Category Project Leadership & Management

10 Solutions To Stop Good Objectives From Going Bad

So many objectives – so many failures

That’s the refrain of leaders everywhere.

The business objectives they need to meet to be successful in their jobs are taking longer than planned, costing more than budgeted or failing outright.

Why do good objectives go bad?

My clients say the ten most common mistakes that cause their good objectives to go wrong – and the coaching solutions I helped them with to solve these costly problems.

Mistake No. 1: Not Assigning the Right Manager. Typically, more time is spent fighting for resources than finding the right person to lead. Too often, managers get picked based on availability, not necessarily skill set. This is a severe mistake as more projects failed because of the wrong manager than could ever be blamed for lack of resources.

Solution: Choose a manager whose skills best match the requirements of your objectives.

Mistake No. 2: Failing to Get Everyone On Board. Too often, objectives fail because they don’t get enough support from those affected by and involved in the project. Usually, the manager:

  1. It didn’t make clear what everyone’s role was.
  2. It didn’t describe the payoff when the objective was achieved.
  3. It didn’t tell how each person’s contributions would be evaluated.
  4. Failed to generate a sense of urgency.

Solution: The project manager should start by calling the team together and delivering a presentation about the objective and its importance to the broader organization.

Read More: How to Communicate

Mistake No. 3: Not Getting Executive Buy-in.

Solution: A ship without a captain soon runs aground. Somebody at the higher levels of the organization needs to own the objective and be personally vested in its success.

If the objective isn’t crucial to your boss, ask yourself why it should be meaningful.

Mistake No. 4: Putting Too Many Objectives on the table at One time. Most managers think that they can start and work on every objective at the same time. In reality, multitasking slows people down, hurts quality and, worst of all, the delays caused by multitasking cascade and multiply through the organization as people further down the line wait for others.

Solution: A good first step to stop productivity losses is to reduce the objectives you are working on by 25 percent. Though counter-intuitive, reducing the number of open projects increases completion rates.”

Read more about priorities.

Mistake No. 5: Lack of (Regular) Communication. Communication is the most crucial factor of successful objectives; without regularly communicating, the project will fall apart.”

Solution: Schedule time each week to review progress and stick with it. Regularly scheduled meetings and communications processes help to keep everyone on the same page and work flowing.

Mistake No. 6: Not Being Specific with the Scope of the Objective. Any objective that doesn’t have a clear goal is doomed. Mission creep is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your project. If not handled properly, it can lead to cost and time overrun.

Solution: Define the scope of your project from the outset and monitor the project by continually asking if our work is contributing to the objective’s success.

Mistake No. 7: Providing Overly Optimistic Timelines. The intentions are noble, but missing deadline after deadline will only lead to distrust and aggravation.

Solution: Add a buffer — some extra time and money to your project.

Mistake No. 8: Not Being Flexible. While you may think of your plan as the bible that leads you to your goal, listen to new information and suggestions that come up along the way.

Solution: Step back and take a fresh look at the overall project, review how things have gone so far, and how you can improve.

Mistake No. 9: Micromanaging Projects. New managers commonly treat their job as an enforcer, policing the team for progress and updates.

Solution: Set expectations from the start that there will be regularly scheduled updates to advise the status and progress expected and encourage them to vocalize any issues.

Read more about micromanagement.

Mistake No. 10: Not Having Defined Success.

Solution: The first thing a manager should do is to ensure what will be considered a successful completion of the objective. Understanding what success looks like ensures everyone walks away satisfied at the end.

Want To Lose Your Job … Manage Your Boss! Learn the 6 Actions To Partner With Them Instead

This article was originally published on May 17, 2018, and has been updated. 

How often have you heard “managing your boss” or “managing up?”

I don’t know who decided this would make your life easier, and there are plenty of reasons “managing your boss” isn’t the right way to go.

    1. As someone who has been the Boss, I find it quite disrespectful.
    2. Regardless of your relationship with them, there is a vast power differential tilting toward your Boss.
    3. Most employees don’t realize the relentless pressure their Boss deals with, and you are just one more pressure—get over yourself!

That might sound harsh, but hear me out.

There are ways to build a better relationship with your Boss that doesn’t involve managing them.

So, what can you do?

Partner with your Boss!

You and your Boss are involved in a dynamic alliance which calls on both of you to partner in achieving your goals.

Before we move on to ways you can be a better partner to your Boss, let’s find out how well you’re partnering right now.

How well do you partner with your Boss?

Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions:

      1. Do you and your Boss share information, stories and tasks? (Y/N)
      2. Do you feel you’re playing on the same team? (Y/N)
      3. Do you have a joint interest in the goals you are trying to achieve? (Y/N)
      4. Are you and your Boss strongly aligned in the pursual of goals? (Y/N)
      5. Do you associate comfortably in an informal setting? (Y/N)
      6. Do you know where you stand? (Y/N)
      7. Would you say you work well together? (Y/N)
      8. Do you trust your Boss? (Y/N)
      9. Does your Boss trust you? (Y/N)
      10. Would you say you are currently “partnering with your boss”? (Y/N)

Total # of “Yes” answers ____

How did you do?

8–10 “Yes” answers: You have a solid partnership with your Boss. Focus your attention on ways to improve it.

5–7 “Yes” answers: Working together could be more productive and pleasant. Focus on deficits in skills, differences in work styles or management approaches. Then find answers to help improve them.

1–4 “Yes” answers: Your partnership with your Boss needs work. Focus your attention on issues of work style, trust, skills, and ethics. You will probably want to build a plan to approach your Boss about resolving some problems together.

6 Tips for Partnering With Your Boss

If your partnership with your Boss could be improved (and let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement), you won’t want to miss these tips for partnering with your Boss.

1. Try to understand your Boss.

You need to understand your Boss and their working context:

    • Goals and objectives
    • Pressures and issues
    • Strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots
    • Preferred work style

Then, you need to do the same for yourself!

2. Don’t try to reform your Boss.

Your Boss is human with strengths and limitations, so it’s a far more productive approach to build on strengths rather than trying to remedy limitations.

3. Build on strengths.

One effective way to support your Boss is by keeping them doing what they are good at.

4. Focus strengths on things that matter.

Strengths matter, but their real value only comes when applied to the things that matter.

Start by asking, “what do they need from me to perform?”

5. Find what works.

This is not about “crawling” to the Boss.

It would be best to start with what you consider the right thing to do. Find ways to communicate these to your Boss and have them accepted.

6. Build your relationship.

Build your relationship based on regular, open communication built on trust, respect, and understanding.

When taking these steps to build a better relationship with your Boss, you will also want to deal with your frustrations about being overloaded.

How to Avoid Being Overloaded or Having Your Time Wasted

Your Boss is paying your cheque; asking you to do work shouldn’t be a surprise or considered illegitimate.

What is not legitimate is an overload or waste of your time.

If you feel it’s come to that point, here’s what to do next:

    • Tell your Boss when you are reaching the saturation point.
    • Make her aware of the consequences if she tries to overload you, “Yes, I could get that done by then, but that would delay this….”
    • Don’t say “yes” to everything your Boss asks. Negotiate!
    • Ask your Boss to prioritize when they give you a list of tasks.
    • When asked to do something, get details and, if possible, say you’ll get back to her or take a look at it.


    • Work out what the job involves.
    • Find out who else could be affected.
    • Go back with an answer, “Here’s what I can do.”

Something to remember.

Your Boss is your Boss, and you will never win in a power struggle with them. If you think you can do better: get qualified, apply for the job, and give it a shot!

But in the meantime, building a better relationship with your Boss and partnering with them instead of managing them is a great place to start.


Join the Free First Session of the Better Leader Inner Circle


Discover the eight tips to building a better partnership with your #1 stakeholder

… your Boss



How to Become a Better Leader By Asking Better Questions




A quick note from Steve:

This post was recently featured on the Engineering Management Institute Website. 

It is addressed to engineering leaders, but the content is equally applicable to all leaders.

I am proud to have received the Engineering Management Institute’s ‘Top Author’ designation.




Being an engineering leader is about understanding what is going on around you.

In the military, it is called “Situational Awareness.” Often, the people with the most pertinent information about the situation are those working for you.

Questions are powerful tools and knowing how to ask them is key to becoming a better engineering leader.

How to Ask Questions

How to ask the right questions in the right way?

Ask your questions like you care and want to know the answers. You’re not reading from a script — ask with sincerity.

You asked, so be prepared to hear answers that you may not like and be sure to take the time to listen genuinely.

The answer you need may not come forth the first time you ask. But if you ask sincerely and humbly, you will build trust and confidence. So ask regularly, and the quality of the information you gather will improve.

Read about the six things you need to communicate.

What Questions to Ask

These are the five questions to ask your team members every month, as well as why you should ask them:

What is your biggest accomplishment this month?

This question provides a sense of forwarding motion and progress.

When workers relate positive information, it gives them a sense of personal achievement.

Answers give you both oversight and performance improvement potential.

You get an understanding as to if people are contributing in the ways you need them to.

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

You can begin to understand where the employee is struggling.

You can learn about pinch points in an employee’s process, work, or company culture.

It puts your conversation into problem-solving mode because when you know where your team member is struggling, you can do something about it.

Read how not to Eff Up talking to your people.

What things should we do differently, or what processes can we improve?

People understand that things can be done differently, so being open to feedback from “below” can be invaluable.

When team members recognize that they can provide value beyond their job description, you can harness this power to improve the company.

You may not always act on every suggestion, but you’re going to discover some things that genuinely need to change.

What resources would be helpful to you right now?

By using the word “resources,” you’re opening the door beyond money.

What you might think employees need is often different from what they want.

Don’t assume the solution is more people or money  — trust the people working on the project to understand what will solve the issue.

Read about how to listen.

Is there anything I can help you with?

It allows you to understand any personal factors that may influence their work.

It lets your employees know you’re a real human being and care about their success and well-being.

You improve your working relationship with them by showing sincere interest in their life and

80% Of Projects Fail Because Of ‘People’ Issues … Here Are 6 Things You Can Do To Reduce That Risk

I have been coaching a CEO whose company is developing a poor record of delivering products and projects to their customer’s satisfaction.

Click here to learn more about my Coaching packages

It isn’t critical – yet – but in the current market there are lots of competitors who are cutting prices and making big promises. His unhappy customers have options, and although they like my client as a person, friendship isn’t a compelling reason to do business with him.

My client runs a professional project management company and has the PM processes down to a science, yet they are failing their clients … they are failing at stakeholder management.

What happened?

They mapped out who were their stakeholders. They consider matrixes of the influence & power each potential stakeholders had. They developed strategies that were customized to each stakeholder. Nevertheless and despite all of that work … still they fail.

Simply put, they forgot that following proven project methodology does not deliver success; people do.

All of those ‘stakeholders’ are people, and you can’t manage people like little boxes with cute little communications plans. The people who are your stakeholders all have egos, emotions, career aspirations and family problems.

A recent The Harvard Business Review article reported that people account for 80% of the factors that contribute to a project’s failure. Their analysis indicated that the average Project Manager had competency in three times as many “technical” topics as “people” topics.

Think about that for a moment: 80% of the causes of project failure rely on the competencies of your Project Managers are worst at!

Here are six things you need to do to changes those odds:

  1. Get to know your Stakeholders – develop a comprehensive understanding of who they are, what they care about, what are their stated and unstated drivers, what they care about and how they relate to your success.
  1. Engage your Stakeholders as early as possible – It is a very natural human response … no one wants to be surprised by the change. Egos get fired up when they are excluded until they are expected to get onboard.
  1. Listen with both ears open – Listen to what the person is saying and watch for those non-verbal clues. Sometimes they are only telling you what they think you want to hear; sometimes they are nodding in agreement, but their language is saying no-way; etc.

Click here to read about how silence can improve conversations

  1. Stop communicating with your stakeholders – talk to them. Communications are the tools but talk with your stakeholders like human beings.
  1. Use policies and processes as a carrot and not a stick – doing something because of rules or history is dumb. Work with people to find out what they need out of this project and piggy-backed on that to create win-wins
  1. Create communities – Gather people who care that your project succeeds and work to achieve everyone’s success.

 Click here to read about getting the most out of people.

What Is a Red Team Exercise & Why Should You Conduct One?

The most enduring leadership lesson I ever learned was a military adage that says:

“Your plan is only good until first contact with the enemy.

And the enemy’s job is to stop your.”

 In military training, friendly forces are called the ‘Blue Team,’ while enemy forces are considered the ‘Red Team.’

The Red Team’s job is to stop the Blue Team’s plan.

Read more about planning

Red Teaming

Recently a simulated battle took place at the U.S. Marine Corps training Centre at Twentynine Palms, California. The exercise involved 600 British Royal Marines acting like the ‘enemy’ force, or ‘Red Team’ against a much larger U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) unit preparing for deployment overseas.

The British press gloated that the Royal Marines trounced the USMC so severely during the exercise that US commanders asked for a pause to reset their plans.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a similar simulated defeat, and I was glad for it.


Except for a few bruised egos, nobody was hurt. We learned important lessons. And plans were tested and improved. And we were better for the experience and more prepared for the day when we faced off against a real enemy.

This is the point of exercising and training: To test your plans and capabilities.


How about your plans?

Outside of the military, most organizations conduct their planning with a small group of executives. Or worse, planning is done by one person, the CEO.

One of the best ways to ensure your strategy or projects are successful is to test it by an objective team, a ‘Red Team,’ that sees it through clear and new eyes.

The red team evaluates a strategy, a presentation, or a business plan for weaknesses and checks that any unanswered questions are answered to improve the plan.

And give it the best chances of success.

if your presentation or strategy has serious problems, they should tell you that, “This is not making sense!”

Red teaming can be a very unsettling experience for some – but the goal of each member of the red team is to help improve the strategy, presentation, value proposition, business plan and chances of success.

Remember, to have success; you occasionally have to break a few eggs!

Here are some optimal guidelines for forming and running a red team review:

  • Because of their experience, members of our red teams emulate the process and mindset of the stakeholders.
  • Pick at least three people to serve on each team.
  • They are knowledgeable in the company’s space.
  • Team members must have no prior connection with the team that is presenting.
  • They must be willing and able to commit the necessary time and attention to the process.
  • Insist that members are given at least two days to read the materials in the presentation and do a bit of personal research.
  • Team members must be committed to helping the team improve their chances of success.

Read about how to get results

Benefits of a Red Team Review

A Red Team Review is an independent test of the executive’s decision-making.  The results will provide you with guidance and direction on what must be done to improve your plan’s chances of success.

4 Risks That Will Sink Your Change Management Plan – And  What To Do About Them

Whether you are hiring a new leader, implementing a new hybrid workplace model, merging, or executing a new strategy, managing change is critical to the success of any organization.

Read why hiring a new leader is ‘Change Management

In my experience, leaders spend too much time communicating the vision and the benefits of the change and not enough time talking about the ‘how’.

I have worked with dozens of clients to help identify the risks and craft a strategy to address them – to arrive at the organization’s new end state faster.

From my experience, here are the most common barriers to transformational change.

  1. Lack of a Communication Strategy That People Pay Attention to

When I asked middle managers and individual contributors whether they believed their organizations’ strategies were achievable, they scored 30% lower than executives due to poor communications.

When it comes to your communication strategy, an organization-wide email and prerecorded message won’t cut it. A recent Microsoft study on email open rates showed that only 40% of employees would read more than 30% of any internal email. Simply increasing the frequency of communications can further desensitize employees and thus doesn’t provide a solution.

Another critical factor in driving buy-in and engagement to organizational strategy changes is ensuring individual teams understand how their goals contribute to organizational success.

Big ideas need to be talked about and not read.

Read about being the Chief Reminder Officer

  1. Excluding Informal Leaders

Ensuring that your organization’s leaders are aligned and bought into the organizational change is critical to successful change management – but what about informal leaders not listed on your organizational chart? Informal Leaders can be found at all levels of an organization and frequently fly under the radar of executive leadership in large organizations. Informal Leaders often act as information brokers and influence how others perceive the organization, so they should be identified and carefully considered in your change management efforts.

Once you have identified your Informal Leaders, you can incorporate them into your change management strategy by creating a liaison and a change champions network and reaching out to them for bottom-up feedback. By combining their feedback early on, your organization can benefit from fine-tuning the tactical execution while also building buy-in and credibility for the efforts.

Read about the client who was 90% sure they would be on time & on budget

  1. Failing to Establish and Clarify New Working Relationships

Failing to establish new working relationships, ownership, and cultural norms often presents one of the largest sources of frustration in organizational change. Depending on the nature of the transformation, teams can experience massive changes in processes and working relationships that are difficult to predict and coordinate.

From a risk perspective, changed lines of communication and expectations create an environment where mistakes can happen due to a lack of coordination. Over the long term, poor coordination can lead to frustration, damaged relationships, and ultimately mistrust in leadership.

To prevent your organization from being blind-sided by operational risks and missed handoffs, consider running exercises about the impact of the change with the people undergoing change.

  1. Not Collecting Bottom-Up Feedback

In all large organizations, frontline employees have valuable insights that are frequently overlooked. During times of transformational change, your frontline can serve as real-time resources and feedback mechanisms to monitor the progress of your new initiatives or efforts.

From a risk perspective, failing to consider what is happening to your frontline will slow down your reaction time to new threats, lead to overestimating your company’s ability and lull you into a sense of false security.

In the long term, the risk is that your people will lose trust in leadership. Organizations with low trust in leadership frequently experience lower productivity, low psychological safety, high turnover, and stifled innovation.

Read about Trust

An organization undergoing transformation, by definition, changes over time – being vigilant in monitoring risk should go hand-in-hand.