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Episode 281: Leadership, Happiness and Project Success (Free)

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Episode 281: Leadership, Happiness and Project Success (Free)What makes you happy in your work? To some it’s a promotion, a big salary or being able to telecommute and work from home.

Thomas Juli ( - who has spoken before in our leadership podcasts series has identified that there is a way to combine leadership, happiness and project success. He puts this under the heading of focus, strategy and alignment.

In this interview, we are going to see why happiness is important in this equation, how it fuels success, how to get WOW projects, what the MVP is, and we get his tips on how all of us can apply this right away on our projects.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction


Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode # 281. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at and I'm Cornelius Fichtner.

Before we get started, I once again have a quick favor to ask you. You know, do you like The Project Management Podcast™ and you like it well enough to take 2 minutes and write an Apple Podcasts review? If you do, then please go to or just open Apple Podcasts and tell others what you think. Thank you very much.

Now back to today's topic which is: What makes you happy in your work? To some, it's a promotion maybe a big salary or being able to telecommute and work from home. Thomas Juli who has been on the Podcast before talking about project leadership identified that there is a way to combine leadership, happiness and project success. He puts this under the heading of Focus, Strategy and Alignment.

In the interview just now, we are going to see why happiness is important in this equation, how it fuels success, how to get 'wow' projects, what the MVP is and we get his tips on how all of us can apply this right away on our projects and be happier.

And now, put on your happy face and enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Thomas Juli, author, speaker and consultant.

Cornelius Fichtner:Hallo, Thomas! [foreign language]

Thomas Juli: Hallo, Cornelius. [foreign language]

Cornelius Fichtner: So we want to talk about leadership, happiness and project success. Let's start at the very top. Why is happiness important in this equation?

Thomas Juli: Well, that's a very good question. Yes, it's there for a reason. Not just like as a stumbling block but it kind of reflects my philosophy. I think there is some common sense in that which we have forgotten in project management and that is the human dimension in projects.

When we talk about leadership and project success, we talk about some skills and some tools and our projects and so on, but we tend to forget essential element and that's us. Happiness stands for the human dimension. That's why happiness is very important.

There's one thing I have to say it right at the beginning, it's not that if you want to be happy, you have first have to be successful. It is the other way around. So if you want to be successful, you need to know something about leadership and happiness, in that order.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! It sounds a bit esoteric maybe to some people and they may already be hovering their thumb over the stop-play button here. Why should people keep listening to our discussion? What will they learn? What will they get out of the next 20 minutes or so?

Thomas Juli: Yes, well, they can learn something about a new, maybe a new simple but very effective equation for project success which they can apply immediately in their project. Why can they apply it? Because it works on the spot. If they ever been happy in their life before and not in their job, then they should continue listening because they will learn something how they can be happy again I believe.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! Let's get started with leadership, happiness and project success and just to be open and transparent here, this is based on one of your presentations which by the way people can also find on Slideshare. So how does happiness fuel success?

Thomas Juli: Well positive psychology and research, latest research nonetheless 20 to 30 years, they have tried to investigate what is it that makes a 'wow' project? What is it that triggers a know zone or where you're in a flow state? They have found out that our brains, they work better when they are happy. When you're happy, there's a very good chance that your brain will work better and happiness means in this case it's not just pleasure but it also has to do something with purpose and passion. So it’s a combination of 3 P's --- pleasure, purpose, passion.

And when our brains are happy, that positivity will go out to others and raise productivity. So that means if you have ever been in a project, not just maybe at work, or in your leisure and everything was just coming along. Everything is coming on flow, why was this? How did you feel about it? And there's a good chance of people are actually happy and this is exactly what we're after. So that means if you and your team are happy, you can raise productivity. So therefore, make your team happy, you raise productivity, you would be more successful.

Cornelius Fichtner: In the presentation, you also talked about focus, strategy and alignment. How do these three topics come in to play?

Thomas Juli: Well first of all, I think quite a few listeners they agree 'happy' is a great state. We like to be happy but the questions like: "Okay, how can we help you translate it to a project?" If you want to translate this or if you want to apply this to a project, we have to have a good focus, of what you really want to achieve. You have to have a strategy how to get there and you need to align your strategy or whenever you have some issues. You need to know how to align your projects so that you're back on track. That's why I told you to focus, strategy and alignment.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright and in the upcoming minutes, we're going to take a closer look at each of these 3 --- focus, strategy and alignment. And of course, let's first focus on 'focus' here. How does focus help me?

Thomas Juli: Wow! See the questions like: What is focus? Focus, it starts with that you have to know where you are coming from. What is a problem in your project? And you know, I just started a new project last week and I raised the questions like I said: "What is the problem of the customer? The people looked at me saying "Well it's obvious, isn’t it?" It's like: "Well no, it's not." Because if you assume your product is the best solution without even trying to find out what the actual needs of the customers are, then you may be around your problems. Because like what if you're not right? So first you have to know where you are coming from, what drives you. Why did you start the project the first place? I need to focus on it. Not on a superficial level but dig a little deeper. What is the root cause of the problem what triggered the project?

Then just the opposite, what's the ideal state? It's like kind of what's a nirvana. You can say: "Okay, what's the vision?" What you have there, you have the motivation, you have the vision and there's the big gap in between. If the gap is big enough so there are some creative tensions and say: "Oh yeah, I want to get to this vision" which is called a creative tension. The questions like: what can you do as a first step to make you closer to this vision? And this is like focus. You have to start with your project. You have to find out what is your motivation, what's your vision and what is the project by itself or the project objective which by the way, when you abbreviate it, it is MVP standing for motivation, vision and project.

If you do not have, if you do not know your MVP of the project, you can still have a good project. But we're talking about successful projects. We're talking about happiness and the first step is focus.

Cornelius Fichtner: You mentioned the MVP of your project but in the presentation, you also talked about your personal MVP, your personal motivation, vision and the P, obviously the project. Tell us a little bit more about the personal MVP.

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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