When You’re Leading And Stuck: 3 Ways To Manage Your Projects When You’ve Hit a Wall

You know the feeling. You’re in charge, at the center of the universe, and you’re lost. You’re project has derailed. You don’t know what the next move should be but you can’t let your peers know that. There is a science to getting yourself and your team back on track. Here’s 3 steps to get you started.
  1. Stop what you’re doing
    • You’re obviously not doing something wrong. If the project is not on track then that’s a pretty good indicator that your future plans (that follow the same thought process) are also going to get derailed. Don’t try to doggy-paddle and fix along the way; pause everything before continuing!
  2. Look around you
    • When a door closes, a window opens, right? The obvious and easy path is no longer available but you do have options. Take a look, ask around, and reassess the situation. You’ll be able to determine the best next step – you’re a star Project Manager, right?
  3. Make a list
    • Take inventory and redefine your critical path. Just like a itinerary on vacation, there is a set time on the shortest route to get from point A to point B on a map. Okay, you want to take a scenic detour but know that if you’re rained out one day and have to make up time, that optional route is nixed. Projects are the same way; know the fastest way to completion, even if you aren’t taking it right now.

Fixing Micromanagers: How to manage your manager without telling them to F*** Off

I can’t take the “On this bullet you need to change this word to this one instead.” micromanaging conversations. Seriously, who can learn to do something better next time if all the feedback you get is at the “capitalization of a letter” level? Don’t you want to just tell micromanagers to just go do it themselves if they think their way is better?

Micromanagers are tough to work for and it takes tact to “manage up”. There are definitely rude signals you can try to send them but they never seem to work. And I’ll admit, in my past I have tried showing disinterest by leaning back in my chair, avoiding eye contact or interrupting. When someone is focused on the details, they can’t get their head above the weeds to notice let alone change their methodology. Micromanagers just keep on going, line by line, slide by slide, not giving any notice to the obvious signals of “stop micromanaging me! It’s not working!”.

So what else can you do? Try to feed your micromanager’s need for control by handing them micromanaging opportunities so that they stay away from the other things. Here are few ideas I’ve tried that may work for you too.

  1. Tell them
    • I’m serious, tell them they have a problem. Usually they already know about it. Really. They know they have room for improvement but like any unconscious bad habit, it is hard to fix it. Work with them on creating a secret signal to notify them when something is going wrong. Ask them what they think was done well instead of what needs to be fixed. Or, (my favorite) tell them they can only ask questions instead of statements.
  2. Give them control in other ways
    • It is obvious that having both hands on the problem is what it takes for micromanagers to feel they are making a difference. Before they come to you asking for trouble, I mean, asking to help, you can offer first. Give them something to pick apart that isn’t your pride and joy or main project. Or give them a task that only they can do like asking his/her boss for something that benefits your both.
  3. Act it out
    • Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to manage you. If you pretend to be the boss, would you also micromanage? Maybe you can learn a quirk of your own that is triggering your boss’s micromanaging. If your boss just acts like the angry receiver of news instead of warning you about them, you learn faster.
I hope that helps! Good luck!

Why You Should Buy Coffee Everywhere You Travel

Coffee is still one of the most common beverages in the US. And it makes a great gift that you can share with friends and family at home. It’s a little piece of heaven in my opinion. It is warm, invigorating, and inviting. It wakes you up and tastes delicious. And whether you like it with sugar (would you like some coffee with your Starbucks Frappuccino?) or straight, coffee is awesome while you travel AND a great thing to savor afterwards.

  1. Easy to transport
    • It isn’t breakable or a liquid so whether a checked bag or carry on, it can get crammed, bumped, and compacted without any damage to the product itself. With the internet and delivery businesses, if you find something you really like you can usually order it again online.
  2. It doesn’t perish
    • I buy coffee beans that we grind at home and the nice thing about beans is that the shelf life is really long. It doesn’t go bad like other foods like chocolate that might melt. So whether your family and friends enjoy it the next day or it stays in a cupboard until you visit again, it doesn’t matter. Coffee can be used in all types of cooking so you don’t have to even own a coffee pot (or French press or otherwise). Think chili, coffee-rubbed steak, or mocha chocolate cake. Some people just enjoy the smell and use it as decor!
  3. Support local businesses
    • If I travel to another city for business, I like to do more than just work. I don’t always get the luxury of free time to explore (especially in the winter right now when it’s dark before 5:00 pm) but I can still seek out some of the local flavors and people. There is almost always a locally owned coffee house that’s not Starbucks and you can go in, see the architecture and decor styling, talk to the barista, and enjoy their specialty roasts. You get to support small businesses and entrepreneurs and you get to learn about the city and what makes it like no where else in the world.

Speed Through Security: 3 Tips from A Business Travel Expert About How to Make Travel Easier

I travel for business. A lot. I go through the motions of checking in, driving to the airport, parking, going through security, finding my gate, and boarding the plane all the time. I would like to think I’ve got it down to a tried and true method these days that allow me to zoom from the parking lot to the gate at DIA in 15 minutes. Now if you aren’t as experienced as me with as many miles, it may take you longer, but here are some tips to shave off a few minutes and a lot of extra hassle.
  1. Parking
    • Many times you are in such a hurried worry to make your plane that finding a parking space is just added stress. So once you find one, you take it and run off. It leaves a lot of regret for when you return and can’t remember where you parked! My tip: take a picture of your car and/or the nearest location sign. Then you won’t have to remember it, your camera remembers for you! This saved me more than once, especially when I came back from a sunny CA to a snowy zero degree CO.
  2. Security
    • The added security at airports these days is pretty time consuming. They check your bags, your electronics, your shoes, your pockets, your ticket, everything. One of the most frustrating things I run into is taking out my ID for security guards and airline attendants. Your hands are full I know, but I will roll my eyes at you if your ahead of me in line and struggling with your ID. My tip is to add a Post-it sticky note flag tab to your ID card. It makes pulling it out of the plastic sleeve super easy!
  3. Gate check
    • If you check a bag, you have to be there at least 45 minutes before boarding for the airline to guarantee your luggage will make it on the plane with you. If you don’t (and you pack accordingly) then you can save a buck. But if you’ve got a transfer it is a pain to haul it around. It is a pain worrying about if there will be space in the overhead bins. Just gate check your bag! IMO at larger airports it take you that long to walk through the terminals anyways and it is in the same place as transportation so you don’t lose much time.

Burning the Midnight Oil: 3 Types of People that Stay Late (and the Only Ones that Should)

It’s a trick question. There is no one that should stay past 5 o’clock in my opinion. Not small business owners, not “omg it broke and I’ll get fired if I don’t fix it” and not you. If you can’t seem to leave on time, it means you have a problem and the solution is not staying later. Guess what, no matter when you leave, when you come back the next morning, you are going to pick up EXACTLY where you left off!
  1. The people that can’t delegate or say “no”
    • Whether you’re a manager or a team member, you’re taking on too much work. You need to learn how to say no, I can’t take on more and admit your limits. Even if it’s a client, there are things like process documentation or change management communication that you can ask them to help with. People usually are team players and will do what they can.
  2. The people that can’t manage their time
    • Who do you ask when you get stuck if you’re the only one in the office? If you wait to ask key questions, test critical components, or . If you’re on step 5 at 3:30pm and get all this work done until you need the password from the IT guy at step 20 at 7:00pm, guess what, you’re stuck. S/he went home and if you had just looked ahead to see the bottlenecks, then you wouldn’t have wasted your time.
  3. The people that can’t set realistic expectations
    • If you work too much you’re probably afraid of under delivering but the culprit may be over promising. I know I struggle with this one when something is needed you want to jump on it right away and give a deadline. At first it sounds realistic, but after a couple hours you find out just how difficult it is. Try saying “Let me get back to you in x hour/days on that” after you’ve done a real analysis. Then you and all parties involved won’t be holding their breath.

Project Management: 3 Tips for Meeting Minutes

Oh meeting minutes, how you are the bane of existence. And yet every time I need you, there you are backing me up. Thank goodness for computers these days with the ability to copy paste, organize incessantly, and search every word. Yet there still must be a few tips to make the weekly annoying but necessary project status notes easier. Well, here are a few!

  1. Code word for No Change
    • Good meeting minutes are consistent and have old and new business. That means every week the same topics and word combinations are on every copy. Whether the first time it was mentioned or weeks after resolved, how can a quick search tell you if it’s the one to open with the answers or not? If you have a code word, symbol, or other tell (try all caps) whether it is new or old news, the preview of the search results that match will tell you which one you’re looking for.
  2. Use links and embedded documents
    • Everything is online these days, so if you need to reference an email, an external url, or a full spreadsheet, make it easy to find by adding it in. In Microsoft Office, go to Insert > Object and you can even put in full excel spreadsheets. Drag and drop works too from a saved file.Then you don’t have to worry about saving it in 3 different places because all will reference a single document location.
  3. Use track changes
    • If you use Microsoft Word for your meeting minutes, there is a great feature called “Track Changes” under the Review tab. You could turn it on from meeting to meeting to know what updates happened at that meeting, rather than just the notes from before. Then, before your meeting, click “Accept all changes” so that your new meeting only tracks changes for the single meeting. Great idea!

Project Scope: How to Identify Scope Creep Early On in a Project

I’ve been asked a lot lately about “how I know to do that” and “what the best way to start this type of project is”. The truth is I know what to look for because I’ve done it before. I’d consider myself an expert at it. I know what pitfalls typically come up. I know what is possible customization and what needs to be explained to the client as “out of scope”. I know what all the tiny pieces mean and I can imagine how they fit together. So even though there isn’t a secret that I can share to give you the same knowledge I do, here are some tips I have that may help you be a better analyzer of project scope.

  1. First, literally combine expectations
    • Typically on a project, you have two sides that need alignment of scope: the buyer and the seller. Usually in the form of a PO and a SOW or maybe a survey and out-of-the-box standards. Put them all together on a single document by category. Then any questions or notes you or the customer may have will be in the same place.
  2. Second, identify items that need more analysis time
    • Skim your combined document and watch for weight distribution of your comments and the client’s comments. A short statement on your side with lots of assumptions is most dangerous. A long description showing a concern area for the client is good news as they have shown they will put the time and care into ensuring that part is done right.
  3. Third, create mini projects
    • Anything that is a custom piece of development needs to have it’s own timeline and budget. Even if it’s something simple, it needs to go on the list as a separate issue or enhancement so that it can be fully tested and signed off on. If it doesn’t get approved, the rest of the project doesn’t so don’t forget about even the small stuff.

Need Ideas for Soft Skills Training? Ice Breaker Games for Teams

I wish I knew who introduced the idea that team building activities would solve team problems. It just isn’t an easy or fast way to build relationships with your coworkers or mend past tussles. What these activities are good for is for new teams that don’t know anything about each other. You don’t need to spend tons of money. My advice is to just borrow from your kid’s classroom! There are tons of games and activities that can be reused in the board room.

  1. Apples to Apples
    • Many people are fans of the adult version Cards Against Humanity but for a PG version for work, pull this one out! Getting people to laugh and learning what makes them laugh is a great ice breaker! And it has no time limit so everyone can get a turn and you can end at any time.
  2. Puzzles
    • You can learn a lot about someone’s thought process by watching them solve fun puzzles. Whether a brain teaser, riddle, or cardboard puzzle pieces, it exercises the brain as well as your people skills with little stress of “being wrong”. It’s almost a guessing game and giving people an avenue to participate without being judged.
  3. Physical Activities
    • Our team has gone to a cooking class, done curling, hiking, etc. You don’t have to go that extreme; there are lots of simple games that involve moving. Here are some, or more here, and one of my favorites if you have the setup time is here. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like a good game of Red Light Green Light? Video ideas here too.
A fun twist for the end of the game for those of you playing Applies to Apples? If you keep “score” with the green cards, read them at the end and the cards describe the player that won them! Haha.

Reflection: 3 Reasons to Look Back and Learn From Your Mistakes

It’s review season! That means it’s time to list all of your accomplishments and make yourself look good to your boss so you can get a raise. Then, so you can prepare for the same glowing review next year, you have to review all the times you screwed up so you don’t repeat your mistakes. Here are some real world lessons I learned this year. I hope they can help you learn too!
  1. Not everyone loves an optimist
    • I like to tell people when they do a good job, have a good idea, or point out my own mistakes. I think a positive attitude is one that not only keeps spirits up but also allows you to move past difficulties. In my mind, optimism leaves doubt behind and so you can focus on new problems at hand and not dwell on the past “what if”. There can be situations in which people aren’t ready to move forward quite yet and you need to let them sulk for a bit before they can look on the bright side.
  2. The questions to ask first to play it safer
    • If you’re expecting one answer and get another, it can totally throw you off your game so much that it shows on your face and the people around you will notice. Not always a good position to be in if you’re trying to provide confidence. If there is something that seems a little off, ask a more general question that requires a story answer. Instead of asking “why did you do this” instead ask something like “what did you do” before hand. Then you aren’t putting words in their mouth.
  3. Be even more patient
    • This one is something I constantly strive for. When you know the answer, or have better things to do, or have something to say also, it is so much better to just wait your turn and actively listen. You will gain so much more respect and they will listen in return so much better if you can be patient!

Project Money Reserves: 3 Tips for Saving it and Spending it

Any project manager at home or at work knows that money is easy to spend and hard to manage. It is never fun asking for more from the client or your boss so you need to save wisely. This holiday season, it seems appropriate to talk about decision making for spending since giving gifts is fun and it is easy to overspend. Here are a few tips!

  1. Don’t double down
    • Have you ever bought a second gift because you aren’t sure if the first one was good enough? Don’t do it! You probably bought the first one with similar reasoning and whether it’s a backup or replacement, you will always end up with one you use and one you don’t. So put it back, and only keep one!
  2. Measuring big and small
    • Do you buy 5 small things so that it adds up to one big thing? Don’t! If it’s about how much money you spend and not the value it means to the person, you probably aren’t doing it right. Take a deep breath and just buy one thing no matter the cost. If you really feel the need to dress it up to be something fancier than add a big bow to it instead!
  3. Spend money on time
    • Remember that the best things in life are free? My favorite thing to ask for is more time together. A promise to hang out again, to visit, and have dinner together then is worth a lot more than some technological gadget. In business and at home, your time is worth more to me and makes me feel more special than any fancy book or software.