Archive for February, 2016

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Identity

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Team Cheetah's Identity stays the same as the members of the team come and go.

Team Cheetah’s Identity stays the same as the members of the team come and go.

Working together over a period of time, a group of people will create a collective identity of who they are as a team.   At Cheetah Learning – we call our team – Team Cheetah.  This means something very specific to us.  Team identities foster a sense of “we” and collaboration.  The team’s identity does evolve over time and you can also consciously create the identity.  From Best Practices UK – here are the factors to consider in creating and enhancing your team’s identity:

  • The Name –  A team’s name is like it’s brand – as it illustrates the specific characteristics of the team.  Some brands are abstract terms and some carry with them specific connotations.  Like Team Cheetah – the Cheetah is the fastest land animal so in Team Cheetah, we are well known for how quickly we get things done and how fast we move on opportunities.
  • Age – a newer team may have fewer characteristics they have demonstrated over time.   But you still do have an identity even as a new team – it can be as simple as we all wear glasses (rose colored glasses maybe?).  Team Cheetah is over a decade in existence – yet we do have members come and go.  Our common feature as individuals is a preference for action over analysis and just do it.
  • Skills, knowledge and experience – what the team does and how well they do it makes up a core of the identity.   At Team Cheetah we have a deep bench of expertise in delivering exceptional accelerated learning experiences around the globe.  We have demonstrated world wide  how to put on project management training events that completely wow our clients for the immediate results Cheetah students experience.
  • Location – the team’s location can matter especially for companies that have many similar teams distributed geographically – like we are the IT support team for North America.   Team Cheetah has been a fascinating demonstration of how well a virtual team develops and maintains it’s strong identity even though we are all virtual.  We work with each other over the phone and internet throughout the day supporting our trainers and our students wherever they are on the planet.
  • What the job involves – the job of the project team is to complete the project.  Identifying the team by the completion goal helps focus the team on completion.  At Team Cheetah – our job is to make sure our students achieve their highest potential, the fastest ways possible.  Everyone single one of us is student focused – insuring Cheetah students achieve their goals at Cheetah Speed.
  • Team Inspiration – having a shared vision, values, goals, and motivations is crucial for a strong team identity.  At Team Cheetah – our vision is that everyone is capable of achieving greatness.  Our mission is to help our students activate their innate genius so they achieve their goals and dreams at Cheetah Speed.  We make sure every training experience is elegant – which means we have considered every nuance to ensure Cheetah students have the best chance of succeeding, fast.   This is why 97% of all Cheetah students recommend Cheetah to their professional and personal associates.

Having a strong team identity helps create a high performing team.  We created the Cheetah 20 hour online course Effective Virtual Teams to help you use what we have learned at Cheetah Learning by running a successful virtual team since 2001.  Visit to get free project management templates to create a strong project team.

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Productivity

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Doing a 5's activity with your project team is a great team building activity to improve everyone's productivity.

Doing a 5’s activity with your project team is a great team building activity to improve everyone’s productivity.

I’m a big fan of using the Japanese technique of the 5 S’s to improve productivity with my project teams. The 5 S’s are a way to get your workspace organized.  Do these tasks in the following order:

1. Sort – this means go through and get rid of things you don’t use.   You also can remove those items in your work space that you don’t need right at your finger tips.
2. Set in Order – make sure everything you need for your day to day work is in the places right where you need them.
3. Shine – set up your workspace so it’s clean and is easy to keep clean.
4. Standardize – people who follow standard routines with starting and ending their days tend to be more productive.  Distractions are the biggest productivity losses so having a standard process to shift into a working mindset can create a more productive environment.
5. Sustain – entropy is a natural state of affairs (it’s how our offices get so chaotic in the first place).  Taking a few minutes   every day to keep your workspace tidy and organized pays off in big productivity dividends long term.

Transitions are a great time to implement the 5 S strategy with your project team.  Some transitions where you can take a few hours to implement the 5 S with your project team are:

  1. when the days get longer and warmer (the reason for our “spring cleaning” rituals)
  2. when we move to new office space.
  3. when we add or lose a team member

Cheetah students love the 40 hour online course PM of Spring Cleaning where they learn how to implement the 5 S strategy in either their home or their work environment to improve both their personal or professional productivity.

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Meetings

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Productive meetings don't just happen - they are planned.  Learn the 7 secrets to running a great meeting.

Productive meetings don’t just happen – they are planned. Learn the 7 secrets to running a great meeting.

I recently met a young engineer with an exciting job where he gets to travel to remote villages all over Alaska.  He was telling me about the challenge of being in the office – meetings.  I shared with him my standards for meetings – and thought it might be a good idea to share them on my blog as well.

  1.  The person who organizes the meeting needs to spend five times the duration of the meeting organizing the meeting.   For example, if the meeting is an hour long, the person who called the meeting needs to spend five hours organizing the meeting.   Meetings are very important events and they take up people’s time. In the “real world” time is in fact money as people get paid for their time at work.  Meetings have a very real cost associated with them.   A well organized meeting is worth it’s weight in gold.
  2. Everyone coming to the meeting needs to spend as much time preparing for the meeting as the duration of the meeting.   Making sure people are ready to fully participate in the meeting is crucial for an effective meeting.
  3. Meetings are social events – even virtual meetings.  Many of us spend our days working in solitude behind our computer screens so when we have a chance to interact with our project teammates it’s a chance to catch up and socialize.  Ignoring this very human need to connect makes sure this requirement for socializing derails a tightly planned meeting.   For an in person meeting lasting longer than fifteen minutes, I start with serving a healthy snack and factor in five to ten minutes for connecting.   For virtual meetings of any duration, I allow for the first five minutes as a catch up with the meeting participants sharing any personal news they would like to share.
  4. As part of the meeting planning process,  we fill out a meeting prep sheet for the meeting.  This lists who needs to attend the meeting, their contact information, and their purpose for being at the meeting.   We make sure who we need at the meeting is at the meeting and who we do not need at the meeting finds a more productive use of their time.
  5. In the meeting prep sheet, we identify the specific goals of the meeting and who needs to share what to achieve each specific goal.  We assign a time and duration for each goal in the meeting.
  6. Most meetings I run require some type of interactive element – whether it’s a visual aid, or some type of consensus or clarity building activity.    We make sure as part of the prep process we have whatever it is we need during the meeting.
  7. We document all agreements and initial them to make sure everyone is on the same page with what we decided.

You can learn how to run more effective meetings in Cheetah’s Project Accelerator Course – offered both online and in a very engaging one-day classroom format.  Click here to learn more.   If you’d like to get a free copy of the Making Meetings Matter checklist – visit

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Asset or Liability

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

In Cheetah’s course “Effective Project Management,” we have students look at how they behave on projects and understand if that behavior is an asset or a liability to their project team.  It’s been my experience most people’s intentions are positive even if others see their behavior as negative. People generally act with positive intent to further their own self-interests, yet at times may be unaware of how this could inadvertently create a challenge for another.

These situations are common human dynamics and either build or bruise the project team.  Creating greater awareness of how our individual behavior (regardless of our positive intent) impacts another and taking measures to adapt and adjust by all parties can build a stronger project team.  Yet it is also dependent on how the person feeling challenged handles their experience.  Addressing a challenge with curiosity and wonder rather than personalizing behavior or assigning a negative intent allows for more mutual discovery and reduces defensiveness.  This way you can turn situations that could be a liability to the project team and make it an asset increasing understanding,  respect, and compassion.

Since projects are short duration efforts, theoretically we don’t have to work with project team members forever.  This is why I find it fun to test new ways of interacting with others when things are not working out to my liking.  When I focus on what I can change in me rather than on what someone else needs to change,  I get a much better return on my time invested.   Changing my approaches becomes an asset.  Requiring someone else to change becomes a liability.

Learn more about how you can improve your return on investment from your behavior.   Take Cheetah’s Effective Project Management course.

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Trust

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

With over 60,000 Cheetah Learning students successfully achieving their goals by taking a Cheetah Learning course, we never have to say to our students 'just trust us." It's a given we create courses people can trust will help them achieve what it is they set out to achieve.

With over 60,000 Cheetah Learning students successfully achieving their goals by taking a Cheetah Learning course, we never have to say to our students ‘just trust us.” It’s a given Cheetah creates courses busy professionals can trust will help them achieve what it is they set out to achieve.

“Trust me” may be the most manipulative phrase used on a project team.  Now before you think me a hardened curmudgeon, let me explain myself.  It’s been my experience, people who are worthy of my  trust, do not say this.  Furthermore,  they would not even consider saying this.  Integrity when working with others involves being honest (especially with yourself) about your capabilities and demonstrating them consistently over time.  When someone feels the need to express the “trust me” sentiment, it means they have not demonstrated over time their capabilities to others.   Instead of using the “trust me” phrase, consider making it a question – such as “what would it take for you to trust I have the capabilities to do what is required here?”

In this same vein – being overly trusting of others before they have demonstrated their capabilities over time is risky business.  Capability in one area does not naturally extend to other areas.  While a strong aptitude might show a potential to have expanded capabilities in the future, it is not something to count on for completing the work on a critical project.   When evaluating people’s capabilities for doing specific tasks – look where they have done similar work and the outcomes they achieved.  When someone tells you they are not confident they have the skills necessary to do a specific task, I find it best to believe them and not push them beyond their proven capabilities.  And the converse, when faced with someone who has more confidence and enthusiasm than capabilities, I give them small tasks in less critical areas to see how they perform before trusting they can take on more responsibilities requiring more capabilities.

We know a great deal about trust at Cheetah Learning.  Every day students trust us to know how to help them prepare to pass the PMP exam at Cheetah speed or to improve some aspect of their career with our online project management courses.  We value their trust and act consistently to make sure we maintain that trust.  One of the ways Cheetah Learning initially establishes trust is by creating and offering many free reference materials.  This way prospective students can make sure what Cheetah Learning offers will in fact help them achieve their goals.  “Trust us” is not something Cheetah ever has to say – our students’ success says it for us.

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Completion

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

No one remembers what you start; they remember what you finish (and how well you finish it).   What I’ve seen on various project teams, some people have a different definition of what “complete” means.   Done means done in my book.  It means the task for which you undertook is completely complete – no lingering lines of code to tweak, no messes to clean up, no door frames that still need painting, not one more box you still need to send to an event…. You never need to look at that project again done.   If there is something more you want to do in the same vein, you start another project.

It is crucial to co-create clarity on what done means on project tasks – no matter the project – from events, to marketing promotions, to construction projects, to software development efforts.  When I find myself in the sweep mode on a project (and sometimes this is literal as I’m cleaning up after a family member who was “helping” me with a construction project).  I realize it is due to a lack of prior clarity on what “done” means and who is responsible for that level of “done.”   I am a completion nut – so I like to keep my “done” level at the smallest level of value possible.  This way I get to celebrate many “done’s” in my life.

What I realized studying agile methodology is my way of completing smaller projects fast was inherently agile.  The focus of an “agile” managed project is on completing something of value (you or your customer can use) in the shortest amount of time with the least resources.   I live in Alaska and I see many home sites constructed this way.  First the landowner builds a tiny cabin they can live in (the value here they can live in it).  It may only have walls, a roof, a window, door, and a wood stove.  While it is primitive, it suffices to keep them warm and dry while they build their permanent home.

Completing smaller projects in shorter time frames also provides more flexibility for changing requirements.  In the Alaska homesite example – you get to live on the land and assess the various ways you want to use the land while on site.  You would have the opportunity to change where you would place the house, where you’d place doors, windows, decking, etc.   When you give yourself the timing to make decisions in the right time frame to make the decisions, you create better longer term solutions.  This happens when you complete the next logical phase of the project in the way and the timing that needs to happen.

Alignment on completion with the project team ensures you all finish the project the way you envision project completion.   It seems so basic, yet it’s a basic principal many project team members overlook as they just assume they share the same vision of what done means.

We see a similar mis-interpretation of “done” with people who take other exam prep programs for the PMP exam as well.   To Cheetah, done with a PMP exam prep course means our student passes the exam.  Once that happens, then our work together is done.    How you start a project can in fact predict how you will complete that project.   If your project is to improve your career,  earn the most prestigious (and profitable) professional credential you can get – become a Project Management Professional.    Starting salaries for PMP’s are in the 80k range and those who hold the PMP for ten years or more, are the highest paid project managers with salaries over 150k.   Start this project right by downloading the Cheetah Smartstart Guide for the PMP Exam. 

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Expectations

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

In the early 90’s I was working with an organizational psychologist developing curriculum for improving team performance.  She said something that stuck with me – “the principal source of conflicts is differing expectations.”   While I never verified or validated if this was true, when I dissect it, it does seem true.  The challenge though I’ve found over the years was in bringing to light my own and other’s expectations when conflict did in fact ensue.  As many times, either myself or the other party must dig (and dig deep) to even become aware of our expectations that are at the root of the conflict.

I’ve created several images to help get to the root of expectations – BEFORE conflict occurs from different expectations.   But I do even see “conflict” in a different light than I used to.  Typically, I have to be pushed pretty far to confront another about a difference. It’s earned me the reputation of being “hot and cold” as, by the time I’m ready to discuss the difference, I’ve set up the circumstance where I no longer need to interact with the person.  Since I’m confrontation averse, my practice was to set up systems to reduce the chance of interpersonal difficulties.  As I’ve become more seasoned, I now see differences as an opportunity for discovering more about our expectations.  The value comes not in the uncomfortable feelings that might happen because of the initial awareness we do have differing expectations, but in the process we use to bring our expectations to light and maneuver how we can better accommodate each other.

Creating a discovery process of your own and other's expectations can significantly improve a project team's performance.

Creating a discovery process of your own and other’s expectations can significantly improve a project team’s performance.

In project teams, it’s not a matter of if you will have differing expectations, it’s when and how you will accommodate these differences.  To create a high performing team, it matters how you develop a deeper understanding of expectations.  It helps to have a process for first understanding your expectations and then understanding another’s.  Then to use your day to day experiences as opportunities to further discover mutual and different expectations so you can effectively and efficiently execute the work for which you came together to complete.

At Cheetah Learning, many of our programs help students in project teams work on better understanding each others expectations.  In the courses where our students learn Cheetah Project Management – they practice simple organizational tools to get everyone on the same page of who needs to do what when with the projects.  In the courses on Cheetah Negotiations, students master a systematic way of discovering other’s strengths and how to find individual and mutual expectations of the engagement.  Visit to download simple templates that can help your project team develop more skills to navigate the fertile field of expectations.

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Human Nature

Sunday, February 7th, 2016
I look to the sun and the ocean to deepen my understanding of human nature on project teams.

I look to the sun and the ocean to deepen my understanding of human nature on project teams.

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Creating great results with a project team involves using our inherent human nature for our best advantage rather than to become diminished. To better understand human nature I look to the sun and the ocean.

With the sun, the same sun shines on all of us. But for some of us, sometimes, we get burned while other times we can see things better from the light and get gently warmed, even softened. By taking protection from the harmful effects of the sun, we can better enjoy the warmth and light it provides. The same is true when interacting with project team members. Sizzling criticism intended to burn another hampers performance whereas the lightness and warmth of appreciation, acknowledgement and attention to each other’s innate strengths enhances performance. Placing people in the best situations and conditions for them can help them grow and increase their value to the team. While leaving them in the dark where the “sun don’t shine” stunts their development. So yes the sun does shine the same on all of us, but how we use it makes all the difference in the world.

Looking to the oceans and the tides – a rising tide raises all ships. At Cheetah Learning we term this “your success is my success.” We set up every system at Cheetah Learning so we all succeed. For example – the most endearing and enthusiastic students can tend to garner the most attention from a teacher. Yet it is the struggling student who needs the teacher to find creative and innovative ways for them to shine bright. This is why all the courses at Cheetah Learning are designed to help students access multiple intelligences. Everyone is capable of learning – it’s how we are designed actually. Learning the best way you learn so you can best succeed is what drives intrinsic motivation and it’s why Cheetah Learning students develop such a zest for life.

A project team is only as strong as its weakest link. So it makes no sense to put someone in an area where they are weak. It makes more sense to leverage the innate strengths of each member. And then amplify it. Let everyone rise with the rising tide by making sure no one is being held down in any way.

At Cheetah, we combine the sun’s warmth with the rising tide to raise everyone to create the high performing “Team Cheetah.” We use the lightness and warmth of appreciation, acknowledgement, and attention on building each other up in the areas where we each shine. And we make sure we all benefit commensurately from our gains. At Cheetah we do this with our attitude of gratitude program called “atta cheetah.” Every member of the team gets 10,000 gratitude points to distribute to their teammates a month. We have certain parameters on how many points we can each issue to an individual per day. At the end of the month, when we hit our performance revenue goals, a performance bonus gets distributed to the team based on their percentage of atta cheetah points earned for the month.

We all benefit when our inherent human nature is used to elevate each other. Make it the natural choice with how you structure your systems that support your project teams. Cheetah’s consistent high performance is in how we designed the systems to support our team. Check out Cheetah’s Courses to learn more how to do this – from Cheetah PMO, to Cheetah Project Management, to Cheetah Negotiations, to Virtual Project Teams to Personality-Based Project Management to Cheetah Exam Prep – plug in where it makes the most sense for you.

High Performing Business – Project Teams – Communication

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

Skipper Anne developing leadership abilities on the first British Virgin Islands Project Team adventure in 2012.

Skipper Anne developing leadership abilities on the first British Virgin Islands Project Team adventure in 2012.

I’m on a sailing adventure this week with several project team members.   I’ve written this blog post in advance as I wanted to focus entirely on the task at hand with my project teammates rather than on staying connected to the office.  This adventure came up quickly like a fast burning brush fire.  I had wanted to get back to the British Virgin Islands, but it kept taking back seat to other more urgent requirements.  When I found a short window of opportunity, I made it happen.  It was a great time to go, plus my team and I are working on an Adventures in Project Management book.  So we, in fact, need to create adventures for the book.   (At Cheetah Learning our mission is to help people joyfully and skillfully pursue their dreams.  We do this with an emphasis on teaching accelerated project management to the masses –  for which the Project Management Institute named me  one of the most influential woman in Project Management.)

Since I was the resident expert on sailing in the British Virgin Islands, having been there once before, I became the project manager for this trip.  I was able to line up all the details of the adventure – securing the boat and skipper, getting the plane tickets, and then developing a project schedule of the rest of the pre-trip prep in two hours, a week before we left.  Since it was such a quickly planned trip, my project teammates appreciated the frequent updates I presented twice a day on the travel preparations – from a suggested packing list, to providing their preferences on the provisions, to the itinerary to share with their families, to the health requirements of where we were going.

It is our skills at project management (especially our common desire for communication)  that make every part of this sailing adventure a delight. It is so true that ninety percent of a Project Manager’s job is communication.  This Sailing trip reminds me – the better your communication, the better experience everyone has with the project.

The key to the success of this project (and most other projects as well) is to have succinctly communicated expert guidance. It becomes even more imperative when doing something very much out of the norm of day to day life.  At Cheetah Learning, we get to play the role of the seasoned expert every day for another once in a lifetime adventure – that of becoming a Project Management Professional.  While it may not be as sexy spending four days preparing to pass the tough Project Management Professional Certification exam on the fifth day, the experience is every bit as exhilarating as sailing in the British Virgin Islands.   Go on your own exhilarating adventure – download the Cheetah Smart Start for the PMP.


High Performing Business – Project Teams – Shadows

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT

What would happen if the ground hog instead of being scared of his shadow on a sunny day, basked in the warmth of the sun?

What would happen if the groundhog instead of being scared of his shadow on a sunny day, basked in its warmth?

On February 2 every year, Groundhog Pauxitawny Phil comes out of his hole. If he sees’s his shadow, he gets scared and goes back into his hole. Folklore has it there is then six more weeks of hard winter. It got me thinking about the fears of our shadow side. When we focus on our shadows, things do in fact get emotionally colder. All of us have a shadow side – those things of which we are not proud and, in fact, can scare not only us but others as well. When project team members get stuck in the shadows, project progress can go into the deep freeze. But let’s consider this, what if the groundhog when he sees his shadow on a sunny February 2nd focuses on the warmth of the sun rather than his shadow? The sun, in fact, does shine the same on everyone – it is our choice whether we fixate on the light or the shadow this brightness casts.

It’s also our choice if we focus on people’s kindness, their strengths, and where they shine. When project team members make it their practice to leverage each other’s strengths – project progress is more likely to move along at a good clip. And this is what Cheetah students learn how to do when they take Cheetah’s online 60 hours Personality Based Project Management. They identify how their innate strengths help them learn better, do projects better and relate better to others rather than being unprepared to best use their talents. They also learn how to bring out the best of their project team members.

You can create a brighter future for yourself simply by focusing more where things are sunny and warm with your life rather than on your shadows. Granted an awareness of the pitfalls is helpful. What is not helpful is a perpetual rumination about what scares you. Many people are scared about doing what it takes to become Project Management Professional certified. When you go to a market leader in accelerated exam prep – Cheetah Learning, you become smart, not scared. Download Cheetah’s Smart Start Guide for the PMP.