Team Building

The following are eight quick tips to motivate your team:

1. Everyone Has Motivation

Your employees are motivated on some level. It is your job to find the level of their motivation and move your employees to the next level.

2. Listen to WIIFM

I wake up every morning listening to a very important radio station, WIIFM. I hope you do too. WIIFM stands for What’s In It For Me? To truly be a motivator, you must always be in tune to your employees’ WIIFM. Find out why it is beneficial for your employees to do a task, etc. Once you find out the employees’ motives, you find out how to motivate them.

3. It’s about Pain or Pleasure

Motivate your employees toward pleasure or away from pain. You motivate toward the pleasure by providing recognition, incentives, and rewards for doing a good job. You motivate away from the pain of a corrective action, losing a position, or doing a poor job. The key to this motivation is to be consistent with all your employees at all times.

4. Give Me a Reason
Do it because I said so! Well, with our educated workforce these days, that doesn’t work anymore. Employees like to know why tasks are being requested of them so that they can feel involved and that the task has worth. Let your employees know why doing the task is important to you, the organization, and for them.

5. Let Me Understand You

Take time to show sincere interest in your employees as people. Understand what your employees are passionate about in their lives. What are their special passions? What are their personal needs? What brings them joy or pain? What are their short-range and long-range goals? Once you understand the answers to these questions, you can move them to a new level of motivation, because you cared enough to ask the questions and show interest in their success. Once you understand your employee’s needs and goals, they will take more interest in understanding and achieving your goals.

6. Make Me Proud

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” Give your employees the opportunity to be proud of their work. Reward team members publicly for a job well done. Give them an opportunity in a team meeting to explain how they accomplished the job. Have your organization’s Director, President, Vice President, etc., give recognition to these employees by personally sending a note, recognizing them in an organizational or team meeting, or creating a “Hall or Wall of Fame” recognition for employees that really have gone beyond the call of duty.

7. Expect the Best

Expect the best and your employees will rise to that level. How do you do this? You do it with the words you use. Are you expressing positive expectations, or are you using words (kind of, sort of, we’ll try, we have to, we haven’t done that before, and that will never work) that communicate negative expectations? What does your body language say about you? Does it say, “I’m ready to take on any challenge, and I expect you can also;” or does your body language say “Please don’t give me another problem. I can’t handle it.”
Do our recognitions and rewards move our employees to do their best? Do we consistently communicate our standards and expectations for the best? Do we coach our team to always do better?

8. Walk the Talk

Our employees model our behavior. If we are confident about a major change in the organization, our employees will follow our behavior. If we come in late and leave early, guess what will happen? Remember, even when you don’t think someone is watching…they are always watching. Set the example for others to follow.

Apply these eight simple rules of motivation and you, too, will have the skills to motivate your team to be inspired, innovative, self-directed, and highly productive employees.

Why you don’t need Certifications to succeed in Project Management

Why you don’t need Certifications to succeed in Project Management

Year after year, I am told by colleagues, articles, pop up adverts and project management certification providers that I need to get PRINCE2, PMP, AMP etc etc. Frankly, I was too busy listening to my MP3 collection to take notice. In going from a £27K salary to a £200K package in 7 years within project management, I have no PRINCE2 or whatever project management certification is in vogue. How can that be? How am I earning multiples of what other project management professionals earn by being less certified than them?

First of all, why do people get certified? For any of these three reasons:

Companies and the jobs they advertise tell you that you need them in order to apply for certain roles
People feel they will learn something useful from it and become more effective
Because people need the validation of a ‘certification’
Now, #1 and #2 are based reasonable assumptions but a little later I am going to tell you how to deal with them but let’s discuss point #3 first because it’s a dangerous one.

Consider this.

Do you actually think a 2 to 5 day course followed by a test to get a certification is going to transform you into a Project god?

Will it boost your ability to do the job better?

Heck no!

If the Jones’ are doing it, so should I

What is happening is something called an ‘Availability Cascade’ which I will let Wikipedia define as:

‘A self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse i.e. “repeat something long enough and it will become true”.

Let’s look at some famous examples of availability cascade.

Ever heard of the American Dream (to ‘make it’ in America)? Have you ever suggested Cereal is the perfect breakfast food? Have you ever paid three month’s salary to buy a wedding ring?

Well, the ‘American Dream’ was a marketing campaign by Finance giant’s Fannie Mae, the most successful marketing campaign in history because it created a trillion dollar mortgage industry. An industry that went on to fuel the 2008 subprime crisis (I’m simplifying) and further the income inequality gap.

Breakfast Cereal was a residual marketing campaign by Kellogg to sell their product, which nutritionists now are telling us, is absolutely horrible for our health!

Three months’ salary to buy a diamond ring is a marketing campaign by DeBeers the Diamond maker, nothing wrong with their blood diamond or price fixing history.

As with most consumerism campaigns these were ideas and products created and popularised to sell things to people who didn’t need them.

Let’s look at the history of PRINCE2

In the early 90’s a few UK government departments (you know, the sort that invent bureaucracy) decided to spend money formalising project management by creating a framework.

There are lots of pros and cons of doing such a thing but always a questionable endeavour when it was done with the taxpayer’s money.

The framework, which to be fair was not half bad was then rolled out to other departments and some project managers lived by it and others just carried on doing whatever they always did before to get things done. Most PM’s fell somewhere in the middle of those extremes.

Now, since a sizeable proportion of the Project Management community are Contract staff i.e. they mosey off in to the sunset from project to project, company to company. Many would take this new buzzword laden framework to the Private sector and lord knows how much HR in any sector love them buzz words.

Some project managers, the overzealous kind, began to demand this certification in their new hires and slowly over many years, many projects, and many personalities an availability cascade was created and now it’s almost a given, when you see any ‘Project Management’ job, you will see a requirement for PRINCE2, PMP, AMP, BLAH etc.

Not because having it has value, but because having it is part of ‘the game’.

The Player vs The Game

Only the most zealous project managers insist upon the entirety of PRINCE2 to be used and the moment you start to fit your project in to the bounds of a framework that was developed for a specific purpose (Government projects) then you are ALREADY mismanaging the project.

However, PM’s on the whole, certainly the good ones are a solid common sense driven bunch and in my decade+ of working on projects, I have not worked on one project which closely resembled those methodologies.Reality, pragmatism, politics, personalities and budgets cause us to diverge.

Now, I did say PRINCE2 is not half bad.

I was taught PRINCE2 by an early mentor who did the course but didn’t insist his hires have it, instead he would spend an hour walking new team members through the most salient and usable parts of it in the context of the project we were delivering at the time.

This is how these frameworks should be utilised because frankly everything you need from them can be looked up on the fly. I am happy to compensate the creators of these frameworks as I already have by purchasing their books and using them as reference points as and when I feel a Project I am working can benefit.

We simply don’t need exams and tests which just test our ability to regurgitate the concepts. I’m not denigrating the ideas and concepts from PMP, MSP, PRINCE2 etc. They are good solid ideas. We can learn from ideas and introduce concepts. I have worked on tiny micro projects and £1Bn+ Transformation programmes and everything in between in my career and not ONCE have I seen the complete usage of any one particular methodology. Because they are ideas, they are academic. Academics will only ever help you to a small degree in a real world situation.

Application is everything.

Focusing on career brilliance will give you great CV bullet points, but focusing on CV bullet points will give you career mediocrity

Certifications are like gaffer tape for fixing that IKEA wardrobe you put together poorly, certifications are like the Instamatic tummy tuck 3000 for those who need to get trimmer and so on, they pander to your ‘I feel good because I am doing something I think is right’ psychology but the reality is they won’t affect you in a meaningful way. You’ll feel good because ‘you got it out of the way’, but you will soon realise that it hasn’t actually made a difference and that’s when that heart breaking feeling will settle in.

But still, why the hate? ‘I mean FFS its 3 days out of your whole career’ is what colleagues would say to me?! ‘Just shut up, do it and play the damn game.’

Well, I’m not going to. Stop playing other people’s games, play your own games.

Spend your life bending to the world’s generic ideas or create value for the world so it bends to your brilliance.

3 days for the sake of a bullet point on your CV might not be much to some but to me, it’s a great deal

3 days is what I spent learning how to automate PowerPoint (with a good level of VBA in place already), this is a skill that I used to negotiate my rate by an extra £50 a day (£12K extra a year) on one contract.

3 days is what I once spent researching 5 Managing Directors before I got in touch to offer them my services at solving specific problems they were having, one of those materialised in to a £140k contract.

I can go on but you get the point.

A focused 2 to 5 days can have an incredible impact on your career, but you need to get to the heart of what is essential.

The absolute best way is to get mentors and ask them the right questions but that’s a whole series of articles!

So how do I deal with the incessant need for Certifications when going for new jobs?

Now, as I promised I am going tell you how I deal with the objections of companies and managers who insist you have these certifications. Here’s my exact phrasing in an interview.

‘I am highly experienced at using the concepts of PRINCE2/PMP/AMP(whatever) when delivering projects, but my experience over the years from speaking to colleagues with the certifications led me to believe that gaining the actual certification itself didn’t add any extra value in my ability to deliver projects, but again I refer to the handbook as and when’

For me, this has ALWAYS been met with a nod of agreement.

Just in case it ever doesn’t get an agreeable response that’s actually a great thing because you’ve just identified the overzealous manager that you DO NOT want to work for so run away and don’t look back.

by Sohail Anwar

Starting a new business!

People ask me all the time what is the one piece of advice I have for starting a business. My answer is that there is no one answer to that question as there are many things that make a business successful.

Looking back on my career, here are five that I have found to be the most valuable and have helped me gain the most traction.

Do Your Homework

One thing I stress everywhere I go is the absolute necessity to understand your market. That means studying your competitors, the condition of your market, where the market is going, the average lifetime value of your product, EVERYTHING.

The ironic thing is, the moment you think you know everything you realize how much there still is to learn. The greatest entrepreneurs are those who continue learning no matter how great a level of success they have achieved.

This concept I call “doing your homework”, and it is something that has helped me to adapt when FUBU was hitting the valley of its seven year cycle. It was from this studying and doing my homework that gave me the foresight to make the move into acquiring other brands like Willie Esco and Coogi so we could keep the wheel turning and maintain our revenue stream.

Stay Singular in Your Focus

Regardless of what your particular niche may be, you need to stay singular in your focus. You need to understand that just because you are successful in one market does not be you will be successful in another.

I learned that in a rather abrupt lesson from Phil Knight when I called him up one day asking him if he was getting into the hip-hop market. He very clearly stated to me that the sports market was his focus and that he had just hit the tip of the iceberg… then he hung up on me.

That is the kind of focus you need to have and why Nike has achieved such a high level of success.

Your Competition Is There and You Don’t Even Know It

One piece of advice I give to entrepreneurs all the time is that someone else is always working to take their place. They also need to know that however hot their brand may be at a given time, there will always be a new brand to come in from a different angle to take their place. I think this is very important as it keeps an entrepreneur on his or her toes. It sure keeps me on my toes!

Understanding Your Distribution Model

I always say distribution is key. No matter what you create, if you have no eyeballs on it and nobody is purchasing it, what do you have?

You need to know your lane, whatever that lane may be, and take advantage of the full level of distribution within that niche.

You need to be narrow and deep, never wide and shallow. Find your customer base and get respect from them. If they believe in you, they will continue to buy from you. If you try to be everything to everyone you will spread yourself too thin and you will have no loyal customer base.

Your Weakness Is Your Greatest our Strength In Disguise

Lastly, and most importantly, I have been telling entrepreneurs for a very long time that their greatest strengths lie in not what they have but what they don’t have. It is all a matter of perception as what you may think is your biggest weakness can actually be the spark to the fire that fuels your success.

Why the Best Leaders Have Conviction.

Why the Best Leaders Have Conviction

Conviction in a leader is an incredibly valuable yet increasingly rare trait. It’s in short supply because our brains are wired to overreact to uncertainty with fear. As uncertainty increases, the brain shifts control over to the limbic system, the place where emotions, such as anxiety and panic, are generated.

This brain quirk worked well eons ago, when cavemen entered an unfamiliar area and didn’t know who or what might be lurking behind the bushes. Overwhelming caution and fear ensured survival, but that’s not the case today. This mechanism, which hasn’t evolved, is a hindrance in the world of business, where uncertainty rules and important decisions must be made every day with minimal information.

Craving Certainty

We crave certainty. Our brains are so geared up for certainty that our subconscious can monitor and store over two million data points, which the brain uses to predict the future. And that isn’t just a neat little side trick—it’s the primary purpose of the neocortex, which is 76% of the brain’s total mass.

Our brains reward us for certainty. If our nomadic ancestors were anxious about where their next meal was coming from, finding it would result in increased dopamine levels in their brains in addition to a full stomach. You get the same rush from listening to music that has a predictable repeating pattern or from completing a puzzle. Predictable activities satisfy our craving for certainty.

Great Leadership Requires Conviction

In business, things change so quickly that there’s a great deal of uncertainty about what’s going to happen next month, let alone next year. And uncertainty takes up a lot of people’s mental energy and makes them less effective at their jobs.

The brain perceives uncertainty as a threat, which sparks the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that disrupts memory, depresses the immune system, and increases the risk of high blood pressure and depression. These are things no leader wants her team to endure.

Leaders with conviction create an environment of certainty for everyone. When a leader is absolutely convinced that he’s chosen the best course of action, everyone who follows him unconsciously absorbs this belief and the accompanying emotional state. Mirror neurons are responsible for this involuntary response. They mirror the emotional states of other people—especially those we look to for guidance. This ensures that leaders with conviction put us at ease.

Leaders with conviction show us that the future is certain and that we’re all headed in the right direction. Their certainty is neurologically shared by everyone. When leaders have conviction, people’s brains can relax, so to speak, letting them concentrate on what needs to be done. When people feel more secure in the future, they’re happier and produce higher quality work.

A leader who can demonstrate conviction will be more successful, and so will everyone she works with. Amplifying your sense of conviction is easier than you think. The following traits of leaders with great conviction will show you the way.

They’re strong (not harsh). Strength is an important quality in a leader with conviction. People will wait to see if a leader is strong before they decide to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leader. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show strength themselves when their leader does the same.

A lot of leaders mistake domineering, controlling, and otherwise harsh behavior for strength. They think that taking control and pushing people around will somehow inspire a loyal following. Strength isn’t something you can force on people; it’s something you earn by demonstrating it time and again in the face of adversity. Only then will people trust that they should follow you.

They know when to trust their gut. Our ancestors relied on their intuition—their gut instinct—for survival. Since most of us don’t face life-or-death decisions every day, we have to learn how to use this instinct to our benefit. Often we make the mistake of talking ourselves out of listening to our gut instinct, or we go too far in the other direction and impulsively dive into a situation, mistaking our assumptions for instincts. Leaders with conviction recognize and embrace the power of their gut instincts, and they rely on some tried-and-true strategies to do so successfully:

They recognize their own filters. They’re able to identify when they’re being overly influenced by their assumptions and emotions or by another person’s opinion. Their ability to filter out the feelings that aren’t coming from their intuition helps them focus on what is.

They give their intuition some space. Gut instincts can’t be forced. Our intuition works best when we’re not pressuring it to come up with a solution. Albert Einstein said he had his best ideas while sailing, and when Steve Jobs was faced with a tough problem, he’d head out for a walk.

They build a track record. Leaders with conviction take the time to practice their intuition. They start by listening to their gut on small things and seeing how it goes so that they’ll know whether they can trust it when something big comes around.

They’re relentlessly positive. Leaders with conviction see a brighter future with crystal clarity, and they have the energy and enthusiasm to ensure that everyone else can see it too. Their belief in the good is contagious. While this might look natural, leaders with conviction know how to turn on the positivity when the going gets tough. Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking by focusing the brain’s attention on something that is completely stress free. When things are going well and your mood is good, this is relatively easy; when you’re stressing over a tough decision and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. Leaders with conviction hone this skill.

They’re confident (not cocky). We gravitate to confident leaders because confidence is contagious, and it helps us to believe that there are great things in store. The trick, as a leader, is to make certain your confidence doesn’t slip into arrogance and cockiness. Confidence is about passion and belief in your ability to make things happen, but when your confidence loses touch with reality, you begin to think that you can do things you can’t and have done things you haven’t. Suddenly it’s all about you. This arrogance makes you lose credibility.

Confident leaders are still humble. They don’t allow their accomplishments and position of authority to make them feel that they’re better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they don’t ask their followers to do anything they aren’t willing to do themselves.

They embrace that which they can’t control. We all like to be in control. After all, people who feel like they’re at the mercy of their surroundings never get anywhere in life. But this desire for control can backfire when you see everything that you can’t control or don’t know as a personal failure. Leaders with conviction aren’t afraid to acknowledge what’s out of their control. Their conviction comes from an unwavering belief in their ability to control those things that they can. They don’t paint a situation as better or worse than it actually is, and they analyze the facts for what they are. They know that the only thing they really control is the process through which they reach their decisions. That’s the only rational way to handle the unknown and the best way to keep your head on level ground.

They’re role models (not preachers). Leaders with conviction inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Many leaders say that something is important to them, but leaders with conviction walk their talk every day. Harping about the behavior you want to see in people all day long has a tiny fraction of the impact you achieve by demonstrating that behavior yourself.

They’re emotionally intelligent. The limbic system (where emotions are generated in the brain) responds to uncertainty with a knee-jerk fear reaction, and fear inhibits good decision making. Leaders with conviction are wary of this fear and spot it as soon as it begins to surface. In this way, they can contain it before it gets out of control. Once they are aware of the fear, they label all the irrational thoughts that try to intensify it as irrational fears­—not reality­—and the fear subsides. Then they can focus more accurately and rationally on the information they have to go on. Throughout the process, they remind themselves that a primitive part of their brain is trying to take over and that the logical part needs to be the one in charge. In other words, they tell their limbic system to settle down and be quiet until a hungry tiger shows up.

They don’t ask, “What if?” “What if?” questions throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, and there’s no place for them in your thinking once you have good contingency plans in place. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Leaders with conviction know that asking “what if?” will only take them to a place they don’t want, or need, to go to.

They’re willing to take a bullet for their people. Leaders with conviction will do anything for their teams, and they have their people’s backs, no matter what. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up. Leaders with conviction make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insights, and ask good questions is destined for failure.

Bringing It All Together

Conviction assures people that their work matters. They know that if they focus all their energy and attention in a determined direction, it will yield results. This belief does more than put people at ease—it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of success.