Archive for September, 2016

High Performing Business – Service – Ready, Willing, and Able

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

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

Thank you Dylan for being Ready, Willing and Able to install the micro green system this weekend. We learned a great deal about the importance of being ready, willing and able with succeeding in life (and in growing micro greens).

Thank you Dylan for helping with the micro green system install this weekend.  We learned a great deal about the importance of being ready, willing and able with succeeding in life (and in growing micro greens).

In designing learning experiences, we use a technique called the “emotional gradient t-up” as a way to engage our students. This way even if they do not come to class being “ready, willing and able” to learn,  through the t-up, they become so.

I was thinking about this in relationship to being in service with the installation of our micro green tents this week.  In the class we designed called “Project Micro Greens”  Cheetah students get a complete indoor vertical hydroponic micro green system (like the one in the picture). To learn how to set it up and use it, they go through a t-up process we designed to help them get ready to set up and operate their system. By the time their kit arrives, they are ready, willing and able to set up their system in five hours and use it to produce enough micro greens to sell or share with others.

Yet this weekend, as a favor to several folks in our community, instead of requiring they take the class, we showed up and installed the micro green system for them. We now are showing them how to operate the system to grow micro greens  Initially I was surprised at the level of T-up we had to do to engage them in growing micro greens. Then I remembered – well of course, they have not done the course nor have we taught them the course in person.

Being in service for us, means following our own programs the way we design them to ensure those we are serving become ready, willing and able to learn what they need to learn with us.

For more information, on Project Micro Green – visit Alaska Research Garden.

High Performing Business – Service – Tools and Talent

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

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

Giving or getting exceptional service requires having the right people with the right tools to make light duty of heavy work.

Giving or getting exceptional service requires having the right people with the right tools to make light duty of heavy work.

Being of service, helping others, creating value – these are innate human drives.  For many, focusing on being in genuine service brings meaning and depth to life. I was discussing these deep philsophical ideas with the dirt working dude for our year round food production project in Alaska.  (He has been working in the heavy equipment trades running logging camps for 30 years and is clearing land for our project).  Our long awaited rental wood chipper finally arrived on the ferry from Juneau.  He got right to it, and made fast work of chipping the large brush pile created from clearing the land. He was far more efficient at using that machine than I was.  He had both the right tools and the right talent to be of the most service.  We both agree each of us has our unique talents and when we are able to support each other with the right tools, we can best serve the greater good.

As a project manager, to ensure people are able to deliver the best service possible,  I match the talent required with the best tools available and the appropriate training for using those tools. Talented professionals  deliver consistent performance over time – it’s more than just having good intentions or the willingness to do the job, as I discovered with my desire to be helpful with the wood chipping project.  The professional with 30 years experience clearing land was way more qualified and got the wood chipping job done in 1/10th the time it would have taken me, no matter what my best intentions were.

I saw a prime example of the impact of making a hire based on intentions rather than qualifications with an elderly relative.  He  had a recently unemployed son’s girlfriend take on the caregiver role with the best of intentions.  She took a quick online training program to be able to get paid – but lacked the talent or tools to be of the best service.  Family members calling the shots on who did the caregiving were not aware of the requirements. Not having experience in eldercare;  they thought professional care meant their family member would be over medicated and left drooling in a corner in an under staffed nursing home. I understand this is a common misperception regarding professional  eldercare.  Everyone suffers in this situation as the well meaning but unqualified amateur driven by their best intentions,  over time gets increasingly stressed and burnt out not having the proper systems, skills or training to handle the basic day to day requirements and even worse effectively navigate the challenges that arise (this is actually an issue with unqualified people in every field).  The  person being cared for suffers most though from these well intentioned yet misguided efforts of an unqualified  amateur who often creates more problems then they resolve – especially for someone at the most vulnerable time of their life.  And instead of saving the family money, this ends up costing far more than if a more professional approach was adopted from the get go.  (plus it increases the chances of having to make a hasty decision for professional care when the elder in an unsafe situation gets injured – increasing the chances of the very situation they are thinking they will avoid – escalating the care level required).   Yes sometimes, you have no choice but to have an amateur at the helm, but this is not one of those cases as the family can well afford the best care money can buy. They just happen to believe the amateur is actually better than the professional.

Yet how often we make this same costly mistake because we lack the insight required to hire the right person?  Knowing how to hire the right professionals and providing the type of support they need is crucial to running any successful business – even if that business just happens to be day to day living as is the case in getting older.

We all know that sweet spot when talent and tools meet to deliver exceptional service.  Professionals practicing their craft know it in themselves  and it’s also easily recognized by others.  Granted there is a spot for apprenticeship and helping people learn the ropes.  And many people find much joy in their  DIY efforts.  But when we support (and benefit)  from the level of service that the pro’s in their field can deliver – we in fact significantly improve the quality of the journey for everyone.

In the Cheetah Certified Project Manager program, students hone in on where they and others can best be of service based on leveraging innate talents.  Cheetah Certified Project Managers stand out by creating the situations where delivering exceptional service is their norm.


High Performing Business – Service – Feedback

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

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

Everyday I get to review five to ten course evaluations from Cheetah Learning students.  For me, this is my pay day. All student feedback is valued insight, however and whatever our students want to share about their experiences as they pursue their goals under our guidance.

It always impresses me to the level and depth Cheetah students share what happened for them in our courses and their suggestions for how we can take our programs to the next level.  We roll many suggestions into improving all elements of the business – most of our students express sentiments such as this from a recent Cheetah Certified Project Management graduate:

“What was the most valuable part of the course?: ‘I appreciated the opportunity to use what I already know very well (myself, and project management) to learn a lot about things that I wanted to know much more about (how to do projects FAST, and how to effectively negotiate like a CHEETAH).’
Other topics you’d like to see in a course?: ‘I think a little information about COMMUNICATION and CONFLICT STYLES would make this course EVEN BETTER! 🙂 A few years ago I took a course on communication style and conflict resolution style. The course was taught by my companys (Anthem, Inc – Fortune 50) Director Of Organizational Development. I was the only student in the class who had a communication style AND confrontation style of “DIRECT/DIRECT.” Interestingly enough the instructor also had “DIRECT/DIRECT” as his communication/confrontation styles. I am a Myers-Briggs ENTP; he is an ISTJ. However, I learned more from him in a few sidebar conversations after class about how I can more effectively communicate with others if I know how to read their communication style, and also resolve conflict more effectively by recognizing the conflict resolution style of others and flexing my approach towards them accordingly.’
Other Comments?: ‘Ive taken Cheetah Learning courses 3 times in the past prior to this course – I took my PMP exam the day after my Cheetah Exam Prep  course ended, and passed with flying colors. Ive maintained my PDUs via Cheetah Learning’s courses since. I appreciate how your curricula approach the material of each course module from different perspectives. This makes your courses easy to commit to, and extremely useful in real world application. Last, but certainly not least – JEAN STEINMETZ is AMAZING. Jean was my instructor twice before, and when the Cheetah after-hours answering service failed to connect me to a representative after 2 calls, I e-mailed Jean and asked for her guidance. She CALLED ME within 5 MINUTES, helped me select the best course for me, and even generated a discount for me on the phone. WOW!!! I was absolutely overjoyed to hear from Jean; I have no words. Also – Coach Allison is amazing. She is responsive, helpful and insightful. Allison really helped me stay motivated and provided great feedback. It was obvious she read my assignments and cared about giving me useful and constructive feedback.”

When someone takes the time and effort to provide this level of feedback,  it helps us up our game and improve our service.  Think about – why ask for feedback if you are not planning on using it to improve how you serve your customers?   Student feedback helps our high performing business stay high performing.


High Performing Business – Service – Leverage

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

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

In Haines, the bears go into hibernation when their food sources decrease. But we humans who live here have to survive year round. Booming more food independent is one of the goals of our new course - Project Micro Green. Like most inventions, it was born out of necessity up here.

In Haines, the bears go into hibernation when their food sources decrease. But we humans who live here have to survive year round. Becoming more food independent year round is one of the goals of our new course – Project Micro Green. Like most inventions, it was born out of necessity up here.

In 2008, very concerned about the unraveling of our financial investment infrastructure, it occurred to me I was looking at just one element of our capital basis.  We in fact have five distinct sources of capital we can leverage to be in service and create value with and for one another – financial, social, knowledge,  brand and infrastructure.  I have written extensively on this and created a number of courses for Cheetah Learnng  over the past eight years related to leveraging all your sources of capital.  Yesterday was a remarkable day where I got the privilege of serving my community in three unique ways by leveraging my other non financial sources of capital.

One of my bigger goals is to improve food self sufficiency in this small remote Alaskan town I’ve called home the past 15 years.  My daughter went to the University of Alaska in Anchorage and became a registered dietician – she is now the town dietician here.  Several years ago, she introduced me to a concept I never gave much thought to living in the lower 48 – food insecurity. We get a barge that delivers our food here once a week.  By the time we get fresh produce, it’s already at least ten days old.  I’m not an epidemiologist but have noticed we seem to get a lot of people with cancer diagnoses up here – is there a correlation?

So this year, with the help of a recent Environmental Science grad from Berkley named Dylan Kasch, we started a project up here called the Alaska Research Garden.  Our mission is to research and teach ways to become more food self sufficient here.  (What we’ve realized is this is not just an up here issue).  Anyhow, yesterday was one of those crucible days where everything coalesced into focus of exactly why we are doing what we are doing.  We often do tours of the projects we have going on here. Yesterday we had the owners of the largest grocery store in town visiting.  And we had a couple neighbors who want to help us share our efforts in the community.  Together we may actually help make our town more food self sufficient. We are going to be helping each group set up micro green operations for the sectors of the community they serve, the way they serve them.

But that is not the all of yesterday. I’ve been negotiating an arrangement with one of the former town planners who wants to get into farming with his ten children. My dietician daughter had worked with him seven years ago in an internship – good guy, community first, kindred spirit in our interests in local food self suffficiency. Yesterday we signed the contract on a mutually agreeable approach to leverage a five acre parcel of land I own.  It used to be the main farm in the area a hundred years ago, before we had a barge bringing up our food every week.  It’s ten miles from my home, but only a half mile from his home. It’s a natural fit for he and his family to resurrect the historic farm for our town.

In all of these situations we are all leveraging our unique sources of capital to be of best service to each other and our community.  Food self sufficiency is very much a community effort where we need to work together in the ways that best serve the greater good – and it’s most certainly not all about the money.  It’s about leveraging our relationships.  It’s about leveraging our collective know how. It’s about leveraging our infrastructure.  And yes it’s about leveraging our brand equity – our reputations.  Every single person I’m aligning with is rock solid  with their heart in the right place – as demonstrated over years of consistent behavior.

Being in service to others is a highly collaborative effort – far more enjoyable when in the company of like minded, kindred spirits.  While meeting financial needs is relevant, it is through leveraging our other sources of capital where we are often best in service together.  I deeply appreciate the willing, go for it, pioneering spirit and the talent of my neighbor’s in this small Alaskan town.  It makes it even more of an exciting adventure to be here, now.





High Performing Business – Service – Moral Compass

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

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

I’m putting the finishing touches on a new course we call Project Micro Greens.  It’s been a whirlwind as we designed and use the system included in the course. But teaching how to build it is quite another task. Especially since I have been sufficiently traumatized from poorly documented how to guides from others creations.  No way do I want another to suffer like that while building one of our creations.

There is an axiom in Agile Project Management to do the least possible to get the desired result.  I keep reminding myself of this  as I document the various elements of assembling the micro green system.  Yes there are going to be people who want to gold plate their system, but what is the least effort here someone has to make to be able to grow micro greens year round?  To get to that stage may require me at this stage to put in more effort.  To make it as easy as possible for the most amount of people to grow their own greens year round.  Even someone like me who does not have a green thumb.

What even drove me to get into this in the first place?  It was a desire to have more nutritious foods available year round as in Alaska it’s hard to get fresh vegetables when all our food is shipped here on a barge. By the time we get produce its already two weeks old.  Fine for root cellar type veggies, terrible for greens.  I figured if we are paying for the energy to ship our produce that arrives past its sell by date, why not pay for the energy to grow it here?

We stumbled on this micro green idea which just took off and took on a life of its own.  They grow super fast so in under two weeks we had viable product.  And they are up to 40 X more nutritious than regular greens so a little goes a long way.  They are super easy (and tasty) to incorporate in really regular things – like scrambled eggs – a tablespoon of a Swiss chard micro green adds a huge flavor and vitamin boost.  We’ve been growing a whole assortment of them from basil to corn (yeah wow on that one).  The more we get into this the more we discover the options and choices.

But what does this have to do with being of service and a moral compass?  It’s time consuming to create a program that helps others get the same phenomenal results we are having.  I have to take a step back from the excitement of the doing to document what we have done and are doing in a way that is fun and easy for another to replicate.  This is not so easy. Being committed to others success is what drives me to go this extra distance.  I want people to experience the thrill, the value, and the same sense of accomplishment  I have with this.

This is where the moral compass comes in to delivering exceptional service. You cannot fake a genuine thirst for making someone else’s life better from your efforts – it’s either three or it’s not.  One of the things I totally love about running Cheetah – we attract the same in the students who find us. Working with people who share our same moral compass for making others lives better because of our mutual commitment to service creates an upsiral of goodness.  It’s a great place to live.

High Performing Business – Service – Create The Market

Monday, September 12th, 2016

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

Cheetah Learning's impact on the PMP market over the past 15 years.

Cheetah Learning’s impact on the PMP market over the past 15 years.

When I created Cheetah Learning’s four day accelerated exam prep for the PMP in 2001, there were roughly 40,000 people certified.  As a new comer to a saturated exam prep market, I estimated we could fill four classes per year with our accelerated approach.  When sharing my commitment to guaranteeing people would pass at the local Project Management Institute meeting, my colleagues thought I would lose my shirt.  They thought that with 40% of people failing after six months of prep, there was no way  I could have a better result with only four days.  Fast forward fifeteen years later, 98% of Cheetah students still pass the PMP exam after our four days accelerated prep.  Luckily these results  happened with our first class – as the horrific events of 9/11 were on the second day of class.  I figured if our students could pass the exam that week, the accelerated approach worked.

I had no idea at the time that by giving people a viable way to pass the PMP exam, in a very short amount of time, would inspire so many more people to go for that certification.  Still today, in a field where a whole new range of competitors in the accelerated exam prep space appear and disappear every year, Cheetah Learning retains 10% of the market.  We do no formal advertising and the majority of our students are referred to us  – even by our competitors.  Most PMP exam prep companies offer only several PMP courses per year – for them it’s not easy to fill the classes.  We know this because in addition to copying our accelerated angle, they also copy our calendar and we often see them at the same venues we use.  What they have not figured out though is how to copy our results.  This is probably the reason why at Cheetah Learning, we still manage to fill six to eight classes every month.

Finding a new way to serve an existing market, created exceptional growth.   We just did not know at that time our approach would create this amazing impact.  The lesson I learned from this is to offer the approach with exceptional service that changes the game, regardless of the existing size of the market.  Learn how to become PMP certified with the Cheetah Smart Start Guide to the PMP.  

High Performing Business – Service – Connect

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

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

Cheetah's purpose - what gets us rearing to go every day is connecting people to those things in life that can help them succeed beyond their wildest imaginations.

Cheetah’s purpose – what gets us rearing to go every day is connecting people to those things in life that can help them succeed beyond their wildest imaginations.

Several years before starting Cheetah, a colleague introduced me to George Land’s book called “Break Point and Beyond.”  This was where I first learned of the concept of autopiotic systems.  Autopiotic means self organizing.  An autopiotic system is self organizing around a core value.  When I formed Cheetah Learning, I set it up as an autopiotic system self organized around the core value that your success was my success . This was based on my personal practice and life enhancing experiences of mudita.  This is a Sanskrit term meaning “joy in others good fortune.”  Connecting with others in a way that quickly improves their good fortune is the self organizing  core value of  Cheetah Learning.

When I step back and look at this connection we create with our students through the lens of service ,  caring about another’s success with our programs – well isn’t this why we are here anyhow?  I never understood how a school could not take a student’s failure personally. When a student fails to learn, is this not a failure of the school more than a failure of the student?  It is at Cheetah Learning.

Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on a new course called Project Micro Greens.  The purpose of the course is to help people set up their own successful smal scale operation to grow micro greens year round and distribute them in their communities.  It includes the entire indoor vertical hydroponic system and all the know how to set it up, operate, use and distribute micro greens.  I got into this because in Alaska it is hard to get fresh vegetables year round and micro greens provide up to 40 x the nutritional value of other vegetables (maybe even more than that in Alaska as when we receive produce here it’s already a week or two old).  I ask you, wouldn’t  you rather take a class from a school where you knew they were going to help you succeed,  many times beyond your wildest imagined result?

Making a genuine connection with the heart and soul of what drives success for our students is what brings a spring to our step.  I’m driven to create programs that help our students achieve amazing things in their life as my personal calling.  This connection we have with our students – where their success is our success permeates every system of the business – from how we initially design the courses all the way through how we handle student inquires and troubleshoot tech challenges.  At Cheetsh Learning, service is about connecting our students to the success in life that is their due – whether it be with passing the difficult PMP exam at cheetah speed or providing year round  nutritious micro greens for their family and community.



High Performing Business – Service – Stepping Up to the Plate

Monday, September 5th, 2016

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

Helping busy professionals keep their head above water with earning their PMP is what differentiates Cheetah's approach to passing the PMP than all others.  It takes a higher level of stepping up to the plate to offer a significant guarantee of passing this very difficult exam with - especially when students are dealing with significant other challenges in their life.    We are experts in helping people prevail even in the toughest of times.

Helping busy professionals keep their head above water with earning their PMP is what differentiates Cheetah’s approach to passing the PMP than all others. It takes a higher level of stepping up to the plate to offer a significant guarantee of passing this very difficult exam  – especially when students are dealing with significant other challenges in their life. We are exoerts in helping people prevail even in the toughest of times.

Being in service is a privlege of the capable  – think about it – who wants someone incompetent attempting to be of service?   Yet it is more than just an alignment of capabilities  to best serve others, it is also about taking on the responsibilities that are yours to take on.  I’ve experienced time and time again, that the bane of being the “responsible” one is more responsibility.  Yet for those who are both capable and responsible, we are the ones called into service when the going gets rough. This level of diligency though is what can make your business shine – creating business systems people know they can count on, especially during difficult times.

Lets look at this through the lens of what we have created at Cheetah Learning.  Often we get people who come to us pretty down trodden because they have failed at taking PMI’s PMP exam.  Adding to this, they have to earn their PMP in order to keep their job or find a job. They need confidence the path we are taking them down will lead to their eventual success.  When I stepped up to the plate and created a program that would guarantee people’s success, and at cheetah speed, we quickly took over the market for PMP exam prep.  I had the capability to create the accelerated approach to pass the PMP exam.  What I needed was to take on the responsiblity of the assurance this would in fact work for a majority of students.  We did this by offering  a significant guarantee people would pass the PMP exam after the four day prep.  It was both our capability and our willingingness to take on the responsiblity for others’ success that helped us become and stay the market leader for over 15 years in this highly saturated and competitive space.

Stepping up to the plate time and time again is what creates enduring success in business (and in life).  Learn how you too can create enduring success in your life by aligning your capabilities with the responsibilities that are yours to take on by becoming a Cheetah Certified Project Manager.


High Performing Business – Service – Needed vs. Wanted

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

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

Needed, Needed and Wanted, or Wanted - the best choice for everyone is to be where they are both needed and wanted.

Needed, Needed and Wanted, or Wanted – the best choice for everyone is to be where they are both needed and wanted.

Years ago a good friend told me people go where they are needed and stay where they are wanted.  I’ve realized while there are many places I’m needed, there are far fewer where I’m truly wanted.  I’ve found time and time again, I’m best able to serve those who want the value of my services even more than need the value of my services.  So rather than focusing on where I’m needed, I go instead to where I’m consistently wanted.  It has made my life so much easeir.

Lets consider a traditional sales approach – that of  helping people understand why they need your product or service.  The sales cycle can be extensive as you must educate your customer to the point where they not only understand why they need what you are offering, but also want it. Compare this to where people know they want what you are offering – this is what happens day in and day out at Cheetah Learning – we only have to be good at answering the phone.  Over 95% of Cheetah’s business is from word of mouth from people who already know they need and want our specific type of accelerated project management education. It’s far easier to deliver exceptional customer service to a student base that truly wants the fast success in their careers our programs consistently deliver.

Consider where in your life are you both needed and wanted?  When you become a Cheetah Certified Project Manager you master how to create those situations in your life where need and want consistently show up so you can deliver your best level of service.