Archive for the ‘Tips for Project Management’ Category

Conversational Aikido

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

As every project manager knows, communication is 99.995% of the job of a project manager.  Good conversational skills can also build better relationships – in both the personal and the professional parts of life.   I have been facilitating a mastermind group for the past two months.  One of the participants wanted me to teach the group active listening skills as she was not feeling “heard.”   I “heard” something a bit different though – LOL.

Over the past six months I have been studying how your emotions play themselves out in your body.   Your emotions start in your body – originating from the limbic part of your brain.   And THEN your higher level brain labels them.   HOWEVER, even if you try to hide your emotions, your body is still playing out their scripts.   And we all can read this whether the person is articulating it or not.   Say for example I am annoyed at you – but I don’t articulate it and instead try to smooth things out.   Your body will sense and intuit that I am in fact annoyed with you and will act accordingly.  Depending on how you see yourself with respect to me, your body will respond differently.   You might respond in your body by being annoyed back if you feel I have no right to be annoyed at you.  Or you might respond by being amused if you feel more powerful than me.  Or you might feel scared if you feel I am somehow more powerful than you.  Or you could be curious why I feel that way if you are living confident and comfortable in your own power.

I find the best way to build rapport is by the last feeling – one of openness and curiosity.   No matter what someone else is feeling, I have found that relaxing into my power enables me to interact with them from a place of compassion and caring.   I call this compassionate engagement.  The majority of people have positive intentions (as do I).   And it is in recognizing my own positive intentions, and operating from that perspective that I can create more positive interactions.   It also helps me to practice some of the skills that we teach in the Cheetah Communicating through Conflict and Negotiations courses as well.   The two skills that I use from these two course for Conversational Aikido are to state observable facts – this releases you from having to make judgements about people’s behaviors.  And to ask permission based questions – which stimulates buy in to a dialog.

Conversational Aikido - Harmonizing Relationships One Emotion At a Time

Conversational Aikido - Harmonizing Relationships One Emotion At a Time

Square Foot Garden Project In Connecticut

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

Square Foot Garden May 10, 2010

Square Foot Garden May 10, 2010

Project Initiation

This project fulfilled several requirements (i.e. it is what is known as a “robust” solution). The first requirement was to create a beautiful vegetable garden that would increase the property value. The second requirement was to increase the occupants’ capability of being self-sustaining. The third requirement was to shore up the hill to stop the effects of gravity on the pool and the other landscaping up the hill.

Project Planning & Execution

Site Selection – This project required that we build a retaining wall FIRST and then build the square foot garden beds on the top of the newly flattened surface. We choose the site right off the pool to take advantage of the existing fencing AND to help stop the gradual slippage of the pool and the surrounding decking down the hill. This site also is in full sun the entire day.

Site Prep – My cousin – Bill LaBrosse and his friend (Tom Butcher) (both masons) built the retaining wall. I know why these guys stay so thin – that is a lot of manual labor building the wall and back filling it by hand with the six ton of gravel. They spent three weeks living at the house for four days at a time working on this project 15 hours a day.

Building the Beds – This took two truck loads of material – peat moss, manure and vermiculite. We are putting in several thousand worms to have direct in dirt composting and to help with soil aeration. The worms as part of their digestion process excrete waste that is high in nitrogen and phosporus. The goal is to do minimal intervention in the soil throughout the years. The raised beds eliminate soil compaction.

Planting Prep – the vegetable selection was based on the availability to harvest, shelf life of the vegetables and resale possibilities. We selected shallots as they have a 120 day growing season, capture a pretty high market value when packaged correctly, and have a shelf life of 8 months. We also planted other root vegetables that have a long shelf life – carrots, beets, sweet potatoes. We planted pumpkins and winter squashes as well that have a long shelf life.

Protection – we selected the fencing to match the pool fencing to ensure the garden maintained the beauty of the property. The height of the retaining wall will keep out the most invasive predators in the area – the deer. We are installing wire mess along the bottom foot of the fence to keep out the rabbits and other small critters.

Project Monitoring and Control

The weather was the biggest detriment to our schedule. The guys were only rained out of working a half day. Luckily the most rain was on the three days of the week they weren’t working. Our first load of manure was real “shit,” excuse the pun. It was loaded with plastic fencing and lots of hay. We used that to patch up places in the lawn. We went to packaged manure because we really do not want weeds in this garden and with the worm plan, we are going to have very good soil for years to come. We figured the expense to get the dirt the right composition from the get go will pay off in increased yields and less maintenance for years to come.

We had a weight problem with the beds (the dirt was separating the wood) so Bill and Tom used an old deck they had just pulled up on another part of the property to make a deck between the beds. They then back filled the rest with larger gravel. It gave the garden a beautifully finished look.

Project Closeout

Will report back on the garden yield at the end of the season. All in all, this project was very satisfying as it is beautiful and will prevent any more settling of the pool decking and the other landscaping.

Reduce Time to Prepare for Exams and Improve Your Exam Scores

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP

With final exams right around the corner for many college students, I thought it would be good to share the model we use to help people accelerate their exam preparations for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam. You can use this same framework to better prepare for any exam. It will reduce your study time, increase your retention, speed your rate of instant recall, and improve your exam performance. It’s worked for over 35,000 Cheetah Learning students over the past decade – it might even work for you!

Reduce The Time to Prepare for Exams and Improve Your Exam Performance

Reduce The Time to Prepare for Exams and Improve Your Exam Performance

Median Salary Survey for PMPs

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Click here to see a salary survey for PMPs.

Virtual Reality Vs. Reality and Dog Poop

Saturday, December 26th, 2009
The Beautiful View (Sans DID) from My Loom

The Beautiful View (Sans DID) Through the Warp on the Loom

I just finished reading Busting Loose from the Business Game – the main premise is that everything in our life is a complete and total illusion and that as we realize this over time, we will find an infinite source of abundance for whatever we are choosing to do in the moment. We are simply players in a very big and grand game and it’s our expanded consciousness that has created patterns in the field that we are observing. Simply stop observing the patterns, choose to observe new ones and voila, your life is instantly changed. Easy enough – BTDT numerous times. Even created several t-shirts.

The premise of the book is that which you are experiencing, is only real, because you are choosing to observe it. And I thought my naivete of the world being the way I thought it was, was simply because I am not all that observant. I never realized living and observing reality the way I wanted it to be would come in so handy in this new type of game. Especially with the rule that if the dog poops in the house, and you notice it, you are required to clean it.

I was sitting at my loom and weaving, one of our Christmas guests came over to talk with me and immediately started wretching as there was a large pile of obvious dog intestinal distress (DID) less than ten feet from the loom. How could I not notice this? The offending pile, I swore did not exist until this other being entered into my playing field. As proof – look at my “warped” view from the loom.   No dog poop – just a beautiful view. Now being the nice hostess that I am – since she noticed it, and I was the hostess, NOT the guest, I decided to live in her reality for just a few moments and clean up her observed creation. She did not seem to think it was as amusing as I did that she manifested DID in the atrium and I did not. Shit happens (for others).

Come to think of it, I manifested another DID right behind my seat in a very small sports car on a recent road trip to California with her. Where again, she feigned disgust, and I had to clean. She needs to read the book and start playing a new game too. DID doesn’t exist in my virtual reality game when I’m in it with just the dog. At least not when I’m there to have to clean it.

Quantum Physics and Dog Poop

Look at What Santa Dragged In…….

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Spot Cuddles with his Christmas Present - Dot.

Spot Cuddles with his Christmas Present - Dot.

A big Merry Christmas to Spot.   Knowing that Spot was extremely lonely after he lost his dear life partner Bob, Santa managed to procure Dot.  Dot appeared on the Internet shortly after Bob’s one way trip to the vet in Juneau.   It was no small project for Dot to find his way to Alaska for Christmas – it took tremendous coordination involving one scary ride down a snow covered mountain in Arizona, two plane trips, a short visit to Seattle, an adventure by a pal in Haines to take the truck on the ferry over to Juneau so Dot would not freeze all alone in his little cage on the ferry car deck. Really the only thing missing was the ride in Santa’s sleigh – but since we were already in Alaska, Dot was safe from that adventure.

Today is Mutual Admiration Day……

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Let someone know you admire, just why you admire and appreciate them.   It’s very easy to do actually.  Start small and get the ball rolling.  By the end of the day you’ll have a whole snowman of admiration and appreciation built for those important people in your life.   And it just feels good, it expands your heart, and puts a spring in your step.   I started this by listing all the reasons why I love and appreciate our students.  For some very odd reason I was spending too much time focusing on those students who challenge me the most as a teacher.   Not sure why this is, as my students are very good people (even the challenging ones) and when I focus on their good points, this is what brings the joy to my heart of teaching.   So I thought I would shift my focus to the good of all my students.   And then it just expanded.   And once again, I am very happy and fulfilled doing my life work – teaching people how to achieve their goals fast with accelerated project management.

On Mutual Admiration Day, Here is Just Why I Love My Students and Everyone a Part of My Cheetah Team

On Mutual Admiration Day, Here is Just Why I Love My Students and Everyone who has been a Part of My Cheetah Team for a long long time

We call our students “Cheetah”s” and I am dedicating this day to our Cheetah’s and my team of “Cheetah’s” who help me teach project management around the world.   Here are the top ten reasons I just love our students:

1. They all want to succeed in a big way in their careers.

2. They firmly believe Cheetah Learning can help them do this (yes we believe in them too).

3. Many have a very good sense of humor and are great to have in our lives.

4. They are willing to work very diligently to achieve their goals fast.

5. They tell lots and lots of people about their experiences with us.

6. They are very respectful of us a company and individuals and recognize and appreciate we are respectful of them as capable learners as well.

7.  The majority are polite and professional.

8. Most are honest, ethical and like to play by the rules which makes it easy for us to work with them throughout the process of improving their PM skills.

9. The ones who challenge us remind us of why we bring so much value to this field.

10. They are able to tap into their innate genius in our programs and make a big difference in their worlds.

And then I extended this to my team of Cheetahs who help me run Cheetah Learning around the world:

Jean Steinmetz – the go for it gal. Whenever we need to change the way we are working, jean is the first one we change as she is able to morph and change so fast – she is a real cheetah.

Barb Mclintick – was our best student so we hired her. She has created so many fantastic courses it will now be very difficult for anyone to out barb, barb.

Rita Soto – this woman gets more work done than anyone I have ever met on the planet – I’m not sure how I ran the company before she came along. She frees me up to do what I do best – creating new courses.

Kent Dobbins – The funny thing about Kent, if I ever stopped running Cheetah,  Kent would be busier than he is now – he handles all my “not” cheetah projects. There are a lot of those.

Dave Maule – his sense of humor even with extremely challenging situations is so much fun to be around. The harder his job gets, the more he laughs.

Monica Dana – it’s a very good thing she likes to drive as we have her going all over the country doing the cheetah thing with our cheetah booth.

Elissa – trust is what comes to mind when I think of Elissa – she keeps so many balls in the air scheduling and contracting our venues. She is exceptionally organized.

Kristen – reminds me of the energizer bunny with a day timer. She sets up these systems and then keeps them running and running and running – being one of the youngest members of our team, she keeps the rest of us sticking to our commitments and staying coordinated.

All our trainers – some of these folks have been teaching for us for 8 years.

Vikram Bala – I love the way he took on the mantle of the one day class and created a version for India. His take on our approach for the unique needs of India still warms my heart today.

Kelly Baumer, I still remember how psyched she was when she passed the PMP exam in 2001. She has been such a vivacious part of our team since then, the students are so lucky to have her.

Kim Miller – I’ve known in my early dot.com days in the mid-90’s in Seattle. She has stuck with me through all types of crazy renditions of teaching for cheetah.

Norma Ribach is the sweetest woman on the planet and deeply cares about our students. Every time I talk with her about how she has helped this or that student achieve what they thought was impossible, it’s hard not to get all choked up.

Ray Strano – I knew he was destined to be a cheetah when he was the first person I ever saw do the sun salutation, including getting on the floor to do the stretching by the lockers at the prometric testing center. Rays students totally love him too.

Michael Swanson has the perfect balance of stern and loose that keeps his students happy and motivated to do the work they need to do to pass their exams.

Jeff Allen is not just a fantastic and caring teacher, he is also a very astute business man and continues to be of value consul to our students long after they leave the classroom.

Our marketing team is a pretty amazing group of people as well. I love the way we groove with each other to create some truly inspired campaigns.

Judy O’Brien leaves me rolling on the floor at all odd hours of the day and night. She has truly embellished our flex time work environment.  She is our main copy editor for our ad campaigns and does an exceptional job of crafting our newsletter every month.  Oh this reminds me, I still need to review the Dec. Newsletter for her.

Carey Earle is the earle girl extradonaire – it seems that there is one of us writing, whether I start the know how network columns or she starts it – it appears that we are always thinking along the same lines of the content, even without a conversation.

Walter just blows me away with his pluck – that guy dreams up more creative ways to connect with people than anyone I have ever met.

Marlene’s tenacity to get us exposure amazes me on a daily basis. She keeps going after promotional opportunities long after most folks would quit.

Sharene’s ability to take an abstract concept and put it into an image – that signifies class, intelligence, sophistication, and humor – it amazes me how she conveys so much with her work.

Dave LaBroad’s ability with keeping us coming up on top with the search engines and his ability at staying abreast of all the latest and greatest ways at keeping people aware of what we’re up to via the internet keeps me on my toes.

Shari Mahon must have gotten two sets of talents on this planet – tech savvy AND psychotherapy – I have seen her do amazing things with programmers and with technically phobic people alike. Plus she works with me at all hours of the day and night creating updates to our system and creates crazy last minute marketing campaigns that we pull off at Cheetah speed.

And next is our team of licensees who make the Cheetah courses available worldwide.

Peter McBride has worked with me since Jan. 2002 and was my first international licensee for our PMP program.   He soon expanded from Canada to Europe, the Mid-East, and Africa.    Peter has an endless amount of faith and trust in our system.  He took the risk and taught our first PMP class in Dubai for latest new PMP exam on the week the exam changed from the 3rd to the 4th edition.   That is confidence in us.  Peter leads a team of four inspiring teachers that travel the globe for Cheetah Learning.   These people spend more time in the air than I do.   Thank YOU.

Roberto Toledo took up the mantle for Cheetah Learning for the spanish speaking parts of the world.   He has his own PM courses he teaches as well, and translates Cheetah’s courses into spanish and delivers them throughout Latin and South America.   What I love about him is how he puts that uniquely latin spin on the work that comes out of my brain.   While I don’t completely understand what he is saying, when I’ve taught with him in Mexico City, it was obvious his students were thoroughly grasping our accelerated learning and PM concepts.

Diane Bussy in New Zealand spreads Cheetah cheer all over the South Pacific and into Asia.   Her go for it kiwi spin on the Cheetah programs is invigorating and I’ve learned quite a bit as I’ve watched her develop markets in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.   This week,  her assistant Jacqui pulled a group of US Army officers from South Korea over to Hawaii for training.  How she pulled that off is amazing – for everyone involved.

If you’d like to get into the spirit of mutual admiration day, AND take some awesome Cheetah Learning courses, for FREE visit our landing page for Mutual Admiration Day.

Cash Flow and Ancient Prosperity Symbols

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

In my Project Turnaround class, I have the students map out their money pond – that is how cash flows in and out of their life.  They look at the pond as it is and as they would like it to be.  They look at how the money going out of their pond feeds the money coming back into their pond.   It’s a very eye opening exercise

I was reading how bartering is becoming an even bigger deal these days because cash (as in easy credit) is harder to come by.  And looking at my own situation, I have plenty of ways to use the cash coming into my life, and far more projects in the works than I have cash coming in (which actually is very business as usual for me and I suspect most other people on the planet).    All cash is is a means of transacting trade – yet so much time and effort is spent in the accumulation and disbursement of cash (the “flow” thing).   But when you consider all the ways you could trade for goods and services, you start to realize that “cash” is just one way of achieving your goals.   I’ve realized over the past month, that I have another commodity to trade with people for services – my beef.   I still have to figure out how to trade my beef for goods – service people are so much more accommodating.   But cash still reigns supreme – for right now.

About ten years back, I took a leap and got rid of all my credit cards.   I realized they were a crutch in my life that I just did not want holding me back any longer.  I learned that to really succeed, you needed to create relationships with people – not with faceless financial institutions that dont’ give a rip about you.   And that credit cards created a false sense of prosperity – they actually blocked the flow of money from other sources into my pond.   Time and time again, I have had people in my business push me to get a line of credit for the business.  It just didn’t feel right to me – I run and grow my business on sales generated by creating value for others, not on credit.

What I’m seeing now is more and more business owners learning these hard lessons.  I was in a store yesterday that supplies flooring products to the construction trades.   A carpet installer was in there to pick up the carpet for his latest job.  The manager would not release the product until it was paid for.  The guy wanted “terms.”  She said – no way – the last guy I extended terms to in July, still hasn’t paid me.  It’s becoming a pay as you go world and cash is king.

The parting words Professor Crane from Harvard left us with at that three year Harvard program I went through several years back  was – “don’t run out of cash.”    And he was right – regardless of what project it is I’m pursuing, at the end of the day, really it is the only thing that will keep my projects moving forward.

Cash flow is an everyday thing.  You can’t leave it lying around.  The stock brokers will lose it, the IRS will take it,  some nut job will come along and sue you to get it,  a bank will “hold” it for whatever their crazy reasons are at the time,  you’ll be the unwitting victim of some type of insurance scam that you got into to “protect” the cash.   The forces of nature seem to conspire against leaving cash lying around – it has to flow.

And it’s been like this for all of time – here are five ancient prosperity symbols that stimulate cash flow.  Focusing on these, having them around you, are supposed to stimulate cash flow.  My thoughts on this is that they remind you to pay attention to cash flow and that which you focus on becomes real.   But hey, do whatever works – sit on seaweed, light a green candle, put a prosperity corner in the back left corner of your house, cast a prosperity spell at the waning of the new moon, or do what I do to stimulate cash flow – figure out how to create value for other people providing things that will help them create more value.    While I don’t teach the voodoo of cash flow, I do cover more of this topic in my Project Turnaround class. If you want more cash flowing into your life,  check it out.

Symbols That Are Supposed to Attract More Prosperity Into Your Life

Ancient Symbols to Attract More Prosperity Into Your Life

Upside Down Dog Day Mondays

Monday, November 30th, 2009
How can this be comfortable?

How can this be comfortable?

The dog epitomizes my state of being this morning.   I could understand this feeling if I had been drinking. However, I have been extremely allergic to alcohol for almost four years now so I have no idea how I could have the Monday Morning flu.   I think it’s standard post project blues – we worked like crazy to get the house ready for Thanksgiving, had a heck of a party with guests here until late Saturday.   Now we’re working on getting the rest of the house finished for a huge birthday party on February 6th.   We’re up to two working toilets in the house, two more to go.  Trim is going in today.   Tile work should be done in another two weeks.  Since we have not found a home entertanment specialist willing to work for beef yet,  I am exhibiting the Peter Principle and have been promoted to entertainment system designer.   The interior designers are all coming over Friday for an Italian cooking lesson and to give me ideas on furniture (I don’t have that female gene – it was replaced with the engineering, PM gene).  Time to snap myself out of it, take the little pooch for a walk, and get back to work!!!

Knocked it Out of the Park with the Turkey Gravy – No Humble Pie Here.

Friday, November 27th, 2009
The Magnificent Gravy that Brought it All Together for the Grand Finale

The Magnificent Gravy that Brought it All Together for the Grand Finale

It all started out like your normal thanksgiving by installing a toilet in the master bathroom (see previous posts about hosting thanksgiving in the house currently undergoing a major remodel).   Having taken possession of my Turduckin created and shipped by my favorite specialty foods grocer Bob Kane in Simsbury, CT on Wednesday, game was on for the Thanksgiving gravy.   A turduckn is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey – between each layer, Bob packs a surprise of cornbread, cranberry stuffing.  For an easier and tastier gravy, I used an oven roasting bag coated with a mix of a half cup of fresh milled hardy white wheat berries, a half tsp of finally diced fresh rosemary and a half tsp of fresh ground pepper.   I placed the turduckin in the bag,  dotted it with 1/4 cup of diced salted butter, sealed up the bag and cooked it in a 325 oven until the meat thermometer registered 165 F.     While the turduckin was roasting, I simmered turkey giblets (neck and accessories but not the liver) with all the leaves from one celery stalk, a tbs of whole peppercorns, and 1 tsp of salt in a 2 quart sauce pan.   (I got the turkey giblets from the back up turkey I was cooking in the event I bombed the turduckin as I have in years past – I am a good project manager after all and had a risk management plan – this also served to help with the gravy making).

When the Turduckin reached the magic number of 165 F internally (which was an hour after the turkey was done),  I let it sit for about fifteen minutes, then had the toilet installer, Kent,  help by lifting up the turduckin bag and all.   I cut a hole in the bottom of the bag and drained the liquid out of the bag into my simmering turkey giblet stock.   (Special note – Kent washed up after he installed the toilet).

Now came the real love.   I made a rue of the fresh milled hard white wheat berry flour and 1/4 cup of butter (I did not whip the butter from cream milked from my own cow – I had a lot on my plate being thanksgiving and all).  I gradually added in liquid from the pan dripping giblet stock mixture – one half cup at a time – whisking it into a smooth gravy.   I have no idea how long it took to make the gravy – all the guests were on the third bottle of wine and no one seemed to notice.

The grand finale of the dinner culminated two weeks of frantic remodeling work – everything went off exquisitely.   Family friend Elizabeth made the journey over the mountains from the bay area to make her legendery corn bread stuffing.    My daughter flew in from college to strut her stuff with mashed potatoes, whipping them into velvety submission.   Other great friends ditched their traditions to come share in the maiden meal in the part of my house that was finally done – the kitchen.

We wrapped up the food fest with my well rehearsed pumpkin pie.   Since we had sampled one of them the night before, I was out purchasing more pumpkin pie fixens to create two more early Thanksgiving day.   It was a bit tough locating more sugar pumpkins at that late an hour, so I substituted some bizarre orange squash – no one noticed.

While everything was fantastic – I am awarding the gravy first place.   Since I was the only judge,  and didn’t solicit others votes, you’ll have to take my word for it.