level.

Mentors aren’t just there to give you fuzzy, warm feelings. They should also challenge you to do things that are out of your comfort zone.

I once attended a weeklong Change Management conference with Lori. At the end of the conference, three teams were chosen to present their change management plans. As luck would have it, our team was chosen to present.

Lori turned to me and said, “This is you girl. I’ve had many opportunities to present in front of large groups. This would be good for you.”

At first I thought, “Whaaaat? We’re a team. We should be sharing this responsibility together!” But after I got over my initial gut reaction, I knew she was right. Lori was pushing me to do something that might scare me, but she had confidence that I could do it.

Whether it’s holding you accountable to implement that new process, trying to new approach to manage a difficult employee, or pushing you to present at a national conference, a great mentor will look for experiences that challenge you to try new things, learn, and succeed.

Maybe you already have a colleague in your life who is a great mentor–that’s awesome! How have they helped you grow? Make sure to let them know! Who doesn’t like hearing how they’ve made a difference in someone’s life?

If you never had a mentor, maybe this article has encouraged you to find one. If so, check out this post from PM expert on Elizabeth Harrin about finding the right mentor for you.