Business Relationship Management (BRM)

By Elaine Lincoln, Ed.D., CBAP, PMI-PBA, BRMP

Last summer I had the opportunity to attend a BRM Foundation course. I was excited to learn about this role, which is not really a new role, but a role that has in the past two years become “professionalized”, meaning by that, it has its own:

  • Professional organization devoted to Business Relationship Management practitioners: The Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI)
  • Interactive Body of Knowledge (BRMBOK™) that describes the role, techniques used by Business Relationship Managers (BRMs) and the competencies needed to be an effective BRM

During the course I was introduced to BRM terminology, tools, and techniques aimed at providing a common language for understanding the role.

Having been a practicing Business Analyst for many years of my career, I was struck by what I perceived as a very strong similarity between the BRM role and the work I performed as a BA:

  • I could identify with the metaphors that were used to describe the BRM as a navigator, orchestrator and connector between the business and the provider organization.
  • The BRM operated as an extreme advocate of the business, but without project boundaries.
  • The basic concepts of “Business Demand”, “Provider Supply” and helping an organization to maximize business value from their investments resonated with me.

They even had a Business Relationship Maturity Model: 

  • To help organizations identify their current level of relationship maturity
  • To raise awareness that greater benefits to the organization could result with a willingness to mature the relationship between the business and the provider

This is done by moving away from an “Order Taker” mentality (a rather derogatory term for a BA!) and striving towards strategic partnership and ultimately business convergence characterized by shared goals, risks and rewards between the business and provider.

BRMI’s Business Relationship Maturity Model

Business Relationship Maturity Model (BRMM) Business Relationship Management Institute, Inc., BRM Body of Knowledge (BRMBOK™),  Business Relationship Management Institute, Inc., 2015,  Page 28. Copyright and all rights reserved. Material from this publication has been reproduced with the permission of BRMI. Find them online at

What is Business Relationship Management?

There is so much material to cover, but for this first blog I thought I would focus on providing an explanation of what Business Relationship Management is for those who may be new to the concept. Like I said earlier, if you’ve worked as a Business Analyst the terminology will be familiar to you.

According to the BRMI, BRM is a role, a discipline, and an organizational capability. I’m going to focus on describing the BRM role and at the same time cover some basic BRM terminology.

The first concept to grasp is that of basic supply and demand (sounds like Economics 101, right?). In terms of supply, think about the services that are provided within an organization, for example the services provided by your Information Technology (IT) group. IT is a supply organization or a “Provider” of services to the rest of the enterprise.

The business needs (“demands”) information, and technology is the supplier of that information. The business is responsible for determining what information and capabilities they need (“demands”), and their IT partners are responsible for providing or enabling the business to leverage the best available technology.

The BRM sits at the intersection between the Service Provider and the Business Partner to ensure that the business goals are supported. But that’s only where the story begins. An effective BRM does much more than simply ensure that the business goals are supported.

An effective BRM contributes to the business leadership team by actively engaging with the business to discuss strategic direction and works to identify ways for the Provider to not only support, but to advance the business’ objectives.

By having a deep understanding of the business partners’ goals, the BRM can “stimulate, surface and shape business demand for the Provider’s products and services and ensure that the potential business value from those products and services is captured, realized, optimized and recognized” (Source: BRMI). The BRM therefore influences overall delivery and value realization for services, projects and capabilities.

Ideally, the BRM is a member of both the business and provider management teams and would typically be involved in the following:

  • Contributing to strategy and planning
  • Identifying how products/services support/advance business objectives
  • Helping the Solution Delivery team and other provider management leaders to assess what supply is necessary to meet demand
  • Partnering with provider organization to ensure supply-demand alignment
  • Monitoring business partner satisfaction
  • Facilitating continuous improvement of business partner-provider experience

Although I used the resource provider domain of Information Technology to explain the BRM role, which also happens to be the domain with which I am most familiar from my work as a BA, it is important to note that BRM concepts apply equally to other resource provider domains such as Human Resources, Finance and Legal.

Hopefully this explanation of Provider Supply and Business Demand has served to anchor your thinking around some basic BRM concepts and what the BRM role entails.

Ready to learn more? Join IIL’s Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) course:

  • Online, starting August 7 and October 24
  • In Dubai, August 20-22
  • In Singapore, September 25-27
  • In New York, October 25-27 and December 6-8
  • In London, November 6-8

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project, leader

How Emotional Intelligence Can Create Resilient Project Leaders

By Ardi Ghorashy, M.Sc. Engineering, PMP, PgMP | Senior Executive Director, Global Solutions, IIL

What is the secret ingredient that certain people possess and allows them to rise from the ashes of failure? I’m referring to this dynamic that drives them to try again and again, while others are stopped dead in their tracks.

This question came up at a conference I presented at recently, and here are some of my thoughts.

According to Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird that dies in a show of flames and is born again, rising from the ashes. This is indeed a powerful symbol of resilience.

Oxford Dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”

Merriam-Webster’s definition is “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”

Psychology Today defines resilience “as the ineffable quality that when some people are knocked down by life allows them to come back, often stronger – rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their reserves, they find ways to rise from the ashes.”

Having spent many years in the project environment, I would say that resilience is one of the most important attributes that a project manager can cultivate. Projects by nature are rife with constraints, risks, challenges and setbacks requiring constant problem-solving. Project teams are made up of diverse personalities, often with competing agendas that contribute to interpersonal roadblocks. No one sets out to dance with disaster, but it is always lurking on the sidelines.

How do we as project managers maintain our mojo in the face of these conditions? Where along the spectrum of resilience do you fall?

Say, for instance, that you’ve studied hard for an exam and failed.  What would you say?

  1. I am not good at this subject.
  2. I had a bad day, next time I’ll pass.

From an emotional intelligence perspective, examining the Emotional Intelligence EQ-i 2.0 model, we can see resilience being a function of several sub-domains, but strongly of Emotional Self-Awareness, Stress Tolerance, Flexibility, and Optimism.


Adapted from the EQ-I 2.0 Handbook
  • Emotional Self-Awareness is the ability to recognize your feelings, differentiate between them, know why you are feeling these feelings, and recognize the impact your feelings have on others around you (EQ-i 2.0 definition).

Consider Phillip, the integration testing manager, unaware of how enraged he was with a tester who made a mistake. Phillip was oblivious to the impact he was having on the tester and the rest of the team and unaware of how his behavior would affect how the team viewed him.

  • Flexibility is the ability to adjust your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to changing situations and conditions.  Flexible people are agile, synergistic and capable of reacting to change without rigidity (EQ-i 2.0 definition).

Sandy received an email from the head of design letting her know that Jeff, one of the best designers on her team, was being reassigned to another project. A few minutes in the conversation, she tried to understand the rationale— Sandy called the team to figure out how best to minimize the impact of Jeff leaving. Rather than getting upset, arguing, or escalating the issue, her mental sturdiness and flexibility allowed her to minimize the impact on the team and the project.

  • Stress Tolerance is the ability to withstand adverse events and stressful situations without developing physical or emotional symptoms, by actively and positively dealing with stress (EQ-i 2.0 definition).

Andrew has been under a lot of pressure recently with several deadlines to meet and very little time left to complete two major deliverables with his team. Looking ahead to the upcoming week, the first thing Andrew puts on his calendar is to go to the gym every morning, and then starts planning the week.

  • Optimism is the ability to look at the brighter side of life and to maintain a positive attitude even in the face of adversity.  It is an indicator of one’s positive attitude and outlook on life.  It involves remaining hopeful and resilient, despite occasional setbacks (EQ-i 2.0 definition).

It is important that optimism is balanced with Reality Testing, a sub-domain of emotional intelligence, to eliminate the Pollyanna effect!

Having been turned down on her fifth attempt at obtaining project financing, Carol’s friend asks her what she is going to do next. “Keep trying,” Carol replies. “The whole economy is slow and cost of capital high, so investors are looking for the best of the best.  I’m sure I’ll get financing soon and in the meantime, I’m improving my position and proposal from the feedback I get from each rejection.”

According to American Psychological Association (APA), Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences as a Phoenix would “emerge renewed after apparent destruction.”

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

One of my favorite examples of resilience is Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts character, Charlie Brown. He’s described on the Peanuts website as “the kid who never gives up (even though he almost never wins). Even though he gets grief from his friends, his kite-eating tree, and even his own dog, Charlie Brown remains the stalwart hero.”

Examples of resilience:

The APA lists 11 ways for building resilience. Here, I have connected them with project management and the Emotional Intelligence sub-domains: Resilience is not a trait that people have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. While some people are naturally more positive and resilient, most can develop and build their capability through coaching or proactive personal change.  In any case, the journey starts from self-awareness and having a trusted network to receive feedback.

  • Make connections. Dig your well before you’re thirsty. Networking and good relationships with people within and outside the company are important, as is knowing when to ask for and accept help and support. Follow the # 1 rule of networking by assisting others in their times of need when you need nothing from them.  [Interpersonal Relationships]
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Living in a project environment comes with high-stress situations – it’s in the job description; however, you are in charge of how you interpret and respond to these events. Read Viktor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning. [Optimism]
  • Accept that change is a part of living. Change happens. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter. [Reality Testing]
  • Move toward your goals. Do not lose sight of the end goal. When the going gets tough, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I need to go?” [Problem Solving]
  • Take decisive action. Own the situation, act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggles. [Self-awareness]
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts. [Self-regard]
  • Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion. [Reality Testing]
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. [Optimism]
  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience. [Self-Actualization]
  • Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

Emotional Intelligence and Project Management

Over the past 25 years, organizations have invested much of their efforts in training project managers, and we now have over half a million Project Management Professionals (PMPs) globally.  Many organizations have come to the next phase in developing their project managers. They recognize the wide areas of competency a project manager must continually develop in order to cope with the challenging nature of projects.

Training in interpersonal skills now dominates the areas of focus in learning and development; however, building more complex attributes such as effective communications, leadership skills, and resilience requires more than a few days of classroom training or even coaching. Projects are natural gymnasiums for developing leaders and building resilience. There is a need for organizations to work even more closely with Learning and Development professionals, partnering to co-create more integrated solutions and leveraging their own project environments.

Accordingly, PMOs, Senior Management, and Learning & Development professionals need to recognize their project managers’ differing levels of resilience and provide them with opportunities to develop their capabilities.

An employee engagement suggestion would be for organizations seeking to enhance their “Phoenix Factor” to recognize achievements by creating a “Phoenix Award.” An employee recognition program, that awards teams and individuals who maintained an excellent level of performance, leadership, and collaboration under stressful or high-importance projects.

Rudyard Kipling, British Nobel laureate, wrote his poem “If-” in 1895.  The verse is an apt discourse on resilience, written in the form of paternal advice to his son:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Ardi Ghorashy, M.Sc. Engineering, PMP, PgMP is the Senior Executive Director, Global Solutions at International Institute for Learning, certified Emotional Intelligence EQ-i 2.0 practitioner and coach, MBTI Practitioner, APMG Change Management Practitioner, Leadership Challenge® (Kouzes & Posner) facilitator and has a Certificate in the Foundations of Positive Psychology from Penn LPS.

An Awesome Example of a Team Acknowledgment… and a “Behind the Scenes” Look at IPM Day!

By Judith W. Umlas
Author, Trainer, and Senior Vice President, IIL

I want to acknowledge my inspired and inspiring, inventive and creative colleague, Lori Milhaven, Executive VP Marketing, for one of the best examples of acknowledging a team I have ever seen (except when she does this every year following IIL’s International Project Management Day – a contribution we on the team have come to expect, and look forward to). We can all be inspired by her example! So with her permission, and my “seconding” of her acknowledgments of every member of our awesome team, I share her Team Acknowledgment with all of you:

ODE to IPMDAY 2015

By Lori Milhaven

We have never been so nervous
and were hoping for the best.
We needed beyond amazing service
as we continued to test and test.

The event went live the night before
as we watched and waited for any news.
Each hour that passed we knew the score
YEAH! No need to sing the blues.

A team is needed to make it through
and together we achieved great success.
I need this time to call out a few
as focused they stayed under tremendous stress.

IIL Media the speaker videos were great
the best so far from any year.
Clients loved them and could not wait
to tell the world and give a cheer.

A social dynamo was on our hands
tweeting, liking, and posting nonstop.
Richard/Samantha we are forever your fans
your efforts really made us pop.

ShaunMara managed more than you know
her overall skills did us very proud.
Nolan/Kaylin each a seasoned pro
by design and pen they brought the crowd.
Judy worked on tasks non-stop
up to the very last minute she could.
This year she really came out on top
like we always knew she would.

Kate and Roy super job this year
you came through big and made it work.
IT supported us without any fear
and helped us all that were going berserk.

Joyce and Katherine what can we say
we are so grateful for your support.
I know the craziness that was your day
and you never once came up short.

Olga joined and was on the run
she learned quick and managed her team.
Bekah/Sarah/Barry got the jobs done
each day planning a new scheme.

Presenters we honor you for making the time
to put out your message and forever guide.
Around the world your words will chime
to make positive change far and wide.

Sales teams we have to say job well done
your successes and stories on daily alert.
Our hope is new clients are easily won
by your skill and will to quickly convert.

Please know I personally thank you all
and for your time on this you spent.
Working as one we will never fall
and will always be ready to represent.

LaVerne’s message was to do our part
and help make a difference where we can.
Her passion for world change she did impart
so I invite you to think of your personal plan.

We are thinking of next year as we close
bigger, better, bolder are words that we say.
No rest for the weary as everyone knows
but please I need just one more day


A sincere thanks to EVERYONE that supported, promoted, managed or played any role in our success achieved with IPMDAY 2015: Ensuring a Sustainable Future.

And by the way, the viewer access period goes on until February 3rd, so if you haven’t yet registered, it isn’t too late. You will LOVE it! Registering also gives you free access to IIL’s six hour On Demand course on Grateful Leadership, along with two other courses. You can register here.

How One Company is Using Project Based Learning to Educate the Next Generation of Project Leaders

By Anne Foley, MBB, CSSBB, PMP
Director of Lean Six Sigma, IIL

When SmartRoots Global CEO Zac Ziebarth visited an impoverished village in Africa, he met an impressive sixteen year-old named Asi. While walking through the scenic countryside with Asi, Zac noticed a significant amount of garbage on the ground.

“Why is there so much pollution?” Zac asked. Asi explained that most people in that area lacked knowledge of pollution, the damage it could bring to their environment and even more importantly, what they could do about it. Zac assumed that perhaps the topic was not covered thoroughly in the local schools and made a commitment to Asi that he would return within the year and provide the knowledge they needed, to solve problems and make some fundamental changes that would reap big rewards for their future.

“At that point, zacI wasn’t completely clear on what I was committing to, but I was sure I could help,” Zac said. “The opportunity energized me and I initially thought that I’d put together some curriculum around pollution, health, and water. I figured that I could talk to school administrators in the area and set up some project based learning so the kids could apply what they were learning to the community and see real-time results from that knowledge. I figured that I would even return at some future point to celebrate the successful completion of those projects.”

Zac’s desire to help that impoverished village has since become the genesis of a for purpose non-profit business that is grabbing the attention of educators and business leaders around the globe. “When I returned from my trip, I assembled a group of well educated, forward thinking volunteers that wanted to help me keep my commitment to Asi.”

Zac and his team worked hard to develop a three week curriculum with an emphasis on solutions-based thinking in seven core areas called the Smart Roots 7:

  • People
  • Health
  • Water
  • Food
  • Energy
  • Pollution
  • Climate

His team concluded that kids need to learn how to collaborate in a project environment, and use some of the problem solving techniques within Lean Six Sigma to help define and solve problems in these areas.

“Even as we were working through the details, we were getting the sense that we had the foundation of something pretty big. Our program would add relevancy to learning by focusing on real world problems that these kids could help to solve through project based application, in their local community. It also provides them some real world experience using concepts and techniques that future employers will expect them to use. It’s a win-win.”

Wanting to pilot the program before taking it back to Africa, Zac reached out to his friend George Helfenstine, who was teaching 7th grade science in an American school. They piloted the program in October of 2014 and the results were so significant that George told Zac that he wanted to be a part of SmartRoots Global in whatever way that could happen. “The SmartRoots program has changed the way my students see the world around them and the way they view themselves. They now see themselves as part of the solution.”

The Chief Operating Officer at Wayside Schools in Austin, Texas, Teresa Elliott, agrees. “The constraints of increased science standards combined with decreased school funding necessitate an innovative approach to education. SmartRoots Global brings a value proposition to the table; project-based learning that creates the desire for scientific knowledge and simultaneously allows students to address problems in their communities, creating problem-solving citizens. Our world cares about children being able to pass a different test – we need responsible civic leaders. Our students must be compelled to know that as a member of their community, they have a responsibility to work with others to keep it functioning and to make it better. SRG’s programming helps them learn how.”

The need for this type of learning is much bigger than Zac ever imagined. “I had no idea that a conversation in Africa about pollution, and my commitment to help, would uncover such a worldwide need in the area of education. It has completely changed my career path.” With a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, Zac had planned to attend Law School but those plans are now on hold as he builds up the “For Purpose Company” he hopes will play a significant role in developing the next generation of project leaders and problem solvers. As for his promise to Asi, be sure attend Zac’s International Project Management Day presentation, “Sustainability Through Project-Based Education,” to see how the SmartRoots Approach to learning is transforming education around the world.

For more information on SmartRoots Global or to join the movement, please go to

A Random Act Of Acknowledgment

By Judith W. Umlas
IIL Senior Vice President, Trainer, and Author of Grateful Leadership

It’s always so inspiring when I come upon what I would call “Random Acts of Acknowledgement” in my everyday life. I was staying at a hotel while on a business trip, and overheard the delightful exchange you can see in the video below… well almost! In actuality, I just happened to be sitting there having a quick bite, when I witnessed it. I was practically moved to tears — it was something that could have been a “how to” right out of any of the books I have written. In fact it was so wonderful that I acknowledged both the giver and the receiver in this exchange, told them about The Power of Acknowledgment in 10 brief seconds, and then (I know you won’t believe this…) I had the audacity to ask them to “reenact” the exchange that had just taken place, so that I could shoot a cell phone video of it!!! I requested that they do it just the way I originally saw it. Please click the link to see what I’m so excited about!

A Random Act of Acknowledgment

My heartfelt appreciation goes to Chris, the magnificent acknowledgment bestower, and to Julieta, the lovely waitress and grateful recipient. I later learned that Chris had sought her out again in order to introduce her personally to the owner of the hotel, whom he had spent some time getting to know. He wanted to make sure that her service could be further acknowledged, in a way that would truly make a difference for her! I was told that the owner, in turn, gave her a huge hug and let her know how proud he was of her.

I was also proud to be a witness to the “reenacted,” yet equally moving exchange! It was truly a Random Act of Acknowledgment! Please send us descriptions of yours!

Learn more about Grateful Leadership at

CAR CHASE: “Driven” to Acknowledge!

By Judith W. Umlas
IIL Senior Vice President, Trainer, and Author of Grateful Leadership

I was running a bit late for a doctor’s appointment this week, and was on a major thoroughfare on which traffic was fortunately flowing. So I wouldn’t be too late… But suddenly, the car two ahead of mine slowed down and then came to a gentle but complete stop — there was no traffic light or other reason to stop that I could see. I waited rather impatiently until the “reason” emerged — a stooped over, elderly lady with a cane who was walking about one step every few seconds as she crossed in front of the long line of cars! Not a horn was honked! Instead, we all waited patiently now for that lady, who was truly taking her life in her hands, to cross the very wide road. Once she had crossed completely to the other side, not just gotten through the lineup of cars, the first driver took off with some speed. I raised my hands in applause above my head, but knew the driver would not see my appreciation. I hoped that the other cars behind me would, though.

I was already late for my appointment, but I suddenly felt “driven” to FOLLOW THAT CAR!!! I needed to tell the driver that what he or she had done was truly an act of kindness and consideration, and how moved I was by that action. So I edged out in front of the second car (I was the third) and sped up to catch up to the lead car. I could see the clock ticking and my appointment time getting farther and farther in the distance, but I was compelled. With relief, after several minutes, I saw the car turn into a supermarket parking lot and I pulled into a spot right near the one the driver took and parked. The driver emerged, and energized by my enthusiasm, I walked up to the person, a woman I could see now, with determination. I called out “Miss!” to her and she turned around with some surprise.

What I told her was this: “I was two cars behind you when you stopped to allow that elderly woman to cross the highway.  I have to tell you that what you did was an amazing and caring act of kindness. I just HAD to thank you for what you did and for the example you set for all of us behind you. No one was honking you, or trying to get you to move on!” She got misty-eyed, as did I, and reached out to take my hand. Though she was from another culture and seemed to have a bit of difficultly with the language, we were definitely speaking the same language. We spoke it with our eyes and we spoke it with our hands. Then she said, “I was just doing what anyone would do! It was the right thing to do!”

“Yes,” I said, “but many people would not do what you did, even though it was definitely the right thing to do. And that’s why I had to follow your car, even though I wasn’t coming here, and tell you personally how much that meant to me.”  Her face lit up, which lit me up! She thanked me several times for letting her know how I felt. And I let her know that it was my honor and my pleasure.

And that folks is the Power of Acknowledgment! But you don’t have to go on a “wild” (for me) car chase to do so; it just shows that opportunities are all around us to let others know the difference they make and how this moves and inspires us!

(Oh, and by the way, that really is my car and that IS my license plate!)

Learn more about Grateful Leadership at

Is Judy losing her mind...or just her fear?

By Judith W. Umlas
IIL Senior Vice President, Trainer, and Author of Grateful Leadership

In the spirit of putting together my IPMDay 2015 keynote address focused on the 5th C of Acknowledgment for Grateful Leaders: Courage (“From Cowardly Lion to Lion-Hearted Leader”), I have been thinking a lot about what stops us from doing the brave and inspiring things we want to and are able to do. That would include acknowledging and appreciating our people in a heartfelt, authentic and profound way, even when it makes us feel vulnerable!  So I must admit that when I was offered the opportunity the last time I was conducting Grateful Leadership training at Volvo Construction Equipment to drive a massive earth mover, I think I found my schedule to be “just too tight” to accommodate this incredible adventure. But this time, when I was there to co-lead a Grateful Leadership Book Club session with Michelle Madsen, Delivery Specialist, Volvo Group University, I was thinking a lot about overcoming fear or else doing what we want to do that terrifies us … doing it in spite of our fear. So this time I ASKED to drive a massive earth mover! I must have been out of my mind. But the kind and courageous Wade Turlington, Director of Volvo’s Customer Center said, “Of course!” and volunteered to risk his life and limb to sit next to me as I drove.  So after the great book club session we had, I mustered up my courage and drove the A35G Articulated Hauler that they provided!!! (My family members will tell you how they feel like THEY are risking life and limb when they drive with me in my normal vehicle). And ooooooooh, that was some wild and crazy ride on that A35G! It was also transformational. If I could do that, I knew I could do virtually anything, since I was taking on the challenge of doing something so out of my normal reach. Okay, so hang gliding is NOT up my alley. But name something else and maybe I will try it. In the meantime, you can overcome YOUR fear, muster up your courage as I did,  and deliver heartfelt acknowledgments wherever they are truly deserved. Have a ball doing what terrifies you — it is a heck of a good ride! And my thanks and deepest gratitude to Volvo Construction Equipment for allowing me to do this!!!

Behind the Scenes of my International Project Management Day Keynote Taping: From Cowardly Lion to Lionhearted Leader!

By Judith W. Umlas
IIL Senior Vice President, Trainer, and Author of Grateful Leadership

I worked as a television producer and writer at WCBS-TV for about a dozen years. I know the workings of a TV studio inside and out. So that should make my keynote videotaping a piece of cake for me, right? Wrong! I worked on the “other side of the camera,” so I can’t begin to describe the agony I always put myself (and everyone around me) through in past years to make sure my IPMDAY presentation is perfect, and then I never feel like it is!

But this year, I made a choice: I was going to be as passionate in my presentation to the IIL Media crew and cameras as I would normally be before an audience of hundreds, or even thousands of people, which doesn’t throw me much at all. I would let my passion, mission and purpose come through even though I was addressing inanimate objects (the cameras).

I have to tell you that IIL Media, headed up by Emmy award-winning producer and director d.b. Roderick, cared as much about my presentation as I did! Coordinating Producer Andrea Skipper worked with me for weeks getting the script just right, the visuals dramatic and attention-grabbing. Leroy Patton was meticulous with the lighting and camera work. Andres Valencia (I later learned) was operating the teleprompter for the first time due to a last minute substitution. He did a great job, considering! Then there was Andrea Johnson, Production Manager, who made sure to tell me that the darts in my skirt were crooked and to please fix them. She also made me change my outfit to something all felt was much more suited to my “colorful” personality. I did as she suggested!

The really great part, though, was that I actually felt as though I was addressing live people when I spoke, due to the attention and true listening I received from this delightful crew. And at the end, they spontaneously broke into applause. I was exhilarated and felt like I had broken through my own barriers to full self-expression in front of cameras rather than people. This crew – this wonderful group of people – made it possible for me to connect, and I saw that my message resonated with all of them.

I also give my thanks to the whole IIL crew outside the studio that made this year’s production work so well for me: IIL Marketing, including ShaunMara Begley who found some of the great images used in my presentation; Kaylin Berry, who works with me on all social media projects so successfully with me on social media projects and posts (such as this one!); Lori Milhaven, EVP of Marketing who takes everything in her stride and just gets the word out to the world; Nolan Voss, Sr. Graphic designer who makes everything look so artistic and beautiful; Gregory Johnson, VP Enterprise Solutions who is always a great sounding board/idea person for any of my new and venturesome content creations; and CEO E. LaVerne Johnson who tolerated my trepidation and numerous pleas for her to read my updated script “just one more time…”

Now I will ask you to be the judge of the final result when you attend International Project Management Day 2015: Ensuring a Sustainable Future on November 5th. I would like YOU tell me if I have truly grown greater than my constraints. As noted author Jack Canfield wrote, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I think I really took that message to heart with this year’s presentation, and hopefully all of you will take it to heart and be the beneficiaries as well!.

There will be a live Q&A at the end of my keynote session during which we can all have some conversation! And you can register now for this great event (there are 38 other thought leaders and Project Management, Leadership and Sustainability practitioners who are presenting). If you do register now, you can get exciting updates from IIL about and until the Big Event! Hope to see you there!

Until the next time…

Register for IPMDAY Here »


Grateful Leadership: A Tool to Build Engagement

By Joanna Durand, Citi Managing Director, GPMO Head, CPMC/SEPG Chair

On June 9, I visited the International Institute for Learning (IIL), to film a segment on Grateful Leadership, with Judy Umlas. Judy, a Senior Vice President at IIL, is an expert on the concept of Grateful Leadership. In fact, she literally wrote the book on it, titled, as you might expect, Grateful Leadership.

We sat down for a few minutes to discuss Grateful Leadership.

What is Grateful Leadership?

On page 9 of her book, Judy introduces the concept of Grateful Leadership by saying the following: “I believe we are on the verge of creating the next wave of vision, inspiration, workability and success in leadership, which will turn many current ideas and philosophies of leadership upside down: Grateful Leadership.”

Judy’s Grateful Leadership model refutes former models calling for employees to be grateful to their leader (the “just be thankful you have a job” line of reasoning), pointing out that Grateful Leaders will realize much more success by having engaged employees. Judy goes on to say on page 9, “Grateful Leaders are those who see, recognize, and express appreciation for their employees’ and other stakeholders contributions and for their passionate engagement, on an ongoing basis.” She continues on page 11, “By creating a culture of appreciation… in which people truly feel valued, these leaders motivate their followers to strive for continuous improvement and always greater results.

Isn’t this the core of what leaders want?

Employee loyalty is tied to feeling respected and validated, and people are more likely to continue working every day in a place where they are part of a fundamental practice of recognizing and acknowledging one another’s value. Conversely, if we do not practice grateful leadership, while we might not lose people right away, people will lose interest and start looking elsewhere if they feel that they are not acknowledged and validated.

It’s Not Just for Managers

One does not need to be a manager to lead, and one does not need to be organizationally at the forefront to be a leader. The tenets of Grateful Leadership are useful and applicable for all sorts of leaders, including those of us who are parents, and those of us who need to interact with others regularly.

The Practical Applications of Grateful Leadership

In my role, I have the opportunity to put Grateful Leadership concepts into practice every day. A few of the ways I lead by these concepts and practice them with my team include:

• Making an effort to meet as many team members in person as I can
• Implementing changes as a result of employee feedback to improve employee experience
• Encouraging people on the team to nominate others for awards, and dedicating time in our quarterly team meetings to formal and informal recognition
• Sending personal thank-you messages and other forms of recognition to individuals on the team when they go above and beyond

It Isn’t Always Easy Being a Grateful Leader

One of the topics Judy touched upon in our interview was that it’s not always easy to be a Grateful Leader. Here are two major reasons why:

• Grateful Leadership (and grateful behavior) takes a willingness to be vulnerable. For a manager, this could look like someone wanting a raise when you offer praise. For a non-manager, the vulnerability is required because you are saying something personal about yourself, and any personal revelation takes strength.
• Grateful Leadership takes commitment. It needs to be deliberately practiced or, in the pressure of our individual roles, we can get swept up – and swept away from practicing acknowledgement/ validation. We must avoid the trap of saying we are too busy, or we just forgot.

Move Forward into Grateful Leadership

Like mastering any new skill, or beginning any new and deliberate practice, Grateful Leadership takes discipline. Start small, by acknowledging someone in the moment when it occurs to you to do so. Or, as Judy suggests, acknowledge someone you wouldn’t normally think to acknowledge. In either case, choose something personal that you believe will resonate with the person you are acknowledging.

I look forward to many more conversations with Judy, and I am grateful to IIL for being an excellent partner over the years.

Originally posted on Citi’s internal enterprise social media platform.

Joanna Durand is a Managing Director at Citi; she has been with Citi for more than eight years, having joined in February 2007. In August 2009, Joanna was named Citi’s Head of Global Program Management. Joanna has over 20 years of diverse leadership experience in global financial services organizations.

Joanna chairs the Citi Program Management Council and Software Engineering Process Governance (CPMC-SEPG), a formally chartered enterprise-wide governing body focusing on Enterprise PM Domain Governance.  She also heads the Global Program Management Office (GPMO),  which acts as the execution arm of the CPMC/SEPG.

Passing the Grateful Leadership Torch!

For many years, whenever Judith W. Umlas, Grateful Leadership and The Power of Acknowledgment Author and Trainer has led courses and keynote sessions at companies around the world, she has often been approached by very enthusiastic participants who want to become certified to lead this transformational, high-impact initiative in their companies. They want the results that are achieved with one group of leaders made available throughout their companies, and they see this as the most efficient, cost-effective way to make this happen. But Umlas was concerned that this material could not be taught with her passion and commitment by others. Finally, at a training session she led for at Volvo Construction Equipment (one of numerous sessions she has led for this global company), Michelle L. Madsen, Delivery Specialist, Volvo Group University stepped forth and said she had to be certified! She was both single-minded and purpose-driven, and since the Train the Trainer Certification program had to be built from scratch, it took six months until she was able to teach her first class. Judith was extremely proud of the results as she observed the session (part of the certification program), and was a witness as Michelle achieved all 9s and 10s in her evaluations. Even more significantly, participants commented on how much they loved the passion she expressed for Grateful Leadership. They were truly motivated and inspired! If you see it as your passion, mission and/or purpose to create a culture of appreciation in your company, in which people feel valued and work to their fullest capacity, then maybe you, too, have to become certified! Contact if this is of interest.  And please read the blog post about this exciting new IIL initiative: