Episode 54-Overcoming Uncertainty in Consolidations

Episode #54
Original Air Date: 03.20.2018

30 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Dr. Elke Leeds

Have you ever managed a project that involved the merger and acquisition of more than one entity? Dr. Leeds discusses strategies for leading stakeholders with a great deal of uncertainty as it related to their own professional futures.

On this episode, the team sits with Dr. Elke Leeds, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs responsible for technology-enhanced learning at Kennesaw State University. Before joining the Administration, Dr. Leeds played a key role in developing the first online degree program at Kennesaw State. She has designed and delivered courses across instructional methodologies and served as a course coordinator in Information Systems, The Georgia WebMBA and Coles Executive MBA programs. Before arriving at Kennesaw State University, she worked in LaSalle Street financial district and as a Director of Operations and Planning at a Chicago based manufacturer.

Dr. Leeds played a key role in the consolidation of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University. She was tasked with managing a project with a counterpart that she didn’t know and an end result that wasn’t already preconfigured. In this episode she discusses the importance of identifying wins over the life-cycle of a complex project in a highly matrixed organization.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"It’s looking at, not only the project by its terms and structure, but the people interacting.  When you talk about stakeholders, why were we doing this; right? "

- Dr. Elke Leeds

"“Fight to be the one to communicate that, even if it’s delivering bad news.”  If you can deliver bad news authentically and demonstrate the work and communicate the challenges, I don’t think that “shoot the messenger” applies.  People recognize the professionalism, the work behind it.  And even though the bad news was delivered, you own it, and you take it forward, and then you become the person or the owner of that and become responsible for it.  And that also elevates your position."

- Dr. Elke Leeds

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NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  We take time every couple of weeks to get together and talk about what matters to you as a professional project manager.  It’s one of the ways we try to keep the fires burning, keep you motivated, and keep you at your best.  And one of the ways we do that is by talking with people who are out there doing the stuff of project management, people who don’t just watch things happen, but make things happen.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are two guys who are always making something happen, and it’s usually good stuff, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  Andy, our guest in the studio brings a wealth of knowledge in the fields of technology and education today.

ANDY CROWE:  Nick, one of the best things about this job is we get to interact with some really bright people.  And I think we’ve taken that up a notch today.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, no doubt about that.  Dr. Elke Leeds is the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs responsible for technology-enhanced learning at Kennesaw State University, north of Atlanta, the third largest university in the state of Georgia.  Before taking on that duty, she played a key role in developing the first online degree program at Kennesaw State.  She holds a Ph.D. in Information Systems and is actively engaged in research relating to student retention, engagement strategies, and teaching competencies.  Dr. Leeds, thanks for joining us here on Manage This.

ELKE LEEDS: Oh, Nick, my pleasure.

NICK WALKER:  Well, first let’s talk a little bit about Kennesaw State University because it doesn’t have the maybe national reputation on the national stage of the…

ANDY CROWE:  Easy, Nick, you’re talking about my alma mater here.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, is that right?  Oh, okay.

ELKE LEEDS:  Let’s go with “not yet,” or maybe it’s got more of a…

NICK WALKER:  Yet, not yet.

BILL YATES:  They’re not on ESPN as much.

NICK WALKER:  That’s right, exactly.  I mean, football fans…

ELKE LEEDS:  ESPN3.  We’re on ESPN3.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, and we won our conference in football this year.  So, yeah, let’s…

BILL YATES:  Okay, okay.

NICK WALKER:  All right, okay.  Sorry.  All right, sorry.  Okay.  Didn’t mean to offend here.  But granted, okay, football fans nationwide, they know the University of Georgia, the football powerhouse traditionally at Georgia Tech.  But Kennesaw State University in terms of number of students is just right up there.

ELKE LEEDS:  Nick, we’ve got over 36,000 students right now.  We’ve grown, in the last 15 years since I’ve been there, from 15 to 36-plus thousand students, 10 academic degree-granting colleges, national prominence in business and cybersecurity, engineering, nursing.  The institution is just amazing.  And we’ve actually just learned we have one of the highest conversion rates from applicants to acceptances.  When students apply to Kennesaw State, they are intent on coming here.

NICK WALKER:  So it’s grown, obviously.  I mean, people here in the area have seen the growth right before their very eyes.  But it’s also grown in terms of a merger with another local university, and you were a big part of that.

ELKE LEEDS:  Yup.  Kennesaw State is what we, I guess back in 2013, when – and we call it a “consolidation.”  I think the system really didn’t want to think of it as a merger.  They wanted to think about two institutions coming together to form a new university.  And that’s Southern Polytechnic State University, which is about 10 miles south of Kennesaw off of I‑75, and Kennesaw State University.  So it really took two incredibly fine institutions and made them one much larger, much more prominent, and much more impactful institution.

NICK WALKER:  And in your position, obviously, you were right in the thick of that from the very beginning.

ELKE LEEDS:  I was right in the thick of that.  I got one of the early emails in December of 2013 announcing the consolidation and very quickly assigning roles into how we’d be interacting with the system office, the state, and partner institutions.

NICK WALKER:  So even though you didn’t bear the title of project manager, that’s essentially what you were on many levels.

ELKE LEEDS:  Nick, I’ve never borne the title of project manager in an associate vice president’s role, assistant vice president’s role, executive director, even in operations and planning where I started.  I’ve never been called a project manager.  And if you think back, it’s probably all I did for the first 10 years of my career.

ANDY CROWE:  And that’s the thing, Elke.  It’s all about the role and not the title because people walk in, and they’re confused.  Their title may be something completely different, and yet they recognize that they’re a project manager.

ELKE LEEDS:  You know, Andy, I think acting or serving in the role of project manager, title or not, is probably one of the most strategic positions in terms of leadership advancement because you touch every part of the organization.

ANDY CROWE:  And you’re making a measurable impact, or you should be, so you’ve got demonstrable results at the end of it.  You have something to show for it.  A lot of people complain that their jobs, they sit there, they feel like they push electrons around all day.  They write emails, they answer emails, and at the end there’s nothing to show.  And if you’re managing a project, you should have something to show at the end of it.

ELKE LEEDS:  And stories to tell.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Elke, I imagine when you think about that, okay, you guys are calling it “consolidation,” the bringing together of two universities, you learned more about that other university than you had known before, I’m sure.  And you had to figure out, okay, who are the key players in this?  If I’m going to lead this effort, how do I figure out who needs to come together to create a common culture?  That had to present some challenges.

ELKE LEEDS:  Prior to the announcement, Bill, of the consolidation, I had worked with their president previously on a statewide committee.  And that was pretty much all the exposure I had to Southern Polytechnic.  I mean, we’ve heard of it, certainly.  There were reps around the state, anytime we had a statewide commission and every institution sent a rep.  So I’d get to meet people on occasion from the institution.

But when the email came from then-President Dan Papp, received it, read it, recognized I was basically put in charge of something, and I would have a counterpart at the other institution.  Never met the man.  Hadn’t really heard of him, not because of anything he’s done, just different spheres of influence, different spaces.  And put a call out for people who not only wanted to be part of this particular group, but also to self-identify people we needed to be part of the group.

BILL YATES:  And I would think, I mean, to me, guys, it just makes sense.  You have the merger of an engineering school and a liberal arts school.  That’s easy; right?  I mean, everybody’s thinking the same.

ELKE LEEDS:  Yeah.  Oh, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  And Bill, to that point, when I was getting ready to go to college, a lot of my friends decided to go to Southern Poly.  They wanted to go and pursue civil engineering or some kind of engineering degree.  I went to Kennesaw State.  And there was a little bit of rivalry going through.  You know, the two institutions are, what, 10 or 11 miles apart physically.  And so it was really interesting because you’ve got culture to overcome.  You’ve got systems to integrate.  I mean, it was a big, big deal.

ELKE LEEDS:  It was.  And I think when you think about culture, Andy, and you bring up a great point, Southern Poly has pride in their background of geek culture.

ANDY CROWE:  Very much.

ELKE LEEDS:  That really is who they are.  And their colors and their mascot and how they interact one another with their colleges.  Kennesaw State had experienced enrollment growth, dramatic enrollment growth over the years.  We just announced football.  So, you know.  And while, yes, it’s a liberal arts institution, there is also prominent professional programs in business, education, and nursing.  And we really looked at ourselves as being tied to the Metro Atlanta community, business in the southeast, and not so much aligned with the geek culture.  So that was part of the biggest learning challenges that we experienced.

ANDY CROWE:  And so they’d bring in a little bit of a geek to help bridge that gap; correct?

ELKE LEEDS:  Well, actually I got the Dean of Architecture as my partner, so we weren’t sure, but great guy.  Going back to it, I think one of the lessons we learned is when you kick off something that big, you want to come out of the gate by answering a few questions that are on everyone’s mind.  Who is the senior leadership team?  And then what are the colors of the institution going to be?  What’s the mascot going to be?  Because alumni students are tied, it’s very emotional to lose part of your identity.  And I think letting those decisions linger a little bit is something that in subsequent consolidations was a very quick lesson learned is come out of the gate with this is your senior leadership team and this is your future mascot.  This is what the institution will be.

ANDY CROWE:  So stakeholder identification and setting that vision, getting those things rolling.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.  And I recall I was in a meeting with Dr. Papp and heard him say that that issue of mascots and colors was one of the top three that they realized people were most concerned about.  Which was just shocking.  But I think about, you know, a lot of the background that I had prior to joining Velociteach was working with the kind of change management.  We’d go in and implement a new software system at a client.

And there was so much resistance from those who were – they were accustomed to using the old system; you know?  And, yeah, maybe the new system that we represented and were going to implement was going to be faster and free up time for deeper analysis and all that.  That’s great.  But this is change, and I fear change.  And so simple things like culture and change and the fear of not being able to understand how the new culture is going to impact me, I felt a lot of that with our clients.  I’m sure you saw that a lot.

ELKE LEEDS:  Absolutely.  And because this project wasn’t one where the end result was already preconfigured, it was actually the project was shaping itself as it went.  We had options to do an A plus B equals A, an A plus B equals C, or some other configuration.  Since Kennesaw State was about four times the size of Southern Poly, I think there was a bit of a feeling of David and Goliath.  And that really caused us some angst.  So culture trumps all.  And when you’re talking about culture in this situation, really at the heart of that we had to go to the people.  We had to understand their concerns, their fears, their thought process before we got going.

In fact, one of the things when I was thinking about this – and, you know, stages of team formation, right, and you go through that forming, storming, norming, performing.  We always add adjourning.  And in adjourning, I add celebrating.  I wish we had the end-of-project party in the beginning because then I really could have gotten to know the people in a non-pressure situation; right?  Get to know them as people.  Get to know hopes, dreams, aspirations.  Which also would have helped shape some of the work.  The way it started, we had to tease that out with teams of people that we were leading that we’d never met, that we didn’t know, who may have had the same vision, may have had a different vision, families, career paths.  There was a lot of swirling that had to settle down before we could really get to the heart of the work.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s a great point.  And, you know, I cannot think of another project I’ve been involved with – I wasn’t involved with that one, by the way.  But I can’t think of a project I’ve been involved with that had much attached to it by as many stakeholders.  So you have people who are really worried.  They’re worried about am I going to have a home?  Am I going to be relevant?  Am I going to have a job at all in this new organization?  All the way down to smaller things like what mascot are we going to use.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ELKE LEEDS:  Well, and in that, by not having the answer to those questions, you’re asking people to sit with uncertainty.  That is not comfortable.  And the more you can kind of eke out and help share with them a future plan, a vision, you don’t risk losing good people.  And I think that was one of our biggest fears is that not many people can sit with uncertainty.  And your top talent may be in that category.  And you want to reach those people and encourage them and communicate that there is a spot, and we may not know what it is, so let’s learn together where your strengths and talents are.

That’s also part of why, when I met with our team for the first time, one of the biggest messages when I was setting the scope of the work we were doing was letting them know that there wasn’t a formula that was already predetermined.  It wasn’t A plus B equals A, or A plus B equals B, or A plus B equals C.  It was A plus B equals E, F, G, H, I, whatever the best practice was.  It’s so rare.  I mean, if you can imagine how many times in the history of your work can you completely reconfigure an institution or an organization.  It really was a wipe-the-slate-clean opportunity that not many people get.

And you can go into it with the let’s take these two parts and put them together and try to create a new whole, or let’s take these two parts and together reenvision what an organization could be.  And some would say should have been because you look at the best in show; right?  What systems work the best, not whose system is it.  And what organizational structures will work the best, not based on people, but the role and the responsibilities.  So we deconstructed a lot before we built it back up.

NICK WALKER:  Do you think you succeeded?  I mean, looking back on this now, obviously you come up with things you would have done differently.  But the end result, are you pretty satisfied with it?

ELKE LEEDS:  I would say from our – and we call them OWGs, Operational Working Groups.  I would say our operational group experienced tremendous success.  And that’s because the people that were part of that bought into the vision, celebrated, and now see the new university as their university.  I would say in some cases there are still some folks that miss the independence of the two institutions.  And I’m wondering, as that project commenced on their end, because there were simultaneous operational working groups – this was, I think, the final number was 118 different working groups that were just one giant series of dependent events.  I mean, if you can imagine what that Gantt chart looked like, you needed a billboard on 75.

Everyone had a little bit of a different culture.  Every project manager, for lack of a better word, chair of this operational working group, ran that differently, managed their project differently.  So you had folks running operational working groups with absolutely no project management experience whatsoever.

ANDY CROWE:  I’m curious, Elke, as you go through this, and you have this many stakeholders and this many strong personalities, you’ve said one of the things you would do would be celebrate at the beginning, which I like that, having a kickoff party of sorts to bring people together to kind of understand what their vision for this is.  What other lessons learned from your standpoint?  And the way we define “lessons learned” is anything you would do differently if you had it to do over again.  Give us one or two that you feel like you picked up from this in addition to the celebrate early.  And I always like spiking the ball in the end zone before you’ve scored.  I’m about that.  I get it.  I’ll do the dance at the beginning.

ELKE LEEDS:  You know, we had to really explode the requirements.  So if you go back to kind of operations terms, right, you take requirements, you explode them to the smallest level.  I exploded all of the requirements in the definition of what was our mission and factored out really those – they weren’t tasks, they weren’t so small, but they were subprojects within the greater schema of the project.  And I asked people to serve in those roles, chairing those groups.  And I really wish I would have encouraged people to volunteer to be part of those groups, to listen more, because I would have learned more about where their natural affinities were than just looking at role and title.  And that was part of the starting early, Andy, because you needed to get to know someone’s skills, abilities, knowledge before…

ANDY CROWE:  The passion.

ELKE LEEDS:  Passion, before you put them into a role or ask to put them into a role.  We also had a challenge in that, because of the simple size of the institution, we had a university where we had a single role per function.  They had a university where they had multiple functions in a role.  So you might have one office that did the work of four offices, simply by size and scale.  So we had specialists, and they had highly qualified generalists, people who knew all about various things across the institution, versus people who knew very much about one sort of thing.  So how do you work with a generalist to put them into a specialist mold?  And you can’t do that unless you really get to know the people, their skills, their passions.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and you’re going to lose something even by making that choice.  Even by taking a generalist, or sometimes they’re called “generalizing specialists,” and making that person more siloed, you are giving up something else.

ELKE LEEDS:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  And asking them to buy into a culture where you don’t have that nimbleness, that flexibility in some ways.

ANDY CROWE:  And maybe that wide-angle lens view of the enterprise; right.

ELKE LEEDS:  Exactly.  Which is very beneficial.

ANDY CROWE:  It can be.

ELKE LEEDS:  It can be.  And what we realized is when we were in some cases losing those incredibly talented people, we didn’t have that same lens into the organization that was part of this new whole.  So it seems almost a little trite to say my lessons learned are not paying close enough attention to the people and their personal needs in this.  But that comes down to it.  Systems, processes, project management tips and tricks, following PMBOK to the letter; right?  I could do that, and I could run and set it up, milestone report and all.  We could do all of those communication plans…

ANDY CROWE:  I’m sure everything would have been wonderful if you had.  But we talk to people regularly who do it that way.  And so, you know, there’s tradeoffs all the way around.

ELKE LEEDS:  And ideally it’s both; right?  It’s not one or the other.  It’s looking at, not only the project by its terms and structure, but the people interacting.  When you talk about stakeholders, why were we doing this; right?  Stakeholders are the citizens of Georgia.  Stakeholders are the students of both institutions.  Stakeholders are also the talented staff, professionals, and faculty that make up the heart of this new institution.

ANDY CROWE:  Elke, I heard a number quoted within the past couple of weeks that there are over 4,000 employees at Kennesaw State University.  Is that number roughly correct?

ELKE LEEDS:  That is roughly correct.

ANDY CROWE:  It shocked me.

ELKE LEEDS:  It is a bustling, vibrant, energetic, innovative place where I think the comings and goings and the happenings are awe inspiring on some days.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and so with that you’re absolutely right.  The people become front and center as part of that.  You’ve got 30-something thousand combined students now.  You’ve got over 4,000 employees.  And it was well over – both those numbers are low.  If you go back in time and kind of trace the roots of project management as a discipline, it’s funny because you go back, and you start in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and it’s a very technical discipline.  Then it really is all about the processes.  It really is all about the technical attributes.  And then you start seeing, around maybe the mid-2000s, you start seeing this idea of soft skills, interpersonal skills.

ELKE LEEDS:  Well, that’s when the communications chapter was added; right?

ANDY CROWE:  Leadership.

ELKE LEEDS:  That didn’t exist there prior to that, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  And so it’s funny because then that starts to come in, and that starts taking more and more prominence, and it’s continuing.  Every single edition, that’s becoming more and more important and more prominent.  People are realizing you can do every single technical thing correct and your project not go well because people are angry at the end.  They feel disenfranchised.  They feel pushed aside and marginalized.

ELKE LEEDS:  And that’s not to say that the technical processes aren’t critically important.  They make things flow and work and stay on track.  But when we looked at how the people interacted on our operational working group, as opposed to some of the others, I think that’s probably one of the biggest successes.  We left with new friends and colleagues.  We left with a common vision of what the work in technology-enhanced learning would mean.  And that was, I think I might have mentioned previously in a conversation off-air, Andy, about promise-based management; right?

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.

ELKE LEEDS:  And that was simply I made a promise.  I knew who my project sponsors were.  I knew what my tasks were.  But the stakeholders in this project, those other members of the project team, did not.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

ELKE LEEDS:  So my role was to communicate my sponsors’ vision and my obligation to the system to this team that was actually going to be responsible for enacting the work, right, envisioning it, structuring it, and then enacting it.  So that promise was that this unified vision that we would create would really be a best practice example, an exemplar not just across the university, state, Southeast, nation.  It’s that if we’re going to do this, that we are going to take this, we’re actually going to publish our results, we’re going to showcase the work, and we’re going to make sure that everybody has a seat at the table and is part of performing what the future vision is or enacting the future vision.

ANDY CROWE:  This is the challenge of being a project manager, though.  You’ve got stakeholders in different groups.  You’ve the team maybe on one side.  You’ve got the sponsors and senior managers and initiators on the other side.  And the person in the middle that has to make it work is the project manager.  And there’s this currency of trust both ways.  And given the nature of this project, there is a lot of maybe mistrust.  You begin with that.  You begin with this deficit of trust.

ELKE LEEDS:  Well, and Andy, we were also on multiple groups.  So while this was one group that I was leading that had, I think our final report project was 132 subchapters, I mean, because we had to really get into the real details.  Because we were talking about also combining systems, integrations.  But as we also served on others.  So there were conflicting priorities even across the institution.  I think I said to Nick earlier, you know, my life during this time was one giant sequence of unstructured complex problems.

That was the day, and you had to figure out how to keep your project team on track with the timeline, reaching milestones, communicating progress, because we had very specific set dates to do that.  But you were also interacting with other working groups with similar challenges that were at different places, that didn’t align, where you didn’t come to that conversion when you were staging your steps along your timeline.  You had to wait for their work before you could progress.  We know the challenges with how we sequence tasks.  And there were times we’d almost want to throw up our hands to say, “What are we going to do,” until we get us all to that point, or we get a decision.

One of the things, when I’ll work with other project managers, and we’ll start, and they’ll, you know, “Dr. Leeds, I know you want a scope statement, I know you want us to, you know, give us your end date and work back.  We know you want some buffer at the end.”  And, I mean, I’ve gotten them to where they know that I’ve worked in this space before so I think sometimes they’re a little afraid.  It’s like, oh, god, we’ve got to do a project with her.  But they’ll structure it for me.  And then they’ll go, I mean, what else is it that you need, that you want in this?  So the one thing that I really stressed when I worked with them is we fail to plan for wait time.  Over and over we set up these timelines, and we don’t structure time that it takes to wait for a decision to be returned to us.  We think that’s instantaneous.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

ELKE LEEDS:  It’s like, okay, I’m done, I hand it off, meaning we can start immediately after that handoff occurs.

ANDY CROWE:  And suddenly there’s this lag in the schedule that…

ELKE LEEDS:  Weeks.  Weeks.

BILL YATES:  Where did that come from?

ELKE LEEDS:  Right.  And there are certain people you can nudge and there are certain people you’d probably be better off not nudging, or find that delicate way to bring it up in conversation.

ANDY CROWE:  There’s one in my life, the more you nudge that person, the slower they’re going to go.

ELKE LEEDS:  Exactly, exactly.  So, and that’s something, you know, of course we want our buffer at the end.  But we also have to make sure that, when we’re estimating time for each one of these tasks, that it’s realistic time.  And that, when you deal with people, it’s not a process.  It’s not a technological time.

BILL YATES:  It’s so funny, Elke, you’re brushing on a topic that you and I have talked on before, which is the role of project manager, whether it’s on your business card or not, is so good at setting people up for running a business, being a leader in a business.  And just the very nature of what you’re describing just speaks to that.  Have you ever engaged students or professionals in that conversation of, hey, I think you should really look into project management because it can set you up for what I think you want to do later in life?

ELKE LEEDS:  Oh, absolutely.  I taught project management for a while.  I did a book chapter on IT offshore project outsourcing.  I’ve worked with undergraduate, to graduate, to doctoral students.  And the project management aspect of my work has always actually been the most interesting and the most fun.  It also, I think as you said, Andy, it gives you something to talk about; right?  You really have something to show when you complete projects.  You build a portfolio of real significant accomplishments.  You know, Bill, working with students and looking at a career path, going through that process to become a project manager, earn your PMP, really make it part of your professional repertoire, sets you up for success so beautifully.  And you connect across the organization.  You get to meet and, I don’t want to say influence people, but people get exposure to what you’re capable of doing.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

ELKE LEEDS:  And that’s key.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s not for everybody.  But for those who can do the job, it’s a great career path.  And Nick, you probably have heard us say before that the sworn mortal enemy of the project manager is the functional manager, these department managers.  But to Elke’s point, a project manager is constantly creating change, creating something new.  It’s a product, service, or result that hasn’t been done before.  And it’s more exciting to me than being a department manager.  You may manage a department for 10 years, and at the end what you have to show is, well, I did, you know, it’s stable.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, I’ve done this for 10 years.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  I’ve done it for 10 years.  And maybe we’ve achieved something that’s hard.  But, man, a project manager, in 10 years, you can change the world.

BILL YATES:  There you go.  And it forces you.  Elke, we started out talking about this merger, this consolidation of universities.  In the role of project manager many times, just to your point, you’re forced to go to other departments or maybe even different organizations that you’re going to be working with and relying on to find a common goal.  And that, man, that will totally get you out of your comfort zone.

ANDY CROWE:  What’s the country song, “Love Can Build a Bridge?”  Right?  You are going to have to go to these.  You’ve got to.

BILL YATES:  You’re going to have to show them some love.

ELKE LEEDS:  When I’ve worked with students, Bill, one of the things that I’ve always shared, especially when – I’ve worked with students on executive presence and leadership as well as project management.  And I was like, when the opportunity arises, I want everybody, every one of the students I’m working with to jump up and raise their hands, say “Pick me, pick me, I want to be at the front of the room.”  Right?  Because whether it’s valid or not, that person often gets more credit, proportionally, for the work or the project than those that are just taking sort of a background role to it.

I was like, “Fight to be the one to communicate that, even if it’s delivering bad news.”  If you can deliver bad news authentically and demonstrate the work and communicate the challenges, I don’t think that “shoot the messenger” applies.  People recognize the professionalism, the work behind it.  And even though the bad news was delivered, you own it, and you take it forward, and then you become the person or the owner of that and become responsible for it.  And that also elevates your position.

ANDY CROWE:  We have a saying around here that bad news doesn’t get better with age.

ELKE LEEDS:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  So we’re big on getting it out there and getting it out quickly.  And, yeah, I agree with you.  I think there’s an art to delivering bad news.  That’s something that probably hasn’t been fully explored.

ELKE LEEDS:  And as a project manager, you often have to do that; right?

ANDY CROWE:  Oh, yeah.

ELKE LEEDS:  I mean, how many projects are on time?  We want it on time, on budget, but it doesn’t always happen.  So you have to be able to deliver that effectively.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s an interesting point that’s worth exploring further in the future.

NICK WALKER:  Elke, I want to ask you, and Andy and Bill, too.  You say, Elke, that your life has been recently a series of complex, unstructured problems.

ELKE LEEDS:  My life, my career, everything.

NICK WALKER:  I’m wondering, people who are listening to this who may be just entering the field of project management, is this what they can expect?

ELKE LEEDS:  Yes.  And I love it, Nick.  I absolutely love it.  I would be unbelievably bored if I didn’t have a different opportunity, challenge, problem to fix, to influence, to lead.  I think that’s what’s fascinating about project management.  If you are an architect of change, this is something to really consider.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  Yes.

ELKE LEEDS:  You get to influence future direction.  You get to dig in and become an expert in a space for a measured period of time; right?  Start and stop, and then get to explore something else.

So if you’re that sort of person that can’t see yourself sitting in the same place, doing the same job, growing incrementally, this is dramatic change.  And I think that’s what I’ve always loved about it.

NICK WALKER:  Well, we want to try to add a little bit of simplicity to your complex world and some structure to it, so that’s why we have a special gift for you here for being with us today:  the Manage This coffee mug.  It’s simple.

BILL YATES:  It’s very functional.

NICK WALKER:  Yes, it is.  So use that in good health.

ELKE LEEDS:  Thank you very much, Nick.

NICK WALKER:  Well, thank you, Dr. Leeds.  Andy and Bill, as always, it’s great to hear your take on things.  Thanks so much for your expertise.

We are all about education here on Manage This, and we know you want those educational credits.  So we provide a way to give you free PDUs — Professional Development Units — toward your recertifications.  In fact, you’ve already earned them just by listening to this podcast.  Now you need to claim them.  To do that, go to Velociteach.com and select Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and just click through the steps.

That’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on April 3rd for our next podcast.  In the meantime, you can always visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.  We are here for you.

That’s all for this for episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

3 responses to “Episode 54-Overcoming Uncertainty in Consolidations”

  1. Avatar Daniel says:

    Very interesting podcast.

  2. Avatar Gregorio says:

    The most engaging podcast I’ve heard in Velociteach so far.
    Mrs. Leeds shares an interesting point of view of the PM role

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