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2019 Project Management Paradise Podcast Highlights

This is a bonus episode of the Project Management Paradise Podcast in which we will listen to some of the key points from our interviews from 2019. Highlights include hand-picked insights on building your social network, how artificial intelligence is changing the workplace and training your brain for change.


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From Episode 101: “The Secrets to Better Networking” with Michael J. Hughes

Michael J. Hughes is known as North America’s “networking guru” and he has spent almost 50 years in the business world as an entrepreneur, a business coach, a trainer, a professional speaker, and author. Michael is a specialist in utilizing networking as a business strategy.

Would you tell us a little bit about your own proprietary networking philosophy and methodology?

Like many other people, I came to this back way, around the barn and I tell people that at the peak of my corporate career, I was literally and figuratively fired into success. When that happened, I told myself I will never put my future in someone else’s hands. So, I decided to start my own consulting and training practice and I bounced around for a few years. Quite frankly, I was starving to death. At some point, I remember sitting with one of my mentors and lamenting about my situation.

He said, “Michael, you’re a one-person-company, you gotta get out there and network more, you gotta work your network.” Like many professionals, I heard that word before and I respected this person, so I decided to take his message seriously. I started researching networking, I started reading every book I could get my hands on. I started to watch all of those successful people, I watched how they acted and I started applying those principles I read about, and I started my own strategies in my own life and in my own business.

And over a period of time what happened was that I started to achieve more and more of the success. And as I started to achieve more success, people started to ask me “Michael, do you have a course on this? Is there a book I can read?” So, over the years and I’m pretty pleased to tell you that I spent now over 25 years passionately, someone would say obsessively researching networking as a business strategy and as a professional competency. I help professionals and executives understand what networking really is, how it works and how to utilize it more effectively.

What are the most effective networking strategies for career advancement or expansion?

In many cases, it’s really just an awareness piece. One of the fundamental principles is that just about every one of us networks every single day. We kind of think of networking as this formal thing we do you know, once a quarter, at the regional meeting, once a year at the annual conference.

There is no question that we do that, but networking is a fundamental activity that we are involved with every single day, with everyone that we know and everyone that we meet. So if professionals listening to this podcast are interested in advancing their careers, what are my recommendations is to think more in terms of the conversations you have every single day because those are the interactions that have the most impact on your career.

So, being more conscious, more intentional is the word I use, about every conversation having an incredible impact on your future and then achieving what you want. Many of the large corporations worldwide now are having their up-and-coming executives, not only design a career plan but a network plan that coincides with that, to help them determine who are the individuals that they need to connect with, that they need to build relationships with in order to achieve the success that they want and need.

So, the most effective strategy I recommend in the corporate world is to recognize the value of the corporate network, identify those individuals that can help you achieve the results you want and need, and focus on connecting with those people and building solid relationships that you can use to help advance your career.

(Stream the full episode here)

From Episode 102: Maximizing Brain Potential for Learning and Change with Dr. Celine Mullins

Dr. Celine Mullins is the CEO and founder of Adaptas. She has over 15 years of experience as a psychologist, coach and training consultant working across multinationals, SMEs, governmental, and educational agencies. In coaching, nothing pleases Celine more than getting to the essence of the people’s communication and behavior to improve and strengthen relationships, productivity, and success. In this interview, Celine discussed maximizing the brain potential for learning and change.

How can we develop ourselves, our skills and how can we improve our communication skills to strengthen different relationships in our lives?

I often find that when we’re working with people, sometimes we are working one-to-one, sometimes working as groups and teams. People often come to work thinking “I need to be one person at work and I need to be another type of person at home” and I’m not saying this is the case for everybody but I do see that a lot. Often people feel like they need to leave their authentic self behind, park it at the door and come in and do the day job.

Then pick up themselves when they go back outside the door. So many of the issues that I see in organizations, whether an organization is doing really well or an organization is it having issues, generally there are always underlying problems with communication. Because once you start to communicate with another human being, there is the opportunity for misunderstanding. When you add a third person into the mix, there’s the exponential opportunity for misunderstanding.

Then when you have big teams of people working together and then you have people working cross-functionally, and there are all sorts of different stakeholders involved. There are just never-ending opportunities for people to misunderstand each other or to not create clarity in conversations. Also, to miss out on opportunities to communicate and it often leaves it too late to communicate what needs to be communicated.

The world that we live in which has such amazing technologies, so many different types of technologies and devices available to communicate but it feels to me like we’re getting further and further away from what communication is. When I see the companies who are doing really well and the companies who are struggling, any issues that exist, most of them come back to the basics of communication, the actual listening to each other, taking time to think about what we’re saying and thinking about the emotions and feelings that are being brought up in us and how we’re reacting to the situations around us.

When we leave ourselves of the door and we go into the workplace and then we collect herself on the way back out, I think a lot of the time people forget to appreciate we have emotions throughout the day, we have reactions. When we’re in a meeting and somebody’s suggests something like ”Let’s try this approach” and if they’re told “Oh no, no, no, we tried that before” they’re going to feel pushed back, they are potentially going to feel hurt or negated. Then, they’re less likely to offer up ideas in the future.

For me, it just comes back to sometimes the basics, respect, understanding ourselves, taking time, listening to each other and it’s also about asking more questions. Because as human beings, we find it so easy just to make assumptions, to re-create stories about everything that’s going on around us. We make statements and we think that we have to prove that we know it all instead of asking more questions. If we ask more questions than that opens up communication in lots of different ways.

Do you think that behavior like that is part of the corporate culture and have we changed our behaviors or have we learned to change our corporate behaviors as well?

We obviously have our own levels of confidence in ourselves depending on our background, experience, how we grew up and who we grew up with, who our teachers were and who our parents were. We all have different levels of confidence in ourselves and different levels of security in our own ideas.

Then in our professional lives, there’s the external corporate culture that is either welcoming and inviting of difference and diversity of ideas and then there are corporate cultures who have operated in a certain way for so many years that they’re very closed down to trying things a different way or they haven’t even recognized as a different way to do things.

What I noticed as my experience has evolved over the number of years is that I think that when I started doing all of this work, I was so interested in developing the human being, the person and their self-awareness, helping them to communicate more effectively, helping them to manage stress, helping them to develop their own emotional intelligence. What I realized very quickly was that even sometimes when people really want to develop themselves in this way, we all put up barriers to doing things a different way.

And then to come back to the corporate culture, there are barriers in the corporate culture that stop us from potentially develop into the level that we could. Is this the individual’s responsibilities or is this the corporate or the organization’s responsibility? Well, it’s both, it’s the responsibility of all. First of all, helping people to understand themselves better and to understand that even sometimes when I want to do things differently, there are so many barriers and blocks to doing things differently even when I want to.

That my body and my brain and just wants to keep me safe, just wants to keep me at a certain level of homeostasis, just to keep me doing the things in the way that I’ve always done them. Even when we want to do something differently, our brain, certain parts of our brain will just try to keep us alive. That’s why you and I were born. The previous generations of people that have come before us have survived long enough for us to end up on this earth.

Even we set out to do things in a different way so we’ve learned some new information, we’ve decided “I’m going to try and start asking more questions from my team or I’m going to try and get back to some basics of communication with my partner at home or with my children” and because this is what I see a lot when I’m working in an organization with people that they often say “Oh, this is stuff I can bring home to practice at home as well.”

When we are starting to try to do something in a different way because the brain the body just wants to keep a safe, there are certain parts of the brain that will start to engage very quickly to take us away from the new way we’re trying to do something and to bring us back to the old way of doing things, the old habits.

(Stream the full episode here)

Episode 105: “Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and AI” with Dr. Mathew Donald

Dr. Mathew Donald has been involved in the organizational change for over 30 years, working with some of the world’s leading companies in Australia, Hong Kong, Europe, and the United States. And in industries as diverse as mining, cosmetics, petroleum, and fast-moving consumer goods. More recently, Mathew has been lecturing in university and he is author of the fascinating book entitled “Leading and Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and Artificial Intelligence” which has just been published.

What about the company’s locations and how artificial intelligence is changing the workplace and the company’s business strategies?

The environment for the staff, in particular, will be a challenge quite considerably, so the way that we have already been challenged is that with globalization, the organizations go across different boundaries, have cultural differences, language differences, socio-economic differences which means that communication between individual staff members, between different parts of an organization, will be much more complex and so it is quite possible that someone will pick up the phone or send an email to someone in a completely different country and this is what will happen on pretty much on a daily basis in the larger companies.

And there will be challenges in understanding what each other are talking about, even if we are talking the same language, just turn the differences. But with artificial intelligence and technology more generally, the change will happen really fast. As we’re already seeing on pretty much a daily basis, the presidential tweets might just be announced and the question for the manager of the future is – do I react to that tweet or do they wait for more information or do they go and seek more data is really becoming very difficult in the future to manage with such great uncertainty.

Managing in the past has generally been fairly conservative, organizations liked to have clean paths and certainty so that when they present something to a board they can be certain if the board approves that they can implement it. Whereas right now, there is a fast pace and the uncertainty of the changes. If you’re a project manager proposing something to your board, the new project or make a change to your project, literally at the time that price’s approval when the project starting it could actually become irrelevant before you can start.

The flow and effect of that have on a leader in a project or a manager in a project. Your trust factor may be considerably weakened and base with your board and your senior managers as well as your staff because at one point you’ve been promising something, some sort of project and yet at the other end you could find it with the fast pace of change that you’re having this change direction fairly quickly. And that leads to having a different set of staff in the future that as artificial intelligence has a great potential to remove whole industries and wipe out a lot of jobs.

The challenge for the project manager of the future is how to manage less staff that have to be more flexible because of this fast and uncertain future and yet not lose the stuff that you might need to keep your project running. The challenge for the manager is to manage to that with less people, yet the people that you left will more likely have high skills and high demands than in the past. The way you will be leading people in the future won’t be so much directing and telling, it’ll be more about some consoling with your stuff, making sure they’ve got good skills, good conditions and some of them would want to work remotely.

The nature of your staff will be so in critical to your organization even though the artificial intelligence or robots are taking over, a lot of the other functions of your project is going to be very dependent on these few people that are going to be left. And how you manage them will have to be different because if you just, in the past promising something and delivering, the nature of the tweets and change and even Brexit, we could say right now, you know, would you set up your business in the UK or in France for instance or would you just avoid the region because it’s too uncertain.

What trading arrangements will you end up within 12 to 30 months time is really uncertain. So some of the old managers who like certainty may just avoid the region, yet someone who’s perhaps a bit more able to handle the risk and a bit more creative might find the opportunity in this. The future of organizations and losing staff in industries is a risk but there’s also a great potential for organizations to find places and opportunity that the big players might find just too risk-averse or too slow to take that opportunity. The future has great volumes of data but that data may be difficult to understand, it might be incomplete.

Managers in the future will need to be much more flexible and be able to work through that uncertainty. Whereas, historically, they would have been shied away from it and because I don’t think you’re going to be able to avoid it because change can happen in New York today and through social media in all sorts of other media, it could be apparent the next day somewhere else in the world and you may not be able to avoid that impact.

But at the same time, you may not be able to validate data and that’s where in the book I do talk about the potential for, you know, we’ve lost a lot of journalism, I’ve lost them for years but I see the larger organizations may take some of those skills to be able to validate stories and being able to get through to the truth. Because the manager that doesn’t have all the information still needs to make the decision and if they all don’t make a decision then there’s an opportunity for the people that can make decisions, but there’s also a potential loss of earnings, loss of the whole organization if you make a bad decision.

It is a very delicate balance, really, between planning ahead, managing those changes and reacting to changes before you really know what impact may be.

(Stream the full episode here)

Episode 109: “Project Management Skills Needed for Space Exploration” with Dr Niamh Shaw

Dr Niamh Shaw is a scientist, an engineer, and an artist. And she has an extraordinary story. She said herself “a lifetime goal of getting into space”. In this interview, which is a bonus episode of the Project Management Paradise Podcast, Niamh told listeners about her dream to make it into space. She will also shared some project management tips that have come in handy for her through her journey.

Good morning everybody, how are we all doing? Are we good? Great. I have had a chat with one or two of you and you are my kind of people. I like project managers. I think I like the way your minds work. And I have already picked up a few tips that have been shared with me about some of the things you do. I could give you like my whole story about my space adventure so far but two hours later you might just kind of go “Please, stop talking” because I am very passionate about it. What I have done instead is that I kind of just looked at what you guys could get out of what I have been trying to do and I kind of hit three or four points that I have learned along the way that I think might match a little bit about your sector. We will do a couple of group exercises in communications because I am a massive communicator. And with my background in engineering and science and the arts, really what ties everything together is communication. That took me a very long time to understand and figure out that triangle.

What I do now is I go and I have lots of different adventures around the space. I really do want to go into space. I am not just saying that for the crack. It’s come from a childhood dream and I went on this quest where I got two degrees in engineering and a Ph.D. in science. In all of that, there was a creative part of me that was oppressed. And I also wanted to be a writer and performer. And I kind of questioned why everybody else seems to know what they want to do with their lives and I seemed to never know. I wanted to kind of do everything. And making one choice was always difficult. And the older I got, what I realized was that I hadn’t yet found the thing that I really want to do. When I found it, I did not let that go. And that’s really the core of why I am devoting the rest of my life to doing it. Because the second I figured out what my purpose in life is, everything changed. My work ethic changed, my passion changed and I started to kind of to succeed in the area that is technically non-existent. And I am genuinely trying to make the impossible possible. And it all began with this image for me in our Encyclopedia Britannica, long before there was the internet. Dad would get the monthly subscription for the Encyclopedia Britannica, from the book club. I can remember that in the children’s encyclopedia seeing that image. For those of you that don’t know this image, it was taken in 1968 and launched to the world on Christmas Eve. And it was a part of the many missions that went back and forth to the Moon which ultimately got us to get two people to land on the Moon on July 20th, 1969, which has celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

And as a child, I didn’t realize the significance of it but I remember and it has never left me that notion that I had decided that I wanted to stand on the Moon and see the Earth in its entirety that way. In the last couple of years as I have been involved more and more with the space community, I realize that that’s a very special point of view and astronauts that have seen it have significantly changed their opinion about the world and our place in the world as a species. It’s known as the overview effect. They all like, they are not necessarily religious people, but they all have some sort of realization of how fragile we are on this planet and that we really need to work together and that there are no boundaries from space. It was really a little bit like you guys in the project management, when you are really close to something, you can kind of forget the bigger picture and I found that really interesting. I think we are at the phase in life where it wouldn’t be any harm for us to kind of see that again. But now we’re at the stage where we have been to, we’ve seen two people on the moon and there are missions to return to the moon. I went to launch last summer in Baikonur. I found the whole thing extremely moving because it’s something I want to do but also because it’s incredible to think that there are three people on top of something so incredibly dangerous in terms of the math, it’s equivalent to, you know, recruiting an insect, like an ant and spending like five years training them to complete a Formula 1 race. That’s how insane it is to get somebody to launch a rocket.

(Stream the full episode here)

Show Notes

Cora are proud supporters of the Project Management Paradise podcast and we join with the producers in thanking everyone who listens and subscribes.

A reminder that nominations for the first Project Management Paradise Podcast Awards are open until December 31st. Have your say here

Catch up previous episodes of the Project Management Paradise Podcast here

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