The #1 characteristic of a great teammate #WinnipegJets #Pavelec

ondrej-pavelec-by-clint-trahan

I was watching a recent Winnipeg Jets game when I was reminded about the #1 characteristic of a great teammate.

Connor Hellebuyck was anointed as the starting goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets this year. He had a great season in the AHL last year. He had all of the great reviews as he moved through the various levels of hockey. The Winnipeg Jets had grown tired of Andrej Pavelec and his inconsistent play over the last few years. With Pavelec’s contract expiring at the end of this year, the writing was on the wall that a switch was going to be made sooner or later.

Resiliency

But we saw play from Hellebuyck that was very similar to Pavelec. Inconsistent, with a bad goal given up almost every night. Both goalies also had pure gems of games that could get you hoping of what the future could hold. But when Hellebuyck got pulled in three straight games in January, you saw a difference between the two goalies. And then when Pavelec came up to the big club and started three straight games and won you again saw the difference.

Various radio shows called it something different – ‘timely saves’ was the term most commonly used. Whatever the term, Pavelec may give up the bad goal, but then didn’t give up the next goal. He fought through the shots and kept his team in the game. And his team knew that Pavelec would fight to prevent the next goal and keep them in the game. We was a fighter and it was hard to get the ‘next’ goal on him.

Ondrej Pavelec has Resiliency that Connor Hellebuyck doesn’t have yet. The Winnipeg Jets players know that and due to that, they play better in front of Pavelec because it gives them confidence to play their game. They don’t need to worry about making a bad play, because Pavelec will overcome it if it happens. It is a larger worry making a mistake in front of a goalie where it may open the floodgates. Because of that you hold your stick a bit tighter and ironically make more mistakes.

Summary

Resiliency is the #1 characteristic of a great teammate. That trait in a teammate that they are resolute, plucky, committed, able to rebound and recover. We all make mistakes, but those people who take a shot, dust themselves off and stand tall are the special teammates we all want on our team. Give me a resilient craftsman over a fragile artisan every day.

Another example of Pavelec’s Resiliency is how he took his demotion with class and professionalism. Resilient teammates accept decisions made for the good of the team, confident in their abilities and committed to rebounding and proving themselves when the opportunity arises.

I hope Connor Hellebuyck can build these characteristics. But until then, I’d start Pavelec.

Why #Goalies make the best Project Managers and Leaders #PMOT

Penney_History

I was driving with my brother back from a family event and we started talking about the upcoming Jets and Flames hockey seasons. After some speculating on free agent signings, we started to talk about the qualities of good Project Manager and Leaders. That balance good leaders have between being persistent and committed and being able to admit a mistake and change course. There is a whole continuum of leaders that give in too quickly and some that never give in at all. What makes once person able to move on quicker than another?

We agreed that while we aren’t sure where those points are for every situation,  but we did agree on one thing. If you have been a goalie, you will find that point easier than other people. Here are the five reasons your next leader or Project Manager should be a goalie.

Goalies know they can’t win by themselves – focus on the project

No matter how good a goalie is, they can’t win games by themselves. This helps immensely to keep egos in check. They know they need forwards to score goals and defenceman to help keep goals out of their own net. More than any other position, you are brutally aware on how the entire team is needed.

In addition, your role as a Goalie is to give the rest of the team confidence as well. The rest of the team should not have to worry about bad goals in our own goal. Our team should have the freedom to challenge and rush when the opportunity arises.

Goalies know that the focus needs to be on the wins and not the goals. It is about the project and not the tasks.

Goalies know you can’t win them all – look forward

Goalies are perfectionists in their craft and in all things except having a good memory. Goalies are also extremely forgiving with their teammates and their mistakes. This provides an interesting dichotomy. I am a perfectionist until that pucks is in the net, then I need to be able to wipe the slate clean and move on. Usually there is a quick re-evaluation process and then you need to move on. This requires a short memory and a good amount of confidence.

Even more, Goalies understand that the games is made up of 20-30 mini-games and they need to be ready for the next one. You can’t get too high or too low.

Bad decisions and mistakes are part of the game. Everyone makes them so it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time on persecuting the guilty. Fish the puck out and move on….

Goalies know about perfect shots or deflections – don’t over plan, over analyze

You can have the perfect angle and sometimes a shot is going to beat you or is going to be deflected. That is just life and it is no ones fault. Good Goalies spend minimal time looking backward and almost all their time looking forward.

This also help Goalies to not over plan. People can over plan or over analyze because their believe it will increase the chances of success. Goalies realize that even if you spend two weeks working on something, a deflection is still likely. Rather than spending all that time planning, spend time on how you will recover because you know a deflection is going to happen.

Goalies realize communication is the key – communicate

For those of you that haven’t been on ice level, Goalies are probably the chattiest players on the ice. Always chirping our information to the defencemen – ‘time’ , ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘point’, ‘DUCK’

Goalies realize the key is rebound control – deal with issues immediately

Goalies and Project Managers and Leaders realize that issues happen. What they all realize is that it doesn’t matter how or why the issue arose, just how can we get it resolved. Having an issue is not a bad thing, booting the issue around in front of the net for 3 or 4 shots is a bad thing and will lead to a goal.

Find the issue, locate the issue, cover the damn thin up a get a whistle.

Goalies guide projects to where they want them to go – minimize risk

When I played a lot, I had a great glove hand. My brother had great lower body reflexes. So what did we do? We showed more or less to influence the shots to go to our strengths.

Similarly, a great Project Manager or leader will guide the project to where he knows the project is prepared. He or she will know the high-risk areas and compensate for those areas. I always used to hug the stick side post.

Summary

But Terry, you say, ‘I’m not a goalie, does that mean I can’t be a Project Manager?’

Not at all. But if you are a good Project Manager, it means you probably would be a good goalie. 🙂

Turn the Ship Around by @DavidMarquet Book Review #agile #pmot

“Turn the ship around” by David Marquet is a rare gem of a book. It is one of those books that come around once a decade. The book is very well written, provides a lot of lessons that you can apply to your situation, and is very entertaining to boot. In his story of how David Marquet turns around the Sante Fe, we can see similarities to companies, jobs, and teams in our own situations.

It is an inspiring story how one can turn the leader-follower model and turn it into the leader-leader model, even in one of the most seemingly hierarchical situations in the world, the military. I’ve read multiple books now that dispel that myth. I think the military probably gets a bad reputation of being hierarchical, but to survive has probably adapted more and quicker than perhaps any other industry.

Mistake Monitoring

There are many things that you can take away from David Marquet’s book based on what you are experiencing and what problems are foremost in your mind. For me, I was thinking about the challenge of making project reporting more lean and valuable.

So when I read the section lamenting that monitoring in the Navy was just focused on preventing errors and mistakes but not at getting better or more efficient, I immediately saw  parallels with project reporting. I was thinking the same thing about our project reporting. We report about whether the project is yellow or red and what problems we have encountered, but we rarely if ever discuss how we became more efficient or got better on the project. If we are lucky, we discuss those items in the project or iteration close outs. Many times, the items are small improvements and many times they don’t get shared outside of the project team.

It got me thinking, how can we monitor and focus on efficiency improvements on our projects? As Marquet mentioned, the bar is set quite low if success is measured by the absence of errors and mistakes. If success is just based on meeting budget and schedule, are we really trying to improve and get better?  Why wouldn’t team members just provide large estimates so that they were deemed a success. Where is the focus on continuous improvements and wanting to get better? I want to do more on my projects than just avoiding mistakes.

I don’t have answer for where this will lead and what we are going to monitor and share. But thanks to David Marquet we are asking the question to our teams and trying to determine how we can set the bar higher and get better and more efficient on our projects. Maybe that is a good place to start, to say finishing a project on time and on budget is not enough and to ask the stakeholders what other goals and objectives should this project have? And then overall, what goals and objectives should the Project Management Office have?

I’ll report back in a future blog on what we have tried and what have worked.

Brooks Laich #Leadership and #Winning

Brooks Laich can be on my teams anytime. In one of the cruelest turns of fate, Brooks Laich was traded from the Washington Capitals to Toronto Maple Leafs on February 28th. If he wasn’t traded, he would have been demoted to the Washington Capital’s American Hockey League team to try to get some salary cap relief. One way or another, Brooks Laich was not going to be able to compete for a Stanley Cup for the team that he lived and bled for over the last 12 years.

And then Brooks Laich who had been a Washington Capital since 2004 was suddenly gone.

My Brooks Laich story – March 22nd, 2013

I was lucky enough to sit beside Brooks Laich’s relatives at a Winnipeg Jets game three years ago. They had made the trip out from Saskatchewan to see Brooks play. Two adults and two kids were there all decked out in Brooks Laich jerseys and there were the most friendly, honest, and polite people I have ever sat beside.

They made such a good impression I couldn’t help but clap when Brooks Laich opened the scoring at 12:10 of the first. Ever since then I have honestly cheered for the guy.

February 29th, 2016

So Brooks Laich was looking like he would finally get a chance to complete for the Stanley Cup after 12 years and then he wakes up in Toronto a day later. I thought he would be crushed and I am sure that he was. No one could ever tell from how he carried himself though.

All I heard from him in his first media interview was how happy he was to join the Maple Leafs and about the great young core they have in Toronto.

I don’t need to see Brooks Laich name on the Stanley Cup. I already know he is a winner.

Top 4 qualities for a leader/manager #agile #pmot

I’ve seen quite a few articles recently on the qualities to be a good leader, manager, and Project Manager. Most recently, I read an excellent article by Liza Wood on “Should you become a Manager?”. Highly recommended.

I thought I’d add my opinions to those already out there on what I feel are the top four qualities to be a leader or manager.

1) You are a competent team member already

I’m big fan of leaders and managers needing to be competent members of the team prior to expecting to lead or manage. If you are going to lead and manage people, I think you need to understand the issues your team is dealing with at a detailed level. I know not everyone agrees that this competency is required. I frequently see groups proposing that Software Development Project Managers don’t need to be technical. Let’s just say I must agree to disagree with those groups.

Although I think I’m an OK Project Manager for Software Development teams, I would never think I could be equally efficient managing a team of doctors or truck drivers. What do I know about those areas? How could I possibly help them in the issues they encounter.

2) You don’t want to make decisions for other team members and you don’t want to “manage” people

It is a red flag for me immediately when I hear someone say they want to manage. I wonder what their drivers are and whether they want to “manage” people due to the perceived status and traditional career path. Sometimes people will even confess that they want to be managers so they can make decisions.

I find the best managers are those team members that don’t want to manage. They also don’t want to make decisions for their team mates.

They grudgingly accept being a manager because:

  1. They are good at it
  2. They have the respect of their teammates
  3. They recognize it is probably the best way they can help the team and client

3) You enjoy working with clients and team members and helping to facilitate decisions

This point is connected to the previous item. Great leaders and managers love working with people and helping to facilitate decisions.

They love building relationships and helping people to grow in their careers.

Most importantly they love helping the team to solve problems by facilitating. They realize that the team must solve the problem and their role is to help the team build consensus as a group. Great managers always are careful to not offer solutions for the team. This would be the easy thing to do as the team is looking to the manager to make these decisions. But the really great leaders and managers will always defer to the team. (even though they have the preferred solution already decided in their head)

This deference to team decision-making can sometimes be perceived negatively by team members. I remember thinking this about one Project Manager I worked with. I thought that he wasn’t doing his job because he never decided anything, he always just deferred to us. Only in retrospect did I appreciate his masterful skill to facilitating team decisions.

4) You are always perceived as calm and professional and never blame anyone

Probably one of the most overlooked characteristics.

I feel that the job of a leader is to always build confidence in the team.

Great managers and leaders are always calm, never blame anyone, and just work the problem. Doesn’t matter how the problem arose – lets just resolve it.

And it never hurts to have a great sense of humour…

Lest we Forget the ultimate teammates

rmday

On a day like today I am reminded on how we in Software Development sometimes take ourselves and our opinions too seriously. We treat people with differing opinions as enemies we are at war against. We in the Agile community sometimes criticize those in the traditional community as not trusting employees and being stuck in the past. People in the traditional community sometimes criticize Agile proponents as being cowboys and not understanding why certain  business processes like estimating and budgeting are required. We need to ask ourselves if we are truly seeking to understand the position of the person we are yelling at.

Are we interested in learning and growing or just yelling and being right?

But today, we should put those differences aside and respect those men and women who went before us and made the ultimate sacrifice so we can live the way we do today.

These men and women were the ultimate teammates. They were willing to give their lives so that our country and our way of life could thrive. They left loved ones and children behind and made the ultimate sacrifice.

I encourage everyone to take an hour to break and watch the ceremonies today. Even better, make your next book selection a book about a war and the sacrifices the veterans made. I also encourage you to volunteer to assist veterans after they come home.

I believe that by respecting their sacrifice we are not glorifying war. Like all good teammates we should respect the decisions made by other teammates as we can not fully appreciate the context of their situation. We should always seek to understand their situation and sacrifice. It is the ultimate hubris to think we know better now.

That is the least we can do.

Top three signs a company is masquerading as employee-focused #halloween

Everyone says their company is employee-focused. Everyone says that their most important asset is their people. Everyone says that they have a flat structure and that there is an open door policy for everyone. So how can you tell the difference between the companies that are employee-focused and those that merely say they are employee focused?

I find there are three signs and they all involve a Suggestions Box.

Suggestion Box

A suggestion box? Isn’t that a sign that the management is honestly interested on improving and engaging the employees to improve the company? Not always.

In fact, there are three signs related to suggestions boxes that illustrate how committed management is to being employee-focus. These are:

1. You have a Suggestion Box

Although many people take this as an indication that the company is honestly interested in their employee’s suggestions and ideas, that is not always the case. In fact, a Suggestion Box reinforces a hierarchical structure. They may be interested in your ideas, but only after a review process. A suggestion box says:

“Thanks for your suggestion, we will review it and let you know if it has merit. Don’t call us, we will call you”

The suggestion box, still sets up an us and them structure between employees and management. This was re-inforced to me during an awesome keynote by Mark Graban at SDEC13. Mark pointed out that several Lean hospitals have moved towards suggestions Kan-Ban boards so that everyone can see their co-workers suggestions and see the progression of those ideas from submission to completion!

That shows the engagement and commitment the hospital has to their employee’s ideas. Brutal visibility.

2. The Suggestion Box is not actively used

An even worse situation is if you have a suggestion box and it is not actively used. This usually results from suggestions being submitted and dismissed by management. Employees soon discover that there is no action taken on their suggestions, so why should they bother? Even worse, lack of suggestions sometimes indicates a lack of trust in management. There may be suspicion about whether people making suggestions will be labelled as trouble-makers.

3. You have an anonymous suggestion box

Oh boy. If a company has an anonymous suggestion box, it almost is an acknowledgement that management can’t be trusted with knowing who submitted an idea. And that employees feel they need anonymity to be safe to submit ideas.

Summary

I love the idea of a suggestion Kan Ban board. It provides brutal visibility as to the suggestions submitted by employees and shows employees that management takes their ideas seriously and are implementing them. It requires absolute commitment by management to implement employee’s ideas though. Any filtering, removal, or dismissal of ideas by management will be visible to everyone.