New from Elizabeth Harrin: The Meetings Template Kit

Elizabeth HarrinMost project managers will agree that meetings can be less than productive for their teams, as well as themselves. But there’s treatment available: Elizabeth Harrin’s “Meetings Template Kit” delivers a set of principles and tools for planning, conducting, and following up on efficient meetings. Five easily customized templates, a sample agenda, and a brief-but-thorough e-book, written in Elizabeth’s personable but professional style. Like a good meeting: quick, effective, and to the point.

Elizabeth, who blogs at “A Girl’s Guide to ProjectManagement,” is one of the most highly respected thought leaders in project management. Not because she is out testing the new frontiers, but because she writes about what we’re doing (or should be doing), right now. Her books, articles, and conference presentations are practical, immediately applicable, and as they say in the UK, spot on.

Highly recommended.

Get My Free e-Book: MS Project Hacks

ToolsI’ve released my new e-Book, MS Project Hacks in PDF format, along with sample files for MS Project 2007 / 2010 and MS Project 2013, available for download under the My Books top level menu. It’s a compilation of polished versions of seven articles previously published here, including various improvements suggested by readers just like you. So if you’ve ever wondered whether it was worth your time to leave me a comment or send me an EMail, the answer is yes! Be sure to post your review or suggestions with a comment on the My Books: Microsoft Project Hacks page.

Here are the chapters:

  1. Add Holidays to the MS Project Calendar – Start by accounting for all of your non-working days. It’s embarrassing when someone points out that a key task is scheduled to complete on a national holiday.
  2. Crafting Formulas for Calculated Fields – You use Excel because you can calculate values from what is in other cells. Project is useful in the same way.
  3. Add a Current Tasks Flag – I originally created this to be able to extract a list of tasks in progress or about to begin, for review at team meetings. It has since proven to be incredibly useful.
  4. Add a Status Indicator to Detail Tasks – Show a calculated Red / Yellow / Green indicator on tasks in progress. This is by any measure the most popular article I’ve ever written.
  5. Add a Negative Total Slack Flag – If you have a task with a fixed end date, you probably need this in order to debug your critical path.
  6. Track Qualitative Risk – Most risks are retired during the course of a project. This approach incorporates elements of your risk register into your schedule.
  7. Add a Cutover Weekend Calendar – Is your team performing one or two tasks over a weekend? Here’s how to represent it in Project without distorting the schedule for tasks that follow.
  8. Additional Resources

After you read the first two chapters, you’ll have the background needed to skip to whatever other chapters interest you.

Book Review: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

I was quick to read “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome,” the new electronic book by one of my favorite bloggers, Elizabeth Harrin, as soon as it became available in Kindle format.  If you’re not familiar with the term, Elizabeth quotes Judith Beck: “It’s that sense that you don’t fully know what you’re doing and that you have fooled other people into believing that you are more competent and talented than you really are.”  Of course, it isn’t really a medical condition, and Elizabeth hastens to explain that she isn’t a trained medical professional.  But the phenomenon is real enough, and Elizabeth lists five symptoms, as well as a self-assessment checklist by Geoff Crane, another blogger I follow.  She also references research by Drs. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes into self-esteem, and lists four behavioral characteristics that seem to contribute to feelings of Imposter Syndrome.

Then Elizabeth lists ten strategies for overcoming Imposter Syndrome.  Some of them, such as reading widely, networking, and publishing your writing, are all excellent strategies for improving your knowledge base, capabilities, and resume.   Other strategies address self-esteem: understand what motivates you, challenge yourself, have confidence, accept that there is always someone better than you, and remember that other people don’t notice.  But at this point, I started asking, “What if I haven’t tried to fool other people?  Why should I feel guilty for being who I am?”  As Geoff puts it, “Remember that you’re not a fraud until you do something fraudulent.”  Her last two strategies consider both sides of that question: fake it, and recognize when you should feel like a fraud.  Note that she’s not advocating we misrepresent ourselves; she’s merely advocating for confident behavior, without crossing any ethical lines.

In one way or another, these strategies all attempt to de-legitimize the feelings of inadequacy and guilt, based on the idea that Imposter Syndrome might have some basis in objective reality.  And I think that’s the concern I have with this approach: it seems to accept the notion that we need to be at the upper end of the Bell curve.  In truth, half of us are below average, at least in a normal distribution.  Shall we assume that those folks should feel inadequate?  Wealth is not the only measure of personal success, and neither should knowledge and demonstrated competence on the job be our only driver of self-esteem.  I’d add a few strategies: find your sources of joy and cultivate them, try to understand what people like about you, and change something about your appearance that will make you feel good.  And address your “soft” skills: work at improving your ability to influence others, to be a better listener, and to be a calming influence.  There are a lot of ways to add value, in and out of the workplace.

Of course, I’m not a trained medical professional, either.  But after four decades in the work force, I’ve come to understand that competence and talent isn’t everything.  And the smartest guy in the room isn’t always someone I want to emulate.