Tag Archives: Sales. Sales management. Effective sales. learning to sell

Interview Tips

5 things to avoid during job interviews

1. Performing in “Interview Mode”: It’s rare that I meet an interviewee being themselves during an interview. Most interviewees go into “interview mode”, which basically means they become rigid, formal and awkward. This is a dangerous game, as interviewers need to assess personality and organisational fit during an interview.

My advice: Recognise that a hiring decision is based on more than just skills and qualifications. Focus on getting genuine personality across at interview, a key factor for any hiring decision. Try to relax and be yourself. Smile, be friendly, and try to build rapport.

2. Hiding your interest: If they don’t think you’re interested, then you won’t get hired. Interviewees hide their interest for many reasons, thinking it’ll impact salary negotiations, or thinking they’ll come across desperate. Firstly, there won’t be any salary negotiations if the interviewer doesn’t think you’re interested. Secondly, I’d rather risk coming across desperate than risk coming across as lacking interest.

My advice: Don’t hide your interest. Inject passion and energy into your performance at interview. Prepare in advance for the “interest” related interview questions, such as, why do you want this job?

3. Talking too much: A combination of nerves and poor preparation can cause interviewees to talk too much during interview. It’s important to keep your answers crisp, relevant and impactful.

My advice: Invest more time into interview preparation. Ensure you are clear about the job requirements and how you meet them, and ensure you know your CV inside out. Answers questions confidently, then stop!

4. Little white lies: Simple, don’t lie, you’ll get caught out. I recall a story of a guy who lost a job offer because he tried to hide a three month gap in employment. This was uncovered during referencing, raising concerns about other potential lies. The job offer was retracted, even though the gap wasn’t a major issue for the employer.

My advice: Don’t lie, be upfront and honest! Conduct an audit of your achievements in advance of interview, ensuring you articulate these achievements during interview. Focus on the skills you bring to the table, not the skills you’re missing. Remember, in most cases, missing a few of the job requirements isn’t always a deal-breaker.

5. Negativity: Negativity will turn off most interviewers, and this includes negativity targeted towards current or previous employers.

My advice: Stay positive during an interview. Prepare clear reasons for leaving current/previous employment. Keep your guard up, as some interviewers may try to lead you down a path of negativity.

Paul Mullan is founder of Measurability, a leading Irish outplacement and career coaching service.

Team Building

What is shared leadership, and what influence can it have on project team success?

Global competition, technological advances, and environmental circumstances are driving organizations to stay competitive. Project team members are collaborating more than ever before: they are collaborating virtually, across nationalities and cultures, and are utilizing different languages to share ideas and form teams. The formulation of new types of leadership structures in project teams is one way companies are managing complex and innovative work as they strive to remain competitive in the marketplace.

Shared Leadership

Increasingly, the ability of the single Project Manager to provide all the different leadership functions in a complex project is being questioned in today’s organizations. One type of leadership that can be used in project teams is known as “shared leadership.” Different from a more vertical style of leadership, shared leadership is a team property that results from leadership influence across multiple members of the team. Some team researchers have found that a project culture supportive of shared leadership over time, and the willingness of project team members to offer influence as well as to receive it, are necessary for shared leadership to emerge in a project team.

How can Project Managers help teams benefit from shared leadership?

Some limited research studies have shown that shared leadership may have a positive influence on project team outcomes. In fact, several modern companies are already benefiting from establishment of shared leadership at the CEO and executive levels. Executives at Fluor, Britannia Industries Limited, and Catelent Pharma Solutions are managing complex organizations by sharing decision-making and accountability. Google’s success as a company may in part be attributed to the creation of a “bi-generational” and “bi-leadership” model in which a team of CEOs led the company during a critical growth decade, rather than a single, traditional leader being in the lead.

How can we, as Project Managers, increase the use of and benefit from shared leadership in our project teams? Below are three very helpful suggestions:

Begin early to understand the leadership strengths and weaknesses of project team members. Project work gives project team members excellent opportunities to lead a team in their areas of expertise. Have one-on-one meetings with project team members early in the team initiation process, to assess not only their technical capabilities, but also to identify what motivates them in their daily jobs and work tasks. Ask the team members if they prefer to work on solutions alone, or if they prefer to collaborate with others and have a voice in decisions and outcomes.

Promote a project culture of consensus, knowledge sharing, and accountability. There are several ways this can be done. One way is to ensure that all project team members have access to all project team information. Another way is to promote inclusion and sharing in decision-making. It is also important to clearly and publicly establish the goals that all project team members are working toward.
Provide your company or organization with awareness and education on the principles of shared leadership and how this type of leadership structure positively influences project outcomes.

A project is successful when it is completed on time and within budget and has achieved its goals with quality outcomes. Participative decision-making, empowerment to make decisions, accountability, and collaboration can all be implemented to increase the likelihood of project success!

Project Management

Ten Project Management Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

By Cynthia Snyder Stackpole from Project 2013 For Dummies

Managing a project is difficult. Scope, resources, expectations, schedules, and budgets are always changing. Although Microsoft Project can help you with the mechanics of organizing, planning, and tracking a project, it can’t help you prevent all the pitfalls in project management. Here’s a look at ten of the most common pitfalls and tips on how to avoid them.

Start too small

To start out on the right foot in a new project, start by reflecting on the big picture and work your way down to the details systematically. You have to understand the purpose, the objectives, and the strategic importance of the project before you dive into the detailed tasks that are necessary in order to complete the project.

Start by asking these questions: Should the project be organized by deliverable? By phase? By geography? By type of technology? Think through the implications of organizing your project in each these ways. One you determine how you want to organize the project you can begin your work breakdown structure (WBS). If you decide to organize it by phase, each phase of your project is reflected in the top level of the WBS; if you decide that deliverables are a better way to organize the project, those are the top level. Once your top level is established, you can start to decompose the top level into more detailed work packages and from work packages into tasks.

Fail to cover your assumptions

You couldn’t plan a project without some assumptions. Making assumptions isn’t a problem, but believing that other people know — or even share — your assumptions is a problem.

Whenever you start a new project, create an assumption log — either in an Excel spreadsheet or as a Word table. Document the assumption, specify the deadline for validating it, and add a field for comments. It’s very simple, but it ensures that everyone is operating under the same set of assumptions.

Paste the assumption into the Notes section of the tasks affected by the assumption.

Treat your project as the only VIP (Very Important Project)

Your project is important to you; in fact, it may be the most important aspect of your work. It may not be as important to everyone else, however. If you work at an organization that has many ongoing projects, yours is likely not the No. 1 priority. Whenever resources are pulled from your project to help out on another one, simply return to the schedule and revise your plan to complete the work. You may need to revise the baseline or even create a new one.

Believe that availability is a skill set

When you’re working deep inside the project and trying to balance resource availability with the work that must be completed, the easiest strategy is to look for the first unallocated, or underallocated, resource and assign that person to a task. The problem is that the unallocated resource may not have the skills to do the work. An employee’s position in the IT department, for example, doesn’t guarantee, or even imply, that he can build a database or architect a system. Identify the skills necessary to complete the work, and identify the skill sets of available resources. You may even need to identify skill levels, such as entry level, midlevel, and expert.

Subscribe to the myth of unlimited resources

If you aren’t calculating the effort in, and duration of, every task, you run the risk of assigning too much work to a single resource. In most cases, resources aren’t dedicated to projects full time. Many resources work in a matrix organization; they work on multiple projects, or they do project work.

If you don’t determine how long resources must spend on the project and level the work accordingly, you face an unpleasant surprise when the project lags because its resources aren’t 100 percent dedicated or because you’ve overallocated them.

Rely on unrealistic estimates

As a project manager, you rely on team members to provide accurate cost and duration estimates of their work. After all, you can’t be a subject matter expert in every field. However, because you’re still held accountable for the schedule and budget you develop, you should understand how the estimates were developed and then verify the appropriate estimating method.

In the Notes section, document the basis of estimates and the assumptions used to develop an estimate to help keep track of the variables associated with the estimate.

Forget to prepare for Murphy’s Law

A project manager has a can-do attitude. Being in the business of solving problems and delivering results, however, doesn’t mean that you can afford to be blindly optimistic about projects. Delivering on time and on budget depends partly on establishing contingency reserve for both the schedule and the budget. You can establish reserve for individual tasks that are inherently risky and set an overall project reserve. For simpler projects, a reserve of 10 percent is sufficient. For leading-edge technology, you may need a 50 percent reserve or more.

Succumb to meeting madness

The No. 1 impediment to completing tasks is undoubtedly The Meeting. You may recall workdays where you hustled from one meeting to the next, only to reach the end of the day and realize that you failed to complete any of your own work. You probably didn’t need to attend all of them — or that if they at least had been run more effectively, they could have concluded in half the time.

Stop the meeting madness! Schedule meetings — even weekly status meetings — only when necessary. Experiment by holding team meetings every two weeks or conducting one-on-one meetings with individual team members.

If a specific topic on the agenda requires input from a stakeholder, invite that person to attend only that part of the meeting and then be excused to return to work.

Forget that it’s only a model

After you know how to create an effective schedule using Project, don’t mistake the schedule for reality. The schedule is simply a model of reality, given the information available at the time. Information, assumptions, estimates, and resources all change, risks and issues are ever present, and of course, the scope of the project changes. Therefore, as soon as you baseline the project, it’s probably outdated.

Do your best, of course, to update the model with the latest information, but remember that simply scheduling an event doesn’t guarantee that it will occur.

Relying on miracles

If you can’t figure out how to meet a deadline given the resources and the information you enter into Project, you’re unlikely to meet that deadline. In fact, Project can help you communicate the problems inherent in an aggressive delivery date. You can show stakeholders the schedule and ask them to help you determine how to speed the completion of tasks. In some cases, stakeholders can provide relevant information that helps you finish sooner; in other cases, however, they want the project done by a specific date, but there’s no reasonable way to meet the due date.

When you face an unrealistic deadline, meet it as best you can. If the deadline is simply impossible, however, acknowledge it. You can use Project to search for alternative approaches to achieving the project deliverables — though you can’t use it to compress time.

Project Management

Project management seems so straightforward. You set a deadline. You set a budget. You select the right people. The project gets done.

In reality, project management is rarely straightforward. The wrong people are assigned to the project. People don’t know what is expected of them or get conflicting information. The scope changes. Deadlines aren’t met. Put more succinctly: Stuff happens.

So what can businesses, and project managers, do to improve the odds of projects being completed on time and on budget? Dozens of project leaders and project management experts share nine secrets to successful project management.

1. Ensure that you have full project details before starting. “Creating a completely detailed project scope approved by all stakeholders is a necessity,” states Adam Balkwill, technical director, Garfield Group, an integrated marketing agency.

“The scope should include interim milestones, with deliverable dates and a budget worksheet that represents all time involved. If the initial project writeup has enough detail, the better you and your client will interact through its production,” Balkwill says. “Change requests will happen on every project, but this allows you to manage the client when something is out of scope.”

2. Have the right (and right-sized) project management team in place. In order for a project to be successful, you need to have the right project team in place, people whose skills and experience can benefit the project, from the project manager on down. It also helps to “limit the number of people involved,” says Josh Meah, COO, JackMyRep.com, a reputation management company.

“Amazon.com uses the ‘pizza’ team methodology based on the idea that a team shouldn’t be larger than 6 to 10 people,” he explains. “A manager really can only handle so many direct reports without losing grasp on either the vision for the project, details of the work involved, and personalities and personal requirements of their organization and staff,” he says. “So, to maximize effectiveness, limit the size of your project management teams.” And involve people whose skills match the project requirements.

3. Set expectations — and milestones — up front. “Set relatively (based on risk) frequent milestones and check in often to ensure projects stay on track,” advises Pat McGuinness, chief technology risk officer, GE Capital. “If you only set longer-term or high-level milestones, you won’t realize a project is in trouble until it’s too late. My team at GE Capital schedules multiple project benchmarks and iterative reviews to make sure the money being invested in an IT project is being used efficiently and that project goals are being addressed.”

“When [everyone] on the team clearly understands the [scope] from the beginning, you eliminate the ambiguity that can derail a project,” adds Juan Velasquez, marketing specialist, Do It Wiser, a provider of toner cartridges and green office supplies. A good way to do this,” he says, is to hold a kickoff meeting, where everyone involved attends. Kickoff meetings “help to set expectations,” where you can “discuss the project in detail,” create a workable roadmap and assign people roles and responsibilities.

4. Be clear about who is responsible for what — and deadlines. “When multiple people are collaborating on the same task, assignments, deadlines and other important details often get lost in translation,” explains Fred Mouawad, founder and CEO, Taskworld, a task management platform. To avoid confusion, “determine which team members are responsible for which pieces of work [up front], and enforce accountability. An online task management program is a simple way to do this.”

“It’s important that each member of your team understands what is expected from them,” adds Brandon Seymour, owner, Beymour Consulting, an SEO and inbound marketing firm. “This includes the full scope of the project and a precise timeline of when tasks need to be completed.” Because every project is different, “it helps for all of the key players to have a solid understanding of how each of their efforts contributes to the project as a whole. Project milestones and benchmarks are great for managing these expectations and keeping teams on track with deadlines.”

5. Don’t micromanage. “Meet regularly with the team members who will be working on the project. However, allow them breathing room to work without feeling micromanaged,” says Shilonda Downing, owner, Virtual Work Team, a virtual assistant company. “Creating a balance here is key to ensuring that work is being done and that team members feel empowered to do their best work.”

6. Make sure you have a good system in place for managing the project, one that everyone can and will use. “Email seems the most obvious form of communication when managing a project, but it can hinder progress,” says Chris Griffiths, CEO, DropTask, a visual task management solution. “Trawling through email threads for previous correspondence is a huge time waster. Using software that keeps all project information and communication in one place not only saves time, [it] maintains a productive workspace.”

“Our team and clients are located across the country, which means we can’t share physical files,” explains Amy Driehorst, lead project manager, Weaving Influence, which connects authors to online audiences. So “we use a digital project management application that not only allows us to manage all aspects of the project through task lists, but also serves as an online filing cabinet housing all the documents associated with the project as well as a discussion board,” she explains. “The ability to [easily] add clients to the project allows for smooth communication and sharing of information.”

7. Keep team members motivated by rewarding them when milestones are reached. “It is useful to set milestones while planning projects,” notes Ajay Kaul, managing partner, AgreeYa Solutions, a provider of business software. To ensure projects stay on track, “recognize team members whenever a milestone is met. Celebrating milestones can be a great way to track progress while keeping team members motivated.”

8. Hold regular project status meetings or calls, but keep them short. “Frequent communication with all members of the team as well as the client is the best way to ensure a project is on track,” says Driehorst. “This is especially important in a virtual environment, where [you] don’t have the luxury of popping into a colleague’s office to check the status of a task. I find scheduling regular calls in addition to all the other forms of digital communication we use ensures open and clear communication for all concerned.”

While keeping everyone up to date on the project’s status is essential, “you need a way to communicate everyone’s status to the rest of the team without getting bogged down by the details,” says Martijn van Tilburg, CEO, 10,000ft, a project and resource management solution provider. To avoid participants tuning out, “keep status meetings short and sweet [by limiting] everyone to [for example] 90 seconds of talking. This encourages team members to focus on the most relevant details about the past week.”

9. Build in time for changes. “In technology, projects don’t ever seem to follow specifications exactly,” notes Samit Shah, cofounder, EventEdge, which builds custom event apps. “To avoid pain points and save time, build in extra time for specification changes and requests. You will be thankful.”

Leadership

The Most Important Management Concept You’re Missing

Task Relevant Maturity. Is there a less sexy, technical-sounding phrase for managers?

Probably not. Yet, whether you work at a 100,000 employee juggernaut, or a hot startup with a mostly flat organization, you need to add this management concept (and those 3 letters: TRM) to your leadership approach.

The Most Underrated Management Concept: Task Relevant Maturity

Not understanding Task Relevant Maturity (TRM) creates a lot of problems for managers and their teams that can cascade into big issues. It can lead to failure when delegating (like the comic above), a loss of confidence by your best people, and an inability to deliver great results in an ever-changing market. Fortunately, these problems can be easily avoided.

Given how critical those issues are, we’re going to be sure you fully understand TRM. By the end of this post, you’re going to understand what this management concept is, who coined the phrase, and how you can apply it as a manager today.

What is Task Relevant Maturity?

Here at Lighthouse, we’re big fans of legendary co-founder & CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, and his book High Output Management. Task Relevant Maturity comes directly from it. Grove describes it in the following way:

“How often you monitor should not be based on what you believe your subordinate can do in general, but on his experience with a specific task and his prior performance with it – his task relevant maturity…as the subordinate’s work improves over time, you should respond with a corresponding reduction in the intensity of the monitoring.”

Sounds simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, most managers get this wrong. They develop trust in the abilities of a person and believe they can throw anything to them, including new projects, new roles, and new responsibilities, all while maintaining the same level of involvement and coaching as they had before.

If a manager assists their team member as much on new things as they did old, something will go wrong; not providing more assistance for new tasks and roles is likely to lead to failure by the team member. This can be both frustrating and embarrassing for them, and have a direct, painful impact on the bottom line of the company.

Avoid Rookie Mistakes

What about learning from their mistakes? Isn’t failure a badge of honor now?

Not so fast. You may believe that, and in some cases it can be valuable, but consider the cost. As Grove wrote:

“He has to make his own mistakes. That’s how he learns!”

The problem with this is that the subordinate’s tuition is paid by his customers. And that is absolutely wrong. The responsibility for teaching the subordinate must be assumed by his supervisor, and not paid for by the customers of his organization, internal or external.“

When you’re managing people and developing leaders, there are times you’ll ask them to do things they’ve never done before. It’s essential at these times you become more hands on, even if they’re not asking you to.
Management Concept – you can’t manage one size fits all

Trust, but verify.

A common mistake managers make is to try to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to managing their teams. That’s a recipe for disaster. You neither want to be overbearing to your team members that are experienced and comfortable in their tasks at hand, nor be missing when a team member is struggling alone on a new task.

The key is to keep a pulse on everyone on your team, and adjust how hands on you are according to how they’re doing. Checking in on a team member working on something new will make it safe for you or they to acknowledge and fix problems when they’re small. Meanwhile, the occasional check in on a team member who you trust and is experienced in the task at hand can help you avoid a surprise when it may be more costly, or too late to fix.

A common issue we’ve heard many times is that after a promotion, team members struggle. Unfortunately, after just getting selected for the new role, the pressure to succeed and prove they were worthy of the new title makes them feel afraid to bring up struggles. They may feel they need to figure it out on their own or simply respect their manager’s time so much they don’t want to bother them. This is why you must check in and ask. An open door policy doesn’t work.

How to Apply Task Relevant Maturity

There are many ways you can apply this concept to your day to day and week to week activities as a manager. Here’s just a few:

Play to your team’s strengths

With more than a few people to manage, you’ll quickly find you cannot be involved with everything all of your people do. This is a good thing! Developing trust in their abilities to deliver can give your people the autonomy they desire and help you avoid micromanaging.

The key is to learn what your people’s strengths are. Their strengths are where they have the Task Relevant Maturity for you to be relatively hands off with them.

The time you save in being hands off with those on your team working in areas of strength can then be invested in being more hands on with those working on something they’re inexperienced in.

Help with engagement

Recognizing their strengths can also help with morale and motivation. By giving people work to leverage their strengths, they’ll be tapping into a key part of being engaged in the workplace as we learned from Gallup’s “State of the American Manager” study from earlier this year:

Management Concept – lean on your people’s strengths

If you strike a good balance between new, challenging tasks you’re hands on helping them with, and giving them work that uses their strengths, you’ll both win. They’re adding new strengths, while getting the chance to work on old ones, while you will have the right amount of time to help people as their Task Relevant Maturity dictates.

Adjust your one on ones

Your one on ones with your team members are the perfect time to discuss their Task Relevant Maturity.

First, you can should adjust the frequency of your one on ones based on their current responsibilities. The more comfortable you are with their TRM, the less often you’ll need to check in (every 3-4 weeks).

Meanwhile, when you promote them, or give them a new challenge they lack experience in, this is the time you should meet more often (every 1-2 weeks) no matter how busy your schedule. This is when they need you most and will be set up to fail and be frustrated otherwise.

The other key is to adjust what you talk about in your one on ones. As they develop more experience in their roles and responsibilities, the kinds of questions you’ll ask and what you’ll discuss will shift. We’ve recreated this chart from Grove’s High Output Management to highlight how that may go:

Management concept – applying task relevant maturity

When they’re inexperienced, you’ll be going over a lot of the skills and processes to succeed. Then, as they grow and learn, you can be more hands off, and focus on problem solving and high level progress.

A story of TRM gone wrong.

A friend of mine was promoted at his company after doing great work for them for over a year. It was clear that for that job his Task Relevant Maturity was excellent. However, when he was promoted, he was suddenly managing people for the first time, and had a series of challenges where he had much lower TRM than he had before.

Unfortunately, rather than stepping up to help guide him through these challenges, my friends manager actually started meeting with him less often. This led to him becoming frustrated and disengaged at work. It was only after others noticed and told his manager it seemed like he might quit that the manager stepped in.

This temporary assistance was half-hearted and too late. Just a few months later, my friend quit and found a new job where he’s now much happier and feels more supported.

If you don’t get Task Relevant Maturity right, it can not only affect the quality of your team’s work, but also cause turnover.

Ask good questions

Asking good questions is a critical management skill. In particular, to effectively understand where your people are on the spectrum of Task Relevant Maturity, asking good questions is particularly helpful.

When you ask questions, it provides more information and context to a situation. It can save you from jumping to conclusions and better diagnose a problem before you step in and start giving advice and help. It can also help you quickly learn how a project is going that may otherwise have not been raised by your team member on their own.

The power of 5 why’s

One of the best lines of questioning you can use is the simple process of 5 why’s. Rather than stopping at the surface of uncovering the problem, you instead probe deeper, asking why repeatedly until you get to the true root cause.

Not just for machines, 5 Why’s can help with any problem.

This can work for both soft and hard skill issues. Going through the process with one of your team members will often reveal many great teachable moments that you’d otherwise miss if you stayed only at the surface of a problem.

5 Why’s also saves you time in the long run. If all you do is treat symptoms on the surface, it’s likely that problems will reoccur, demanding more of your attention and time.

Meanwhile, when you get to the root cause, you’re more likely to ensure that the problems won’t happen again. The second and third order issues will often naturally be resolved, making your time coaching even more efficient.

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Being a manager means mastering many new skills. One key is understanding the leadership paradox of when to be consistent, and when to be flexible. Another is learning to develop the people around you, while leaning on their strengths. If you understand and apply the management concept of Task Relevant Maturity, you’ll master both.

What really good leaders do really well.

Good leaders do things well. Great leaders teach and inspire others to do things well. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime, right? The same concept applies to leadership: Successful leadership must contain equal amounts doing and holding others accountable.

The best-performing companies have leaders that do and teach, who instill confidence in their team and share their vision with others. These CEOs and executives manage at a macro-level, holding their teams and employees accountable while providing guidance and coaching to help them solve problems on their own.

So what characteristics do great leaders all possess? They…

1. Face the facts, no matter how brutal they may be.

Bad news is part of business. Great leaders don’t just wait for it, they seek it out. Rather than waiting until a task or project is completed, they look for red flags and identify when it’s off-track to reach the stated objective. And they don’t kill the messenger—when an employee points out underperforming or failing projects, these leaders appreciate the fact that it was brought to their attention. Identifying the problems earlier gives them extra time to find solutions and solve problems faster than their competition.

2. Take accountability seriously.

Executives want to get regular updates on all projects, whether it’s during weekly meetings or through software that facilitates strategy execution. They hold people accountable to do what they should be doing and completing the tasks on their plate. If goals aren’t being met, great leaders take the opportunity to discuss, gather insight, and make the adjustments necessary for the individual employees and the company to win.

3. Look for bright spots.

Great leaders actively look for not just good news, but victories that can be replicated across other departments and teams. It’s their job to observe and identify how these victories happened so the same strategies can be implemented elsewhere in the company for even greater success.

4. Develop and prioritize winning moves.

Not every single good idea can be a great idea, one that will provide the best chance of achieving success. Implementing too many strategies can spread a team too thin and result in things falling through the cracks. Instead, great leaders focus on several key strategies, which they discuss and debate with their executive teams before deciding on which ones will bring the company closer to reaching its goals. Powerful winning moves will come from strategic thinking and decision-making, considering all the options and determining which ones will bring the biggest return—year over year, quarter over quarter.

5. Scrap what’s not working.

When you have conceptualized a project, product or service from the beginning, nurtured it and worked hard to, well, make it work, it’s hard to pull the plug if it’s not working. Great leaders must be able to realize when something isn’t working, no matter how hard they’ve worked to make it succeed. If a new product is eating into the revenue stream, these leaders are able to take a step back and scrap it. If not, the competition will swoop in with a bigger and better product.

6. Focus on the best and brightest.

It’s easy to get distracted by new ideas and strategies. But if a goal is big and bold enough, everyone will feel excited to work toward it. Rather than working on a bunch of smaller, less exciting ideas, a great leader will recognize the strategies that will motivate and inspire their teams to push toward success.

7. Plan successful quarters.

Focusing on annual goals is great, but quarterly goals are the ones that get you there, and great leaders know that each week in a quarter is crucial. The best companies focus on having successful weeks so they can achieve the right results at the end of the quarter. Business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Each leg of the race (or quarter) supports the end goal—helping you reach the finish line in first place.

8. Encourage consistency but not complacency.

Getting into a rhythm can help business processes become as regular as breathing, but this doesn’t mean you should rest once you get there. When your business is predictable, growth stagnates and success can reach a limit. However, when a business is consistent, great leaders take that opportunity to focus on what’s needed to take it to the next level. This discipline of consistency helps executives think outside the box and evaluate what new strategies and calculated risks can help grow the business and achieve greater success.

9. Lead adjustment meetings.

Knowing the status of where projects stand is something all leaders must do in order to keep their business moving forward. But “status meetings” lack any means of providing solutions for problems that might have only just started to arise. Instead, great executives focus on leading adjustment meetings where the team can discuss plans that are already or about to get off-track and provide solutions and ideas for improvement.

Companies that are performing well and in the top tier of their industries all have one thing in common—great leadership. CEOs and executives who not only do things right but also inspire those around them to perform at their best can achieve consistent and remarkable growth, quarter after quarter, year after year.

Leadership

One of the biggest roadblocks to success is the fear of failure. Fear of failure is worse than failure itself because it condemns you to a life of unrealized potential.

A successful response to failure is all in your approach. In a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that success in the face of failure comes from focusing on results (what you hope to achieve), rather than trying not to fail. While it’s tempting to try and avoid failure, people who do this fail far more often than those who optimistically focus on their goals.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” –Winston Churchill

This sounds rather easy and intuitive, but it’s very hard to do when the consequences of failure are severe. The researchers also found that positive feedback increased people’s chances of success because it fueled the same optimism you experience when focusing solely on your goals.

The people who make history—true innovators—take things a step further and see failure as a mere stepping stone to success. Thomas Edison is a great example. It took him 1,000 tries to develop a light bulb that actually worked. When someone asked him how it felt to fail 1,000 times, he said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

That attitude is what separates the successes from the failures. Thomas Edison isn’t the only one. J. K. Rowling’s manuscript for Harry Potter was only accepted after twelve publishers denied it, and even then she was only paid a nominal advance. Oprah Winfrey lost her job as a Baltimore news anchor for becoming too emotionally involved in her stories, a quality that became her trademark. Henry Ford lost his financial backers twice before he was able to produce a workable prototype of an automobile. The list goes on and on.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” –Henry Ford

So, what separates the people who let their failures derail them from those who use failure to their advantage? Some of it comes down to what you do, and the rest comes down to what you think.

The actions you take in the face of failure are critical to your ability to recover from it, and they have huge implications for how others view you and your mistakes. There are five actions you must take when you fail that will enable you to succeed in the future and allow others to see you positively in spite of your failure.

Break the bad news yourself. If you’ve made a mistake, don’t cross your fingers and hope that no one will notice, because someone is going to—it’s inevitable. When someone else points out your failure, that one failure turns into two. If you stay quiet, people are going to wonder why you didn’t say something, and they’re likely to attribute this to either cowardice or ignorance.

Offer an explanation, but don’t make excuses. Owning your mistakes can actually enhance your image. It shows confidence, accountability, and integrity. Just be sure to stick to the facts. “We lost the account because I missed the deadline” is a reason. “We lost the account because my dog was sick all weekend and that made me miss the deadline” is an excuse.

Have a plan for fixing things. Owning up to a mistake is one thing, but you can’t end it there. What you do next is critical. Instead of standing there, waiting for someone else to clean up your mess, offer your own solutions. It’s even better if you can tell your boss (or whomever) the specific steps that you’ve already taken to get things back on track.

Have a plan for prevention. In addition to having a plan for fixing things, you should also have a plan for how you’ll avoid making the same mistake in the future. That’s the best way to reassure people that good things will come out of your failure.

Get back on the horse. It’s important that you don’t let failure make you timid. That’s a mindset that sucks you in and handicaps you every time you slip up. Take enough time to absorb the lessons of your failure, and as soon as you’ve done that, get right back out there and try again. Waiting only prolongs bad feelings and increases the chance that you’ll lose your nerve.

Your attitude when facing failure is just as important as the actions you take. Using failure to your advantage requires resilience and mental strength, both hallmarks of emotional intelligence. When you fail, there are three attitudes you want to maintain.

Perspective is the most important factor in handling failure. People who are skilled at rebounding after failure are more likely to blame the failure on something that they did—the wrong course of action or a specific oversight—rather than something that they are. People who are bad at handling failure tend to blame failure on their laziness, lack of intelligence, or some other personal quality, which implies that they had no control over the situation. That makes them more likely to avoid future risk-taking.

Optimism is another characteristic of people who bounce back from failure. One British study of 576 serial entrepreneurs found that they were much more likely to expect success than entrepreneurs who gave up after their first failure. That sense of optimism is what keeps people from feeling like failure is a permanent condition. Instead, they tend to see each failure as a building block to their ultimate success because of the learning it provides.

Persistence. Optimism is a feeling of positivity; persistence is what you do with it. It’s optimism in action. When everybody else says, “Enough is enough” and decides to quit and go home, persistent people shake off those failures and keep going. Persistent people are special because their optimism never dies. This makes them great at rising from failure.

Bringing It All Together

Failure is a product of your perspective. What one person considers a crushing defeat, another sees as a minor setback. The beauty is that you can change how you see failure so that you can use it to better yourself.

10 must have skills for the Project Manager

As project managers, you have to maintain a view of the “big picture” and guide the project to success, whilst handling the day-to-day tasks, and dealing with any crises that may arise. So, what are the most important qualities of an effective project manager?

1. Business Strategy

A career in project management requires you to not only be responsive to change, you need to see it coming. Project management is a fast paced business and is constantly shifting to the markets demands. Project managers will need to understand business strategy so they can anticipate market changes and be prepared when they strike.

2. Risk Assessment and Management

During this economic climate, businesses cannot afford to make any unnecessary risks or suffer project failure. You must have the ability to positively calculate an adequate amount of risk, as well as assess and manage threats, and also opportunities to your projects to achieve the best outcome in the quickest amount of time.

3. Conflict Management

Conflict management is tough and can be brutal, it is not enjoyable for anyone involved. People will always get into disagreements on projects, and this needs to be resolved. Conflict management is about understanding the disagreement, setting up meetings to discuss each side’s viewpoints and both sides agreeing to a solution that can allow the project to progress.

4. Resource Management

As companies handle increasingly complicated markets, their business strategies and the projects to implement them are becoming much larger and more complex. Complex projects usually mean larger teams to manage, more resources to coordinate and more stakeholders to please.

5. Time Management

As a project manager, you are probably handling numerous tasks and situations at any given time. Your time management and your ability to organise yourself and other are critically important. Time management is more than allocating a certain amount of time to certain jobs. You must be able to analyse what you are spending your time on and how important those tasks are to successfully completing the project. Your primary role is to do the strategic planning, overall monitoring and be creative and innovative at solving problems.

6. Highly Organised And A Good Multi-Tasker

A good project manager knows how to manage multiple projects or tasks and record and solve issues on a day to day basis. One of the main differences between the success or failure of a project is usually the difference between a project manager who is highly organised and one who is not. Project management is all about the details. You must be highly conscientious about managing every detail of every project and also the possible impacts each detail may have on the overall success of the project. Remember it is even the little details that can make or break a project.

7. A Natural Leader

It is crucial for project managers to be great leaders. Project management requires leading stakeholders and clients to a successful result. Effective project managers aspire and motivate towards a better tomorrow and inspire confidence in their team’s abilities to realise and withhold that vision. A great project manager is often described as having a vision of where to go and the ability to articulate it. Good visionary leaders allow people to feel they have a real stake in the project, they empower people to experience the vision on their own. It is also essential to build relationships with key clients to ensure alignment to the project’s targets and radiate the confidence necessary to hold everyone participating in the project responsible.

8. Enthusiasm

No one likes a leader who is negative, they bring themselves and everyone around them down. People want leaders who are enthusiastic with a can-do attitude. People tend to follow people with a positive attitude. Enthusiastic leaders are committed to their goals and express this through optimism. Good leaderships develops as someone expresses confident and commitment to a project that others want to share this optimistic expectation. Enthusiasm is contagious.

9. Communication

Communication skills are one of the most crucial skills every project manager should have. You may possess other skills that will help make you a great project managers but these are useless if you cannot communicate well with your stakeholders and team members. You will be needed to schedule meetings to resolve any issues, delegate risks and problems to relevant individuals once they occur, update senior management on project progress and listen to and understand your stakeholders and team members. Ensure all stakeholders understand what is expected of them throughout the project, and that they communicate effectively with one another as well as yourself. Project managers need to communicate status changes, good news and bad news to all staff and senior management. For instance, a slight scheduling delay may only need to be communicated to internal teams but not to the client if it does not affect the client’s review dates.

10. Problem-Solving and Technical Skills

Inevitably, there will be times when problems and obstacles may arise that will require immediate attention and solutions. How a project manager handles these particular situations will determine their success and make them stand out from the rest. A good project manager needs to have a solid knowledge of software, platforms and programmes that your company regularly work with. This allows you to be able to understand areas of the project and able to assign themselves some tasks. By assigning yourself tasks and successfully completing those tasks on time will help you gain the respect you require to successfully manage a team.

Leadership

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?

There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power. Conservatives and chauvinists tend to endorse the first; liberals and feminists prefer the third; and those somewhere in the middle are usually drawn to the second. But what if they all missed the big picture?

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.

This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women. In line, Freud argued that the psychological process of leadership occurs because a group of people — the followers — have replaced their own narcissistic tendencies with those of the leader, such that their love for the leader is a disguised form of self-love, or a substitute for their inability to love themselves. “Another person’s narcissism”, he said, “has a great attraction for those who have renounced part of their own… as if we envied them for maintaining a blissful state of mind.”

The truth of the matter is that pretty much anywhere in the world men tend to think that they that are much smarter than women. Yet arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent — the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas in order to work for the common interest of the group. Indeed, whether in sports, politics or business, the best leaders are usually humble — and whether through nature or nurture, humility is a much more common feature in women than men. For example, women outperform men on emotional intelligence, which is a strong driver of modest behaviors. Furthermore, a quantitative review of gender differences in personality involving more than 23,000 participants in 26 cultures indicated that women are more sensitive, considerate, and humble than men, which is arguably one of the least counter-intuitive findings in the social sciences. An even clearer picture emerges when one examines the dark side of personality: for instance, our normative data, which includes thousands of managers from across all industry sectors and 40 countries, shows that men are consistently more arrogant, manipulative and risk-prone than women.

The paradoxical implication is that the same psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder are actually responsible for their downfall. In other words, what it takes to get the job is not just different from, but also the reverse of, what it takes to do the job well. As a result, too many incompetent people are promoted to management jobs, and promoted over more competent people.

Unsurprisingly, the mythical image of a “leader” embodies many of the characteristics commonly found in personality disorders, such as narcissism (Steve Jobs or Vladimir Putin), psychopathy (fill in the name of your favorite despot here), histrionic (Richard Branson or Steve Ballmer) or Machiavellian (nearly any federal-level politician) personalities. The sad thing is not that these mythical figures are unrepresentative of the average manager, but that the average manager will fail precisely for having these characteristics.

In fact, most leaders — whether in politics or business — fail. That has always been the case: the majority of nations, companies, societies and organizations are poorly managed, as indicated by their longevity, revenues, and approval ratings, or by the effects they have on their citizens, employees, subordinates or members. Good leadership has always been the exception, not the norm.

So it struck me as a little odd that so much of the recent debate over getting women to “lean in” has focused on getting them to adopt more of these dysfunctional leadership traits. Yes, these are the people we often choose as our leaders — but should they be?

Most of the character traits that are truly advantageous for effective leadership are predominantly found in those who fail to impress others about their talent for management. This is especially true for women. There is now compelling scientific evidence for the notion that women are more likely to adopt more effective leadership strategies than do men. Most notably, in a comprehensive review of studies, Alice Eagly and colleagues showed that female managers are more likely to elicit respect and pride from their followers, communicate their vision effectively, empower and mentor subordinates, and approach problem-solving in a more flexible and creative way (all characteristics of “transformational leadership”), as well as fairly reward direct reports. In contrast, male managers are statistically less likely to bond or connect with their subordinates, and they are relatively more inept at rewarding them for their actual performance. Although these findings may reflect a sampling bias that requires women to be more qualified and competent than men in order to be chosen as leaders, there is no way of really knowing until this bias is eliminated.

In sum, there is no denying that women’s path to leadership positions is paved with many barriers including a very thick glass ceiling. But a much bigger problem is the lack of career obstacles for incompetent men, and the fact that we tend to equate leadership with the very psychological features that make the average man a more inept leader than the average woman. The result is a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence while punishing women for their competence, to everybody’s detriment.

Leadership

A lot of people use the word “manager” as a part of their job title or description, but “leaders” don’t get that label simply by being appointed to a post.

Leadership is earned, and is hard-won, by the folks who prioritize and understand the traits and qualities that come with the unofficial title.

Did you ever wonder what separates the leaders from the managers?

You aren’t alone. Here are some thoughts on the matter, from people who’ve worked to understand and define the key differences.

1. Managers rely on control and leaders inspire trust.

Many of the distinctions between the two come down to this central idea. Managers act like bosses by controlling people that work under them and by administering tasks. On the other hand, leaders guide, innovate, and inspire.

They rely upon the trust they’ve built between themselves and their team members to be a force that motivates and keeps productivity high. It really comes down to leading through control, or managing through fear. In any given workplace example, it’s pretty clear to see whether the mindset of the one-in-charge was based in one or the other.

2. Managers keep an organization functioning and leaders work to build a shared vision.

Management and leadership might not be mutually exclusive. Any organization needs a little management so that quarterly numbers are met, goals are set, projects are completed … it’s just that leaders also go a step beyond that, focusing attention on motivating and inspiring employees, working with teams to build a shared vision of the purpose, and future, of the company.

Managers work through items on a to-do list and keep the system running, while leaders go a little deeper. They have their eye on the big picture as well as the finer details. Leaders are also more focused on change, and the future, than managers.

“If the world is not changing and you are on top, then management is essential but more leadership really is not,” says John Kotter, Konuske Matsushita Professor of leadership at Harvard University. “Leadership is always about change.”

3. Managers manage work and leaders lead people.

It’s all in the way you look at it. Is a senior position about overseeing work that needs to get done, or is it about leading the people who do that work? What comes first, the tasks themselves or the people who work to complete them?

Professionals want, and deserve, a job that doesn’t treat them like a machine. They want to collaborate and they want to innovate, not feel like a cog in the wheel. The most appealing employers, according to millennials (which is now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force) are the companies that hit these marks.

Companies like Google and Microsoft are known to be innovative and they provide opportunities for professional development and growth. The focus is on the people and their ideas, not the to-do list.