Key Leadership Skill – Competency

No human being will work hard at anything unless they believe that they are working for competence. – William Glasser

After my induction in my first job, first work assignment I got was to help my corporate trainer in a training program. Trainer sent me a participants question paper & asked me to print 30 copies of it.

The problem was – I didn’t have enough skill to take print out – I don’t know how to connect my machine to printer, how to print a document and even I don’t know where the printer is situated. I was so shy tell him I don’t know this job or ask him right questions to do the activity. I stayed late in the evening & do something about it, but my mind filled with fear & I was not ready to face the trainer next day without completing the job.

I took time-off next day & returned the job the day after. I was hiding here and there to escape from the trainer. During lunch, he met me and asked me “why did you do like this?” I stood in front of him quietly. He told me “If you don’t know the job, tell you don’t know it & ask for help. People will help if it is possible or if it is so urgent, they will get help from others in right time. You wasted my time” & went off.

Though printing is a simple activity, it requires certain basic & sufficient knowledge and skill to produce the printouts. I can read books to get basic knowledge but that is not enough. I need to get the skill to perform the activity by doing it or by trying to do it. Like printing, every activity requires the sufficiency in skills to produce the right outcome.

Sufficient Knowledge & Skill to perform an activity is called Competency. One of the important factor that divide an experienced from an inexperienced is Competency. In a job, Expected Level of Competency varies based on role & tenure in the job (experience). In Project Management, HR Management closely deals with competency. Competency is one of the required Leadership Skills for leaders which I listed in Leadership Champions – Leadership Rubik Cube.

Let me close this post with apt quote from Roosevelt.

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Project Manager’s Essential Soft Skills

In one of my article, I talked about “Roles and Responsibilities of a Project Manager“. In that article, I mentioned more about a PM’s duties related to project execution. In a very basic level, Project Manager is also another human being who is bound to show certain set of behaviors, beliefs and emotions. Selected set of behavioral skills is essential for a Project Manager to make the project run smoothly & successful. I like to cover PM’s essential soft skills in this article.

This list has more similarity with my other articles on Leadership as “Project Manager is the Leader of the Project who carries the project vision & bring team together to work for a common goal”. In this blog’s theme Leadership Rubik Cube, I explained about following skills: Motivation, Trust, Communication, Influence.

Leadership: This skill is crucial for any PM & it comprises of almost all skills listed here. Mainly a Project Manager should work towards getting everyone on same page with him about the purpose of the Project and making everyone work towards the goal even team have differences between them.

PMs Essential Soft Skills

PMs Essential Soft Skills

Conflict Management: Conflict is natural and inevitable. Project Manager should know techniques to manage conflicts & use them appropriate to the situation. I dealt about this topic in this post.

Coaching: This is similar to competency skill I pointed out in the blog theme. Project Manager need to have necessary competency so that they can develop competency in team members which help them to perform their project activities in the expected level.

Negotiation & Team Building: These skills need more personal involvement from a Project Manager than just focus on output. This one identified under “Relationship & Recognition” in Leadership Rubik Cube. Better relationship with the team & other stakeholders creates a positive environment towards successful execution of the project. All other skills like Communication, Trust Building, Conflict Management, Influencing helps in doing better negotiation & team building activities.

Decision Making: A decision by organization’s management gives birth to a new project 🙂 Facing challenges, finding options, deciding to go with one particular option – are part and parcel of a Project Manager’s day-to-day life. Decisions of a Project Manager at each level affects the project outcome. Therefore it is essential skill for a PM.

Political & Cultural Awareness: Politics in organization is as long as it creates healthy competition among different groups that leads to organization’s growth. PM need to create awareness about the organizational politics & use it appropriately for project success. With increase in global projects, it is inevitable for PMs to understand the cultural differences in the team around the world and work with them accordingly.

Breakdown Structures – A Powerful Project Management Documentation Format

Documentation & maintenance of documentation is one of the hardest and important activities in Project Management. Hundreds of plans, mails, progress tracking, change requests, document updates, contract documents, etc are few examples of documentation events in project life cycle. There are three main formats used to represent information in documents.

1. Text format – This is most used format as we are trained to write paragraphs & pages from our childhood.

2. Tabular format – This is used when a matrix or log type of information representation is required i.e. responsibility matrix, risk log.

3. Tree hierarchical format – This type is used to depict whenever parent-child relationship exists between different elements. This is the prevalent type used in all “Breakdown Structures”. If you analyze you can see, basic structures built-in Mind mapping is very much tree hierarchical in nature. That’s why Mind Mapping technique can be used directly into your project documentation.

Project Management Documentation formats

Project Management Documentation formats

Breakdown structures

Breakdown structures are important document formats throughout Project Management Life Cycle. One can see Work BS, Resource BS, Risk BS, Organizational BS used in most of the Project.

Breakdown structures follow the general principle of life –

“What you think as a big & unachievable can be achieved by breaking it down into smaller pieces & successfully finishing all smaller pieces leads to completion of the big”.

I like to give simple and effective example here. You are about to have a big buffet lunch. If you think of eating all in one stretch, then it is surely unachievable. You are finishing that tasty feast by eating one mouth at a time.

In Project Management, Breakdown structures are hierarchical representation of information based on certain broad element at the higher level and detailing it out in the descending levels (This is what you do exactly in Mind Mapping too!). A breakdown structure has nodes that represent some text attached to it that conveys some specific information. Nodes are connected with branches in a parent-child tree structure that follows parent = sum of all children rule.

Few other general design principles applies to breakdown structures like 1) 100% Rule 2) Mutual exclusive elements 3) Level of detail. Here are few commonly used breakdown structures and their explanations.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – The WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.

Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS) – The resource breakdown structure is a hierarchical representation of resources by category and type.

Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) – A hierarchical representation of the project organization that illustrates the relationship between project activities and the organizational units that will perform those activities.

Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS) – A hierarchical representation of risks according to their risk categories.

Secret codes for ‘Exceeding Expectations’ revealed

This article explains about factors that lead to exceeding expectation in your activities (either personal or professional). This puts your life in a traffic free express way! After understanding the ‘secret codes’ for exceeding expectation & once you started implementing them then no one can stop your growth by any means!

cloud catching

cloud catching

Whatever be your level in your organization, every time when you hear the word “Exceed expectations” from your manager, do you think it is a kind of cloud catching exercise for you? This feeling will be there when you have confusion on what really needs to be done to exceed expectation.

Just by hearing the term “Exceeding Expectations”, you get the general meaning that “over and above what is expected”. Don’t go beyond this simplest & straight forward meaning. If you start thinking too much about the term, you end up in doing ‘tread mill’ i.e. running in the same place & not going anywhere.

First and foremost step for anyone to exceed the expectation is to know what is expected. Expectations changes from time to time based on performed activities & experience. Expectation level can go down or go up from time to time.

Expected behavior is the grey area which is revealed only during performance review session. This makes the entire process of achieving exceed expectation harder.

When a manager sets expectations it is based on team member’s experience, skill and knowledge in overall work or in a particular task.

When manager decides goals, he documents and communicates only the expected outcome. The expected behavior is not explicitly discussed with team member. During performance review discussions, tug of war happens over the expected behavior as it is mostly subjective in nature.

Manager & team member need to analyze alignment of expectations with the high-level project goals.

Note: Though references in the below text talks about interactions between a team member and a manager, the term ‘expectation’ is applicable to all & not specific to one particular activity, hence you can apply these ideas to any activity. Also, degree of individuals’ skill varies from one person to another & this text doesn’t talk about how they can improve these skills as it is in an individual’s hand.

Exceeding Expectations Mind Map

Exceeding Expectations

Three main factors that decides ‘exceeding expectations’ for an employee (either it is a team member or manager) are – Proactive, Effective, Creating visibility. All three are interlinked as one helps the other and they share certain common elements.

Being proactive is the basic behavior expected on every assigned activity. In many ways you can exhibit this factor –

a)      From childhood, we are trained in such a way that we simply wait for instructions. This is real enemy for exceeding expectation. Even you know how to do, if you wait for your manager to tell then it will not bring you up above the expectation level. You need to start performing activities without prompting or at least you can inform your manager that you are doing it.

b)      You need to start assuming responsibility in the absence of someone (either manager or peer)

c)      As Einstein said “one cannot solve the problems at the same level at which it was created”. You always need to understand the big picture which helps in identifying issues before hand.

d)     You need to avoid mistakes either by following existing standards/processes set in the project or by creating your own standards/processes. This gives an excellent way to project you as a disciplined person.

e)      Whenever you encounter with a problem, you should not stop at that point and stare at your manager with blank face. You need to move from problem oriented mindset to solution oriented mindset, in that way you can identify & provide possible solutions or workarounds for the situation.

Effectiveness is another important factor that makes you to exceed the set expectations. You can bring effectiveness mainly through practice & disciplined approaches. Here are few areas where effectiveness gives more weightage to expectations

a)      In different decision-making scenarios – it can be a decision-making for general solution approach or a strategic decision-making or in an ambiguous/pressure situation. Usually work will be smooth and we encounter ambiguous or pressure situations once in a while, but behaviors shown in those situations has long-lasting effect in the organization history.

b)      Effectiveness in activity management has greater value in deciding where you stand in the expectation scale. Following a procedural way in estimating time required, balancing personal & professional life, planning and organizing activities will bring you up in the scale.

c)      Communication is integral part of whole expectation cycle from setting it till fulfillment. Effective communication happens when you understand things to be done in one (or few) round of explanation.

d)     Others will look at you if you start implementing action items (sometimes it is corrective actions too) as many lacks the skill of following up the action items. In this way you can make yourself stand out in the crowd.

e)      Self awareness – Though I mentioned it as last point, but this is having equal credit in securing high score in expectation levels. The one who understood his strengths and weaknesses can perform activities effectively. You help others in your strong areas & get help from others in the weak areas. In this way, you will complete the job within given timelines.

Creating visibility is the third factor for exceeding expectation.

a)      Visibility creation is in your hands & it is not in the size of activity that you are performing. You can make everyone look at you the way you do it.

b)      You can gain confidence of your higher officials by showcasing goodness in the work you performed & by the way you can also grab new opportunities with that.

c)      Again, effective communication decides the level of visibility that you are creating. You need to use every given opportunity as visibility creation test & use your full potential in doing that.

d)     Whenever you are included in a discussion or in performing an activity, everyone around you needs to feel value addition you make to that discussion/activity.

e)      Having a relationship is not just enough; you need to have a positive relationship that enables you to influence people positively. With positive relationship, your acceptance will be widespread & people will help you without ego or grudge.

The five dysfunctions of a Team

Few months back, I come across wonderful leadership fable called “The five dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. Even in one dinner my VP discussed about this book with me. In this book, Patrick described analysis of one newly appointed CEO about her team. She finds there are 5 factors that makes the team weak and she explained factors to the team one after the other with very well narrated conversations. The five dysfunctions are:

  • Absence of Trust,
  • Fear of Conflict,
  • Lack of Commitment,
  • Avoidance of Accountability, and
  • Inattention to Results.
Five Dysfunctions of Team

Five Dysfunctions of Team

Here is few lines about each of those –

  • Absence of Trust – Trust is the basement of any relation esp. team integrity completely depends on one’s trust on other – trust between peers & trust between manager and member. In case lack of trust creeps up in the team lot of behavioral change in team member arises(like not showing weaknesses, to be vulnerable and open, getting into defensive mode, not helping) which in turn demolishes the very purpose of working as a team. Effect: Invulnerability

  • Fear of Conflict– Conflict is healthy in any team. There is one quote that says importance of conflict – “If two people agreeing in all terms then one is redundant. Conflict is healthy & required for progress”. People doesn’t want to hurt others or play politics avoid conflicts which again causes issues within the group. Effect: Artificial Harmony

  • Lack of Commitment – Running around without starting an activity with fear of failure & not really engaging one self. Giving due respect to each one’s suggestions, we cannot have good options. If some good options are not selected, people may do it for work sake but they do not commit.  Effect: Ambiguity

  • Avoidance of Accountability – No commitment then no accountability. In many teams, team member thinks that only manager is answerable to upper management & there is no accountability for them, but this is not true as such. This is because team members avoid accountability either they are not skillful or they don’t feel they are responsible for producing the results. Effect: Low standards

  • Inattention to Results – Ultimate goal of any project is producing excellent results. When teams are not held accountable the team members tend to look out for their own interests, rather than the interests of the team – this puts purpose of a team at stake. Effect: Status and ego

Do you think this model works only for organization? The answer is “No” It works in personal life too. Try simulating family as a team, you can find all of those dysfunctions cause issues in families.

This model is used in many organizations & reviews say “It really works!”. Put this in practice in your organization/ personal life too & get excellent results.


1. Patrick Lencioni (2002), The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, John Wiley and Sons, 2002

2. Wikipedia

FIRO-B® – An Excellent Instrument to Assess Your Interpersonal Behavioral Needs

I read “Echo in mountain story” recently – it says ‘you will get what you say/show’. This suits in every interactions in our life. If you smile, other person will also smile. If you get angry, other person will also get angry.

All human interactions are based on expectations in mind. Simple example – “I expected Govind to invite me for his dinner party and he did. But when there was a dinner part in my house, I didn’t invite him.” Our expectations & actions are different hence “what we want & what we are” is different. If we bring absolute synergy between these two, world will say ‘There you are!’. FIRO-B® is such a kind of test which brings out the fire within you.

It is more easier to say the acronym FIRO-B® than in its whole form – “Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior“. This tool assesses how an individual’s personal needs affect that person’s behavior towards other individuals.


FIRO-B®? What is it?

The FIRO-B® instrument was developed in 1958 by Will Schutz for the purpose of establishing high performance teams in the US Military and is often used in several research initiatives, including the prediction of team performance, leadership orientation research, and therapist-client compatibility research. Nowadays, FIRO-B® instrument is often used in the professional development of managers.

As such, the FIRO-B® instrument examines behaviors derived from interpersonal needs in an attempt to increase interpersonal effectiveness and ultimately improve relationships with others (Hammer & Schnell, 2000).

The FIRO-B® measures a person’s needs for:

  • Wanted Behavior (W) – how much a person wants others to initiate action, and how much that person wants to be the recipient
  • Expressed Behavior (E) – what a person prefers to do, and how much that person wants to initiate action

As per FIRO-B®, each one of us has some fundamental interpersonal relation needs which is represented as 3 dimensions:

  • Inclusion (I) – needs related to forming new relations, recognition, belonging, and participation
  • Control (C) – needs that are related to decision making influence, power or dominance, leading, and responsibility
  • Affection (A) – needs related to emotional ties, closeness, warmth, and sensitivity


About assessment

There are 54 items in the assessment test for which you need to rate in a scale of 1 to 6 that best suited for you. With answer keys provided, you need to get the different boxes filled in above picture. Possible values for each box is 0-9. There are several ways your scores on this questionnaire can be analyzed and  interpreted. You can compare your expressed total with your wanted total to determine the extent to which you are willing to give as much behavior as you want to get.


I came across this YouTube video that gives you general overview of FIRO-B® instrument.



* Career & employee interpersonal skill development

* Identify incompatibility between members of a team & improve its effectiveness

* Identifying leadership preferred working styles & leadership development

* Creating better understanding within family


Note: FIRO-B is a registered trademark of CPP, Inc.


1) Schutz, W.C. (1958). FIRO: A three dimensional theory of interpersonal behavior. New York; Holt,Rinehart, & Winston.

2) YouTube Video:

3) Wikipedia Link:

4) Wiki Link:

Executing Process Group Process – Manage Project Team

This is another process in Executing Process Group. Below is Inputs, Tools & Techniques and Outputs Mind Map for Manage Project Team which is classified under Human Resources Management Knowledge Area.


Manage Project Team

Important Note:

* Note# 1: There could be some typo or presentation errors. Please reply back for any corrections.

* Note# 2: You can use this for personal use (like studying for PMP Exam or PM activities). But don’t share this in common forum or web sites. As this one is part of my training guide and project management book.