3 Ways to Help Your New Remote Team Work From Home

I’m going to be honest. I hate working from home. In my past I’ve had team members and managers that took advantage of it. They were not available when I needed them. It was unclear how much work they got done in a day. It became a stressful, distrusting team dynamic. Please, don’t be that person.

The #ColoradoShutdown is enforcing what my office was already practicing, and everyone should be staying home to help the medical infrastructure carry out the greatest survival rates of this COVID-19 pandemic. Are you feeling uncertain about your team working remotely? Are you confident your team can stay sane working from home? Here are three tips if you are fearful that this new style will cause commitments to slip.

  1. Get alerts that work for you

Whether in the office or at home, there are distractions. We get up and move around for necessities like going to the bathroom, to take the dog out, or to answer the door for UPS. Distractions are good, even healthy, for the sedentary desk work. But you need to ensure that you answer questions as soon as possible. There are so many notification types out there: Slack, Skype, email, phone, text, the list goes on. Sometimes you see one and think “I’ll get back to that later”. Don’t. Find a notification style that works for you and that you respond to every time. Communicate what your preference is to your team and respond as soon as you can.

2. Make office hours

Finding the new balance of work-time vs home-time is going to be hard. You might find yourself feeling guilty if you watch the latest press conference live in the middle of the day and so make up for it by working until seven thirty at night. If you do the above well, you shouldn’t feel guilty. But please, don’t use time as a measure of whether you got your work done or not. You’ll spiral into counting how many hours you worked or half-worked. Half working and over working doesn’t help you get more done. If you are having a bad day, tell your team you need a break and step away. Take a full break, feel justified, and be accountable to your team that you’ll return.

3. Set goals and communicate them

With one and two above, it is even more important to communicate. Tell people when you are going to lunch. Tell people how you are progressing on a task and ask for input. It might seem silly, to check in and say only “how are you?” but now more than ever you need to make sure your team knows you are available when they need you. Give them opportunities to reciprocate. Your teammates need to know that every time you ping them it isn’t with something bad. Keep the trust alive, keep the hallway conversations alive, reach out for 10 minute brainstorming without a meeting, and talk to your team constantly.

Book Review: Managing Transitions


Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change
By: William Bridges


I liked this book for the most part. The main concept that the book preached is super simple:
Ending -> Neutral Zone -> Beginning

The book dragged on a bit when Bridges talked through lists of tips, questions, and steps to achieve success in these stages, but for the most part these were useful to reference by picking up the book again, rather than memorizing to regurgitate. He did give some great detailed examples at the beginning and end of the book; I wish there were more examples sprinkled throughout like some of my favorite Malcolm Gladwell books. So here is my summary from the book:

  1. Emotions matter: acknowledge them and show them
    • Especially during change, you can feel fear, anger, surprise, guilt, loneliness, or any number of emotional responses. During change you need to encourage people to feel what they feel and not suppress their reactions. Talk about it. Listen and sympathize. And share back. Change is hard and if you can help those around you feel like they aren’t doing it alone it will be much easier to make it through it.
  2. Sell the problem
    • Change is happening for a reason. Too many times managers and leaders are too focused on the new and “are we there yet”. Your team members are probably a bit behind in accepting it and you need to make sure to spend time on the issue, the why of the change. Only then can people move forward towards the neutral zone and making the transition actually happen… instead of just talking about it.
  3. Change is constant
    • Bridges acknowledged that change often overlaps each other and so having a deliberate end and beginning that happens at the same time for everyone is unlikely. Because of that though, you can encourage innovation and ideas while trying to implement the new change. Of course the something new that is introduced isn’t polished and the best method until you start using it so allow for (and expect) tweaks along the way.

Jump Out Front: 3 of the Simplest Ways to Make Your Name Pop

A resume needs to be easy to read. It needs to be simple. It needs to be fast to identify who’s resume it is. That means the first thing on the page is your own name. It is the one thing that doesn’t require an expert to wordsmith it to make you stand out. You are unique and your name calls attention to just that. Show the world what you are made of!

Here are three simple tips to understand why your name on your resume can send such a powerful message on it’s own.

  1. Your Name
    • It may seem silly, but your name should be the largest thing on your resume. Truly it is the most important because they can forget everything else about you but if they forget your name, then you will never win. And you never want the recruiter to have to look for your phone number or email address. If you want the job, they have to contact you and use your name so make it as easy for them to find as possible.
  2. Middle Name
    • Should you put your full name on your resume? A good test for this is to do a Google search or a Facebook search. How many other people share your name? If it is a common name, or a name that returns negative connotation results, make yourself unique by including your full given name. You know that recruiters will search you on social media so know what is out there about you, whether you are the one that put it out there or not.
  3. Called by Name
    • A pro tip is to use your nickname on your resume. Still use something professional, but if you prefer a shortened version like John or Rich to Jonathan or Richard, then share that in your profiled resume. You can include both your full and shortened name if you want with parenthesis. For example: James (Jack) Frost. Write down what you want your desk name tag to say on your first day when you get hired!

Measure Twice, Cut Once: How to Avoid Making Rash Decisions

UNDO UNDO! Unfortunately, not everything has an undo button. If you delete something, sometimes it is gone for good. If you cut something too short, you can’t make it longer! I’m inspired this week by a home project that I’m working on that definitely depends on precise measurements: crown molding!
  1. Double check yourself
    • Literally, “measure twice, cut once”. In project management, the first assessment of a timeline can seem reasonable and correct, but then upon a second inspection, you find a dependency that you missed that changes your initial estimate. In crown molding, you might notice your design doesn’t quite line up right on a flush joint. Better try again!
  2. Ask for a second opinion
    • I am a big fan of inviting a second pair of eyes to look over your work from a fresh perspective. They may notice something you didn’t. Whether it’s a missed paint spot or something more serious like a corner alignment, grab a friend and ask for their help. A department manager of the team members on your project might have more insight to schedule conflicts that you didn’t know about. For example, vacation times or key financial periods of your client stakeholders that you’d want to avoid.
  3. Prepare extras
    • For precision projects, you just can’t skimp by buying only what you need. You will need extra because you will mess up, intentionally or not. I bought many extra pieces and am very glad I did for my molding project. It is better to plan with some “wiggle room” (a technical term for a contingency plan) than to have to scrap it and go to a Plan B with all new material.

Being Efficient: 3 Tips to be the Fastest Editor in Microsoft Word

Documentation is one of the most essential parts of a good team and yet can also be the most time consuming. You have many opinions, tons of formatting issues, and the endless editing and upkeep of the document. It is a pain when you have better things you could be working on. I am a decent writer, but I do consider myself one of the fastest editors. Why? Because I some tricks up my sleeve. And I’m willing to share them with you!

Intermediate User:

    1. Copy, Past, Undo, Redo
      • We’ll start with the classics. Almost all users are familiar with Ctrl+Z for undo, Ctrl+C for copy selected text/area, and Ctrl+V for paste. The ones you may not be as familiar with are Ctrl+X which is cut (so copies and removes), and Ctrl+Y for redo.
    2. Ctrl + Tab and Windows key + tab
      • Switching between PowerPoint, Excel, and Word a lot? These two are key for jumping between windows. Ctrl + Tab is a simple way that displays the program icon. Widows key + tab does the same thing but in a 3-D way showing a preview of each window. Both effective, one is just a bit fancier and the keys are right next to each other.
    3. Windows key + L
      • This is the shortcut to lock your computer. I don’t know about your office, but if you walk away and leave your computer unattended, it may get hacked. And by hacked I mean playful IM messages or emails sent by “you” by a inconspicuous user. Always safe than sorry unless you like to be the butt of a joke… or worse.

Advanced User:

  1. Ctrl + arrow
    • While in a word document, don’t you reread and find spelling errors, grammar fixes, and other changes that are in the middle of a paragraph? This one lets you jump around the document without using the mouse. Ctrl + arrow left or right jumps to the next word. I love this keyboard shortcut. It allows you to insert a word into a sentence quickly!
  2. Ctrl + Shift + arrow
    • My personal favorite, this extension to the above has completely changed the way I type. I hardly ever use the mouse with these shortcuts – so much so that even with my touch screen it’s less efficient. It allows you to jump between words while selecting the words. Fantastic for replacing a word or phrase, cut and pasting a section to another location, and
  3. Windows key + arrow
    • This one is the keyboard equivalent of the Windows 7 drag to an edge and and snap to size feature. It is great for viewing two windows side by side for multitasking or rekeying. What takes this shortcut to the next level though is that it works when windows are off your screen. So if that top bar is in a place you can’t grab with your mouse, you can rescue it to your main screen.
  4. Ctrl + ;
    • This one is a winner for those PMs that struggle in Excel (or Google Sheets), this one will enter in today‘s date. Want to quickly denote a task as completed today? Ctrl + ; will quickly enter 05/31/2016.

Exploring a New City: Trying New Things Starting with Your Taste Buds

I feel so inspired by this picture! It reminds me of this lavender mini donut from a food truck I bumped into in Belmar, Denver, CO. It was delicious and fluffy!! I explore a lot of different foods when I travel, and so why not explore at home too!

I hate to visit chain restaurants (i.e. Chili’s or Panera Bread); not because they aren’t good food and great service but I can get it anywhere. And if I’m someplace for a limited time, yoIu’ve got to learn more about the local flavors. You’ve got to see what “spicy” means to the town. Here are a few things I always try that are my favorite.

  1. Pizza
    • Duh. I mean, are they a city with pride in Chicago deep dish or New York thin crust type? Personally I like the thin crust fresh balled mozzarella ones, but you can never turn down pizza. Even when traveling with my gluten-free colleagues there are great options out there. Yum!
  2. Wine
    • I’ve traveled to some designated wine country spots (a favorite being Dry Creek in Sonoma, CA) but wine vines grow almost anywhere. I found dessert wines prevalent in a mid-west town. You can learn a lot just by walking the aisle and seeing what is available from local growers as to whether the climate is better for white or red. Interesting!
  3. Sushi
    • You can tell a difference if you are in an ocean bordered state, haha. This is more about supply chain than anything else. It also shows the diversity of the town whether Indian, Malaysian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and more lumped together as a generic Asian Fusion cuisine restaurant or not. Or it could be a “foodie” town with noticeable regional categories when you search on Yelp. Fun!
My boss from Texas always does BBQ whenever he travels to gauge the area. What is your favorite?

Defining a New “Fit Break” for Yourself

What is an acceptable excuse to take a break from the daily grind of work? It seems like smokers are the ones that have a craving that is strong enough to demand structured breaks every hour or so. I don’t think the unhealthy habit should be a precedent! I love how FitBit buzzes for 250 steps every hour. It forces you to get up and away from your desk, stretch, and relax your eyes and brain.

Breaks at work are really healthy for you (and mandatory by law in cases), and a mental and/or physical stretch will help you focus on your work better. Here are a few things that taking a break can do for you.

  1. Focus
    •  Do you multitask? It’s likely that what you sat down to do at 8 am isn’t done because you got distracted by other items, people, or emails. If you take a break, it means you put down all of the tasks. And when you come back refreshed, you are ready to start tackling only one thing and one thing alone again.
  2. Retain information
    • Slow down! When you take the time to think things over, you can consider possibilities or perspectives that you might not have realized on first glance. You can mull it over in the shower, hand-write it down, or even forget about it to look at it with fresh eyes. It can help you remember things better.
  3. Maintain emotional intelligence
    • Everyone can have their patience tested and risk hitting their limit. To keep a level head, you have to step back and relax. Different people recharge in different ways. Whether you prefer to vent to a friend, scream at a pillow, or meditate, it is important to step back and reflect on yourself to gain back your mental energy.

How many breaks and how often? There are many theories on that, like the 4-Day Work Week and the 50-10 rule.

Scope Management Part 3: Have Plans for Future Project Ideas

Continuing from Part 1 and Part 2, my advice for scope management goes beyond defining the scope of the project. It must cover what happens if scope creep happens after the initial planning steps. If you want a project to stay on the track of success that was started, you have to have a plan. You must be able to answer these three questions… before they occur!
  • What happens if something new comes up or something comes up that can’t be ignored?
    • Does it immediately affect the project and put everything else on hold until this new problem or idea is resolved? Hopefully not. You want to be able to maintain the original plan until proven otherwise so make sure that everyone knows their task and keeps to it.
  • How will change be handled?
    • Okay, so something new has comes up. Is it important enough to implement and change course or not? We don’t know, but the PM might know if it can fit into the plan. 🙂 Make sure you’ve defined the person or log that keeps track of these items as they come up.
  • What is the process to determine the time and cost that new scope will pose?
    • Once it’s on the list, due diligence can be done just like the original successful scope evaluation. Then they can be discussed by stakeholders at appropriate meetings to make the right decisions. Without a strong process, the power that people have over project success will continue and you can complete milestones on time and on budget!

Scope Management Part 2: Real Life Examples of Keeping Down the Scope Creep

Today’s advice is about writing it down. There is lots of writing to do during a project, but I think the most happens at the planning stage. When you are evaluating scope early on in the project, you are starting fresh. At this point, your job is not to reel them in. You need to simply write down everything that comes up. Even the dumb ideas, the un-doable ideas, and the small ideas. On this recent project of mine, I ran into three situations that I was glad I had written down what I heard, thought, and noted so that I could reference it later.
  • In one case, it was a lower level employee had an idea to simplify her job. It sparked an organizational need that I wrote down to explore further. They had 10 different documents that were all lumped into one. Why? It made it cumbersome to sort through everything when we could create separation; a great idea but did it fit in the scope? It was a small change to management but made a big difference down the line and it quickly took a back-burner to other items that needed more attention. It didn’t resurface until the final list was reviewed, it was still there even though it was far down the list. But because it was well documented it was easy to readdress the need and the idea was raised in priority enough to make it into the phased project. This need may have come up again later in the project when it wouldn’t be as easy to add, so because I had notes to bring it up again before it was completely off the table, a valuable scope item was defined.
  • In another case, we were at the final stage of the planning phase where certain scope ideas were being tabled to future releases. The important items were the accepted items and the high risk scope. Sometimes you don’t want to rehash the items far down the list due to time constraints. However, we reviewed all items, and the nods in the room were good for two reasons. One, they were easy decisions, “yes, this item doesn’t meet the scope requirements” for everyone to agree on. Having unanimous agreement is encouraging for everyone. And second, I got a smile from the submitter in that she appreciated the recognition. Her idea wasn’t forgotten. It wasn’t pointless. It just wasn’t in this project. By her facial experession, it was obvious that it meant something to her for her idea to not be lost and that I remembered even that issue. That is key because now, she has confidence in me that I won’t lose other things throughout the project.
  • The last case we ran into was the dangerous assumption. Maybe I assume we don’t need it, or they assume we can do something with little to no risk. It is never as easy as simply the level of importance on issues. It can be frequency of the need, risk, price (time or money or both), or any number of things. There is a whole methodology in project management to assess value of each scope item. So the final review isn’t, “oh can we just add this little thing”. Don’t assume what it takes to complete something; write down what’s promised so assumptions don’t fall through the cracks.

Have a Beer! Why You Should Enjoy Yourself while Traveling on Business

Okay, I’m from a microbrew hub in Boulder and Denver Colorado area so when I travel and am seeking out a beer, I want something other than a Coors that I can get, well, anywhere.When in Iowa I enjoyed the beer below, and in Ohio I tried the holiday seasonal beers of Great Lakes and Southern Tier. It’s a treat to try the new flavors, hang with friends, and enjoy a nice cold brew while on the road.

  • Chemically relax
    • Beer (and other alcoholic beverages) have alcohol that impair your senses by relaxing your nerves and slowing you down. When you’re on the road traveling you have a lot of stress so looking to alcohol as an induced way to reduce stress isn’t always a bad thing. Travel takes its toll on you so I think you can take all the help you can get to feel refreshed the next day. Of course, do use moderation, in travel and beer. 🙂
  • Socialize
    • If you are out on the town getting tipsy in a unknown area, make sure to bring a friend. Especially women, don’t drink alone! For many reasons, but showing others your non-business side can sometimes ease the tension at work when you return. Makes you seem more human and you can connect on something other than the project you’re working on.
  • Support local
    • As you might have read in my coffee post, I’m a big fan of small businesses. Drinking the microbrew at a pub near you instead of the conglomerate at a restaurant chain is supporting two startups at once. You get learn about the place you’re visiting on a whole new level and that’s not something you can get at home.
If you drink, make sure to be safe and don’t drink and drive! There’s a hotel bar, walking, or a fridge in your room. Be safe!