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Episode 290: Positive Leadership in Project Management (Free)

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Frank Saladis & Cornelius Fichtner

This Interview with Frank Saladis, PMP, PMI Fellow, was recorded at the PMI Global Congress 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona.

In his congress paper, Frank describes Positive Leadership in Project Management as follows:

Despite the effort placed on planning, coordinating, and integrating the many components of a project, the project manager’s typical day is filled with challenge, Each day includes an unending stream of email, deadline issues, some frustrating events (and people), conflicting view points from stakeholders, and demands for changes at very inopportune times. We can also find within a typical day in the life of a project, some successes and victories (and maybe an occasional thank-you or other form of recognition. At the end of the day it is sometimes difficult to remember what actually happened and what was accomplished. The activities and accomplishments of the day are often blurred by the thoughts associated with the preparations and steps that must be taken to prepare for and begin another set of adventures just waiting for their chance to occur at the start of the next morning.

Dealing with this intense mode of operation on a regular basis places a very heavy demand on the abilities of a project manager and there is a real need to find some way to balance the competing elements that go along with the job. This balance extends to one’s personal and family life also. The question then becomes “How can we (as project managers) find that balance?” In the book, First Things First by Roger A. Merrill and Stephen Covey, a suggestion is offered: “Know the direction in which you intend to go and your goals on a personal and professional level.” In other words, a clear sense of direction should be defined for your personal life as well as your chosen profession. To a practicing project manager, that advice should sound very familiar. In fact, it is essential for project success. Without direction and a set of objectives, how will we ever know where we are going? How can we lead a team if we don’t have goals to guide ourselves and our team? There is no question that goals and purpose must be defined upfront, refined, and then communicated with high level of energy and enthusiasm. Without this clarity and sense of purpose, we cannot effectively lead our team, our organization, or our own lives. This is where positive leadership becomes a critical factor.

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

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello everyone and welcome to the PMI 2014 Global Congress here in Phoenix, Arizona.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:With me right now is Frank Saladis. He has been on the program several times. Hello, Frank! Welcome back!

Frank Saladis: Oh, happy to be here again.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah! So you'll be presenting about Positive Leadership in Project Management. I think it's still ahead of you, right? You haven’t yet presented?

Frank Saladis: I haven't presented. It'll be tomorrow.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. So this is not your first rodeo here. You are coming back to present at the Global Congress again and again. What's your motivation? Why do you come back so many times? What do you get out of it?

Frank Saladis: Well just so you know, I've been doing these presentations at what used to be called PMI Seminars and Symposiums before they changed it the word "Congress" and I did my first presentation in 1993 and I've done a presentation every year since then.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay, why? What makes you so interesting for you? Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Frank Saladis: So actually number is because, I really enjoy it. I just absolutely find the thrill in doing a presentation. So that's one.

Another reason is in order to do a presentation and to do it well, you really have to study the materials. You have to learn new things. So I like to always present something a little bit different ,something maybe a little out of the ordinary to make it fun for me, enjoyable to the audience but also educational.

Thirdly, it's because I'm pretty passionate about these subjects anyway. I've been involved in PMI for a long time. So what brings me back is to see people taking notes, smiling a little bit and then coming up to me to talk to me about these things and it just kind of builds my excitement to want to come back and do that again the next year.

Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent! Now you said you wanted to do something that's maybe a little bit of the ordinary and I think that the first sentence in the white paper on which your presentation is based does that. Let me read it out for everybody: The perception of leadership and what it means to be a great leader has changed significantly in the last few years. Many of those who are thought to be true and effective leaders have failed their organizations and their constituents in the pursuit of their own personal gain. It is essential for this trend to reverse. Can you develop that for us a little bit? Where does this come from?

Frank Saladis: Well, I guess most people I think, a US citizen and I kind of base a lot of it on the political scene, in what's going on, the popularity of our congressmen and senators and so on, and their failure to meet the needs of the people, their low ratings and things like that. I see that not only in that particular area, but also in business that rather than try to succeed through other people and getting other people to succeed that those people who seem to be getting in to the spotlight as leadership in many cases are doing that for one reason, and that is that they can stay in the spotlight. I don’t think that's leadership, okay?

Well leadership to me is you are not in the spotlight but your team is and I see this time and time again in a lot of organizations where I think people understand what they thing leadership is but it really is much, much deeper than most people actually believe it to be and it's more about the things that are internal. I use a term called 'authentic leadership' and that is that the leaders creating value and the only way you can create value is to get everybody involved to go in the same direction so that we're creating value together and I just do not see the kind of things that I would like to see in today's leadership.

Cornelius Fichtner: Your presentation is titled "Positive Leadership in Project Management." We'll get into the details in a little bit about what exactly it is but can you summarize it for us in 20, 30 seconds?

Frank Saladis: Wow, okay.

Cornelius Fichtner: It is a challenge for you.

Frank Saladis: First of all, I would say positive leadership means that you approach any issue whether it's a challenge or a setback in a kind of a can-do attitude okay that we will find a way through this, that positive leadership means that you are connected with your people in such a way that they feel your confidence in them, that they are acknowledged on a regular basis, that they feel appreciated, that you as the project leader, the leader is actually creating an environment where yes, there's so much more we can do. Let's work on it together. And that would be what I think positive leadership is.

Cornelius Fichtner: There are so many leadership books and trends out there. What makes positive leadership different?

Frank Saladis: Well, it's different in a couple of different ways. One is first of all, I've done a lot of research on many of the very, very familiar names in writing books about leadership. You know, John C. Maxwell is an example. Through this collection of all this material that I've developed plus the training programs that I've done, people that I've met, people I have interviewed, people that I've worked with, I have taken bits and pieces of I'm going to say the best of the best of what I have found and condensed them in almost like a leadership manual where you're dealing with people, you're dealing with yourself, you're doing personal assessments of what you are doing as a leader, how effective you are.

It's very, very down to earth. So it's not an academic book. It's more of these are kinds of things that you should be practicing everyday as a leader and it's written from the frontline and involved in the leadership of an organization of a team and so on, and so it's really written in plain English, plain language about being a good solid positive leader and the things that you should be practicing.

Cornelius Fichtner: One thing you talk about in your presentation and in your paper is that there has to be a balance between the managerial leadership components of the project manager position. That's necessary. Tell us about that.

Frank Saladis: Well I think most people know anyone has gone through any kind of managerial schools, classes, people who are in the project management field understand that there are certain managerial things that you require to do and those are the administrative items. We have to plan. We have to organize. We have to get the right people, okay. We have to track things. We have to look at metrics. So that's the managerial side, you know, processes and procedures.

But the leadership sign is really the motivational sign getting people to feel good about themselves and making sure that we're celebrating the successes in such a way that people feel like: "Wow! What a great thing we've just accomplished. I want to do more." So I emphasize that the leadership side really is getting people to feel absolutely great about themselves and that they have the confidence to deal with any particular setbacks and that’s what a true leader besides being a good manager also helps people to be motivated and also to be resilient.

Cornelius Fichtner: There's one sentence in here that I like very much. It says "It should be clearly understood that leaders do make mistakes. Accepting a leadership position does not mean one is infallible." I think this is very well put. Most people think "Oh no as a leader, you can't make any mistakes."

Frank Saladis: Well you know, I think that’s one of the myths of leadership is that they have all the answers. I've known quite a few people in leadership positions that didn’t have the answers. The absolute true effective and positive leader understands that 'I don’t have all the answers, that’s why I have a staff.' Okay, I heard just this morning and I've heard it a few times that the really, really, truly effective leader surrounds themselves or herself with people that are smarter than they are or better than things than they are and they continuously look at all this knowledge and when an issue comes up that they really don’t know how to address, they have a cadre of experts that they can go and ask for advice and they show that sincere appreciation for that knowledge. And I think that that's really critical.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. So becoming an effective leader is definitely not something that happens overnight. How does one become a positive leader?

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

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