Archive for June, 2016

High Performing Business – Freedom – Expanding Capabilities

Monday, June 27th, 2016

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

Expanding capabilities with more formal project management skills not only increases your freedom but also can significantly increase your income (which can also increase your freedom).

Expanding capabilities with more formal project management skills not only increases your freedom but also significantly increases your income (which can lead to even more freedom).

I started my first company in 1987 at 25 years old after completing my tour as an Air Force Officer.  I had several quick successes which were very nice, but because of this beginners luck,  I did not develop the capabilities needed for enduring success.  Over the next ten years, inspired from those early results,  I started up multiple businesses – many of which ended in flames.  In 1997, having had enough of the failure route, I cashed in on my Aerospace Engineering degree to take an employed “vacation.”  I found my way to the United Technologies Research Center’s Systems Engineering department where they wanted to infuse the center with my entreprenurial fervor.  What they wanted though and what they really needed were two very different things.  My boss there told me in my first ever civilian performance review, “You are extremely good at getting things done,  but you could become even better if you developed more formal capabilities in project management.”

While at the Research Center, I was invited to one ineffective meeting after another. To this day I attend few meetings and host even fewer. But since I was doing an employed “vacation,” I decided to make the best of it and started doing “research” at these meetings.  Soon I was running the meetings and being asked to facilitate teams that had lost their way with their projects.  My boss asked me to create a course to teach my meeting facilitation techniques but what these folks really needed was a very simple way to launch and do their projects.  I suggested we create a really quick and easy way to teach and do project management.  She replied “but we are already sending a couple dozen folks to a five day project management program every year.”  Obviously this was not having it’s intended effect.

The Research Center felt they no longer needed the Systems Engineering department but kept me on to facilitate meetings.  I continued to do “research” and experiment on the most effective and efficient way to teach and do project management.  This was where the early ideas for Cheetah Learning were born.  We still use many of the concepts validated in that research environment for Cheetah Learning courses today.  But, what has helped me develop the freedom I experience in my life to this day was heeding my boss’ advice in that first performance review – “develop more formal capabilities in Project Management.

You too can create more freedom in your life by developing more formal capabilities in Project Management.  Download our free Cheetah Smart Start Guide for the PMP Exam and see how you can be on your road to increased independence.

High Performing Business – Freedom – Goals

Friday, June 24th, 2016

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

Will achieving your dreams increase or decrease your freedom?

Will achieving your dreams increase or decrease your freedom?

Part of many courses we teach at Cheetah Learning, in the spirit of helping people efficiently accomplish their important projects, is the crucial aspect of setting the “right” goals FIRST before starting a project to achieve those goals.   Cheetah students learn how to set and evaluate their goals through multiple lenses:

  1. Personal, team and organizaitonal success criteria.
  2. Individual and group capabilities, strengths and preferences.
  3. Market and competitive forces.
  4. Stage of life orientations

Without careful consideration of the ramifications with pursuing one goal over another,  the very activity of pursuing goals that are not the best fit can imprison rather than liberate. I see this everyday in how some business owners set up their operations where they are a critical cog in the wheel of it’s success.  Early in the life of a business it makes sense for the business owner to keep things close.  Over time though, when a business owner is a cog in the wheel, they often become a clog in the wheel of their own freedom.   And what started out to create more freedom in someone’s life, being their own boss, can quickly imprision them.

Setting up robust systems,  training others in doing operational  processes, and following key metrics to gauge the business’ performance are goals that can liberate a business owner from the need to be at the helm day in and day out.  These types of goals give leaders the freedom to pursue new, exciting, and deeply fulfilling projects that can in fact expand their business in ways running day to day operations never can.

If you feel imprisioned rather then liberated by your creations, check out Cheetah Learning’s 4o hour online course Project Turnaround to see how you can create goals that better serve your life today.

High Performing Business – Freedom – Trust

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

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

Having processes and systems you can trust creates a sense of expanded freedom.

Having processes and systems you can trust creates a sense of expanded freedom.

The more robust your business processes, the more freedom you have to live your life the way you’d like to in the moment without having to micro manage the processes required to run your operation. I’ve lived by this axiom the past two decades and it’s served me very well with running Cheetah Learning. I remember in 2003 when I got my first slide in camper for a pick up truck and headed west from Connecticut to Alaska for the summer, Bob who ran the accounting firm we used said to me – “How the heck can you get away with taking off from your office for the summer?” But it isn’t just the freedom to come and go as I please for setting up robust business processes with running the business – the ultimate reason to do so is for business performance.

You can have great people in the business, but without great business processes, they will not shine. It’s not for them to create the great business processes, it’s for the owner to do this. This is what is referred to as working on the business rather than in the business. I do a bi-annual assessment of the performance of our core business processes. Some processes though get more review than others  as we are in a perpetual state of automation of some of the key processes –  course registration and delivery management being one of them. When I set up Cheetah Learning’s processes – the goal was to grow the business by a factor of ten over growth in back end head count.  And as we have continued to work on the performance and automation of our core processes, we have very much succeeded in creating a stable business on the foundation of simple automated business processes we trust.

It isn’t just the processes to run the day to day operations, it’s also the processes for delivering our courses. When a student registsers for any Cheetah courses, they know they can trust they will achieve their learning objectives regardless of who they get as an instructor.  All our instructors are certified in following the process of the course for which they are certified. This ensures that every student gets the same great Cheetah experience. This makes it much easier to onboard instructors and make sure they are great instructors. Trust for Cheetah Learning is not some airy fairy feel good concept – it is an engineering metric.   How well I can “trust” our processes to deliver the results for which they are designed is measured by how well that process performs as designed – whether it be with student registration, venue selection, or student pass rates. Better process performance builds trust that provides the freedom to focus on more strategic and creative elements of the business.

High Performing Business – Freedom – Getting Along Better

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

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

This month’s theme is inspired by a new on the road lifestyle. (For those who follow this blog you may have noticed I’ve not been posting as frequently).  I took advantage of a seller’s market in Portland, Oregon this spring to flip a property for the company we were not using all that much. Instead of having an office in one place, I am transitioning to a motorhome as my mobile office. Cheetah staff live all over the country so with my children launched, why not get a motorhome and go work where they are from time to time. I feel so free – it’s been a very interesting transtion that is for sure.

The first adventure with the motorhome was setting it up to support my new mobile life.  I did this from my former home base near Lake Tahoe. While back in Northern Nevada, I had the chance to reconnect with an old friend.  We had not parted on the best of terms a couple years back after a misunderstanding.  It got me thinking about how free’ing it was to be getting along better with her now.  I realized though, it isn’t just people where getting along better can create a sense of expanded freedom – it’s getting along better with all of life – both my internal and exernal life.

I’ve studied systems dynamics modeling for three decades.  What I know is that when you establish several key core values, you can create an entire self-replicating system (think fractal).  I experimented with this idea first with Cheetah Learning where our three core values are best friend customer service (treat everyone as you would your best friend), WOW’em (elegant delivery with extraordinary results), and be a cheetah (get things done fast, wherever you are with whatever you have handy).   It’s been a fascinating fifteen year success story creating the system of “Cheetah Learning” with these core values and watching how they continue to self-replicate through every part of the operation.

I was wondering, could I create a system based on several core values where I could create even more freedom by getting along better with everything in my life?  For me right now, freedom means to live my life the best way for me in the moment.  For example, lets say I get pulled over for going through a stop sign.  I could choose to get along with the police officer who pulled me over, recognizing he or she is just doing their job and in fact has my best interest at heart vs. following a pre-scripted self-righteous snit over them “targeting” me and waiting in hiding for me to break the law.  In this case, getting along better certainly does give me more freedom than being snotty to a police officer and risking elevating a simple traffic stop into something more serious.

When I look at “everywhere” I recognize there are two sections relating to getting along  – the internal landscape (which is how I could better manage myself to create more internal freedom) and the external landscape – (which is how I better manage myself with others to create more external freedom).  I looked at the three core values for each that could be my fall back, go to, self replicate, repeat, over and over and over – so much so they just became my inherent nature.

I’ve attached the mind map of the three respective core values for my external and internal landscape.

How getting along better increases your freedom.

How getting along better increases your freedom.


Internal Landscape

1. My new go to is to find ways to respect, enjoy, love, adore and appreciate everything as it is.   This includes respecting the power of my own positive and negative feelings.  I live with a critical monkey mind that passes judgement most frequently on my perception of my own personal failings.  I especially pass judgement on myself when I’m passing judgement on myself for feeling anything less than happy or up beat – does this really ever end?   But what if I learned how to, respect, enjoy, adore, love ,and appreciate all of it – however I’m feeling in the moment about anything?   It might actually be easier to extend this level of grace to others, but extending it to myself helps me get along better with me (and I’m part of all of life).

2. Commit to connect to what is, as it is by consciously living a single point existence rather than getting stuck in nostalgia, regret, hope, and worry.  Ruminating about past experiences from the glory days to regrets from past losses and getting lost in dreams of future plans to worrying about prospective dark scenarios hampers my ablity to connect with what is, as it is.  Recognize I actually breathe right here in the present moment and this is where I am experiencing life as it is right now.  The more I focus on nostalgia and regrets of my past and my hopes and fears of the future , the less freedom I have to experience what is actually going on right now.

3. Master how I choose to feel about my experiences.  It is my choice how I feel about my various life experiences.  No one else gets to choose this for me nor are they responsible for these feelings either.  I call this the no blame, shame game.    When I’m upset, it’s because I’m choosing to be upset.  When I’m happy, it’s because I’m choosing to be happy.  I got a good experience of how choosing my feelings can be so freeing while I was getting the camper ready for it’s maiden voyage.  The day right before I was slated to leave, I twisted my ankle coming out of my camper.  Earlier in the week,  I had invited a friend to come over for dinner but felt the need to cancel after the fall as I was just not sure the extent of the damage to my ankle and was resting it elevated and on ice.   I was upset about many things, missing the dinner, not spending time with my friend, and concerned about the extent of the injury.  Yet my friend  was up to her own alligators in life wtih a number of stressors from work, children, parents etc.  Dinner was as much to enjoy her company as a respite from her stressors.  I made a conscious choice to stop the poor me upset loop running in my mind.  I really did need some down time to just relax before taking off for this several months long trip.   This twisted ankle was a blessing as was her self-involvement in her own very busy life.   Choosing a new feeling about this experience gave me more actual freedom as in this case had I expressed my upset (which had multiple causes), I’m sure she would have come over.  As it turned out the down time was much needed and my ankle healed quickly.  With my mobility back to normal sooner, my freedom was most certainly enhanced

External Landscape

1.  Support, respect and trust each person’s journey.   It is not for me to judge how someone else is living their life.  Supporting people in their own personal choices to live their life the best way for them, gives me the freedom to do the same.   Sometimes people want to join me on my life’s journey.  While this is fun for a short time, it seems I often unwittingly over function and take on a responsibility for some element of their existence so they can more comfortably join me in my existence. This usually ends up with a mutual resentment where I find myself craving my freedom and wanting out.  Being more mindful of how to support, respect and trust that every person has not only the capability but also the responsibility to live their life the best way for them allows me to co-exist with others in ways I can better sustain and enjoy.

2. Be mindful of how my perceptions color how I respond to my current reality.   On the second day of my trip with the new motorhome from Lake Tahoe to Alaska, I was heading to Redwood National Park.  For some reason google maps directed me to a narrow winding road that ended up being a dirt road through an Indian Reservation on the western side of the park.  As I was driving on this narrow, bumpy dirt road, the closet doors and drawers opened dumping my neatly organized belongings all over the camper.  In that moment, I was damn pissed off at the google map that guided me to the dirt road.   What I wasn’t was scared (like many people commented I should have been based on where I was).  There were several four wheel drive cars who passed me on their way down the mountain. The folks in there just looked with surprise – what the heck is a motorhome like that doing on this road?  Of course there was no cell phone signal and I realized if anything happened to the motorhome on that road, I might be relying on people like that in any one of those cars to help me out.  I also knew I had a GPS locator in one of my bags in the motorhome so if worse came to worse I could just set that off.  What I knew would not help me was to have negative stereotypical perceptions about any people I encountered on the road. Not falling prey to negative perceptions about where I was helped me keep the presence of mind to better handle the tough driving conditions and make my way to a better road for the trip out of there.  I had more options and more freedom by being mindful of my perceptions.

3. Play in others innate goodness and inherent positive intent.  People rarely show up in life to make another miserable. Most people are generally unaware of how their behavior is perceived and many others don’t care how others perceive them.  They are simploy living their lives the way that best suits them – even if it might annoy the living daylights out of me. When I give in to the power of the annoyance and frustration of how I am experiencing another, I in fact imprision myself in those emotions. When I allow myself to play with how I experience the best version of others,  I free myself from the annoyance prison and better enjoy my life. For example, I had a friend who as a perfectionist found fault with much of what I did when we were around each other.  Her inherent positive intent was to help me be less annoying because of her perceptions of my faults.  Instead of being annoyed with her behavior,  I appreciated her high standards and hired her to stage a property I was selling. (She did a great job and the property was sold very quickly because of her staging abilities).  Seeing my way to her innate goodness helped me free myself from that property I was not using all that much. Freedom happens on multiple levels by living  this value.

Freedom happens in many different ways for different people.  I’m going to see how this approach helps me experience more freedom by getting along better with life.