Calling herself a “professional project untangler”, Kim Wasson sums up years of experience consulting with teams in program management, project management, process management, and quality assurance in this podcast episode.
Kim has developed deep expertise in software development methodologies and agile processes—and she has witnessed the impact of socially intelligent teams time and time again.
In this episode, Kim explains what social intelligence is, why it’s important, and practical examples showing how to use socially intelligent practices as a project manager.
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- Article explaining the key skills for your project management resume
- Article showing how to give feedback to team members
- Podcast about building trust with clients
- Article about designing workflows that factor in your team’s preferences
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- Article explaining ways to build high performance teams
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Ben Aston: Listen to this statistic. Only 30 percent of your technology projects are actually going to succeed. So if we flip that around, that means that 70 percent of your projects are probably going to fail. Now, if you want to do something about that, you can increase that probability of success. And we’re going to talk about today’s technical expertise no longer being enough.
Project managers need more than just the technical expertise and those hard skills to lead their teams in order to stop their projects from failing and to have your projects succeed. We need some soft skills. We need strong soft skills. But will all those skills, while all those soft skills and how do we put them into practice? We’ll keep listening to today’s podcast about social intelligence.
Thanks for tuning in. My name is Ben Aston. I am a digital project manager. And I want to thank you for joining this first-ever videocast that we’re doing. We want a mission to help digital project managers succeed, to help digital project managers get more confident, get skilled, and get connected. And if you want to find out more about that, head to thedigitalprojectmanager.com where you can find out what about the online training and resources that we offer through our Membership.
So today I’m joined by Kim Wasson. And Kim has worked in various different software organizations, including IBM, eBay, you’ve probably heard of before. And now she’s a consultant. She consults at IvyBay, if you want to check her out. And she offers consulting services for project managers, program managers. And really, she’s trying to help project managers succeed. She’s trying to help protect stop failing the whole time.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about project failure. We’re going to talk about her book, which I have here with me. And it’s called The Socially Intelligent Project Manager: Soft Skills That Prevent Hard Days. And we want to prevent hard days. So I think this is going to be a good conversation. So hello Kim and thank you so much for joining us today.
Kim Wasson: Thank you for having me.
Ben Aston: So I’m curious just to understand a bit more about kind of your day job. Obviously, you’ve just written a book, which is great. But in terms of the IvyBay Consulting that you do, helping project managers succeed and coaching people, what does that what does your day job look like?
Kim Wasson: It’s varied. I still do work with clients and do project management, and I do a lot of work with startups trying to get past basically the chasm where everybody’s a hero and into doing projects. And that’s a lot of what I’m doing right now. Sometimes big companies and I do a lot of coaching for project managers, both new project managers, in my experience, project managers.
It’s a broad range. But I mean, some of it’s on the process side, especially new project managers. Right? They don’t know all the pieces of my experience. Project managers, it’s usually the people side that’s giving them trouble. So, yeah.
Ben Aston: So I am interested in that kind of startup environment that you’re talking about, which I think everyone thinks is super exciting. Maybe things are a bit fast and loose, but what do you find is what are the kind of typical challenges that these startups or younger organizations have in kind of getting things to actually happen, getting things out the door.
Kim Wasson: Things at the start, in the beginning, a startup, everybody’s a hero, right? I mean, that’s they get things done through heroes. And it’s a hard thing to back out of. Everything’s moving fast. People feel like they don’t have time for processes and then they suck up a whole lot of time trying to coordinate with each other once they get past the point where that’s that’s actually anything, like, scalable.
So that’s the biggest problem really, is getting people to stop long enough to coordinate a little bit. I don’t come in with a huge amount of process. I can grow, come in with processes. But actually getting that first toehold, the company that I’m working with now, one of the managers I got on the phone with him and he said, you know, I really didn’t like this process stuff when I was told we were going to do it. But, boy, this really helps and I want to do more. It’s nothing like a convert to help you get through it.
Ben Aston: Yeah, I think the process is so often seen as a block to delivery. That’s like, well, hey, if you know, we’re getting stuff done where, you know, everyone’s burning the midnight oil and, you know, we’re seeing some movement and they mistake movement as a success, not realizing the inefficiency of the way that they’re working. So I think, yeah, that to start with, implementing some process can be incredibly helpful.
Kim Wasson: Yeah. And a lot of that’s one of the places that the people management, you know, the people side of stuff really comes in, goes I have to convince them that they can take a breath and go and talk about what they’re doing instead of just diving.
Ben Aston: Yes, certainly, let’s talk weather. How do you coach project managers or people who manage projects who maybe feel like, you know, the delivery team doesn’t maybe want your input, particularly you’ve been brought in that? But what does good coaching look like? How do you help people realize have that kind of light bulb moment? Oh, maybe there is a better way of doing this.
Kim Wasson: Usually, I cover some groundwork first so they have a few tools because it’s a lot easier, I find for people especially really process-oriented project managers to have something that feels like a process to work with people which, you know, it’s like nailing Jello to a tree. Right. I mean, it just keeps moving around. But lay some groundwork and then I haven’t come in with problems, whatever is on their mind.
And we start to talk through how we can apply the tools and what I’ve seen and what they think will work in their environment. And usually one or two times of that. And having it actually work is is pretty motivating. All right. People are listening because you’re talking to them in a way that that they can take in easily.
Ben Aston: And so you mentioned tools there. What is the kind of tools that you’re talking about?
Kim Wasson: There are a few that that are my favorites. Learning styles are one of my absolute favorite tools. So that’s one that everyone takes in information. And in a lot of different ways. But everyone has one the easiest for them out of five major ones. And so once you figure out whether the phone call is going to do it or they don’t want to see you, they just want to answer your email or, you know, you’ve got to draw a picture or they’re not going to read something once you figure that out.
You could tailor your communications to each of the individual people. And we all go for what’s easiest. Right. We’re all really busy. So if you can communicate with someone in the way that’s most comfortable for them to take in, you go to the top of their list because you’re easy.
Ben Aston: Good stuff. And so, I mean, that’s just a tool that we can use in our own teams as project managers. So for anyone who’s listening and thinking, hey, communication with my team seems to be tough. People seem to be ignoring me. People aren’t using the channels that I want them to use.
I mean, a communication plan can be helpful, but understanding people’s styles that they like to communicate can be super helpful in making sure that we’re communicating with people in the way that they want to be communicated to. So that’s super helpful.
Now, I always like to ask people who come on in terms of software, project management software, if there’s any well, and anything that they found recently that they thought was super helpful or useful or innovative. Have you discovered anything recently that piques your interest?
Kim Wasson: Not a lot. And people are obviously video conferencing. All my years of video conferencing is good. Have finally come back because we’re learning all of the video conferencing tools and those are really helpful. I did find something recently. I found two tools, little tools, little free tools.
One is called Menti. And you know, the surveys like when you do it when I’m in a conference, I love to do surveys, ask a question and then people can answer, you know, without fear. Right. Because they’re just typing it in on their phone. So that’s a fun thing. So that you can you can get people’s opinions without them being afraid to speak up because you don’t know who’s you know, you give them some choices.
And the other is a pat is called pallette. And it’s like a sticky note board. So you can have everybody putting stuff up and commenting and different. It’s a really slick, easy thing to use. So for the situation, we’re in now, particularly where everybody, everybody is managing remotely, those are two tools that I’ve really I’m really enjoying.
Ben Aston: Yeah. They sound like interesting tools. I like the way that. I mean, these are tools that democratize the conversation. And I think so often in video conferencing. And in this kind of remote world work that we’re working with right now. If I think it favors people who are louder and more verbose.
So, yeah, tools that can help democratize that conversation and give people an opportunity can contribute perhaps when they are not so comfortable, confident, or comfortable about speaking out. I think it’s super, super, super useful.
Kim Wasson: Getting all your team bought in, killing, you know like they’re part of the team. Yeah. Exactly.
Ben Aston: Definitely. So Kim was in an awesome post and you can check it out on thedigitalprojectmanager.com. The post is called How to Avoid and Survive Catastrophic Project Failure. I don’t know if your listeners have had much catastrophic project failure. I certainly have. But the project, the Post itself outlines some basics for avoiding project failure and managing risk and then dives into surviving the project failure.
What do you do when you realize your project is failing? And this is really clear a point action plan for getting your project back on track at that point that you realize that things are way off track. So you can find the post. Well, we’ll say that in the show, Next, and you’ll find it on the digital project manager.
But in the conversation today, I want to take this conversation, I guess, a level up a bit and talk about the traits we need as project managers or people managing projects to put this project failure, avoidance, and process into action. And this is a topic that Kim has written about in her book. I’ll show you again. It’s called The Socially Intelligent Project Manager. It’s soft skills that prevent hard days. But I mean, let’s talk about this book to start with. I mean, what made you want to write the book in the first place?
Kim Wasson: I’m kind of enamored with the whole people’s side of things. I started out, like most project managers with the whole “I could do Gantt charts and if everybody would just do their job, we would be good. I shouldn’t have to nag.” But we all know if we didn’t have to nag, we wouldn’t even have jobs. Right. I mean, a part of it is reminding people what it is that they’re supposed to do.
And as I started to kind of coalesce, especially with the consulting on, you know, what do I do that other people really aren’t doing? It was this. And so I started the coaching. I mean, I just really liked the topic. And I feel like it’s project managers. It’s really been ignored. And that’s our job is getting things done through people. So without people, we don’t have a project. So I want to share it.
I want I’d like people to be happy. I like to work with happy people. And that’s one of the things that drew me to this. I think the industry really needs it. And then I was speaking on it. PMI conference and a publisher sense up to it. But for me. So that’s kind of it was the agenda. It was important to me, not important enough to try to self publish because that’s really hard.
But when I had the opportunity, I absolutely jumped at it because I just as I said, I feel like it’s needed. And I wanted to get out of the theory which I do understand. But its theory’s nice, but it doesn’t help you get the job done. So I really wanted to do a baseline theory. And then here are the tools.
Ben Aston: Yeah, and I think that’s what’s so great about the book. It’s very practical. It is a great practical guide. That’s yet not full of theory and documentation. You need to create and process to follow in the heavy sense. But more of a kind of a guide. But I want to kind of talk about this.
I mean, everyone’s heard, I think, probably about emotional intelligence. I think what you don’t hear about so much is this idea of social intelligence. So, I mean, let’s talk about social vs. emotional intelligence. You’ve obviously written about social intelligence, emotional intelligence. EQ is very popular. But what does social intelligence, SQ, look like to you? And why do you think it’s important for project managers?
Kim Wasson: Well, as I go through it, so the same person did the research on both of them and some of the same research was used. So emotional intelligence is really you know, it’s part of what’s in the book. It’s the one on one stuff. It’s what you initiate. But social intelligence is more networking and the connections between people and for project managers. We need emotional intelligence.
We need to set up our relationships with the people that we’re working with. But we need to get our team to be functional. And that’s understanding and managing the connections among the members of the team as well as our own one on one outwardly driven focus on our individual team members.
Ben Aston: Yeah, and I think that’s is so true. Yeah. Most project management theory I see seems the team is just say something that the functions and there’s not a lot of emphasis really on what you’re talking about, which is, you know, Asana p.m. with so often for enabling conversations to happen. And I always find it surprising, you know, when you have to say, have you spoken to so-and-so about this? Right.
And they have no, they haven’t talked to me yet. And that. Well, why, why? Why do we talk to them? And it’s amazing how many times a day as a project manager, that is your job is to enable a conversation to happen. And it might feel like you’re babysitting and it might feel like, hey, people should be able to do this themselves. But actually, as the project manager, I kind of think of it as this kind of hub and spoke.
You don’t want to actually. Well, you don’t want all conversations and communication to flow through you. But as the kind of hub with one that enables and facilitates in some way, which I think is so important at work where communication is happening on the team, that that team is going to be far more effective. But in your book, you talk about you need to know your team before you can motivate them.
And you have to motivate them before you can manage them. So that’s a bit this process, knowing them, before you motivate them, motivating them before you can manage them. So, I mean, tell us how well what you find works for knowing your team. How do you get to the point where you can I mean, we’ve talked about learning styles. Are there any other tools that you use to help you kind of know your team?
Kim Wasson: Absolutely. And the learning styles actually are kind of secondary cause I have to know the individuals on my team before I understand their learning styles. So I spent time with them individually. I get a lot of gasps when I tell people I, a minimum of half an hour every other week with each person on your team is what I recommend. And I try to do an hour week, set it up when it’s their time.
That’s not where they give you status. It’s not where you tell them they’re doing something wrong. It’s not where you give them new tasks. It’s where they tell you what is on their mind. And I have some leading questions and I never let them get away with I don’t have anything to talk about because it’s never true. I mean, people are busy and they think it’s a waste of time, but it’s where I get information on where I cement that relationship.
And we build trust and we start to get to know each other. So there really is no substitute for spending time with people on your team, whether it’s me now, it’s all video and audio. But it makes a difference. And in this environment, I tried to do it by video first. Even for people who aren’t really comfortable with that. So that just so that we have an idea of what we look like and how we speak and can start to put a tone of voice together with the expressions on people’s faces.
So then you can go to audio and you actually understand what’s going on with them. But that’s you know, that’s the ongoing you can trust me. I’m not going to tell people what you’re telling me here. If you have a problem with someone on the team, I’m not going to go tell you that you said you had a problem. This is where, you know, this is just your time to tell me what you want. So that’s the first thing that I do.
And then I, you know, stop by when you can when we are not in this environment is. Usually the best way someone starts to do this, then, you know, you don’t really want to show up in their office on an unannounced. But in general, just stopping by without an agenda is a great way for.
If you have a new news team, it’s just stopping by and saying hi and you know, you wanna go get some coffee or something that does not about tell me your status. So that’s the first step. That is is actually spending the time you have to put in the time and you have to keep putting in the time you establish a relationship. But they don’t just stay steady, state. You have to keep it going. Yeah.
Ben Aston: Yeah. I think I mean, I love this idea of connecting with people without an agenda. I used to have, you know, scheduled walkies time. That’s what I would call it. And it’s. Yeah. Is walking the corridors, seeing who you bump into, and being intentional about making kind of connections with people like the water cooler connections, bumping into deliberately bumping into people I think can be can be super useful when we’re just trying to because I ask project managers, we need to understand where a project is at.
In order to lead the project in it and in order to get that understanding, yeah, we need that kind of those formal insights. But we also need those informal insights because they are going to inform things like how we manage risk, how we manage the team, and deploy the resources that we have effectively. But I want to loop back to you mentioned leading questions.
You have a few leading questions. I wonder if you could share any leading questions you ask people when you’re having those more intentional meetings. Why are you just checking in with people? What are some of the things that you asked them?
Kim Wasson: I guess sometimes they just. General, how are you feeling? How do you think about the project’s going? What do you think about the company? You’re looking at the market. If I’ve established a good relationship, I’ll start with what did you do last weekend? Because that will lead to all kinds of interesting information. So I have a whole just a whole list of general open-ended. You can’t know yes or no.
There are no yes or no answers for this, right? You can do it. Actually, I’ve asked a person that I’ve been coaching for years who came on this thing. I think of it as a mood ring, which is, you know, how are you feeling today? Are you cranky? Are you whatever? Just, you know, to get them talking about why they might be feeling the way that they’re feeling, which might not have anything to do with work.
But that’s OK because that’s still relationship building and trust and knowing what’s going on with them and whether you want to, you know, steer them clear of things that are going to to be nonproductive in that mood.
So I think I can’t wait to try that one out. She doesn’t do mood ring, but I’m thinking I’m just gonna send Cutlers out to people. But, you know, just open-ended about them. How are you feeling about this stuff or what did you do last weekend or? Occasionally I do the superhero question, you know, just I haven’t done it before.
Ben Aston: That’s great. And I mean, the process you talk about is knowing people before that you can motivate them and then motivating them for you can manage them. So once we know them well, you know, we’ve spent time with our team. We’re casually bumping into them.
We are setting these regular meetings where we’ve getting to know them as people, getting to understand what motivates them, what’s going on in their lives. How do you leverage that to find ways to motivate people without throwing money at.
Kim Wasson: Yeah. Money. Money is not a great motivator. I mean, money. It is a great motivator for a little tiny period of time. Although there was a study that said, I think two years before, it totally goes away. But when I was at IBM years ago, they did a study and they said that that that the increase in motivation and satisfaction that happens from a race lasts for two to four pay periods.
So meaning even if people are motivated by money, we don’t have a whole lot of leeway as project managers to do that. So if that’s the only thing that motivates them, then, you know, the best we can do is good reviews. But usually, that’s not really the top thing. Some people are motivated by teaching.
For example, I noticed this in my book, but and you want to give them somebody they can teach whether somebody already knows something or not. And it’s not that they think the person is stupid, but that’s usually how the person that they’re teaching takes it, right. So you want to watch people who do that? Who are who are constantly.
Trying to impart new information and find ways to allow them to do that without annoying the rest of your team. Give them an intern. Let them research something new to present to the team. Let them present somewhere outside the team. So a lot of observation that that question about what did you do that gives you an enormous amount of information.
If they spent their weekend whitewater rafting and the next weekend they spent at rock climbing. You know that there’s some adrenaline there, right, that you want to be able to give them if they are spending their weekends with family? Probably, you know, some time off, a little bit extra time off is a good thing. Let them go home. You know, don’t overload them so that they can’t spend time with their family.
So a lot of it some of this observation and some of it is is is that kind of questions. So the more you get to know them, you just point your questions a little more. And the hero exercise that I find really fun is and it’s fun to do in a group, too, because then everybody gets to hear it is asking someone who’s their hero and that can be real or imagined, doesn’t matter.
Or if that makes them uncomfortable. Who do you? Who do you admire and why? And that gives you all kinds of stuff, you know? I mean, I’ve had the, you know, the Superman Batman conversation with people where people who like Batman, a lot of times it’s because he does it all himself. He’s got no superpowers. Right. He can just do it. And Superman, you know, he’s humble and he uses his powers for good. And, you know, it just but sometimes it’s real people.
Right. And I don’t remember if it was in the book that James Gosling interview, that was it saying to me, James Gosling was the inventor of Java language. He worked on Sun. I had friends working at Sun when I was getting my master’s degree. So I went to interview him for a project I had on my calendar and then just left work for an hour and went and interviewed him, came back and all these.
It was Gen Xers at the time. They were waiting at my office door to hear what the great man had to say. If I hadn’t already known them pretty well. That really would have told me that they want that, you know, the bleeding edge stuff. They want to change things and they admire people who can bring about that kind of change. So the hero exercise is actually a really good one to get to vote. Ovation in a fun way.
Ben Aston: That’s cool. And what’s your take? There’s obviously a plethora of tests that people can do with this Myers, Briggs, or any gram. Do you ever use those with your teams as well to try and understand and how to? Yeah. What might motivate them to motivate them?
Kim Wasson: I do, but I use them cautiously. And I find if I use it with one person on my team, everybody wants to do it. So that’s a nice thing because it helps your team understand more about each other. But you have to be really careful not to pigeonhole people based on those tests. Right. That’s you know, it. If you’re and if you’re on the edge, I don’t know you. If you’ve done them.
But I like Meyers Briggs. I’m like right in the middle on two of them. If I’m in a different mood, I can have a different resolve an hour later. It is people who pay clear to one end of of of scales typically don’t change a whole lot. But it’s a good conversation starter. It’s a good way to ask questions to help your team kind of get to know each other. Yeah.
Ben Aston: Yeah. And I think that is ultimate, you know, going back to the point of this issue which where we started, which is, hey, we want to be facilitating an enabling conversation to happen and kind of taking down the barriers. Fundamentally, what we need to practice is communication. So any way that we can do that and not rely on third-party tools to somehow provide a shortcut for us, I think is super important, because even if we know, OK, well, you’re an anagram five or whatever it might be, that doesn’t tell me.
That doesn’t actually tell me what I need to communicate exactly to you. It just means, hey, well, you know, you might have a tendency to look upon things maybe a bit more despondently than someone else. But, hey, it comes down to actually facilitating that conversation. So, I mean, going on to know the point where we’re managing people than we’ve understood.
We know our team understanding what motivates them. I guess we’re kind of getting on to them now, managing people. Well, what would you say are the secrets for you for managing a high-performance team? Well, I mean, we’ve talked about communication. And I know I know in the book you talk about accountability. But talk us through these kinds of secrets for high performance. How do we get our team to get to that next level of performance?
Kim Wasson: There are actually a lot of tools available, but I think the underlying main piece of groundwork that I want to lay is that everybody on the team is important. If we didn’t need them on the team, they wouldn’t be on the team. The company wouldn’t be paying for them on the team. So that means
I need to listen to my intern just as much as I listen to my architect. They are all important. I need to show them. I need to believe it. I need to show them that. And I need to encourage that kind of behavior first. So the first thing is recognizing that everyone is important. So everyone has a part to play. And teams really need to do that.
One of my favorite illustrations is this is a scene from the movie Stripes. It’s an old movie, Unlove if you’ve ever seen it, but it’s a bunch of misfits in the army. And they’re gonna have to go through basic training again if they can’t do the exercises the next morning in their fighting. They’re physically fighting. It’s 2:00 in the morning. And Bill Murray is is the lead in this. And he manages not only to get them to stop fighting, but he finds common ground. We aren’t stupid enough to join the army.
And we’re soldiers. All right. We wait. And then he goes on to who’s seen the movie Old Yeller, who cried when Old Yeller died. So suddenly all these guys are putting their hands up and they have this common ground. We all cried when that dog died and Old Yeller. Right. So that’s probably not common ground that we want to find. But finding that common ground so that your team feels like they’re special, they’re a group team identity helps a whole lot.
Once you know your team and see how they work together, you can use that for shirts and Chomsky’s and headers on your reports and Web pages and whatever like that. The ninja team of project managers who got in got out, got cut out, had lots of projects that they were juggling, or where it wasn’t that they were invisible. What they worked so well that everything ran smoothly.
And so we could do all kinds of stuff within inches. The finished project, get a little ninja. You know, it’s just a team identity is another big, big tool. But you have to watch him work first. You can’t just randomly pick something and. Let’s see, so there was the team, it’s personally, personally important to me, go on back to the Google piece. That’s the motivation, right? That’s how you make it personally meaningful to each person.
And there was a big piece on. We feel like we as a team can depend on each other and we can float new ideas without embarrassment. So creating an environment and that is really important. This is the whole team building, right? Not only do I build trust individually, and that’s kind of emotional intelligence, but I work to have an environment where the people on the team can trust to do it.
And that works within the culture. I mean, when I work with eastern Ukraine, it’s it was really jarring, to begin with, because they yell at each other in meetings like they had you know, they have a blond wig for whoever did something stupid. And I’m like, oh, my God. But that’s the culture. And that’s OK. They do all that. Nobody cares. It’s good. I haven’t worked anywhere else, but that’s really, really OK.
But still being able to trust. So you gotta teach everybody to be. Kind. Right. But it’s OK to point out where something could be better there. There are a lot of moving pieces. But there are a lot of small tools that you can use and make small steps to get your team feeling like they are an entity. They know you don’t want to be hit so hard that nobody feels like they can break in and be part of your team or work with it.
But that common identity makes a huge difference because they’re all and they’re working toward the goal. Right. So you want a team, which is people working toward a goal. You don’t want to be doing their own thing and which is everybody with a common interest. That’s not where you’re going. You have a goal. You’re trying to get to.
Ben Aston: Come through for me. Is this idea that I talked about this a lot is the idea that actually as you were describing this high performing team, you know, you’re describing a unit of people who understand the vision, understand the goals, understand one another, communicating effectively. There’s a vision. People understand what they need to do to get there.
These things are clear. There’s clarity, there’s unity. And I think so often we forget. I think that project management is a leadership role. And in order to help for all these things to happen, in order for the for people to see the vision clearly, in order to create that team unit where people feel like they’re part of something, in order for people to know, you know, I have clarity around those next steps.
This all requires leadership. And I mean, talk to me about how you see that kind of project management vs. project leadership dynamic playing out. Oh, kind of what you advise to people when you know it’s project managers will often lead people effectively who are senior to us. How do you want to? What are some kinds of tools and techniques?
We can use maybe more junior people to help manage these people who you know, we know that line manager. But in this Matrix organization where we’re leading them, which we’re trying to cast a vision, get people to, what are some things that we can do to help get Buy-In from the team?
Kim Wasson: We can ask them. This is not all about us doing things. It’s not about us setting a schedule. It’s not about us, you know, identifying risks all by ourselves. You need to ask people on your team, you have a whole team of people. I start out right away with the risk stuff. What are you worried about? I don’t say what are the risks, because it’s to project manage-y. but I say, what are you worried about with this project?
And we start to get risks together, for example. So I do things with my whole team and I figure out what each person. Everybody’s good at something. Your intern is good at stuff. You’re right. They may not be good at something that’s good at some of the technical stuff, but they’re going to be good at something else. I work really hard to try to figure out what each person is good at and publicize that on the team.
You know, if you have to put together a slide deck, here’s the person who can absolutely help you do that. You got to Java question. Here’s the person who’s the expert. And actually, a lot of times I’ll put that up on an Internet page. Here’s the expert. So that helps with everybody’s important. It’s a way from you know, I think I have all the answers and more about.
I’m gonna get us to the answers and sometimes, you know, sometimes I’m gonna be really pushy and sometimes I’m gonna be the kind of be mom, right? Sometimes it’s gonna be. No, we just have to do it. I don’t have a good answer for it, but I had a good answer. I’d give it to you, but I don’t. So we just have to do it. Management four levels up say do it. We’re gonna do it. And I’m honest about those kinds of things.
I mean, I’m not so transparent. I don’t bad mouth my management. But if I can’t affect something that I know my team doesn’t like, I tell them I can’t, you know, and I don’t know that my boss can affect it. It’s coming from somewhere. And I have tools that I give my project managers, I coach how to how to disagree with your boss without making it a career-limiting move.
And so I use all of those tools and make sure my team knows that I’m using them and I’m on their side. And we’re all trying to get the project out the door. So the leadership is not telling people what to do. In some ways, it’s showing people how to feel and how to act. Right. So that’s why we never get show that we’re panicking. It’s like the duck group calm on the surface.
If we panic, everyone on the team is going to decide it’s time to panic. So we want to be in a position where people look to us for information and give us information. But also look to us for that mood ring thing. What should I be caring about now? Right. Are we gonna push on the schedule? OK. You’re telling me I trust you.
And you know, you’re going to ask me how we can fix this. And give me some suggestions and we’re gonna work as a team. So I see myself as project managers, part of the team, not outside of the team, not me. I have a role that has a lot of directing in it, but I am still part of the team.
Ben Aston: Yeah. Now, I want to kind of lead back to one of the things that we started. One of the comments I think you started without, which was one about, you know, why can’t people just do what I asked them to do? And in the book you talk about, that’s because, you know, their understanding of their job is not necessarily the same as my understanding of their job.
We have these different perspectives on what someone’s job is. And their priorities, therefore, are not the same as my priorities. So there’s kind of misalignment there. I just want to kind of tactically talk. Shawn, how do you make your priorities, their priorities? Talks about communication. But often, you know, we’re talking about this. You know, sometimes this is not a particularly good reason. It’s just that we’ve been told to do it. We have to do it. You know, the client wants it.
The stakeholders want it. Management says it. But people, you know, as self-interested people often have their own priorities. So what are some of the things that we can do as project managers to help people shift their priorities, to be the priorities that we want them to be so that we can get projects out the door?
Kim Wasson: It’s a really good question. I think a lot of it ties into understanding them and what motivates them. And so getting them in the course of what you need them to do, getting them some of what motivates them, even if you’re projecting, feel what you’re worried that there’s a little bit a schedule risk and letting someone try something new, someone, you know, working at a piece of technology that they haven’t worked in before, even though you have an expert on a team.
If you give a little like that, then you get a lot back because you’ve given in to their personal priorities. But I also talked to people about what else are you doing? Because a lot of times I find managers give people all kinds of assignments that I don’t know about. And if I give them a chance to tell me that, you know, I’m doing this rush job for this. This person. Then I can adjust my schedule or go talk to the person that gave them the rush job and talk about priorities. Is that more important than this project schedule? If it is, that’s good.
Send me an email. I want it in writing that, but actually, that’s where the relationship comes into play a lot. Are they trusting you enough for, you know, when you say, what else are you working on? You know, what’s keeping you from doing? This is another good question because sometimes it’s not other work. Sometimes. Sometimes they don’t have what they need to do it. Sometimes the requirements aren’t clear.
Sometimes they need some help with, you know, some education, class, training, mentorship, something that keeps them from doing it. And my opening salvo for this is often to use the confidence factor, which is another really simple tool that I find works exceedingly well, and that is asking people, for example, a force for a task schedule, this estimate. How confident are you that this estimate is right? Tell me between zero and a hundred percent because people don’t like to say, I can’t do that. I don’t have enough information.
But they will say I think I’m about 20 percent confident. And then, you know, there’s a problem. It’s like, OK, why? You know, what makes it not confident, and what makes it not work for you? And what can I do to drive that confidence level up that helps you in contingency planning to write to you? You get people with low confidence and things you can’t fix, like unclear requirements that No one. You know, that you’re not able to get clarity on.
But in general, that’s another really good tools confidence factor, because no one has to say I can’t do that. Or, you know, someone else estimated that I’m not as good as they are or whatever. They can just tell you that they’re not really confident that that’s going to happen. So that’s just another tool.
Ben Aston: Yeah, that that’s super handy. So for someone who’s kind of being half listening to this and thinking about, OK, well, let’s take it right back to the beginning. you know, I’ve been trying to develop my emotional intelligence. I’m trying to develop my soft skills as a project manager. Now, I’m I you know, I want to develop my social intelligence. We’ve been talking a lot about communication and kind of engaging ourselves with the team, understanding, being a facilitator, opening up the communication channels.
But what would you do for someone who’s new to thinking through this, maybe feeling a bit apprehensive about? OK, I suddenly have to talk to all these people. What’s one bit of advice that you would give someone who wants to improve their social intelligence skills? What’s one kind of easy first step to becoming more socially intelligent?
Kim Wasson: An easy first step. Once you understand the learning styles, there are only five of them. An easy first step is just to make a list of who’s on your team and when they pay attention to you. Do they read your e-mails? Do they pick up the phone the first time. If you send them a lot of words, do they not do it? Do they need pictures? That’s usually my first step is, you know, how do I even start communicating with them?
How do I do this team building if I don’t know in information? Why, you know, how they want to take. How am I going to get them to be okay? Spending time with me and pay attention to what I’m sending to them. That’s absolutely the first step, is getting them, you know, getting on the same wavelength, the same. And I think it’s a pretty easy thing to do. You can observe really quickly.
Ben Aston: I think it’s such a great simple first step. Just get to know your team. Observe. Make sure that are you are understanding how well what’s working and what’s not working and being honest with yourself about evaluating where you’re at. And I think often the temptation can be to, as a project manager, think it’s everyone else’s responsibility to decode will messaging when actually as a project manager, I think we have a massive responsibility to make sure that we are understood and make sure that we are also understanding correctly as well. So thinking about optimizing that, I think is a great first step and a great way to start. So, Kim, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been great having you with us.
Kim Wasson: Thank you for having me.
Ben Aston: And I’d love to know what you who are watching or listening to think of this as well. I’d love to know what are your hack’s tips and tricks for social intelligence? What do you find? Words to build really successful high performing teams. How have you what techniques have you used to get your team engaged in the project to get your team on the right track, communicating effectively with one another and getting them performing well? I’d love to know.
Let us know in the comments below. I’d also love to know your failed stories of project failure and success as well. What’s the cause of the failure and why did they succeed? Let us know. And if you want to learn more and get ahead in your work, come and join our tribe with DPM Membership head to thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership.
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