PPP 061.1 | Premium: Follow-up on the Michael Roberto interview on Filters

Total Duration 7:11

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(NOTE: This Premium Episode is being included in our free podcast stream this week. It gives you a sense of the extra coaching that is available each episode for our premium subscribers. Learn more about becoming a Premium Subscriber at http://bit.ly/PremiumSubscribe).

There are many things I love about hosting this podcast. One of them is the opportunity to interact with the experts we interview. You probably notice that I normally include some behind the scenes cuts at the end of interviews to try and give a sense of who these people are. Most are very gracious. There's something about Michael Roberto that truly stands out though. He has great energy, a quick wit, and is everything I would have wanted in a college business professor.

In this premium episode I want to highlight some points from the interview with Michael to help you put the learning into action.

First, filtering isn't bad, right? We need it for efficiency. People say we need to over-communicate but, to an extreme, that can be a bad idea! If you listened to my interview with Cathy Davidson or read her book Now You See It, it's clear that we are wired up to put our attention on that which requires it. We would literally go nuts if we tried to take it all in. So filtering of information can be the equivalent of a corporate attention window: what is it that is most important. Let's focus on that.

So let me ask you: how do you filter for efficiency? What do you do to make sure the most important information gets to you? From a learning perspective, I focus on a relatively small number of blogs and podcasts. I find those give me regular doses of learning without trying to read everything or attend every learning opportunity. For example, I get great value out of HBR's blog. I use CIO Magazine's “What Are You Reading” section as a starting place for new and interesting books and authors to consider as guests. I use a number of Google's filtering capabilities to give me just the news I'm most interested in. I try to surround myself with diversely interesting people who help keep me informed of their viewpoint. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you might want to think about your filtering systems today.

But secondly, of course, filtering isn't always done for efficiency. And it isn't always done intentionally or for our good. As Michael says, we might by our actions and words unwittingly put pressure on those on our teams to conform to our way of thinking. We have to be careful for how we advocate for certain decisions or positions because our advocacy could cause some who know better to keep their mouths shut--to not speak up because they'll think you are not open to a contrary point of view. A key characteristic of your team must be that every member knows that if they have information or insights that can help you, they can bring it to you without fear of rejection or judgment. That doesn't mean that you will always agree with them or follow their advice. I read a case study from Michael years ago that, in effect, said that people can usually put up with decisions that you make as long as they had a fair say in the process. As long as they're heard, they can better accept what you decide. But if you explicitly or subtly make it clear that you're not open to their point of view, not to mention even giving them the opportunity, you risk making a poorly informed decision that can often surface compliance at best instead of commitment from your teams. Be careful how you may be pressuring people to conform.

Third, make sure you're aware of the power and dangers of advocacy. This filter says that the information is presented in such a way as to advocate for a certain position. Information that might not reinforce the position is held back. Whether from politicians, your senior management, advertisers, a supplier, or someone on your team, keep your eyes wide open for not just what is presented but also for what is not being presented. I've learned to deal with this by asking questions, digging into the data that is presented, and watching for influence techniques such social proof. It's not that I don't trust people when they're making a pitch. But whether it's a resume, a request for something to buy, or an argument for why we should take action, there's almost always some advocacy going on. Make sure you look for dissenting or alternative points of view.

Fourth, remember that sometimes it's the other person advocating. Other times it's you and me only taking in the data we want. Confirmation bias is an easy trap to fall into. Make sure to not fall in love with an approach or decision because it is ours. Cathy Davidson's collaboration by difference is her solution to this, which basically recommends we surround ourselves with diverse points of view that are intentionally looking at different aspects of what's going on. Confirmation bias can be deadly to decision-making. Beware.

Fifth, and to many of the previous points, remember Michael's suggestion about getting out to the periphery. One way to help know what's important is to get out of your office and spend time with customers, or people in remote offices, or with stakeholders. I interviewed Todd Williams earlier this summer about rescuing problem projects. You may recall his advice that, with troubled projects, your team knows the answers. They know how to help you but you need to spend time with them. Extended time. Michael Roberto is obviously a big Churchill fan and his story about Churchill going out and spending time with the frontlines provided helpful insight that had less filtering through the ranks. Of course you have to be careful to not undermine your direct reports or senior management, but getting to the edges or periphery, spending time with those who don't normally have a voice, such as the younger people as Michael talked about. In my interview with Dev Patniak regarding his book Wired to Care, he basically said we don't have to be innovative if we have an intense understanding of our customers--what he refers to as empathy. Stop trying to live off your own wisdom and insights. Get to the edges and you'll get fresh insights.

Finally, remember Michael's suggestion about talking to the Non's. That means spending some time with people who aren't currently using the services or your team or company but potentially could. Or maybe they're not fans of you or your team or your project. Why is that? Don't write them off. Insights from the Non's could just help you turn them.

I trust it's obvious that I really like Michael's book Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen. Get a copy and enjoy it--it's a great read.


You can learn more about Michael and read his blog by visiting http://michael-roberto.blogspot.com/.

Hey, take a minute to stop by our podcast Facebook page! I invite you to Like it and the join the discussion.

Thank you for being a premium subscriber to The People and Projects Podcast. Please let me know what questions you have and if there's anything I can do to help you lead and deliver. Thank you for joining me for this premium episode of The People and Projects Podcast! Have a great week!

PPP 061 | Be a Better Problem Finder, with author Michael Roberto

Total Duration 22:23

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Have you ever heard this quote?"There's an inverse relationship between your level in a company and your ability to see reality." We joke about that at times when it seems like the people above us are out of touch.

But why is it more difficult to see reality, the higher you get in an organization? Sometimes it's just because the people higher up are focusing on longer term issues. By virtue of their scope of responsibility, they're not in the day-to-day. But that's not always it. I was facilitating a project management workshop at a company a couple years ago discussing this very topic. A participant said it this way: "Around here, it's crap down at our level but it's fertilizer up there! It's not a problem, it's an opportunity!"

Information gets filtered as it travels up and down and around an organization. What gets through and why can make all the difference between making good, informed decisions or barreling over a cliff with what we thought was an accurate map.

Those of us who have the privilege of leading people and delivering projects need to understand filtering and my favorite expert for how this works is Dr. Michael Roberto. Michael's book Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen continues to be one of my highly recommended books for project managers and leaders. In this episode I talk with Michael about Chapter 2 of his book: Circumvent the Gatekeepers.

You can learn more about Michael and read his blog by visiting http://michael-roberto.blogspot.com/.

By the way, don't miss the free Premium Episode that I'm including with this feed. Normally these extra episodes are only available for Premium Subscribers but I wanted to give you a flavor for the additional coaching you can receive with each episode when you become a Premium Subscriber. Visit http://bit.ly/PremiumSubscribe to learn more about premium subscriptions.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of The People and Projects Podcast! Have a great week!

PPP 060 | How the Brain Science of Attention Changes Everything, with Cathy Davidson (Part 2)

Episode Duration 25:21

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In our last episode you heard the first portion of my discussion with Cathy N. Davidson, author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn Cathy's book is just coming out this week and has already been named one of the top 10 science books of this fall season.

Is technology making it more difficult to focus? Cathy and I talk about that in this second portion of the interview.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of The People and Projects Podcast! Have a great week!

PPP 059 | How the Brain Science of Attention Changes Everything, with Cathy Davidson (Part 1)

Episode Duration 16:52

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So let me guess.... While you're listening to this cast right now, I'm guessing you're also doing something else as well, right? Maybe driving a car or checking e-mail or working out. Or perhaps you're checking out what's going on with your Facebook friends. Hey, if you're doing that, look up The People and Projects Podcast on Facebook and Like us!

Oops. Sorry. I got a bit distracted there for a moment!

Anyway, there are seemingly an endless number of stimuli that are vying for your attention right now. Which do you focus on? Why? There are many great minds that are putting a lot of effort into these questions for it could reasonably be argued that time is not the scarcest resource any more: it's attention.

As we strive to focus in a world clamoring for our attention, I wanted to share one of my favorite books that is just coming out this week. It's entitled Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, by Cathy N. Davidson. I had the opportunity to talk with Cathy earlier this month and look forward to sharing that discussion over the course of two episodes.

You can learn more about Cathy and read her blog by visiting http://www.cathydavidson.com/.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of The People and Projects Podcast! Have a great week!

PPP 058 | How to Lead Your Boss, with author John Baldoni

Total Duration 24:21

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One of the lessons that eventually becomes clear is that managing is not just managing down: leading those people who report to us. In fact, the higher I got in organizations, the more I found I needed to manage up: in many ways, to lead my boss. That's a lesson I don't remember being taught in a textbook.

Whether you're a project manager, team member, or senior leader, we all have a boss and learning to lead that boss is a key skill that must be developed. Earlier this year I had a conversation with leadership expert John Baldoni. John is the author of many books, including Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win. In this episode you'll see what John has to say about how you can more effectively lead your boss.

You can learn more about John by visiting http://www.johnbaldoni.com/. John recommended you check out his previous book Lead by Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results. Also, I recommend you check out the other book John mentioned in the interview: Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of The People and Projects Podcast! Have a great week!

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