by Jordan Lofton
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” – Mother Teresa
On Sunday, September 4, 2016, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was declared a saint by the Catholic Church, giving the world an opportunity to honor and reflect on the life and works of an ordinary woman who did extraordinary works. Her focus was on the “poorest of the poor”. Mother Teresa was known for her work going into the slums of India to give food, education, and medical aid to the poor. In an interview given in 1974, Mother Teresa explained that poverty is not only something found in third world countries, but in our own societies.
“There are two kinds of poverty. We have the poverty of material. For example, in some places like India, and Ethiopia, and many other places, where the people are hungry for a loaf of bread, a real hunger. But there is much deeper, much greater hunger and that is the hunger for love, and a terrible loneliness, being unwanted, unloved, being abandoned by everybody.” As I reflect today on the example of St. Mother Teresa’s life, these words convict me, because in them she has reminded me that I am called to help the poorest of the poor who suffer this second type of poverty.
I’ve been asked many times to explain what a “consultant” is and what they do. My most recent answer to this question has been, “We are called to walk with our clients through their trials and to offer them aid as they go through them.” I often get glassy stares back when I say this until I go on to explain, “Consultants are rarely called when things are going well. It is when something is going wrong that consultants are brought in to help. There is often a crisis, or a tough challenge, or a past failure that the business is trying to move through to get back to some state of health. As a consultant I can’t fix every challenge or problem, but I can through my skills and experience, be there with my client to guide and give help to them.”
Marrying this definition with the words of Mother Teresa, consultants are those called to the slums of business. Where I might see great material wealth, I may also encounter great interior poverty. A manager who is called to take on an “impossible project” without support from executive leadership. The person who has taken on the task that no one else wanted to do and goes on day after day putting in the time to do something entirely unnoticed and unwanted by the business. Walking through the rows of cubicles, I have the chance to encounter the suffering of poorest of the poor in our society, just as Mother Teresa did in the slums. So how should a consultant alleviate this suffering?
In the same 1974 interview, Mother Teresa was asked if she felt “despondent” that she was just one person trying to fix the problems of so many. Her response was, “For me I can do only one, because Jesus is only one. And I take Jesus at His word. He has said that, ‘You did it to me.’ So my sisters and I, and the brothers, take one person, one individual person, one person at a time. We can serve only one at a time. We can love only one at a time. Yet the whole world, it sounds so big, and so much, yet it is only a drop in the ocean. But if we didn’t do that, that ocean would be one drop less.”
Consultants are challenged with despondence many times in their career. Many times isolated in their assignments in a sea of clients, each one expressing desperation and need just as the children in poverty clamored to Mother Teresa for bread. As the project timeline is built out and the calendar is filled with meetings and deadlines there is this overwhelming feeling that the work being asked is “too big” for one consultant to fix by themselves. Yet good consultants don’t try to “boil the ocean” (to use a McKinsey phrase). They look at their work as one task at a time. The change that Mother Teresa is asking us to make is to look at our work as one person at a time. In your next meeting can you give a voice to those sitting in the cubicles outside the conference room by sharing their point of view with management? As you respond to a question or someone voicing a concern, can you offer comfort and encouragement? As you walk to the break room for a cup of coffee, can you simply smile and ask someone how their day is? It is in the small acts of charity done one on one that another drop is added to the ocean.
Two saris, a pair of sandals, a crucifix, and a rosary. This is the list of items that a sister in Mother Teresa’s order owns. This material poverty is in solidarity with those they serve. More than that though, the sisters go into the streets, picking up the dying and sick from the gutters to comfort and care for them. Their hands are dirty, their sari soiled, and while death and suffering are all around them they exude joy.
Armed with only a laptop, a notebook, and a borrowed desk in a borrowed closet, consultants go into the gutters. Often they are afraid to get their hands dirty by doing the labor alongside their client. Rather than hiding behind a spreadsheet or a nicely designed PowerPoint, consultants need to offer to an extra pair of hands. If we limit ourselves to what is “in scope”, we never see what opportunity we have to give joy. The truth is, consulting is a dirty job. So get out of your swivel chair, sit beside your client, learn what his pains are, and offer to help him in his pain.
Whether it was comforting a dying man in her arms, giving jobs to the lepers, rescuing abandoned disabled children in the midst of war, or greeting a princess trapped in the spotlight, Mother Teresa looked past what the eye could see and offered herself so that each person was treated with dignity. She is quoted as saying, “I will never tire of repeating this: what the poor need the most is not pity but love. They need to feel respect for their human dignity, which is neither less nor different from the dignity of any other human being.”
How many times do consultants walk in feeling different than their client or give the appearance of being better than their client? While we hope as consultants that as our clients get to know us, and we get to know them this initial first impression changes to be something more mutual, do we actively seek to change the relationship so we are not pitying our client with our services? If we’re not, we should be restoring our client’s dignity by recognizing their accomplishments, encouraging their perseverance in pursuit of their goals, and acknowledging that their career has had an impact and provided growth for us, just as much as we hope that our project has had an impact and provided growth for them.
In each of Mother Teresa’s convents there is a crucifix and next to it a small piece of paper with two words: “I Thirst”. The stated reason for these words is to remind the sisters that in serving the poor they are answering the call that Jesus gave from the cross that He was thirsty. One might imagine though, that Mother Teresa herself identified with these two words. After her death it was revealed that she suffered from a darkness which was hidden from the world. Could these two words have been Mother Teresa’s own cry that she herself longed for someone to comfort her?
In my previous points I addressed consultants, but here I address clients. Don’t fail to recognize that those who walk among you offering their services suffer from the same pains of being unwanted, uncared for, and unacknowledged. They thirst for a smile. They thirst to be welcomed. They thirst for the dignity of their work to find recognition in your eyes. Your consultants go parched without complaint, but a single drop of your kindness can revive them.
by Jordan C. Lofton
It was my first meeting on this Monday morning and I was still sipping a cup of coffee when I heard someone use a phrase that cut through my normal morning fog. We were discussing the reality that in our current culture many are focused on leadership but few are focused on service. The idea was introduced by our facilitator who struggled to give this phenomenon a name, and then I heard it. “The Cult of the Extraordinary”. It was simple. It was profound. It was earth shaking.
As I simply listened to the discourse between the woman who coined the phrase and the facilitator who described the concept, it was clear to me that this is what many in Corporate America face every day. We have held up to us the examples of those who have achieved greatness. Michael Phelps, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, Beyonce, Tom Cruise, Ronald Reagan. While the list is inexhaustible, what we know of each person’s greatness boils down to the one thing they are known to excel in. Swimming, technology, science, song, film, politics; these singularities of each individual make them extraordinary, but they do not completely define who that person is. This focus on the extraordinary means we have failed to recognize the ordinary, not only in the lives of those who excel, but in our own lives. And sadly, in our own businesses.
Business is often portrayed as the game of winners and losers. This leads many of us in business, rightfully so, to focus on winning and/or taking risks that allow us capture the market. In consulting, I see many times where this focus on “extraordinary success” has lead the business to miss the opportunity to do the ordinary well. Rather than focusing on the “extraordinary success” my recommendation is to focus on “excellence in the ordinary”.
“Excellence in the ordinary” may sound simple, but because of our own conditioning it’s rarely achieved. Employers who may see the value of this type of excellence struggle to communicate its importance to their employees. Employees who work diligently on the ordinary tasks that drive the engines of the business are often dismissed or unrecognized for “all the little things”. Customers may take for granted the effort that goes into delivering a wonderful customer experience, not recognizing that these little things that made the experience excellent are not always easy to achieve. In the end, the focus shifts for everyone involved. Rather than working through the pain and monotony to perfect the simple, the business shifts to the quick and dirty win which ultimately causes them to fail to be extraordinary.
How do businesses achieve “excellence in the ordinary”? Here’s the revolutionary part. To truly achieve “excellence in the ordinary” individuals must choose to be ordinary. I’m not saying a person should strive to do the bare minimum, have no drive for personal achievement, or fail to dream big. I’m saying that at each level in the organization there must be individuals who strive to do the job, the whole job, and nothing but the job, and to do that job with excellence….even if it never gets noticed.
Do you know what organizations look like who have people throughout “excelling in the ordinary”? In my professional experience, organizations who have people doing this at all levels:
Here’s the truth. Most people you meet will be ordinary. Most people you work with will be ordinary. Most businesses will be ordinary. Most customers will be ordinary. Most things you do in a single day will be ordinary. It is the ordinary work of many ordinary people that creates extraordinary value.
Value may not get rewarded with a promotion. Value may not get rewarded with profit. But the only way any person or business ever became extraordinary was by repeating the ordinary until they excelled. There is nothing special about learning to swim. There is nothing special about swimming a single lap in a pool, or even competing in a single race. But there is something extraordinary about someone who did something as ordinary as swimming and repeated this ordinary task for years until the day he stood before the world with 28 Olympic medals to be recognized as an extraordinary swimmer. Long before we knew who Michael Phelps was, he chose to be ordinary. So don’t let someone not recognizing the ordinary thing you did today keep you from being the extraordinary person of tomorrow.
Clients often struggle with finding the right balance of when to use a certified Project Manager or an uncertified Project Manager. While each situation and individual may be unique, Golden Source Consultants helps clients make this decision by providing some general rules of thumb.
This is the most appropriate use of an uncertified PM, as the project may be lower risk. Small projects are often fertile ground from training new Project Managers for this reason.
When there are many small projects the benefits of a certified Project Manager are more evident, but uncertified Project Managers may still have the right skills to accomplish project goals. The key is to ensure the person chosen has good time management skills and is comfortable managing the competing priorities of many projects. Having a PMP should be counted as a plus because the person has more tools at their disposal to deal with such challenges, but it should not be the only consideration.
For a large project Golden Source Consultants recommends the rule of thumb to use a certified PMP. Due to the complexity of the project and number of stakeholders at many different levels, the project is best served by someone who knows how to manage the different areas. In the certification process 3 years of experience must be demonstrated, thus giving the project sponsor peace of mind that this will not be the first time someone has used project management tools.
In this situation, Golden Source always recommends using a certified PMP, even in some cases requiring a Program Management certification. The reason being is that this individual is responsible for ensuring the best practices of other project managers and therefore must be certified to understand the guidelines needed for all projects under the program umbrella to be successful.
Welcome to Episode Six of the LIONs DEN: Conversations around a 21st Century approach to management and talent. In the sixth episode, we speak with two veterans of the armed forces, who have recently had to transition back into the corporate workforce. In our conversation today, we discuss how organizations can make this process smoother and more beneficial for both sides.
1. How big of an actual problem do veterans have in transitioning back into the workforce?
2. Sean and Grady walk through the different types of servicemen, from officers to enlisted, and the various paths they each take through the military and into the business world.
3. What are the basic challenges that veterans face when they transition into the workforce? Not speaking corporate business language, for one example. Second, veterans come from a life of service, and it’s hard when they transition into an organization that seems aimless and without a mission and purpose.
4. We discuss how organizations address issues like this…and we hear from our two veterans how they would advise organizations to integrate veterans. “A three-part transition…” [Sourcing, onboarding, culture]
5. When all of this is done the right way, retention is improved. A lot of veterans leave their first job too soon…
6. Sean mentioned onboarding, and we discuss if that process should be different with regards to veterans…
7. Are there any organizations that are doing it right that we can learn from?
8. Brady and Sean both share career advice to transitioning veterans to make this process easier (expand your network, stay positive, prepare better).
The pace of change in the market is forcing companies to ask questions about how they can stay relevant and competitive. In particular when many look at their project management methodology they ask if the Agile methodology may allow them to make key gains in a shorter period of time. However, the shift from Waterfall to Agile is a large one, causing many of our clients to ask if they should undergo such a transformation. Since there is no one size fits all answer, here are three questions that will guide an organization considering this choice.
1. What are the goals the organization is hoping to achieve by making the change to Agile?
Once the goals are clearly stated from the organization’s perspective then a conversation with the Project Management Office should be undertaken. Waterfall may be a more appropriate fit for achieving goals. Only through open dialogue and clearly considering the risks and rewards can the right decision be discerned.
2. What training and tools do you have available to help your team make the transition?
“The speed at which you roll things out needs to be the speed at which you have information available for your team to become familiar with Agile.” advises Lofton.
3. How can you start small and scale into Agile across the organization?
Organizations considering a shift should seek ways to start with low hanging fruit, allowing the organization to gain more experience safely with the new methodology. The right approach of what is too big and too small should take place before the transition.
Often times on projects the team asks the question to leadership, “Why do I need a Project Manager?” The team may ask this because they do not see many of the tasks that a Project Manager is required to do because they themselves are deep in completing a task.
Jordan reminds us that the role of the Project Manager is to be the one person accountable for the time, cost, quality, resources, and scope of the project from start to finish. “Typically it is very hard for individuals who are actually doing the work to manage all of these different components and ensure that all of the goals are met for them. What the project manager is there to do is to be a conduit for ALL of the different people working on the project to make sure that their pieces are done well, on time, on task, on budget. Then they help you with any risks you may encounter along the way that would prevent those things from happening.”
Welcome to Episode Five of the LIONs DEN: Conversations around a 21st Century approach to management and talent. In the fifth episode, we speak with two millennials, two recent graduates of the GSC Associates program, and hear straight from two millennials about the issues that are top of mind for them…and busting up millennial myths that are prevalent in today’s workforce…
1. What was your favorite part of the GSC Associates program?
2. Team bonding meetings, activities, AND training (“learn more about each other…) were one of the highlights…
3. You cannot disregard training, as you see, it can be a CRITICAL part of the team building process…
4. What concerns do millennials have when entering into the workforce? “How do we apply all that we have learned?” “Are my skills specific enough?”
5. Despite the myth that millennials are “cocky and arrogant,” they enter into the workforce with a lot of anxiety..
6. Once in the corporate world, what challenges did you encounter that you were not expecting? “Adapting quickly to a client’s culture is a big challenge…”
7. People and organizations have concerns about working with millennials. But…what concerns do millennials have about working with traditional corporate clients? “Millennials are always up to solving problems, do don’t shy away from giving us these problems to solve…” “As a millennial, I want to have support…”
8. What are some things that employers have DONE WELL that excite millennials? “It’s not just about more pay…”
9. How can employers be successful in helping millennials achieve successful careers, or at least set them on a path towards success?
10. To close, we shift to the Millennial Lighting Round (About all the Millennial Myths we keep hearing about):
A. You love social media.
B. You prefer to order your products online.
C. You want more electronic communication vs. face-to-face communication.
D. You want your work to mean something.
E. You like to travel.
F. You like to travel for work.
G. You love GSC.
You’ll be surprised by some of these answers, BUT, the most important observation from the lightning round: The work of millennials has to MEAN SOMETHING!
The title of Project Manager has grown in the last ten years to be a common one found in many projects and companies. Often times we find that there is not a single definition of what a Project Manager is and does as the title me conferred in different contexts even within the same organization. So when management consulting firms like Golden Source Consultants state that they Project Management as a core offering some clarification is often needed to describe what the service is.
Using the Project Management Institute’s definition, project management is “the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills, and experience to achieve project objectives.” This is still very vague, so we dive further into asking what a project is defined as. The characteristics of a project are:
In these very specific situation, when a project exists, a single person is tasked with the goal of managing the time, cost, resources, scope, and risk of that project. This person is the Project Manager. So while the goals may be different and the methods and processes vary, these five things will always be the responsibility of a Project Manager.
With all of the different options available for consulting services, what is the real value proposition of a management consulting firm versus the other options available to a client? Three key questions are asked to help clients decide if management consultants are the best fit for their projects.
Do you need a team of resources? Because management consultants have a distinct culture and have selected individuals with skill sets that work well together, they are often able to assemble more effective teams than a client can by choosing individuals through other options.
Does your project require a specific set of skills in combination with each other in order to be successful? “The reason I ask this is because you want to make sure there is a methodology and someone looking at the project as a whole rather than a set of tasks an individual has to complete. Consulting firms do bring that to the table. That is something you would need to bring to the table yourself if you are looking at using a staff aug agency or independent contractor.”
The last consideration deals with what most clients identify as the reason for using other types of help. That is the price. In our experience at Golden Source Consultants for large, high risk projects the cost savings do not justify the additional risk. The costs savings of the project being done correctly from the start far outweighs the cost of starting over or delaying a critical project.
Welcome to Episode Four of the LIONs DEN: Conversations around a 21st Century approach to management and talent. In the fourth episode, we discuss how to keep millennial employees challenged!
1. “Keeping millennial employees challenged.” What do we mean by that?
2. One of the reasons millennials are disengaged, or leave to find other work, is that they don’t find the work challenging enough.
3. Millennials were raised in a competitive culture and environment, and they need to continue to live (and thrive) in that space. The bar has ALWAYS been set high for them? Are we NOT doing that now?
4. Millennials love to problem solve. You need to recognize they are looking for a challenge!
5. If your millennials are simply clocking in nine to five, chances are they are bored.
6. How do you begin to turn this around?
7. Sometimes you have to explain that entry level work is a good way to learn the business.
8. As always, you have to explain the why and the bigger picture of the work they are being asked to do.
9. Keep in mind that millennials will not just be given more challenging work. They are to prove they can be given that responsibility.
10. Management has to constantly review and analyze how high they can set the bar. It’s not set once…
11. Employers won’t always get this right, it might take a few opportunities to place a millennial in the right role with the right amount of challenging work. This is another reason training matters, because you begin to see what excites employees.
12. At the end of the day, some millennials will just not connect with the role, and will leave. How do we handle this?
13. “Fail fast, and fail early.”
14. Where do you draw the line between blaming failure on the millennials, verses blaming the employers internal processes?