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Author: George Konstantopoulos

Build a Ladder

Over the last seventeen years, I have been blessed to work with some of the most talented people in the Canadian and US banking, energy, high tech, retail and real estate industries. As I moved through these experiences, I realized that success is not easy and involves both hard work and others occasionally opening and holding the door for you. I learned that a true leader internalizes the obligation to spend a good portion of their time building a ladder so that they may help those who are travelling with them climb the next rung in their career.

If you’ve done well, please remember to pass the good sentiment to those coming up behind you.

For all those senior leaders who took the time to listen, understand, coach and mentor me – I am truly grateful and forever indebted.

To all aspiring professionals – the tips included within this article are intended to help you climb that ladder.

Speak Powerfully

The words of your voice represent your brand – the values that are important to you. How you will think, feel, and act are all proven through the words and tone you select. The words out of your mouth have both the power to open and close doors for you. Be conscious of the effects they may have.  Your accompanying body language, tone, and aura are critical so that when you speak people will listen.

To speak so that people will listen, one must speak powerfully. Speaking powerfully requires avoiding the trap of conforming to negative communication traits. Such traits include gossiping, judging, complaining, and confusing opinions for facts. Avoid these at all costs.

Speaking powerfully also requires adopting positive communication traits such as being concise, clear, laconic, authentic, honest, and kind.

Related Article: Leadership Lessons: 5 Ways to Build a Box

Build Social Connectivity

Social connectivity is truly an organizational asset. It is the foundation of an open and transparent work environment that helps build a culture of helpfulness and avoids competitive rivalry and ill will. Social connectivity allows protectionism to be abandoned, and ideas to be shared, connected and eventually transformed into masterpieces.

Positive and direct human interactions breed social connectivity. When engaged in work activities with others you must demonstrate a high degree of social sensitivity. To do so you must believe that everyone has value and something useful to offer. You must also exhibit empathy and understanding for all opinions. One way to do this is to ensure equal time is given to all individuals to express their views and knowledge.

Social connectivity is the capital that enables a united group of individuals to challenge and motivate one another. Most importantly it avoids group think and allows a collection of people to truly make change possible. It is imperative that you are seen as a creator and promoter of social capital.

Form Thinking Partnerships

A few years ago, while working as an independent consultant, I was fortunate to work on closing a large acquisition made by a Canadian firm. I was paired with an individual named Tim. Tim was also an independent consultant. The scope of our assignment included day one operational readiness and regulatory deal approval. Tim and I were each assigned different work packages. The scope of work was estimated to take 20 weeks – we were given 12 weeks. Tim was assigned the technology work package and everything non-technical was assigned to me.

Immediately I wanted to build a bond with Tim. I knew that together we were much stronger than two separate entities working against each other and in a silo. Cultural norms between the technology team and the other business segments at this firm can best be described as a competitive rivalry. As Tim represented the technology team and I every other business segment, we decided to challenge the establishment and collaborate.

Tim and I shared our work package objectives and needs and immediately reached consensus on how best to meet and exceed them. We decided to be mutually accountable for both work packages and the success of one another. We understood that this was not a zero sum game. We could both win.

Openness and collaboration within a fiercely opposing culture were not the only great thing we accomplished. Tim and I used conscious conflict to ensure we stretched our cognitive abilities needed to exceed expectations. We challenged each other and looked for ways to break each other’s models, code, analysis, and conclusions. We were thinking partners.

Our thinking partnership meant that we constantly questioned one another with the intent to improve the quality of our outputs. Because it was an open and accepted system of conflict with a clearly understood altruistic intent there was no competitive rivalry or ill will.

Dedication and an intense desire to help one another succeed and solve this seemingly insurmountable task was the fuel we needed. Our thinking partnership helped us deliver our mandate in 10 weeks. Tim and I were rewarded for our success and understood that had we worked in silos or not formed a thinking partnership that we would never have accomplished what we did.

Tim and I enabled each other to do our best thinking – and achieve one of our greatest successes.

Thinking partnerships allow the discovery of more insight and progress. Ensure you actively seek to form as many as you can.

May you all achieve success.

Mentoring – An obligation

“You don’t build a business – You Build People – and then people build the business.”
Zig Ziglar

“Take care of those who work for you and you’ll float to greatness on their achievements.”
H. S. M. Burns, President, Shell Oil Co.

Seasoned executives are entrusted by their firms to ensure organizational health and longevity through profitable results and the recruitment, retainment and development of aspiring talent. To ensure organizational continuance a leader must find, nurture and develop young talent to adequately inherit the reins at a future date. Therefore, we help accomplish the legacy we seek as leaders through the thoughtful execution of succession planning and portfolio inheritance strategies.

Some of life’s most profound lessons happen in the work place. Lessons in the workplace provide young adults with some of life’s deepest and most meaningful skills. Part of this developmental process involves understanding the purpose of office politics, how to work with difficult people and to how to deal with pernicious superiors and coworkers. Unfortunately, for many professionals lessons pertaining to coping with office politics and villains are taught through trial and error. From my experiences over the last 5 years, feedback obtained through mentoring and teaching new hires, many endure painful experiences resulting from wicked scenarios carried out by sinister means alone with minimal support, guidance or mentoring. These aspiring young adults could very well be your children.

We were all fortunate to receive some form of assistance at one point in our careers. Many of us have been blessed with working for natural leaders – abundance minded good people with an altruistic intent to help the organization, develop staff to facilitate future growth and who focused on facts not personal agendas. Leaders should subscribe to a series of pedagogical ethics where an obligation to “pay it forward” is accepted and efforts to tutor becomes a common element within our task portfolio. To do so we must embrace the moral duty to show those aspiring to be like us the path we took and the lessons we learned along the way. Not having the time or outsourcing this responsibility to the Human Resources Department just won’t cut it in 2013 and beyond.

Instead of waiting for the newly minted and recruited to ask you for help – reach out to them. Offer your experiences and advice. Specifically elaborate on your tenure walking through the shadows of office politics, greed, insecurity, personal agendas and “evil”.

To the incoming leaders I offer my advice below and an open door available any time assistance is needed.

Top 3 qualities that have helped me in life are: 

  1. Work hard
  2. Be Honest
  3. Be kind

Exhibit these 3 qualities and great things will happen.

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Detecting Stakeholder Misalignment

Over the years I have seen many project managers unknowingly accept an engagement that was predicated on an unsupported cause. Usually this misalignment exists between project sponsors (corporate executives etc.) empowered to initiate the project and the business leaders (vice presidents, directors, etc.) and their front line staff assigned to deliver its objectives. The end result is a project manager caught in between opposing beliefs. This article will discuss why it is important to immediately unearth this type of situation during the initiation of the project.

Why It Is Important

When an engagement is accepted, usually two critical assumptions are made by the project manager. First, an assumption is made that support to initiate the project has been reached amongst all business leaders impacted by the project. Specifically, that a single, universally accepted version of the project purpose and desired outcome is endorsed. Second, since this supported version of project reality exists it is natural to assume that the scope and specific tangible deliverables expected from the assigned project manager are also holistically accepted.

In some cases these assumptions prove to be correct and in others false. When these assumptions prove to be false a project manager is thrust into an aura of competitive political warfare fuelled by opposing ideologies. It is important to not make assumptions – trust but verify diplomatically.

Project sponsors, stakeholders and team members provide the means to help make both the project and project manager successful. However, in an environment of warring project ideologies the aforementioned groups may serve as a barrier to delivery.  This barrier is formed when business leaders impacted by the project do not support the founding principles of the project. Usually, these business leaders are selfishly trying to manipulate the project with the intent to serve their needs with little if any support for the cause. These opposing ideals coupled with strong political alliances held by those equipped with the means to both derail the project and ensure its success is what leads to project strife.

With consensus between the line leaders and project sponsors absent yet acceptance needed to proceed with delivery, the project manager may encounter an intentional stalemate caused by implicit barriers planted by disgruntled business leaders who oppose the project cause. A project manager who has not diplomatically identified this conflict of ideals at the beginning of the engagement as the root cause of these implied barriers will be struggling to overcome these hurdles that prevent timely delivery. These surreptitious barriers will make it difficult for the project manager to introduce a structured and accountability driven project delivery framework, gain commitment from the project team, confirm acceptance of assigned tasks with due dates and deliver the expected project artefacts required in the inaugural phases of a project.

It is critical during the project initiation phase that project managers embark on a plenipotentiary mission and sensitively conduct an effective stakeholder consensus audit. Diplomatic disclosure of this conflict of ideals by utilizing established governance procedures is all that is necessary to ensure the project manager is not straddled with removing the intentional barriers put forth by the aforementioned selfish needs. Failure to do so provides the opportunity to the warring stakeholders to intentionally deflect the cause of the project stalemate from themselves to the project manager which may damage the project manager’s credibility.

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George Konstantopoulos, MBA, PMP, PgMP, CMC is a Sr. Consultant at Welch International Management Consulting Group Inc. He has managed strategy portfolios and executed complex program and projects in the high-tech, banking, IT, marketing, utilities, retail and professional services industries. His entrepreneurial spirit and keen business insight have benefited many organizations through his effective consultative engagements and compelling achievements. George regularly lectures on management consulting and project management. Additionally, he facilitates quarterly seminars intended to help project managers understand the qualifications associated with consultative project management. You may contact George at [email protected] or through his blog spot at