[00:00:00.000] - Chris
In this episode of Great Practices, we're talking with Ruth Pierce, owner of all LLC and author of the book Be a Project Motivator. Unlock the secrets of strength based Project management. Listen in as we discuss why it's better to build on strengths rather than focus on weaknesses. What can be done to short up any weaknesses that may crop up and how to transform your PMO from an obstacle to everything to a solution for everything. And you're also going to find out why you shouldn't teach rabbits how to swim and an interesting new name for a PMO.
[00:00:33.780] - Chris
So let's get right into this episode of Great Practices.
[00:00:36.800] - Narrator
It's hard to say when something is a best practice, but it's much easier to know when something is a great practice, and that's what this protest is all about. Interviews with PMO and project management leaders to two years of trial and error have discovered their own great practices and are now sharing their insights with you. Now sit back and enjoy the conversation as Chris Cop uncovers another great practice in this episode.
[00:01:06.560] - Chris
So we realize that people are kind of important when it comes to running a project management office. You need to have an inclusive, engaged, connective environment in which people can thrive in. And in order to get to that point, you've got to have the right people doing the right jobs, really sitting in the right seats, doing the right things. So where do we even start with that? How do we even assess if we've got the right people that are doing the right thing at the right time?
[00:01:37.740] - Chris
And that's what we're going to talk to our guests today. Who is Ruth Pierce about really assessing strengths? Talking about maybe some of the weaknesses that some may have. And is it better to focus on the strengths, or should we work on making the weaknesses less pronounced? Or is there some where in between that we want to go with that. So that's what we're going to talk with Ruth peers today. So Ruth, welcome. And we'd like to just kind of have you introduce yourself a little bit, tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and we look forward to our conversation.
[00:02:14.060] - Ruth
Thanks very much, Chris. It's great to be here. So I am Ruth Pies. I am the founder and owner of Ali LLC, which is A-L-L-E.
[00:02:25.040] - Chris
I'm going to ask a question right there. What does LLC mean? What does that?
[00:02:32.090] - Ruth
I'd love to be asked this question because most people don't ask. So it's all e, which stands for a lever long enough. Or if you're American a lever long enough when it comes from the Archimedes quote, and I'm paraphrasing here, give me a lever long enough and I will move the world. There are various versions of that.
[00:02:51.000] - Chris
Got it. Okay.
[00:02:53.330] - Ruth
So all of my activities fall under that company, and I was for a long time a project and program manager. And then I'm now predominantly coach, very often coaching people who are in the project management space. I particularly love to group coach, because then there's the sort of cross pollination between different people who can share ideas. So there's a lot of coaching. I speak. I'm an author, all sorts of stuff. You name it. I've probably done it. I have a good degree. Wow. I was a mediator.
[00:03:27.470] - Ruth
I even learned how to do methods when I was young, so, yeah, you name it. I've done it.
[00:03:33.880] - Chris
Okay. Well, and we're going to talk a little bit about your book later. Be a project motivator, right. That's the title of the book. So we'll talk a little bit about that later. So clearly you've been around project management space, right? Throughout your career. The question we like to ask our guests. First of all, is, how do you even define a PMO? What's your definition of a PMO?
[00:03:55.860] - Ruth
I don't think I'm going to like my answer. Chris, I have absolutely no idea. A PMO project management office to me conveys absolutely nothing.
[00:04:06.300] - Chris
[00:04:07.470] - Ruth
It is to some people. It's where all the documents live. To some people. It's that oversight committee that says whether or not your projects are being done the right way. I've just a few weeks ago, I was in the PMO impact on it, and I was on a panel with a group of people or a barn and a few other people. And we were discussing this very topic and we want to rename it. So we were going to rename it the Strategic Delivery office.
[00:04:38.040] - Chris
[00:04:39.050] - Ruth
Because when we have various versions of that name, the key thing was about strategy and actually achieving outcomes, because that's when this organization, this sort of subset of the organization is really powerful, is when they know, understand and are aligned with the strategy of the business and help the business pride that strategy forward. And that title PMO just doesn't conjure that for me.
[00:05:06.290] - Chris
And that is exactly why we like to ask this question is because there is such a varied understanding of what a PMO is, and it depends upon where you've worked and what your background is. So strategy delivery office, that is a much more indicative of what a PMO is really designed to do. So I think you might be on to something there that's really it's good insight into that. So let's set the stage for a conversation today. So let's say I am a PMO director. We'll use PMO today.
[00:05:40.360] - Chris
I'm a program manager. Maybe I have a number of project managers that are working for me, and I want to assess my team's strengths and weaknesses. So I just want to kind of get an idea of what people are good at, what they may need some help in. Where would I even start? Just go ask them what they're good at and what they think that they need help with what's the best approach.
[00:06:01.600] - Ruth
So it is really great to have conversations with people. One of the challenges is that we very often the last to know what our strengths are. So I work in particular with strength of character. There are many different kinds of strength. So your skill set is your strengths, your passions or your strength, your values, their strengths as well. Talents of strengths. That natural tendency to be able to do certain things. My recommendation, though, is always to go in search of your own first because it's faith. It can be private if that's how you want it to be.
[00:06:35.540] - Ruth
And as you learn to observe, your own set of people are strength blind, as we call it, and the chances are we're part of that. So if we start with ourselves, really articulate what our script strengths, what skills do we bring, then we're better able to coax that out of other people, introduce them to what we see and really start to recognize what the strengths are when we see them.
[00:07:02.720] - Chris
Okay. So you basically you say, start with yourself. I mean, eat your own dog food idea. Right. So start with yourself. And then once you've gone through that, you could extend that to your team and kind of tell them what that process is, what your experience of it has been. Now, do you use a particular tool or what are some of the tools that you've used over the years, perhaps.
[00:07:27.560] - Ruth
Yeah. So a lot of people have heard of Clifton strength Finder, and I am a certified Clifton strength coach. One of the things that is good and sometimes a challenge with that assessment is that it is very much workplace focused, so I generally work with a tool that comes from the Via Institute on Character and in full disclosure, after I discovered the tool, I cyber stock them until they gave me a job, and I did work with them for several years because I love the tool so much and I wanted to contribute to it, but also understand it.
[00:08:01.950] - Ruth
The basic survey is free, and it's a survey of character strengths that have been identified through research as being universally applicable. So it doesn't matter who you are, where you are, what your culture is, what your religion is, what your language is. These 24 strengths of recognized universally as being positive attributes. And once you've taken that assessment for yourself, first of all, you have a list with all the descriptions of what the strengths are, and you can go around and start seeing those in the behavior of other people and start spotting that.
[00:08:34.350] - Ruth
So that tool because it's so readily available and it's universally applicable both in terms of people and the domains were in applies at home. It applies in school wherever you are. I've found that tool to be very effective, and I've used it now on thousands of people.
[00:08:52.290] - Chris
And you said that there's a free version, right. So where would even anybody go get more information about that? Is there a site?
[00:09:00.450] - Ruth
If you go to VA character via character on one word dot. Org and you'll see there's a piece there that says there's like a notice at the top. So I take a free survey. You take the survey, and as soon as you've completed, it takes about 15 or 20 minutes in your first language. And as soon as you've completed it, you get your ranked list of 24 strings. There's more in depth stuff that you can get. The ranked list is the free piece perfect.
[00:09:31.220] - Chris
Okay, well, that's good. And then I assume you can go into a much deeper dive if you would like to, but it's a good start. So that's great. So via character. Org would be a good place to go to to get that survey of character strengths. So then like you mentioned, there's many other tools that others have used, and at some point, what a manager may end up with is that list of strengths. And maybe that list of weaknesses, or maybe those areas that they are quite as strong.
[00:10:01.390] - Chris
And so what some managers will do is they're going to start immediately tackling those weaknesses. Let's get rid of this. This is a problem area. So let's make that person better in that area. From your observations, is that the best path to go down.
[00:10:18.100] - Ruth
It's a path to go down, and certainly in the workplace, when there are gaps, especially skill gaps between the person's role and what they need to be effective in that role, you want to do something about it. The challenge is that if we focus always on what we're perceiving as weaknesses or gaps, it's demoralizing. And one of the things that we find with. So there's multiple, multiple, over 700 studies have been done on the character strengths. Many of those studies have shown that while it is effective to look at the lesser strengths and this particular assessment doesn't measure weaknesses, it's measuring the relative intensity to you of each of the strengths.
[00:10:59.880] - Ruth
So your lesser strengths, you still have them, you still have access to them. They're just not quite so readily available. Right there's research that shows that working on those can absolutely be beneficial. But there's just as much research that shows that honing your use of your top strengths so that you use just the right amount in each situation is as effective, if not more effective. And because they're your top strengths, we call them signature strengths because their core to last, they're essential, and really very often they feel almost effortless to engage them.
[00:11:32.160] - Ruth
We're going to be much more motivated to work with those top strengths and Hone them and perfect them than we are to work on something that's kind of tiring in a bit of a drag. And then there's lots of opportunities from there to use your top bank to kind of what we call to the lesser strengths and once people get motivated, very often, they're like, you know what? This is great. And I really love what I'm doing with my top strength. But I think I am going to work on that one that's towards the bottom because I think it will be useful and they elect to do it instead of being told to do it in the word.
[00:12:04.890] - Chris
Did you use the word to like to to. All right. So that's good. Yeah. So your strengths increase and then those just kind of come along with it. You kind of drag it behind it.
[00:12:20.010] - Ruth
For example, if you're high in creativity, which is one of the character strengths and you want to increase your sense of enthusiasm, invest or you can use your creativity to come up with ways of making it easier to be enthusiastic about stuff. Right. If you're curious, then you could pick in that same one of that vest and uses. And you want to boost that. You can use your curiosity to research what people have found out about it. You can use your curiosity to see what other practices there are to cultivate that sense of enthusiasm.
[00:12:52.420] - Ruth
How do you build that up? And it's true of all of the strengths as you can use your top strengths to to aid your path in building the less ones.
[00:13:00.960] - Chris
Yeah. It's great. And like you're saying, it prevents demoralization that's the last thing that we want to do with our team is bring them down and demoralize them and not feel good about what they're doing.
[00:13:15.030] - Ruth
And some people worry that if you're to complement it has to be genuine. It has to be sincere. So when you see a strength being used, you want to be able to point to the behavior. And that's the thing. Once you have the list of strength, I encourage people to spot one person one strength once a day, so it might be in a meeting or something like that. But you just see this behavior and you go, you know what that seems like? Love of learning to me.
[00:13:40.220] - Ruth
That seems like honesty. They were very forthright in how they tackled that. You go to them afterwards and say, this is what I saw. And this is the strength that made me think of. And this is why I appreciate it. And they start to become aware, even if that's not one of their top strengths of how they're engaging the strength is very simple. And it kind of ripples really don't. If you can give the assessment to everyone, that's absolutely fantastic. And I was in one job where as a project manager, I was able to do that very often.
[00:14:08.550] - Ruth
That's not an option because you need HR behind it and all of that kind of stuff, there's nothing to stop you spotting the month. You're a little bit familiar with the yeah.
[00:14:16.710] - Chris
Catch them doing something right. That's what comes down to. And that's a great practice right there. Now you had told me about a story I had not heard of about the animal school. And I thought this I thought this was such a just telling a story that kind of speaks to what we're talking about right now. You want to share that share?
[00:14:40.600] - Ruth
Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for asking about that. Yeah. The Animal Schools by George Rebus he was a school Superintendent in the 19th 14th, and he wrote this piece to communicate to people how it was that our school system was kind of focusing on the wrong things. And he talks about these animals in the forest who want to set up a school for all the animals together, and they come together and they plan it out and they decide that flying, swimming and climbing are going to be the three skills that everyone has to learn.
[00:15:09.900] - Ruth
And they've got everything from an hour to rabbits to other kinds of birds to squirrels. All sorts of things are in this animal school. And what they find is that some of the animals really struggle, like the rabbits, for example, when they have to learn to swim, it does. Their fur in their first starts coming out and they get dry patches on their skin and they're very uncomfortable and they don't like it. They don't like being in the pool. And what the teachers do is they actually make them do more swimming in order to get used to it.
[00:15:47.500] - Ruth
And they cut down on the hopping and the running because the bodies are already good at that. Right? They're good hackers and runners, if that's what they enjoy doing. So they're now doing something that is uncomfortable and unpleasant and a challenge. The Hawk and the owl. They don't like climbing trees. They like, right to the top. And they're told, okay, no more flying for you until you've mastered this climbing thing because you have to be able to climb in. And again, they're frustrated because they're flying and swooping and all of that.
[00:16:16.800] - Ruth
That's what they love to do. And now they're being told that they've got a dark using their, you know, their feet, and that's not comfortable. And so what George Rebus is saying is that we need to encourage people to use the things that they are naturally good at that are core to them before we jump into and here's some other schools. But maybe you want to learn great story.
[00:16:38.820] - Chris
And it just ties in perfectly because you think about what does a project manager need to know? They need to know flying, swimming, climbing, right. They need to know planning, budgeting, communicating, motivating, escalating, whatever it is. And that could be intimidating to be able to have to do all of those things or to excel in all of those things. And they just may not be strong in everything. So that's a really good example of just really focus on those things that you do very well. But what do we do about the weaknesses.
[00:17:11.190] - Chris
Do we just ignore them? Do we just pretend they're not there? What could we do in those areas?
[00:17:16.440] - Ruth
No. It's always an option to build your capacity in those areas that are more difficult and more challenging. A great option, though, is collaboration. There's probably someone else around you who has complimentary skills or character strengths or whatever it might be. And I did do an informal study of project managers a few years ago around the character strengths to see whether there are any patterns in what show up in project managers as opposed to the rest of the world. One thing that was a little disconcerting, as we tend to be lower in social intelligence, but that's probably a discussion for another day.
[00:17:52.970] - Ruth
But one of the things I did find is that I started to see a pattern that project managers kind of split between those who like that planning, pre budgeting feel good about doing that. They're really good at it, and they're really focused on it. But they're not necessarily very comfortable when it comes to execution and making it happen. Not that they can't do it, but it's not the comfort zone for them. And then there are other people like me who are executed. Give me a decent plan, and I will make it happen.
[00:18:22.650] - Ruth
I can put a plan together. I mean, I'm going to be much of a project manager for I just couldn't put a plan together, but it's not what really excites me. And it's not really what I am best at it's. Getting the stuff done is what I'm best at. And so that finding your compliment in whether it be having someone as a mentor or peer coach or something like that. Even if you have to take on the entire role, consult with someone whose natural propensity is to do the other piece.
[00:18:52.780] - Chris
Yeah. And that's interesting because you divide it into really planning and executing.
[00:18:59.840] - Ruth
And then, of course, closing out the projects. That's a whole other story where we do these closes out. We do this analysis of what went wrong very often. We can't remember because we've done it too late. Unless you're doing it in sprint, we file it away under, you know, we did what used to be called post mortem, and now at least it's called a retrospective. And then nothing happens with that. If you've got someone who's very, very interested in close out and learning lessons and continuous improvement, they will take those learnings and then actually recommend changes.
[00:19:31.940] - Ruth
That mean we don't have to repeat those mistakes in the next project. So there's also that piece when execution is tabling off when you're wrapping up project, part of that is hand off to whoever is going to on the output of the project. Some of that is the integration with change management. And so there's that piece as well that some project managers really love that transition piece, and they're really motivated by that. And it's a very important piece that we often don't do.
[00:19:58.830] - Chris
Well, it's almost like there could be if your PMO with staff that way, you can almost have an assembly line with those that specialize in the planning, those that specialize in the middle of the project, which is all about execution and then that focus on the closeout activities. And as you were talking about that, I was thinking, you're right. Those lessons learned, they typically just kind of fall to the wayside, but that unto itself could be turned into the project that you put back in in the middle and execute and then you get it done.
[00:20:33.360] - Chris
So there's a lot of value in playing to people's strengths that they're able to do and get those things done there.
[00:20:41.720] - Ruth
And we see actually going back to the character strengths that I use a lot. There was some research done into team roles, and there are seven team roles that found out they're not functional roles. There things like influencer implementer the ideas person at the beginning. So the idea creator, the decision maker, the relationship manager. So there's these seven roles and certain strengths seem to align very strongly with each of the roles. And so that person at the beginning who loves to do the research and the checking and create the the prototype and all of that, they're not necessarily your resource for actually building out final thing and managing relationships with people who are going to have to take that thing and run with it.
[00:21:26.180] - Ruth
So beyond the project management piece to your resources in the team and who plays well at the different phases of those projects and who's who really feels comfortable in each of those roles within the project, because there's the sort of communication with the people outside the project. And then there's the stuff that gets done within the project. Those are different school sets again and different interests and different strengths.
[00:21:49.520] - Chris
Absolutely. And I'm going to go back to the word demotivator that we talked about earlier because I can see now that your book is the opposite of that. Be a project motivator which really understands we've had this conversation makes a lot of sense of why you would name it that way. So what's the premise of this book? Where can people get us tell us a little bit about be a Project Motivator?
[00:22:14.710] - Ruth
So the premise of the book is Maggie is a program, and the book is based on my 25 years of program and project management experience, the different things I learned with different teams, and there's a how to. But it's also the actual application of character strengths and really connecting in with what makes people want to do what they do, what makes people want to show up and work. And a lot of it is based on a project that I had the privilege to manage a few years ago where our entire we were a program within a portfolio of programs on an enterprise project and or an enterprise program.
[00:22:59.410] - Ruth
And when I first joined the team, everyone, including the team themselves had this sense that they were just kind of the people in the way they would. The obstacle to overcome stuff wasn't getting turned around fast enough and all of it. And we very consciously played to our strengths and turned that image around so that we became the solution providers. And the book is a lot of what's in the book is based on that and other teams like that that I've worked with of changing that position, changing the motivation, getting people to see the value in each other within the team.
[00:23:34.780] - Ruth
So that then as a team, they can say, alright, this is us and this is what we can do and we have these abilities and use us. And we have an opinion on this. And we can guide this. And one of our colleagues at the organization where Work described our team as having a kind of force field around us so that whatever stuff was flying around, it just kind of bounced off. And we always seem to be able to keep putting 1ft in front of the other when other people were feeling overwhelmed.
[00:24:04.080] - Chris
So you transition that team from you said, from being an obstacle to everything to becoming the solution everything.
[00:24:11.430] - Ruth
Well, I want to say we transition the team because it was very much a collaborative effort. It's a very large team in multiple locations, and we even we even started kind of advertising ourselves as well. But yes, it was this transition from a they were a team who had I was the fourth program manager in two years. So they had a lot of people showing up and saying, okay, here's my vision for how this program is going to work. And it's another PowerPoint and everything. And we just really, really focused on who are you people and what do you know and what's your skill set and what's working and what would you do differently?
[00:24:48.780] - Ruth
And how would you do it differently and leverage their strengths and wisdom to change the dynamic of the program. And it was pretty amazing to see what they could all do when they were given the space to do it.
[00:25:02.500] - Chris
That's great. And this is what's really all in this book would be a project motivation.
[00:25:07.190] - Ruth
Yeah, that one. And then there's a couple of other big programs that I was on where we learned a lot about communication and the variety of communication. The one size fits all doesn't work. We had all sorts of different ways of communicating information to different members of the team. So there's a big focus on that as well. And then just this, discovering your strength, seeing strengths in other people and also tackling the issue of when strengths go wrong, they're great. But coming back to that holding our top Springs, we can have a tendency to overuse the top strength and so really being sensitive to how our strength is landing on someone else or a group of people is really homes our ability to use the strengths effectively.
[00:25:48.710] - Ruth
I'm a great curiosity overuser in stressful situations lots and lots of questions because it makes me feel more comfortable to other people. They feel like they're pinned against the wall with the swinging spot light being grilled about something. So. So learning those things as well. The all those different things in the book. And I have a LinkedIn learning program as well. Project Motivator that's actually just been awarded Technical PDUs.
[00:26:19.570] - Chris
Nice. Very good. Where can people get a hold of this? Where can people get a hold of the book?
[00:26:24.680] - Ruth
So the book is you can get it on Amazon. You can get it on Valente Noble. It's published by Barrett Cola. So you can also go to the Barrett Cola website and get the book directly from them, especially if you want to buy more than a few copies for a group or for a team or something. Going to Barrett Cole and doing it directly with them. You can get discounts and stuff.
[00:26:45.360] - Chris
Okay, excellent. And if people wanted to get in touch with you personally.
[00:26:51.180] - Ruth
What'S the best way to reach out to you or contact you so you can email me at Ruth Pierce at Project motivator. Com. I'm on LinkedIn and I'm always happy to connect with people and message on LinkedIn all the time and you can go to the website which is Project motivator. Com.
[00:27:10.080] - Chris
Excellent. Alright. Well, Ruth, we enjoyed this conversation today and just kind of reflecting on what we talked about and the great practice that I'm walking away with from today's conversation is really just focus on people's strengths. We can understand that there's going to be those areas that they're going to be less skillful at, but focusing on the strengths. I love the word that you use that it will tow the other ones along. It's like that whole person. If that person just gets better and their skills get better, then really everything kind of goes along with that.
[00:27:46.850] - Chris
I think that's really true and that's not going to happen if you focus on the weaknesses, is it? You know, by any stretch.
[00:27:55.720] - Ruth
Yeah. And people often ask, you know, specifically, what are the benefits? The research shows that when we engage people through their strengths, they're more engaged, they're less like to make errors, they're more productive, there's less absentees and they're more dependable all round. The less likely to leave the organization. So there's a lot of of researched benefits beyond just that. What might sound like feel good stuff that can put people off.
[00:28:20.020] - Chris
Yep. It's a no brainer. Alright. Well, we appreciate your time and we encourage everybody to get your book and connect with you and learn more about what you got going on.
[00:28:34.420] - Ruth
Alright. Thanks very much, Chris. It's great to be here.
[00:28:40.990] - Chris
Well, that was a great conversation with Ruth, and we appreciate her being on the show today. Here's some of the great practices that I'm taking away from this episode. First, focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. Focusing on weaknesses as demoralizing. Focusing on strengths is inspiring. Caveat need to have the basic skills to do the job. But if the person does, we really want to focus on their strengths. Number two was realized that weaknesses can be towed behind strengths as strengths, improved weaknesses will also become less weak.
[00:29:15.660] - Chris
That's the idea of a rising tide lifting all boats. And I like the way that she said that one way that this can be done is through collaboration. So maybe we partner a team member that's weak in one area with someone who excels in that area and have them help each other out. And finally, don't teach rabbits how to swim or Owls how to climb trees. What a great story that got the lesson across. Find what people are naturally good at and interested, and the results will follow.
[00:29:44.960] - Chris
And let's always remember the purpose of a PMO more than anything, it's a strategy delivery office that delivers value to the business. So a lot of great practices came out of this episode today. And as always, if you have a great practice that you'd like to share, you'd like to be on a future episode, go to the PMO leader. Com the PMO leader. Com click on community and then great practices. You'll see a form at the bottom to fill out and we'll get back with you soon to discuss any ideas you may have.
[00:30:18.780] - Chris
So thanks for listening to this episode and keep putting great practices into practice.