When you need to hire a manager

when to hire a project manager

Coordinating multiple departments in a company is like trying to solve a puzzle. You try to connect all the dots for things to make sense. When a start-up gets off the ground, very small workforce and a few operations need management. As the company grows, so does the size of operations, number of people, and everything in-between. After a certain point of time, it becomes inevitable to hire a project manager, because there is only so much that one person can handle.

It is natural for a business owner to try and manage as many things on his own as he possibly can in order to save finances. But once you reach tipping point, this practice can turn counterproductive. The only way to increase productivity is to hire someone competent enough to oversee the entire workforce and manage tasks across all departments. That’s when a company starts looking for a PM (project manager). So, what are those cues that tell now is the time to hire a PM. Keep reading –

Conflicting priorities
Different individuals may be busy with variety of operations, but eventually they are working towards the same goal. They need to be constantly reminded of what is to be finally achieved from all the efforts. Unless there is someone to constantly remind that, people may lose track of those goals and start having a difference in priorities. In the absence of a manager, it gets harder for everyone to direct their collective efforts towards that goal.

If you observe conflict in priorities brimming among departments, take it as a sign that it’s about time you looked for a PM (project manager). It is the PM who directs the teams across departments. He is the one who sorts things out on the basis of priorities. Otherwise, the teams may be stuck doing things that are no longer important, and forget to do things that actually matter at the moment.

Repeated failure in staying ahead of schedule
Time is money. For a company, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week just don’t seem enough. The ability to meet deadlines and deliver results in a timely fashion is what makes a company credible and governs its reputation in industry. If you feel that lately everyone is facing a hard time accomplishing things on time despite all the efforts, it may be time to consider hiring a project manager.

It is not possible for one manager to manage things beyond a certain point. There is a limit to how much one person can do. After that it will become a necessity to deploy more managers to iron out the project details in a better way. No company wants to lose its credibility among clients. But, consistently failing to deliver output on time can damage that reputation. Don’t let that happen. Let a manager guide teams to always complete tasks ahead of schedule.

Growing disagreements
Work becomes easier when there is harmony in professional relations and everyone has agreed to the same style and division of work. In a stressed environment where everyone seems to be having a difference of opinion, quality of work will automatically go down. Even a small task will seem like a huge challenge. When there is no one to oversee things, disagreements are bound to grow. However, a project manager is someone who helps people tackle these challenges in the easiest possible ways.

Managers decide the levels of hierarchy, authority, and responsibility, and who reports to whom. Lack of such arrangements can give rise to personal conflicts, and disagreements will rise. A project manager does more than just distribute work and assign responsibilities. He also sees to the fact that there is harmony within the team. A manager knows how to resolve interpersonal issues in a work setting before they become grave and start affecting productivity.

Exceeding budget limits
Nobody will ever face a problem if we had unlimited resources for accomplishing things. That’s where the challenge lies – to get things done under limited resources and budget. It’s natural that a company would want to cut down the costs of operations in every possible way. Not hiring a project manager is one of the ways in which companies try to save funds. But, for how long? Once the level of operations, workload, and number of employees start to increase, there is going to be need of someone to manage things on a bigger level.

Otherwise, the loss due to being unproductive and failure to meet goals on time will exceed the funds that the company was trying to save in the first place by not hiring a manager. If the company is having to constantly put in more funds than estimated to achieve same output, this may be another cue to start interviewing candidates for the designation of project manager. Managers can get things done in a way that time and resources don’t get wasted. Employees will notice an instant jump in overall productivity and performance when a manager comes in the picture. This will ultimately avoid wastage of funds and all other resources.

Increasing workforce
You may ignore all other signs. But, this one is the most clear indicator that now is the time to look for a manager. If you run a company, ask yourself, what’s the maximum number of people that you can practically manage on your own. Or, how many employees can one manager handle? If the ratio of workforce to the number of managers is increasing, don’t think twice before you start looking for competent project managers. Don’t wait for the counter-productivity to start showing in work. Hire someone before that happens. Increasing number of clients, projects, and divisions – all these things call for a bigger workforce and more managers to manage them. All and all, as the company branches off further and departments expand, expand your network of managers too.

Let me just wrap it up by saying that if you sense the need of a new PM, take it as a positive sign. Because, it simply means that the company is growing. It’s a sign of growth and development. Isn’t that what every single business strives for?

What are your thoughts about this post? Do let me know in the comments.

Ultimate cheat sheet to be a successful project manager

successful project manager

I know there are hundreds of ways in which project managers can improve their performance curve and do their job in the best possible manner. But, what are those top-secrets that can really make a difference? What are the ways in which project managers can do more with less resources? Below, I have tried to put together a cheat sheet containing really easy and productive ways that can be immensely helpful for any and every project manager out there who wants to simplify his job and be more successful –

  1. Write down everything: I simply cannot emphasize this point enough! Project managers are always juggling with so much information that it is hard to remember everything. The smart thing is to write everything down as soon as you learn it, so there is absolutely no chance of forgetting it, which may potentially cause a lot of trouble. Written information is always retrievable in its original form. When you try to remember something from the past, there is a high likelihood of its factual accuracy getting compromised in the process. But, what’s written is there to remind you exactly what is needed.
  2. Never get started with a half-baked plan: If you don’t have all the project details ready, don’t get started. Invest good amount of time planning, so you know exactly where to start and how to get things done. Make sure the time line, goals, deadlines, tasks, and everything has been approved by all the stakeholders and important people associated with the project before you get started. A plan lacking details might need multiple revisions through its lifetime which is nothing but a waste of time. So, do make sure the plan has been well thought-out before you begin to implement it.
  3. Keep the team short and smart: Another golden rule of being a successful project manager is to employ smart professionals in the right number. The key is to get the most competent individuals whose skills and knowledge match the requirements and the nature of the project. Employing right professionals alone is not enough. The team must be of the right size. There is a limit to the number of people one manager can handle. Beyond a certain number, manager could start losing his grip over the task details. To manage efficiency and productivity, keep the team smart and short one. Ideally, one team should have 6-10 team members, not more than that. But, again, to each their own!
  4. Have a good Project management tool – Everyone knows how important communication is for project success. Often, when we think of ways to communicate, e-mailing is what comes to mind. But over the period of time, companies have realized that conventional mailing system does not qualify as ideal for managing tasks. With a quality project management tool, managers can assign tasks from a centralized place, and use the same for interacting with everyone. Online collaboration, discussions, and meetings becomes a piece of cake with project management tool. There’s a lot that can be accomplished with project management tools.
  5. Know your management tool inside-out – So, you have a management software that everyone is comfortable using. But that’s not enough. You cannot make the most of any software, if you don’t know how to fully use it. The manager must know the software inside out. He/she must be thorough with it down to the very last feature. If you are practically aware of all the functionality of a management tool, you can get things done more quickly.
  6. Avoid micromanaging – What do managers do? They create project’s outline, assign tasks, monitor progress, give feedback, and compare expected vs. actual performance. The job is to get things done, not getting involved in the ‘doing’ part. To avoid situations where team members are not able to do what is needed, discuss the expected outcomes at length right in the beginning. This will avoid manager from having to do things on his own in times when teams are not able to deliver what client really wants. Getting involved in others’ work can leave a manager with very less time for the actual management part. Besides, when team members feel they are being micromanaged, they may also feel suffocated. It does not take long before micromanaging starts to sound like unnecessary interference. So, first discuss things in detail and then trust people to do their best.
  7. Learn useful keyboard short cuts – Why go through multiple steps to obtain a certain piece of information, when the same can be done in just one step? Time is both valuable and limited commodity. Use it wisely. A smart move is to learn as many useful keyboard short cuts as you possibly can. Sit with a computer savvy person to know about the quickest ways of accessing the most commonly used applications, tools, and their functions. Practice those short cuts everyday to make them a habit. This one can be a great time saver and is highly recommended!
  8. Prioritize, and re prioritize – It is not uncommon for priorities to keep changing in a project. Do keep on organizing the tasks and to-dos accordingly from time to time. Keep on refreshing the list of requirements with newly set priorities. A successful manager is always aware of what the team members are up to. See to the fact that people are not stuck doing something that is no longer on client’s priority list. Keep revisiting the project scheduling and keep re-prioritizing tasks based on their updated priority status.
  9. Always be prepared for technical failures – Technology! We all love it for it has simplified a lot of things. But, technical failures can happen any time. Machines can malfunction without any warning. Be prepared for uncertainties by creating multiple backups of important information. Power outage or sudden failure in sending e-mails should not cause any sort of downtime in project. Always have backup plans ready to be put in motion so everyone can pick up where they left off and resume their work. Think of the best, but always be prepared for the worst!

If you as a project manger want to stay ahead in the game, do stick to these golden rules. You can easily save a great deal of time and efforts by implementing these simple rules.

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9 habits of happy project managers

Happy project manager

We do what we do because it is supposed to give us happiness. I may absolutely loathe my job, but I will still keep putting up with it. Why? Because, I know the day I get my salary, it is going to make me feel real good. We have conditioned our mind in a way that it does everything thinking about the pay-day when things will finally be worth the efforts.

Happy project managers tweak this equation a little. They don’t work with ‘future happiness’ in mind. For them, happiness is a journey. They don’t just feel the temporary joy of receiving the pay cheque, but they make each and every second count. This is why, for them every single day of work is a reason for happiness. This is the kind of conditioning we all should do, but happy managers do it for real.

So, what are the habits of happy managers? Keep reading to find out –

1. They eat healthy – I know. This one is a no-brainer, and quite a cliché. I mean, who shouldn’t eat healthy? Everyone knows how important it is to eat right to say fit and active. But happy managers make it a reality. Healthy diet is an indispensable part of their routine. It’s because unlike team members who are usually confined within their cubicles all day long, project managers are often walking from one section of office to another. They have to answer and interact with a lot of people too, which can be quite exhausting. So, they make sure to eat right in order to stay fuelled throughout the day.

2. They know that slow is fast! –  Slow and steady wins the race. Remember the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare? The story perfectly exemplifies that slow work is actually fast. Happy managers are able to get things right without a lot of repetitions or rework, because they work slowly but steadily. What is the point of being hasty and doing things hurriedly only to realize how many errors are made in the process? You may have to redo everything, which will probably waste more time than you were trying to save by being fast. Happy and efficient managers may take longer to plan and implement, but when they are done, there would be few things (if any) that would need to be corrected later.

3. They are not exactly a stickler for multitasking – Has it ever happened with you that you were writing an e-mail, talking to someone over the phone, and also eating your meal; all at the same time? Welcome to the world of chaos. Happy project manages try to avoid mental chaos even if they are buried under countless deadlines. They try and do one thing at a time. This is not to say that they don’t care, or that they just become laid-back. Instead of trying to do everything simultaneously – they sort things on the basis of priority. They work with ‘first things first’ approach. It makes them quick in their doings which enables them to do more in less time. That’s why there is always precision in their work.

4. Always keep presentations short – I remember my college days when I had to listen to lectures non-stop for hours, which mostly bored everyone. Happy managers don’t do that. They know it does not take long before a presentation turns into a boring lecture. Not even the chairperson of a company likes listening to same old redundant talk repeated over and over. A good project manager will try to wrap-up the entire presentation within minimum power-point slides. They also try not to take too much of time to convey the idea. Besides, a short and precise presentation has better chances of getting approved by the boss, when compared with a lengthy one.

5. They hear people out – Let’s recall the old adage that says, ‘you have two ears and only one mouth; so you should listen twice as much as you speak’. Happy managers are automatically efficient because they listen before they speak. They know that it is hard to solve a problem unless the problem is fully understood. So, they have to be exceptionally good listeners. Good managers don’t just act silent. They pay attention to what is being said. They don’t just hear, they process information, ask questions, and then repeat it in their own words to be double sure that they got it right. It makes the person feel that he was actually heard. Once all the parties have spoken, that’s when the manager starts pouring suggestions and ideas.

6. They never live in the past – Why did it happen? Who did it? This shouldn’t have happened. We can think about the past all day long. But let’s be practical, is it going to benefit anyone? What’s done is done. There is no undoing it. The only wise thing is to learn from the past and get to work, so the same mistake doesn’t get repeated. Happy managers never let an unfortunate past affect their present and eventually the future of the project. They live in the present keeping in mind the lessons from the past, and the future destination where they have to be. Their entire focus is always in the present. Because, they know that if they take care of the present, the future will automatically be taken care of.

7. They pool ideas – In the words of Helen Keller – ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much’. How many ideas can one person come up with? And, how many ideas can you think of when you combine the creativity of an entire team? A lot! And, it can do wonders if done the right way. Happy managers are always pooling ideas by bringing out the creative side in everyone. Most of us don’t realize what we are capable of and how many great ideas we have buried deep in our mind. Good managers try to make everyone discover that hidden potential. They enjoy when people come together and brainstorm ideas, and think of new ways to do things in far more interesting and fun ways.

8. They respect others’ opinions – Happy project managers respect everyone’s viewpoints even if they are in disagreement with it. Instead of judging others, they try and walk in others’ shoes. This quality allows them to make everybody come to the terms with a common arrangement. That is why they are able to get things done without making others feel belittled, which makes them great leaders, apart from being amazing leaders.

9. They make others happy too! – If you want something, start giving it! This is a universal law. If you want respect, start respecting others. If you want trust, start trusting others. The same way, if you want happiness, start giving it. Although, I know that it is practically impossible to please everyone around you. But, good managers do whatever they can to make a difference. A smile at someone or a compliment can really make someone’s day. Happy managers never hesitate in pointing out the good in others. That’s why they are easily able to earn everyone’s respect and love.

Happy project managers do things with their heart and soul, which automatically preserves all the elements of quality work. They take care of the seconds, and so, the minutes and hours are automatically taken care of. Their entire career trajectory is a bundle of joy!

4 mistakes you are making with your project management strategies

Project management strategies

So much to accomplish, so much of mismanagement – This is the story of most projects (if not all) that are handled in companies. So, where do project managers go wrong? Why despite all the efforts, all the planning in the world, and all sorts of management software; things seem to go south? Why do managers repeatedly find themselves unable to deliver the expected output at the right time?

Reasons for that can be countless, but let’s talk about four most common mistakes that can cause counter-productivity in any project management strategy. If you can relate to the points mentioned below, you might want to tweak your project management strategies a little. Have a look –

1. Right resources, wrong manager!
We know that the term ‘wrong’ is highly relative and there is no such thing as right or wrong. But, what we’re trying to say is that there has to be a match between the skills of a person and the kind of tasks given to him. The same holds true for managers. Typically when projects are discussed and plans are made, the hottest topic of discussion remains – ‘how to find the best resources?’.

Let’s shift the focus! Instead of trying to keep the ‘best resources and its procurement’ in limelight; try to find the right project manager. At least this is what the VP of the Consulting Services & Project Management Office at Force 3 has to say. Don’t pick a manager just because he or she happens to be available. Focus on a person’s skill set and accordingly assign him to what he can do best. Someone who knows the art of converting ‘waste to best’ could work with very little resources and yet deliver unexpectedly amazing results. The opposite also holds true!

2. Trying to handle too many projects all at once
Do you believe in quality, or are you a stickler for quantity? Answer this question first and then accordingly decide how many projects should be put into motion at one time. It is natural tendency to try to get everything done within the least possible amount of time. But, let’s not bite off more than we can chew. Trying to shove too many projects down the throat of employees could easily end-up choking them.

Multitasking is good to the point where it doesn’t suffocate you. After a certain point of time, it can prove to be quite counterproductive, leading to an immediate drop in performance and quality of work. Multitasking is a great way to slow people down, hurt their performance, and cause unnecessary delays. Who wants that? I’m sure no one. So, do try to cut down on WIP (work in progress) if you sense an overload of work.

3. Not having regular meetings
Tim Parkin – the president of Parkin Web Development, an online strategy consultancy, dubs communication as the most important factor in successful project management and completion.  

Communication is the backbone that keeps everyone and everything in a project together. In its absence things are likely to fall apart very easily. Devote a couple of hours in one week for discussions and meet-ups. During those meetings try to find ways rectify all the problems that people are facing. Also, ask everyone unanimously what day and time works best for them.

The meet doesn’t have to be in person; you could do it virtually as well. When everyone knows they are supposed to show-up for a meet at this day and this hour, they will come ready with all the issues they are facing. With the clarity of problems in work and things that need fixing – everyone can focus on the solution. Having weekly meets is a great way to keep the project flowing, and everyone on the same page. 

4. Being rigid in plans
It is good to think of your project plan as the bible; telling what to do, how to do, when to do, and who will do it. But don’t be too rigid thinking those are the final words. Always leave room for flexibility and changes. Be open to suggestions that you can possibly get your hands on. Don’t reject new information just because it is coming from one of your subordinates.

It is wise to step back and view the entire project with a fresh perspective every once in awhile. This will help you review all the things done so far. However, don’t overuse the whole ‘being receptive to change’ approach. Being open to change and embracing it is good but don’t go on making changes unnecessarily where it is not even needed. Just be open to suggestions that are likely to shape things better!

There are probably hundreds of ways in which project management strategies can be refined. But, if you take care of these four main points you can easily dodge several pitfalls of project management.  

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5 ways to create effective work relations

Team work

Relationships take time to develop; you need to put effort to let them nurture. Like in every other sphere of life, good relationships at work increase your chances of getting things done more effectively. There are number of things you can do to foster positive workplace relationships at your workplace. Let’s take a look over them:

1. Say no to blame games
The key to a success-oriented culture is to stop or avoid blame games. Despite the fact that blame games bring restlessness and hatred among us, it cannot be denied that these games are a part of every other organization. It is very easy to blame others for a problem but to take accountability for your actions is something which will earn you respect. In other words, if the problem has occurred because of your actions, then accept your fault and try to correct it. And, when mistake is not yours, try to make the other person understand about what has actually happened.

2. Lend a helping hand, as often as possible
Contributing to the success of others can be a great act of courtesy. Trust me it’s invaluable. Sharing knowledge, recognizing others’ efforts, giving transparent feedback, etc. are a few ways to show your colleagues that they truly matter to you. Little things add up. Volunteering will not only boost your self confidence, but help you increase your relationship skills as well.

3. Develop effective communication skills
The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used as interchangeable terms, but the things they signify are quite different. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” said Sydney J. Harris, the famous American Journalist. It seems quite simple and easy to have clear communication, but making someone understand what you really mean is a tough job – you need to communicate the emotion behind your message. Here are a few tips to enhance your communication skills at work:

  • Be a good listener – stay active and embrace patience
  • Always try to use a comfortable communication mode
  • Grammatical errors can cause big time blunders; so make sure there are no such errors
  • Try to use humor in your messages, but ensure it is appropriate to the situation
  • Avoid negative body language when meeting in person

4. Develop trust
Stephen Covey, the well-known American educator and public speaker marked it brilliantly – “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Building trust can be lot more difficult than saying. Break the ice by fostering a caring atmosphere and hold team building activities such as happy hours after work; but make sure these are well planned and organized.

5. Be mindful
Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”- said Dr. Laurence J. Peter, the formulator of Peter Principle. Losing temper out of something is easy, but reviving what you’ve lost out of it is a hard nut to crack. Watch your words and actions; make sure you’re consistent in everything you say and do. And, see easily you will be able to foster positive work relations.

When there’s teamwork, there’s less me and more we. So folks, it is time to raise the bar and set a good example of relationship building.


How ProofHub can help creative teams in project management?

creative entrepreneurs

Project management takes different shapes, forms, and styles depending on the nature of project under consideration. For something related to digital marketing, the nature of task distribution, milestones, and the entire work flow is going to be unique. And, for something that is heavy on the creative side, the process is going to be different altogether. But, a tool like ProofHub has been devised to cater to all sorts of projects irrespective of their type, scale, or size.

In this post we are going to discuss how ProofHub can make the life easier for those who are into creative work such as logo designing, website development, writing, or anything else along the same lines.

Let’s have a look –

1. Exchange and discuss ideas quickly
Creative projects are only successful as long as teams are garnering them with ideas. However, an idea is only useful if you share it with people and work on it, otherwise it will remain just an idea. ProofHub is all for encouraging people to bring out their creative side and share their unique ideas with everyone. This is where a feature like Discussions proves helpful. 
The tool works like your boardroom. Just create a topic for discussion, share the schematic of the new designs textually or with the help of visual attachments, and start brainstorming with your team instantly. Everyone gets to make a contribution with least complexity, and everyone’s voice gets heard.

2. Goodbye confusion while proofing
One of the most challenging things about collaborating on anything creative is to get people to share their views without creating confusion. With a tool like ProofHub, the ambiguity in work won’t sneak in. Things get simplified with ProofHub’s proofing feature. Designers, managers, clients, everyone can share their perspective with one another while maintaining transparency. Simply upload the file to get it proofed and approved from people that matter. No confusion, no mix-ups, no chaos.

3. The storehouse for keeping all of your digital assets
Working on creative projects is a translation for countless copies of pictures, work samples, designs, documents, files and folders getting created, each with countless versions. The more the number of files, the greater the room for confusion. 
But, it does not have to be like that. With Files feature of ProofHub, you get a common place to store all of your creative work samples in a way which makes it quick to find and sort them. Create as many folders as you want and start uploading files of different formats to sort/organize them.

4. Jot down your ideas with Notes
It’s easy to miss out on something incredibly useful if you fail to write it down instantly. But, with the Notes feature, you can be sure not to miss any of your ideas or suggestions that could have the potential to bring amazing success to the project. 
Notes in ProofHub is perfect for writing down ideas as soon as you catch them wandering through you mind. It allows you think only about important stuff at the right time. Write down all the questions or doubts as soon as they pop-up in your mind. So, when the time comes you can just refer to the notes rather than wandering everywhere in search of information.

5. Third party integration for quick file sharing
Most of the times designs/samples are scattered here and there across multiple software be it a file, document, image, or some other graphic material. What if an image is stored on Google Drive and you need to fetch it into ProofHub for proofing? With ProofHub you can access all your files stored across multiple platforms in one place.

The tool eliminates the need to open up different software each time you need to access a file. With its third party integration, sharing files, documents, images, and other graphic content becomes super easy. The tool supports third party integrations with DropBox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive. So, you can access the files stored on any of these tools directly and start working on them.

Are you someone who has to work on creative projects? Do you feel lost in countless intricacies while working? Try out ProofHub and see the levels of productivity go higher.

Project management and online collaboration made easy!
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7 Project management lessons from the movie – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Project manager

The movie Avengers: Age of Ultron is an epic if you look at it from the view of a project manager. While it might come as a surprise to many, but the plot of the movie has all the ingredients of ‘a good project gone bad’ recipe.

It’s got all the drama, action, fun, suspense and other elements that make a good Hollywood blockbuster. But, more than that it has got some great advice for project managers.

If you are still pondering what makes me think highly about the movie and why is it that I crown it as an epitome of project management, then read on –

1. Every team needs a Fury
Did you know what was the secret behind the success of Avengers as a team? Well, it was none other than the person who brought them together. Yes, you’ve guessed it right. I am talking about Nick Fury, the man who stood up every time the world was in trouble and made a personal appeal to each one of the superheroes. Think of Fury as the project manager, who was always there with words of motivation for the team and kept them together till the successful completion of project. The Avengers would have never come together without Fury’s effort, forget about sticking together. And, that’s why the role of a project manager becomes so imperative.

2. Even Iron Man makes mistakes
Tony Stark experimented with Loki’s staff, even though he knew it was not a good idea in the first place. Tony did not tell anybody besides Bruce Banner, because he was scared of their disapproval. And, when the ultron attacks amidst the revelries, the entire Avengers team is shell-shocked. However, if Tony had told them about the experiments and their consequences, they would have been prepared for the adversities (or maybe would not have even let those adversities arise). Compare this to the projects you undertake at office, everyone can make mistakes in them, even you can. But, the most important thing is to not hide them, rather share them with the team so that they can prepare for the worst and iterate accordingly.

3. Don’t behave like Captain America
Captain America is often shown in the movie as the leader of the herd. And, throughout the movie Iron Man and Captain America have their disagreements. We can see that Captain America is visibly irritated with the demeanor of Tony Stark, and the way he behaves in public (in one particular instance when Tony uses swears over the Avengers intercom). However, he never tries to reconcile, to have direct communication with Iron Man and sort out the differences in opinion. This is where it seems that even superheroes can get it wrong. Being the leader, it was his responsibility to have a frank conversation with Tony get things sorted rather than letting them to flourish. Though in the movie it was all to add a bit of humor, in real life communication is imperative to maintain cohesion in the team, or  else the team might start to fall apart.

4. Don’t try to emulate Natasha and Bruce; no office romances
Office romances are quite common. In fact, in a
recent study published at Vault.com said that 56% of the business professionals have had office romances. And, we can see that in Avengers also, Natasha and Bruce Banner have feelings for each other. In fact, at one point they even consider running off together and put the mission in jeopardy, just because they are too concerned for each other’s safety. This is where it all starts to go wrong. That brings us to the point that office romances can be a big distraction for the people involved. This is the reason why the say ‘if you want to have a successful office life, ditch love contracts first.’

5. Follow the footsteps of Tony Stark
When it comes to technology, Tony Stark is the man everyone looks up to. And, J.A.R.V.I.S. and his peace keeping army of robots is a clear reflection why he is called as the King of Automation. He has managed to identify the areas where technology can assist humans and could be used to benefit the world. Similar is the case with being a project manager. You need to be able to identify project management software and other tools that suit the best for the team; something that would help the team make the most of their skillset. However, be sure to not over rely on it, otherwise your project might become an example of terrible automation, just like it happened in case of Ultron (which was also created by Tony).

6. Be a team-man like Hawkeye
Do you remember the scene in the movie, where Scarlet Witch was scared and didn’t want to fight anymore? And, do you remember who appealed to her for the sense of duty and responsibility? It was the Hawkeye. Under such a situation when her team-member was down and out, he took the responsibility to act as a team manager, motivate her, and make her understand how important she was for the mission. This is the most powerful thing that you can learn here. Remember, in the projects there can be instances where your team members might be down and out, and need that drive to succeed. Under such circumstance you need be the one who can give them the push they need and make sure they don’t fall apart.

7. Learn from Ultron’s mistakes
Sometimes even negative characters can teach you something positive. And, the example of Ultron fits perfectly in this equation. Ultron could have easily continued to exist even after successful defending of the city by the Avengers; only if he had left one drone to sit out the fight. Or in other words, if he had simply spent a little time in risk management. The same theory holds true with projects as well. Even the best planned projects can have multiple points of failure if you do not assess the risks rigorously. And, this is the reason it becomes important to be iterative and have a backup plan.

Does the introduction make sense to you know? I’m sure you can now resonate better with the movie, and the project management lessons it brings forward.

Have anything more to add to it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

What managers can learn from Dr. Sheldon Cooper

lessons to learn from Sheldon Cooper

So, you love TBBT! Who can blame you. The whole world is going gaga over this American sitcom, and for good reasons. I am a diehard fan too. And let me guess, you love it for the weird quirks and idiosyncrasies of Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Right? High-five! Me too!

I have to say the show is more than just a sitcom. There are so many lessons that we can take away about life as well as career from TBBT, especially from Dr. Cooper. Project managers in particular can learn a great deal of stuff from this great mind. Let me point out a few things about Sheldon Cooper that are sure to inspire all types of managers to perform better at workplace:

  • Sticking to the routine
    A translation for being disciplined, nobody knows the art of creating a routine and sticking to it religiously better than our favorite scientist, Mr. Cooper. He has a fixed schedule for everything; one night for playing Halo, one night for ordering Pizza, and so on. The interesting thing is, he is able to get everyone else also to stick to his routine as well. Project managers too can learn the art of creating a timeline and making everyone follow it just like he does. Although he is a little too rigid in terms of his weekly activities, managers can leave some scope to introduce changes in project timelines as and when needed. Discipline and routine-work are precious pearls for managing projects. To know how to be a natural at being disciplined, follow Mr. Cooper.
  • The importance of organizing
    Disorderliness – this is something that makes Sheldon sleepless, literally. That’s probably why he couldn’t sleep knowing that there was a disorganized closet (in Penny’s apartment) right next to his apartment. Dr. Cooper knows the art of organization like a pro.
    From labeling the bottom of containers, to straightening out neighbors’ closets, to even sorting out cereals based on fiber content; he is a stickler for organizing everything.Organizational skills are important in context of project management. It makes information easily retrievable. That’s why things like to-do lists for sorting tasks are integral to project managers. And, managers can get inspiration from Sheldon on how to organize things related to project activities, so that there is no confusion at any point of time.
  • Speaking your heart out
    Cooper once said, “I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t say to anyone’s face”. The guy is the farthest thing possible from political correctness. Although he ends-up driving a lot of people crazy in the process of being a little too honest, but that’s exactly why he is loved by everyone. Managers too can learn to speak their mind from Sheldon. In times of sharing feedback, this trait will help you say what really needs to be communicated. Managers often avoid saying certain things while sharing feedback, thinking that it might hurt the person. I am not saying that you go on bluntly insulting others (the way Sheldon often does; although his intentions are pure and he does not do it on purpose). The point is, if something needs to be shared with employees regarding their performance, do it, just as long as you don’t make anyone feel bad. Share feedback in a progressive manner to promote quality work and growth.
  • Being confident
    Dr. Cooper is always saying, “When I will get my Nobel Prize…”. There are no ifs; not even a trace of doubt in his mind. He knows he is going to win it. This is the kind of attitude that is needed at workplace. The fate of any project is dependent on how confident the manager is about its success. If the manager himself is doubtful, how can others be confident about project success? Project managers need to be confident that come what may, project will flourish.And, they can learn to be confident from Dr. Cooper as he is never doubtful of what he is going to achieve, which makes him such a great mind.
  • Staying focused
    Focus is Dr. Cooper’s middle name. When he is onto something, there is no stopping him. He would just immerse himself into it until that thing is done. Everything else becomes secondary. Project managers are constantly juggling with so much throughout the day. Focus is the only thing that can help them to handle a lot in a small time window. And, who better to learn the art of focus than Sheldon Cooper himself? He is a personification of the fact that nothing is impossible if you really set your mind to it. All you need to do is give things undivided attention. Whenever you find it hard to focus on your goals, recall this legendary character and think about how he would do it.
  • Appreciating others
    Despite the fact that Sheldon often acts like a know-it-all and easily dismisses everyone’s opinions, he is not hesitant to appreciate others. He often says, ‘Sometimes I don’t give you enough credit, Penny’. Whenever someone does something that deserves applaud, Sheldon is the first person you can expect to point it out and appreciate. And, project managers motivating people and getting the best out of them.

When you are ready to learn, everything becomes a teacher, even your favorite TV characters; especially a character like Dr. Cooper can teach you a lot more than you would have ever thought. 

What are your thoughts on it? Do share in comments section.

5 Hollywood movies every project manager should watch

Project Manager

There is more to movies than just entertainment. They are a reflection of our society and there is so much we can learn from them. Especially, when it comes to lessons on management and leadership, there is a lot to take away.

It should not come as a surprise that all the leading B-schools and the most successful conglomerates in the world use cinema as a way to teach management lessons and theories. Movies are a powerful learning aid for understanding group dynamics and team-handling.

Below is a list of a few popular Hollywood movies that demonstrate ways to handle the most common management issues such as staff procurement, employee motivation, retaining good professionals, and increasing engagement in workplace.

1. The Social Network
Thanks to this movie, we now know how Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook, reached where he is today. It shows how Mark, using his skills, hacked into Harvard’s student database to get pictures for his website Facemesh (first version of Facebook) – and ultimately paved his way towards becoming one of the richest men on earth.

What to take away
The idea is simple – hiring people who have real skills, not just college degrees. All corporate giants like Apple and Microsoft are looking for professionals with real talent and practical knowledge.

The lessons that managers can take from this movie are that sometimes great professionals can come from the most unexpected and unlikely places. For example, in the movie Mark was initially perceived as nothing more than a hacker meddling with university’s data, until everyone realized his true potential. Managers should bring innovation in the process of hiring in order to be able to identify and hire the creme de le creme of all the applicants. Do not judge a candidate solely based on an impressive CV or interview. Conduct procedures where candidates can demonstrate their real abilities and knowledge. Try to look beyond the obvious while hiring.

2. Invictus
Never underestimate the power of engagement when it comes to employee-retention. The moment we talk about engagement factor, Invictus is the movie that comes to mind. Based on the life of one of the most iconic personalities ever – Nelson Mandela, managers can learn the art of motivation and leadership from this movie.

What to take away
There is a lot to take away from Invictus, but what is really captivating about the movie is the way Mandela communicates with the people of South Africa. He uses Rugby – a sport to engage both blacks and whites who were feeling torn by racial discrimination. Mandela uses a sport to bridge the gap between blacks and whites. The same way managers can avoid disengagement by conducting simple yet interactive games and activities.

It is the responsibility of senior level authorities to make sure people don’t feel distant from the company and from each other. Movie hosting, parties, games, and conducting fun activities is an excellent way to bring people together in an office setting.

3. Outsourced and The internship
Both the movies share same ideologies and concepts. Talk about Equal Employment Opportunity and these two hollywood flicks are sure to be on top of the list. We can add one more to it – Schindler’s List. These movies capture cross-cultural amalgamation in workplace beautifully.

What to take away
Not just managers, but we all can learn how employees of different backgrounds, ethnicity, cultures, and skin colors have so much to teach each other. All three movies answer a lot of questions on cultural differences and the way people from various backgrounds interact in a group setting. When there is an element of cultural richness in workplace, everyone can learn a lot about team management and also get amazing cultural insights.

4. Up in the Air
Hiring people is very easy. It is when a company is faced with the difficult decision of downsizing, that problems begin. Firing employees always puts HR department and managers in an awkward position. This is exactly what is depicted in Up in the Air.

What to take away
Up in the Air, starring George Clooney, playing the part of a corporate downsizer, serves as a reminder to every organization that when it comes to firing people, it is not always the person being fired who is at loss. It is the organization also that loses something. Managers can learn how to value employees and understand their worth.

The lesson to learn from this movie is that, ‘people leave people, not organizations’. Although the primary agenda remains how to politely let employees go, but the undercurrent emphasizes on valuing good employees as well. That is exactly what managers can learn – the art of valuing those who truly deserve it.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street
The movie portrays Jordan Belfort and his real life story that made him one of the most influential stockbrokers of Wall Street. Beneath all the debauchery and decadence shown in the movie, there are so many key lessons that everyone including managers and employees can learn from Belfort’s success story.

What to take away
What was it that made Jordan Belfort and his partner Danny Porush such a great team? Well, it is the very fact that both of them were totally different. Let’s just say the two were poles apart! So, from this movie, managers can learn the art of diversifying competence of employees. For example, while Belfort couldn’t sleep, porush could sleep anywhere and everywhere irrespective of outer conditions. Belfort had strategic abilities while poush was brutal in enforcing rules.

Belfort always thought of long-term orientation while porush was short-sighted. They were so different in every aspect, but together they used their strengths and weaknesses for the best. The same way, managers should try to identify the best in employees and use it for the good of company as well as for their own growth.

These are the five movies I was able to think about off the top of my head. All of them are a must-watch for every manager and career-oriented professional. If you feel any other movie should have made the list, don’t forget to share it in the comments section.

How project managers can communicate more effectively?

project manager communication

We all know that communication is the cornerstone of project management. However, simply exchanging words is not enough to make communication effective. Every single message needs to be clear and precise, and the whole process should be effective. But, what do we really mean by ‘effective communication’? According to ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®Guide)’ – Fifth Edition, ‘Effective communication means that the information is provided in the right format, at the right time, to the right audience, and with the right impact. Efficient communication means providing only the information that is needed.’

Effective communication is directly proportionate to the timely delivery of results and project success. So, what are the things that project managers should always remember, if they want to be effective communicators? I have tried to jot down some points. Have a look –

1. Take care of the 3 Ws

– Be clear for whom the piece of information is intended. Is it a team member, or a subordinate? Do you need to discuss certain issues with the senior management or stakeholders? Having this clarity should be the first step prior to devising the body of content. The tone of message, delivery method, and composition – all these things will be governed when you answer the ‘who’.

What – What is to be communicated? Does the message happen to be a weekly report? Is it a monthly performance review or some other simple information? Once you figure out what needs to be discussed, you then need to choose the right channel of communication. For example, you cannot discuss reports over the phone or chat. You would have to draft e-mails or discuss in person for that. Similarly, if the issue happens to be simple, there is no need to draft mails and waste time. It can be discussed in person or through chat support.

When – Create a timeline of when to discuss things. Stick to that timeline and follow it. Perhaps the stakeholders need weekly or monthly reports of project progress. Similarly, team members need to be communicated their tasks and responsibilities daily. If possible, try to make things automated. Auto-generate reports, and macros are perfect for automating the communication process. Decide when to share regular feedback with everyone.

2. Don’t beat around the bush

Clarity and conciseness – make sure you are able to preserve these two elements every time you need to communicate a piece of information. You could take an hour to say something, or you could summarize the same in a simple sentence as well. Take all the time in the world to discuss things if you can afford to do that. But, if the project is running short on time, try to be as short and simple as you possibly can. Stick to the concept of KISS (keep It Short and Simple).

3. Don’t just talk, listen as well!

Communication is always two-sided. One-sided talk is just a lecture. Do you need to lecture everyone, or do you want everyone to participate? Accordingly, make sure to pause occasionally and give others a chance to speak and share their thoughts. Be good at listening. Try to remove the barriers that make it difficult to understand what the person is saying; be it a technical barrier, language barrier, absent-mindedness, or lack of trust in others.

4. Decide the medium of communication

How would you like to share ideas? Do you prefer meetings or are you more comfortable with online discussions? How many ways are there to communicate the same message? Which one serves best? To answer these, you would have to analyze the nature of content/information. If the message happens to be elaborate and lengthy, you might want to use PowerPoint presentation and explain it with the help of a projector. If you need to communicate some new guideline and change in the policy, then a meeting followed by an e-mail is likely the best option.

5. Decide the motive

So, you need to share something with others. But why? What is the motive? What is to be accomplished from it? When you have this clarity, you will be able to communicate in a way that the message serves a purpose. For example, what is the purpose for which you are conducting a meeting? Is it to resolve an issue? If yes, be sure you have a solution on hands before you wind up the meeting. Otherwise, the whole purpose of it will be defeated.

6. Make sure the message is understood

How do you know if your message has been understood by the receiver? Has the person understood what you actually wanted to say? Different people can interpret a common message in different ways. The manager may have said what was needed, but the process is still incomplete if the other person didn’t understand it. Make sure the other person interpreted the message in exactly the same context in which you devised it. Do confirm by asking if others have understood the message or not. Be proactive in answering any and every query that people may have.

7. Avoid using technical jargons wherever possible

Effective communication happens when the content is easy to understand. You cannot expect a first grader to understand quantum physics. I know it’s a little extreme example, but you know what I mean. Say what you have to say, but remember who is it for, and accordingly convey it in the right manner. If you are sending a report, make sure it is easy to decipher by the person on the other end. People already have a lot on their plate. Don’t bury them with the added responsibility of decoding the message. Using too many technical jargons can make a simple message unnecessarily complex. Go with the easiest style of getting your message across.

8. Make it interesting

Office reports and presentations can be boring. However,you can make them interesting by adding an element of intrigue and fun in the communication process. Try not to sound too serious in a meeting, all the time. Try to lighten up the atmosphere with occasional humour, but at the same time don’t overdo it either. It is common for people to feel lost when the meeting is boring. But, you can keep them attentive by making the atmosphere lighter.

9. Be sure to document everything

This one is a lifesaver! People tend to easily forget what was discussed in meeting or what the client said over the phone. Each one of us can relate to it. Missing out on even smallest of detail can cause unnecessary setbacks. So, do maintain documented records of all the crucial points, whether it is the minutes of meetings or stuff discussed over the phone. Jot all the important things down as soon as they are discussed. Share it with relevant people so everyone stays on the same page and don’t miss anything.

All these points are extremely simple and yet amazingly helpful in ensuring effective communication. Every single project manager can instantly boost-up the quality of project management by taking care of these little things during communication process.