How To Lead a Successful Conference Call

In the course of managing a Project, you are sure to be called upon to conduct a meeting through conference call at some point. These meetings can be tricky as you are mostly not face-to-face with some or most of the participants, which makes it harder to stay organized and focused. These few tips will help you stay on track and successfully achieve the purpose of the conference call.

Prepare an Agenda in Advance

It is important to prepare an agenda for a conference call beforehand so the meeting has a pre-set structure all participants can follow. Doing this in advance will give your team and other remote participants time to prepare comments, questions and any necessary presentations so the meeting runs more smoothly. You can then tick items off this agenda as you go so that the meeting goes on in an orderly fashion and no important point is missed out on.

Organize your team

Be sure to see to it that your team is familiar with the proper etiquettes of a conference call. Since it is carried out over the phone, interruptions and environmental noises such as typing, clicking, heavy respiration close to the microphone, playing with your pen, etc can be much more disturbing than in a normal meeting. Be sure everyone leaves their cell phones put, arrives on time so there are no interruptions, and is prepared for the meeting with a copy of the agenda and any other additional materials. Make sure all team members introduce themselves when they join in and before speaking up as not all participants can see you during a conference call. Also have them keep comments brief, as without visual cues it is easy for remote participants to tune out of a drawn out monologue.

Introductions are important

In a conference call, it is important for the project leader to start off with introductions of their team, and having the other party or remote participants do the same. This helps keep the meeting professional and structured, and there is lesser chance of confusion. It is also important to keep taking names, start questions with the name of the person they are addressed to, and encourage your team members to introduce themselves again before they speak as it is quite impossible to recognize so many voices over the phone.

Maintaining control and momentum

As a project leader, it will fall upon you to take the lead and guide the discussion in a meaningful direction. Try to stick to the agenda, and keep the conversation flowing by asking questions and announcing the next topic under discussion. Also, if someone is quiet, don’t assume this means approval, and keep asking for feedback and confirmation. Moreover, it is easy for the remote participants to feel isolated or for your team to forget they are there, so be sure to keep them involved in the discussion and keep them from getting distracted by addressing them as you speak.

Take notes

It is easy to lose track of who said what in a conference call especially since you can’t tell most voices apart, so be sure to keep taking notes or minutes of meetings. This will also help you remember what was discussed and what decisions were taken, and who was assigned which job till the next meeting. Without this, your precious and carefully planned conference call can go to waste, as it is impossible to retain so much information in your busy head without notes. Also, these notes can serve as a basis for the next meeting’s agenda.

These few considerations can help any project manager lead better conference calls where all team members can take something of importance away from the meetings, and important urgent decisions are made instead of just wasting valuable time.

Employee Fatigue During High Intensity Periods on Projects

A workplace hazard, you can define fatigue as ‘the inability or decrease in ability to respond to a situation, due to previous over-activity, mental, emotional or physical’.

It is frequently cited as the single most important cause of dwindling employee productivity and efficiency.  It can, and often does, result in reduced vigilance during work, poor judgment and decision-making ability, along with loss of awareness and distraction during critical and complex tasks.

Fatigue can be due to over-stimulation, in cases of high intensity periods of project work, where employees may be frazzled, stressed, jittery, overloaded and experiencing possible burnout. The question is, how do you overcome this fatigue and still guarantee optimal performance from employees while safeguarding their health? Here are a few tips:

  1. Anticipate. A project manager should always anticipate that, however talented and brilliant his team might be, midway through a project, interests tend to wane and fatigue sets in. Long and endless work hours, lingering business questions, and hindrances with constant deadline pestering from the client, are bound to take their toll. A smart move would be to anticipate this and create a response before the situation begins to adversely affect the project team as a whole.
  2. Evaluate. Take into consideration and assess employee performance to identify and pinpoint problems. Attendance, punctuality, attitude, work input and output, engagements and deadlines, all should be reflected on to gauge efficiency and efficacy of the project team. An honest, transparent and understanding relationship with the employees will go a long way in benefiting the entire project where the employees are comfortable in approaching and asking you for assistance well before they reach their limit.
  3. Accept. Acknowledge the point where fatigue becomes evident in employee performance. A demand-heavy, high intensity work period’s importance and impact should not be dismissed and diminished. Accept the employees complaints and give due recognition for the extra efforts put in followed by appropriate rewards.
  4. Tackle. Anticipating, evaluating and acknowledging a potential problem are all critical aspects to begin with. These should be followed by implementation of practices that combat the fatigue before it causes any lasting harm.
  • Always maintain a positive outlook, and evaluate and include the employee’s health and emotional and physical wellbeing into regular reports of project status.
  • Adopt and maintain a scale of workload that meets the requirements of the project yet does not go overboard.
  • Incorporate positive reinforcement, express gratitude and appreciation to your employees that helps uplift their morale.
  • Don’t dismiss rewards and time to rejuvenate. Communicate them clearly to the team and then follow through.
  • Encourage sharing roles and responsibilities within the work force to build team harmony, adjust work timelines and allow appropriate times off when need be.
  • Allow recreational activities to break stress, sustain and uphold an aura of lightheartedness, while still ensuring optimal employee performance. Even a weekly lunch in a good restaurant can go a long way in gaining back the team’s motivation and fight some of the fatigue.

Work stress and eventual setting in of fatigue is inevitable in demanding jobs, but by investing time and effort in properly planning an effective combat approach, one can not only preserve coherence and harmony in the work environment but will also garner benefits for you and your team both.

Do Not Let Team Mood Ruin Your Project!

Project management is not just about creating Gantt charts, making budgets, defining scope and tracking costs. It’s also about collaborating, teamwork, influencing and building a team that generates optimal results, all in a very complex environment. Mounting pressure, deadlines and budget constraints can take a serious toll on anyone and result in increasingly frustrated, irritable employees. Negative feelings and negative moods penetrate the entire work environment that can easily ruin your project with drastic consequences.

Moods are the frame of mind that can either be positive or negative. Most humans are often influenced by emotions that have a strong bearing on our moods. Positive emotions lead to good mood while negative emotions results in bad mood. When we are in good mood, it leads to improvement of our performance.

According to project management technology research company Software Advice, in a recent online survey carried out by Dr. Noel Radley, around 75% of employees are negatively influenced by bad moods in the workplace. One third (34%) of respondents have witnessed or regularly witness negative emotions from co-workers, a solid majority (73%) have even noticed their manager show negative emotions in varying degrees of frequency, and almost a third (27%) have recognized that bad mood has an impact on their productivity. For more information and charts summarizing the online survey please click here.

Negative moods can impact the outcome of projectsin various ways:

  • Results in Diminished Productivity. There is a strong correlation between moods and productivity. Bad moods and negative sentiments of the individual employees greatly reduce productivity of the team. Teamwork and collaboration is essential in completion of any project.Bad moods prevent employees from collaborating with each other,negatively impacting the productivity of the project teammembers.
  • Decreases Employee Morale and Motivation. Emotions play an important part in influencing human thoughts and actions. If the employees feel good, it works wonders in improving their morale and motivation. Negative moods on the other hand decrease employee morale which affects their ability to make correct decisions regarding the project.
  • Drive up Project Costs. Negative mood is contagiousand affects every group member. If the source of the problem is not resolved, it may cause a number of problems, chief among them being an increase in cost of the project. Bad moods among the team members results in project delays and other complications that drives up cost of the project which can easily ruintheproject.
  • Impacts Success of the Project. Another negative impact of bad moods is that it prevents successful completion of the project. It has the potential to stop the project completely unless immediate steps are taken to resolve the source of the negative sentiments among the employees.

Having realized the consequence of negative moods on project management, it is important that the mood of the team remains positive otherwise it will badly influence performance. While most believe in personal accountability and responsibility in dealing with bad moods,most of the project management gurusalso believe that project managers have a large part to play in managing group emotions. Here are 4effective tips that can help project managersinensuring that the mood of the team remains positivewhich results in a positive outcome of the project.

1- Be Attentive to Angry Sentiments among the Team. Project managers should be attentive to angry sentiments among the team members.Angry behavior of the employees indicates a problem in the workplace. Although some employees are predisposed to negative emotions, if angry behavior is shown by employees who are normally in a good mood, it may indicate a serious problem within the work environment. It is essential that mangers remain cognizant of the situational context of the angry outbursts and take steps to stem the source of negative emotions within the workplace environment.

2- Track Emotions of the Employees. Another way to prevent mood of employees from ruining projects is to regularly track their emotions. A number of software are available that allows you to track average emotions of the employees. For instance, there are project management tools that allow team members to input their real time mood while working on a project. The software then calculates average mood of the employees who are working on a particular project. Project managers can also track the moods of the employees manually. The tool allows management to measure the group’s mood by taking an average of member’s positive and negative moods. However, a negative aspect of this tool is that it is fairly complex way to track the team moods that consumes a lot of time.

3- Improve EQ Emotional Intelligence of the Employees. Another effective way to maintain positive moods within the team is to devise programs to develop their EQ or Emotional Intelligence. The term was first coined by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The author claims that people who are high in EQ are better able to handle their emotions and avoid pessimism. Project managers can create seminars and workshops to train employees in improving their emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence Consortium website has a number of resources to help mangers devise an effective training program to develop emotional skills of employees.

4- Conduct Regular Meetings with Employees. Regular one-to-one conversations with employees will help in determining issues that affect the morale of the employees. Having emphatic and sensitive conversations with the employees individually will enable the management to know about the problems that are creating negative sentiments among the team members. It will also assist the management in coming up with affective solutions to resolve the problem.

Do you agree that the above factors can help project managers in ensuring that the mood of the team remains positive? Do you know about other factors that can lead to improved moods of the employees in a workplace environment? You are welcome to leave your comments below regarding the impacts of negative emotions within the workplace and how to effectively deal with the problem.

Transition of Information When a Project Member Leaves

Seamlessly managing a project is a difficult task under the best of circumstances. It wouldn’t be completely wrong to call it a juggling act of balancing business, technology, risk, people and expectation management. Add in the possible departure of a key project team member, and it threatens the stability of your footing, which in turn increases the probability of it all crashing and tumbling down like a set of dominoes.

Most managers are caught off guard by employee resignations, especially if they come at crucial points of an on-going project. The hard part is dealing with the transition of information, all the while maintaining the flow of the project.

There are a few simple tips to ensure that transition is a smooth one:

  • First and foremost, do not panic. Take the news well, discuss the employee’s dissatisfaction with the job or congratulate him on the new one but avoid getting angry or guilt-tripping the team member into staying. Failing to gauge the employee’s reaction and attitude towards the resignation correctly could be potentially disastrous for rest of the team. It may set the tone of the employee departure; thus, giving a negative response to the news may instigate a less than productive transition. Inform the clients and the rest of the team of the impending departure to make the change a swift one.
  • An employee can resign or leave at any given time, for any number of reasons, personal or professional. A smart project manager is one who is prepared and in control of dealing with the eventuality armed with a detailed risk management plan that can immediately be put into effect. Explanatory deck presentations that clearly outline issues encountered, changes made, milestones achieved, schedules followed along with status reports to convey elements must always be up-to-date by each individual employee.
  • The next step includes coming up with a detailed transition plan with the project member. The employee’s ideas of work that needs to be completed or not may differ from your own, hence to ensure you are on the same page, collaborate and cooperate with him/her in making a list of duties, responsibilities, current projects, and work assignments that require immediate attention before they leave. The plan should include all the loose ends that need to be neatly tied off before the end of their notice period. Frequently check in on the progress of the outlined plan just to be certain that all is being done accordingly and to avoid any unnecessary and unpleasant surprises on that last day.
  • Be sure that you, as project manager, are aware of all the ins and outs of the team member’s work affairs and that the employee does not take any crucial company information with them. There is a good possibility of the team member having critical knowledge and a unique set of skills that you or the rest of the team may not have. If you fail to recognize this and successfully oversee the transition of that knowledge onto someone else, the employee could walk out the door leaving you completely unaware and sometimes, in hot water.
  • A good plan is to start thinking about and evaluating the need for a replacement and then initiating the recruitment process for a new hire. Once you have a clear idea of how much work your team member did, depending on how much will be left when they are gone, determine if and when you require a replacement. Distribute it between remaining project members, or hire a temp; come to a decision that won’t compromise the productivity of the team and final project outcome.

Stress Management: Tips for De-stressing

The key to any good strategy is to have a solid understanding of the causes of a problem.  Once you have a solid understanding of the sources, you can then work to find solutions and determine the best route to attack it.

This approach shouldn’t just be left for tackling business.  This can be applied to any situation, including your stress level and those around you.

In a perfect world, employers should provide a stress-free work environment, recognize where stress is becoming a problem for staff, and take action to reduce stress.  However, this isn’t always possible, even with the best employers.  Stress is inevitable, but how you deal with it and manage it is key.

It has been found that stress in the workplace reduces productivity and makes people ill in many ways. Workplace stress affects the performance of the brain, including memory, concentration and learning.  Stress and stress management are directly related to both your workplace and personal well-being.

Before implementing any strategy to cope with stress, it is imperative to understand your stressors.  Where are they coming from, work or personal?  They could also be a combination of, and range from work, financial, medical, emotional, marital, or social sources. Even watching TV for events like a typhoon on the other side of the planet can cause stress and anxiety in your daily life without you even knowing it.

Tips For De-Stressing Yourself:

1. Take A Break From Your Electronics

Turn off your cell phone, laptop, iPad and any other device that you are tied to.  You don’t need to be constantly checking your device and be connected 24/7. Same thing about TV if you tend to always watch stressful news and programs.

2. Change The Scenery

Take a break. Get out of the office.  Take a walk.  Enjoy the fresh air.  Eat your lunch under a tree instead of at your desk next to the piles of work you have yet to complete that is vying for your attention.  Other activities could include listening to music, reading, taking a smooth drive in the country side, or a therapeutic massage.

3. Make A Stress Journal

Keeping a journal and jotting down your thoughts and feelings can be a release.  Many find that once ideas are down on paper and out of your head, there is a release of tension and a freeing of the mind.  Or, use the journal to jot down tips and reminders on how to de-stress.  It can be a great resource to refer to and to track what caused your stress, how you felt, what you did to deal with it and what made you feel better.

4. Plan & Prioritize Your Day

When you have a documented plan either on paper or mentally in your head, you have a better chance of feeling in control and less stressed.  On your way to work, think about the top 3 items that you need to tackle and how when you get in the office.  Or, better yet, spend the last 10 minutes in the office the night before, making a to-do list for the following day.  This will not only free your mind, but allow you to manage your time wisely.

5. Exercise

Physical exercise not only is a healthy choice, but it also helps relieve stress, tension and clears your mind.  Take a walk at lunch to break up your day, or find time to fit it in in the mornings or after work.  It doesn’t have to be a serious 2 hour workout, just keep it simple and relaxing.  Stretching is a great way to easily incorporate into your day.  Take a few moments to roll your head and shoulders, stretch your neck muscles

6. Sleep

Getting a good night rest not only makes you feel better and less tired, but it helps your body rejuvenate and deal with stress and combat the negative aspects that stress can cause allowing you to be better equipped to tackle another day .  Try to eliminate other distractions in your bedroom, like TV and other electronic devices.  They can impede upon your sleep cycle and keep you from shutting your mind and body down.  Teach your body that when you enter bed, it is time to sleep.

 

Leading By Example for Project Managers

“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote really can get you thinking about how other’s perceive you by your actions, and you might start asking yourself a number of questions, such as “am I a very good example, not only to those at work but by my family and friends?”  “What sets me apart from others as a Project Manager?”  “Am I the example I want to be and think that I am?”  “Do I follow through enough on tasks?”  “Do I do what I say I am going to do?” “Do I represent the goals of my organization and my department?”

It also provokes the question of what motivates some to excel at taking the initiative and getting things done long before deadline, and the others that tend to lag behind and get the job done only after a few reminders.

Great leaders are those that not only take the initiative but also help set the direction of others by inspiring and influencing their behaviors, attitudes and thoughts.  They see the potential and foster positivity.  They challenge themselves as well as others.  Most importantly though, they not only just talk the talk, but they walk the walk.  They follow through and effectively demonstrate in their actions.  Without this, a leader loses credibility and trust; and no longer can lead by example.

Here are 5 ways to effectively lead by example:

1. Take on added responsibility.  Own up to mistakes and be the first to help out and fix problems.  As a Project Management Professional (PMP) you have to be open and accountable for your actions and those of your team.  Show that honesty really is the best policy.  If people feel that they can trust you, they will be more willing to work with you.  You become a valuable asset and this lays a solid foundation for influencing and leading others.

2. Be persistent and positive.  Don’t hesitate to try again if it doesn’t quite work out the first time.  Don’t hold back or back down.  Don’t let obstacles define your project. Communicate the obstacles that your team overcame in order to motivate the same attitude for any new challenges.

3. Create solutions.  Be the first on your project team to offer suggestions and provide assistance.  As a Project Manager you can not dwell on the negative or let problems interfere and be roadblocks.  Foster ideas.  And work to generate more from others to form solid plans to more forward.

4. Yearn for continuous improvement and learn from past experiences.  Be open to new ideas, seek input, and ask questions.  As a PM you have to set the tone and atmosphere for open communication and foster positive and valuable dialogue in all your working groups.

5. Promote a healthy lifestyle.  Be healthy, both physically and mentally, and also maintain a balanced work and personal life.  Plus, encourage everyone to do so and fully support it.  Don’t work yourself to death and expect others to as well.  Encourage everyone to work hard, but to also make time for their lives outside of work.

 

How to Get Better in Leadership on your Projects

To help you manage your team members and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

 

Critical Thinking in Project Management

Whether you passed your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam or not, as a project manager you are constantly making decisions and probably face an onslaught of demands in all directions. Not everyone excels in critical thinking.  It can be tricky and it is definitely a skill that is developed and honed by practice, not through exams.

Critical thinking is used to anticipate problems, plan, resolve issues, assess new situations and to ensure that your project team members know what to do. Being able to focus and logically sort through the clutter and make quick, well-thought out decisions is the key to your success and that of your projects.

With time, insight and lots of practice critical thinking starts to become second nature.  With that comes increased speed, as well as confidence. If you feel you are lacking and could use some assistance in this area here are five quick tips on some key areas that you should focus on for improving your daily routine:

1. Have an Open Perspective

Take the time to reflect on the situation and analyze all sides carefully.  Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly or make rash decisions.  Be impartial and remove any existing biases that you many have.  These can easily hamper critical thinking by altering your perspective in the wrong direction.  Keep an open perspective but don’t be too easily swayed either.

2. Keep Focused and Avoid Getting Distracted

You can not avoid distractions, but you can avoid getting distracted by them.  Keep focused on the task at hand, and the bigger picture.  Don’t get caught up in the little details and putting out fires.  This can easily lead you down the path of fire fighting and therefore taking your eyes off the future.

3. Ask Questions and Provoke Debate

It isn’t easy to be the one always asking the questions.  However, sometimes others don’t realize they aren’t providing the critical information that you need.  Communication isn’t always forthcoming.  It is your job to probe and get the answers you need.  The key to critical thinking is to be able to gather all the relevant information and data in order to properly analyze a situation.  Without information, critical thinking isn’t successful.

4. Learn to Multi-Task

In order to control your situation and be able to maintain focus, you need to be able to juggle multiple demands with ease.  You must learn how to pay attention to tasks, deal with problems and opportunities as they arise, and know how to prioritize. Some situations are  unpredictable to some degree, so last minute changes can’t be avoided.  When you have excellent multi-tasking skills, you can easily switch from one task to another that requires your immediate attention, and back and forth again.

5.  Control Your Stress

If you are one to be easily stressed in certain situations, you really need to learn how to manage your anxiety level.  Remaining calm and coping with a level head and keeping your mind on task allows for maximum critical thinking.  Panicking and worry will clog your thoughts and aren’t conducive to your productivity, nor your health!

Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings…

Over-scheduling of meetings is an extremely common complaint these days.  It seems like meetings can be on a continuous loop with no end in sight some days.  You go from meeting to meeting with no time to do your actual work.

If your team members complain that they spend too much time in meetings, it’s probably time for you as the Project Manager to take a good look at how you schedule your meetings and what changes could be made to incorporate more efficiencies to free up your time and the rest of your team’s time.

Below are a few suggestions on how to effectively schedule and plan meetings:

1. Schedule mandatory weekly or bi-weekly team meetings.

All team members should be involved in the meetings and attendance be made non-negotiable.  Any absent members should delegate others to attend the meeting during their absence and notify the organizer ahead of time.  Making the meetings mandatory and taken seriously, helps build respect and compliance in everyone’s involvement.  It reemphasizes the importance of the meetings and improves the effectiveness of the meetings as everyone is there to benefit from the information being shared.  When only half the team is missing, your effectiveness is really limited.

2. Emphasize brevity.

Meetings should be as short as possible.  Cut out any unnecessary time delays or content that can be better shared one-on-one or at other times.  Remove the fluff and off-topic chatter.  Use an agenda format and distribute this prior to the meeting.  This will help everyone know what the meeting is about, what will be covered, and any areas they are responsible for.  Sticking to this format and only what is on the agenda will help reduce getting sidetracked and lengthening the meetings further.

3. Set ground rules.

To help keep the meetings on track and on time, establish ground rules and a protocol for the meetings and communicate this with your team so everyone understands why and is clear on what is to be expected and allowed.  This will help keep everyone focused and your meetings running efficiently.  Establish a stated end time as well, and stick to it.  The meeting minutes should clearly document the outcome of the meeting and provide clear action items.  This will help create continuity for the next meeting and keep everyone on task and make the meetings purposeful.

4. Avoid one-on-one discussions within meetings.

If you find you are having one-on-one, individual discussions with team members within your meetings and others are sitting there wasting time, stop the conversations and save it for after the meeting.  Group meetings are not the time for this.  They take the focus away from the task at hand and waste everyone’s time.  They are a quick way to kill a meeting and everyone’s motivation and concentration regarding the meeting.

5. Establish Special-Purpose meetings.

If you need to hold a meeting with all or just a select part of your team for dealing with particular issue or matter, creating “special-purpose” meetings can help create a call to action of sorts.  As the name suggests, the meeting has a special purpose and it implies that if you are going to the meeting for a reason.  For some this can have a positive motivational and psychological influence, thus creating more work efficiency and preparedness.

Re-evaluating how you handle meetings and making a few changes here and there will really go a long way in helping minimize the number and length of meetings.  This time savings will not only allow you and your team to focus efforts on the projects but it will also help to alleviate the meeting malaise we sometimes get trapped in.

 

How To Manage Meetings Effectively

To help you improve the way you manage your meetings and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines of Communication for Project Managers

If you are new in project management or if you’ve had some bad experiences communicating with colleagues, suppliers or clients, spend some time (and take an online training) about effective communication skills. It can greatly enhance your skills, and it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Communication, rather effective communication, involves a lot more than just talk. What makes a good communicator? Regardless of your position, whether it is the Project Manager, the Janitor, or the CEO, effective communication is an important aspect in our lives.

A good communicator isn’t simply the person that is outgoing and likes to be social and can talk to any one about anything.  A lot of the time these individuals aren’t actually good communicators.  They are so busy talking they don’t take the time to actively listen and observe the situation.

Good communication is all about Skills & Methods:

Skills

A good communicator can provide the right information, at the right time, to the right people, and with the right tone.  In order to deliver, a good communicator is an attentive listener and places careful consideration to the situation.  Good communicators are proactive and are constantly thinking of the bigger picture and how their actions, the actions of others, or an event will impact a project, and will require informing others of the change, etc.

Whether in person, on paper, or electronically … always be clear and concise.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Understand who your audience is and think about how they will perceive the information, and how they will benefit from it.  Another aspect to consider is cultural differences.  Be cognizant of who you are dealing with and the cultural and language barriers that you might incur.

Your ideas and messages should be delivered clearly, and you should also understand the information that is being conveyed to you by those you interact with.  When you function in this type of environment, projects run much smoother, as creative ideas are easily expressed.

Don’t forget that communication is a two-way street.  By understanding and learning the skills you need to communicate effectively, you can better manage your projects and team.

Methods

The method of communication selected plays an important part as well.  If it is complex or personal in nature, it is probably better delivered verbally.  Other general information might be better left for a group email or via memo.

When you write letters or send emails, be sure to provide all the background information the receiver requires.  Don’t make assumptions and take short cuts.  Don’t just make a brief reference to another email or trail of emails, and make the receiver dig through them all.  For one, they might not bother.  And, if they do take the time, you are losing the effectiveness of your message and making it difficult.  Also, they might not locate or get all the information you intended them to find, which is a great way to create confusion.

Also, avoid long-winded messages and poorly typed messages with typos and grammatical and punctuation errors.  It really lessens the readability of your document and portrays your message in poor light.  You will gleam more respect out of being known for providing well-crafted, concise documentation.

 

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

 

 

Choosing the Right Training After PMP Certification

You have successfully completed your PMP Certification.  Congratulations!  That is quite a feat.  All your hard work and determination have paid off.  After a bit of time to catch your breath, you may feel the need to continue your studies and yearn for continuous learning.  Many do.  Some high achievers will still crave the intense focus and miss the purpose and direction the Certification process provided. You may also feel the complete opposite, in that you are burnt out of studying and looking forward to taking a break and getting back to just focusing on your job and personal life.  That is okay too.

For those of you looking for the next challenge, below are 3 possible options for you to consider as your next steps. The beauty of these optional areas of focus is that they not only provide you with additional credentials on top the PMP certification, but you also earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) for your PMP renewal. A definite win-win situation!  So, when you are ready to get back on the educational track, carefully consider the options discussed below and find what really interests you, and from there determine the direction you want to head in your career:


Option #1 – Additional PM Training

If you enjoyed the PMP certification and want to continue to focus solely on project management, the Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification or an “Advanced Project Management” course might be a good fit for you.  These programs build on the PMP certification program and follow a similar approach to the PMBOK Guide framework and format.  A number of these courses focus on developing stakeholder relationships, lifecycle and project estimating techniques, managing accelerated projects and portfolio management.  Effective project managers must be mindful of how different industries can impact program life cycles and the benefits they can bring to the organization.

Option #2 – Side Skills Training

There are a wide variety of programs that specialize in overall organizational efficiency, as well as management best practices.  Obtaining additional business knowledge and expertise in this area can be a real asset in today’s economy.  These courses would include Process Improvement and Six Sigma. Indeed, today a lot of emphasis is on service. Insurance agencies, consultants, investment brokers, and accountants sell services rather than products. All companies are forced to focus on how customer-driven process improvement will improve the bottom line.

If you enjoy the finance and accounting aspects of your projects, additional courses such as Managerial Accounting, Corporate Finance, and International Finance would be excellent areas to focus your attention.  There are many programs available to choose from.

Option #3 – IT Training

The field of IT (Information Technology) involves a lot of project management.  Many PMPs have an IT background and hold IT positions.  If you do, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) certification may be of interest. This program offers an exceptional level of expertise, specifically designed for IT, and focuses heavily on strategies and techniques for dealing with the fast pace of the evolution of technology and managing for the future.

If find yourself spending a lot of time fine tuning the design of your IT project to accommodate changing requirements, you may want to consider a PMI-ACP Agile certification, including the core values and principles outlined by the Agile Manifesto. Agile projects are characterized by the use of short work iterations and incremental development of products, made possible by focusing on business priorities and customer value.

Another option would be a “Project Management for IT Professionals” course, where you will gain valuable insight into project management with a special focus on managing IT projects. You will also acquire an understanding of how creating strategies and designing plans to deliver IT projects can provide consistent value and increased profits for the organization.

Whatever your taste or preference, checkout the online courses offered at http://www.pdu-courses.com and start planning for your next challenge.

Getting Status Updates on Your Projects

Receiving regular and reliable status updates from team members and sub-suppliers is critical for a Project Manager.  It allows you to strategically plan, identify any possible risks or delays early on, and to proactively make changes or mitigate potential problems before it becomes too late.

However, establishing a framework to deliver clear, concise and a consistent flow of information is easier said than done.  It is no easy feat, even for the most organized and experienced Project Manager.  Getting everyone on board, on task, and able to understand the importance of providing timely and effective progress reports is critical to the success of your project. Below are a few key tips to assist you to lead a more effective status reporting process:

1. Set Ground Rules

It is important to establish a firm foundation and example for your team to follow.  Set the ground rules for “Status Reporting” as early as possible on the project, and get clear commitment from team members (and their managers), and your sub-suppliers. Remember and remind everyone often, that without regular and reliable status reports from team members and sub-suppliers you as the Project Manager can not do your job properly.

2. Define Status Updates Regularly, and at Specific Project Milestones.

With a clear and established timeframe, your team will understand and learn to expect to receive and also provide the required information.  Once it becomes established, it will become more of a habit and routine and easily incorporated.  Like with anything, the more practice and the more it is done, the easier it gets and the more routine it becomes.  Providing updates at project milestones will help the project continue and proceed with direction and keeping the team on task and on focus.

3. Send Reminders & Get in Sync.

When the project starts, set up automatic reminders on your electronic calendar, and have your team members do the same.  This will help to ensure everyone sends you a monthly status update at specific times, and the deadlines aren’t forgotten or missed.

4. Use Templates.

To save time and streamline the process, use existing templates for the status updates and reports.  There are many available or you can customize your own.  Providing a standard, easy to use template will help your team provide you with the information you want and in the format you want.  The easier you can make a task, the greater the chance everyone will conform to your demands and it will minimize confusion or non-compliance issues.

5. Deal With Slackers Early On

It is best to deal with any issues or cooperation problems with team members not pulling their weight as soon as delays in status reporting arise.  Don’t wait too long.  It is important to address the issue directly with the individual. It is important that they understand the importance of the process and how their cooperation is vital to the success of the overall project.  If the issue continues to arise, you should take it to the next level and address the problem with their managers to avoid setting a trend for the future and to get to the root of the problem.  A lack of cooperation in status reporting can sometimes be a symptom of more complex issues within the corresponding department and continue to hamper the project if it is not properly handled and resolved.

Following these 5 key pointers will greatly assist you as Project Manager in establishing an effective communication framework for your team members to function within, and provide a free flow of information with you, to you, and with each other as a cohesive and collaborative effort.  Mastering this process will guarantee successful projects throughout your career.

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

Seven Tips for Effective Crisis Management

A crisis can happen at any time, in any situation.  Even if you think you have all your bases covered, guess again. Crises can come in all shapes, sizes, degrees and from many angles – from natural disasters, technical problems, internal corporate issues and  bankruptcies.  They can happen at the drop of a dime and be very devastating to those in its path.

Regardless of the type or size, it is important to effectively plan and manage for them in the event of one happening and also for during one.  To minimize the shock and awe, and effectively manage your project, utilize and implement these top 7 tips into your project management planning.

1. Be proactive and aware of looming problem areas.  Don’t ignore complaints or issues.  Address them head on and help minimize their impact on your projects before it gets to the crisis stage.

2. Plan ahead with crisis contingency plans and strategies.  Devise a detailed plan and series of steps to follow when a crisis happens.  Ensure these plans are well thought out and documented.  Include everyone on your team or within your group.  Make sure everyone understands their role and what to do, so when the crisis hits, everyone can act accordingly and effectively.

3. Avoid speculation. When a crisis happens everyone wants to know the root cause immediately.  Most crisis situations are very complex and it is rare to be able to pinpoint one root cause. Many times it is a series of events or actions that have lead to the crisis erupting. Jumping to conclusions too fast and speculating is dangerous. It can lead to more problems and hamper determining the cause and finding solutions. It is best to refer everyone to the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) that is in progress, and provide target dates instead of speculative causes.

4. Maintain good communication with all stakeholders during a crisis.  Clearly articulate the facts and keep all parties informed of the ongoing progress and what plans are being made, etc.

5. Remain focused on the big picture.  As the project manager, it is up to you to not get bogged down in the zillion little details and lose your focus in the middle of a crisis. Utilize your project management skills of implementing new processes, strategies and creative ways to resolve the issues and get out of the crisis, minimizing the damage.

6. Demonstrate your leadership abilities and get everyone working and back on track, with goals and tasks.  Provide clear direction and stay positive and optimistic.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and have your team or group feeling lost and defeated.  Be sure to pump them up and avoid negative conversation or placing the blame.

7. Know when to ask for help and where to find the resources you need to assist you.  You aren’t expected to have all the answers, but knowing where to find them is what makes you a great project manager.  Be resourceful and confident enough to know when to ask for help.

Being fully prepared and getting everyone on board with clear communication and detailed contingency plans is your best way to being an effective project manager and successfully leading your projects through to completion avoiding the pitfalls crises can cause.

How to Get Better in Managing a Crisis:

To help you improve your crisis management skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a recommended online course (and some others):

 

Project Management Applications For Small Businesses

If you manage a small business or project, using email communications, Excel spreadsheets and company hard drives for managing and storing project information might be okay on a temporary basis, but as the number of your projects grow (and your number of collaborators grow with it) you’ll need to consider a more sophisticated system to incorporate in your business processes.

In fact, it has been proven that for small businesses having a collaborative tool providing multiple features including task assignment, time tracking, CRM, document management, mobile connectivity and third party invoicing can make a huge difference in company’s bottom line.

For large organizations, systems like Primavera, MS Project or SharePoint are the most popular software programs for project planning, reporting, document sharing, progress updating and tracking. They are used worldwide and have their own benefits and disadvantages.

On the other hand, for small businesses or small projects (such as creating new websites, new software programs, new mobile apps or even a minor manufacturing projects) Primavera and MS Project might not be the best solutions, the most important disadvantages being higher costs, heavy platform environment, learning curve, the need for sophisticated support team and unavoidable staff training.

Deciding which project management application or software to incorporate into your small business processes can be a daunting task as there is quite a wide selection to choose from and they are all continually evolving and advancing. To make matters more difficult, each software creator provides different packages to choose from, depending on the number of projects, the number of users (collaborators) and the storage space offered.

On the lower end, developers seem to categorize their packages based on one of these two choices:

  • Unlimited collaborators, but limited number of projects
  • Unlimited projects, but limited number of collaborators

But, they also offer unlimited projects/collaborators packages at much higher monthly rates.

Even if you select a low-end package to start with, as a growing business the high-end packages should be an important criteria for your selection because in a few years when your number of projects/users grow you would want to be able to keep the same platform, and avoid having to transfer all your files to a less costly solution.

Storage is also another differentiator for choosing your package. Depending on the type of projects your organization is managing, and the size of files your team members share on a daily basis, this could become a make-or-break factor in your selection.

The ability to use the software on your mobile smartphone or tablet is another factor to take into consideration, if that is indeed important to you or your organization. Some applications are just web-based, others use HTML5 code that fits and adapts to any screen size, and others provide their own iOS, Android or Windows Phone apps for the most popular devices such as iPhone or iPad.

Another factor to consider is whether you want (or need) to work with Gantt charts that are simpler versions of MS Project and Primavera. Some project management apps offer visual Gantt-based (rather than a task-assignment based) software.

To make your selection a little bit easier, outlined below are some project management apps we briefly examined for small businesses (in no particular order):

Basecamp
  • http://www.basecamphq.com
  • Web-based + Mobile apps
  • Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 3 GB Storage, $20 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $150 / month

Basecamp keeps all your project documents and communications in one place. You can control who sees what on the projects and who can communicate with whom. The user interface is quite user-friendly and provides quick access to the latest project progress, communications, To-Do lists, etc. Basecamp also provides iOS and Android apps for mobile phones and tablets.

Projecturf
  • http://www.projecturf.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 20 Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $40 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, Unlimited Storage, $120 / month

Projecturf provides a user-friendly web environment giving instant access to various projects using tabs. It allows you to grant and change access permissions in every section, and even remove some section if they don’t apply to a project.

Project Bubble
  • http://www.projectbubble.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 10 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $24 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage, $99 / month

Project Bubble allows you to assign tasks and sub-tasks to team members, as well as define user permissions. It also allows you to enter the amount of hours you expect a given task should take (planned) and compare with the amount of hours is actually took (actual) to compare your actual costs with your planned budget. A timesheet feature is also offered for team members to help track the hours.

Mavenlink
  • http://www.mavenlink.com
  • Web-based + HTML5-based Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $25 / user / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 100 GB Storage

Mavenlink is fully integrated with Google Docs, Tasks and Contacts. It allows you to centralize your project information, files and communications in a shared environment. Real-time messaging ensures your team members stay on the same page. You can also stay connected using your mobile smartphone as the software offers an HTML5 mobile version as well.

Apollo
  • http://www.apollohq.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 18 Projects, Unlimited Users, 5 GB Storage, $23 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 75 GB Storage, $148 / month

Apollo helps you keep track of what’s happening on your project, tasks, and calendar using interactive timers. In the activity screen you can see who did what, and even communicate with other people. Files can also be kept within the platform. Mobile versions of the software for iOS and Android are also offered.

Asana
  • http://www.asana.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 15 Members. $50 / month
  • Higher End Package: 100 Members, $800 / month

Asana allows you to create, assign, follow and comment on tasks. The notification by inbox or mobile app provides what matters to you. You can keep all conversations and historical information in one place for future reference.

Wrike
  • http://www.wrike.com
  • Web-based + Mobile Apps
  • Lower End Package: 5 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects, 5 GB Storage,  $49 / month
  • Higher End Package: : 50 Users, Unlimited Collaborators, Unlimited Projects,100 GB Storage, $199 / month

Wrike is another project management software providing task management, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time news-feed. It also provides Gantt-chart integration as well as Outlook and email integration to facilitate communications.

TeamGantt
  • http://www.teamgantt.com
  • Web-based only
  • Lower End Package: 5 Projects, 5 Users, 1 GB Storage, $10 / month
  • Higher End Package: Unlimited Projects, Unlimited Users, 20 GB Storage, $79 / month

If you like using simplified Gantt charts, then TeamGantt might be the solution for you. The software also incorporates simple task commenting (by team members) directly in the Gantt chart. You can still take advantage of sharing documents and many other resources, and even view multiple projects’ Gantt charts in one screen to help with your resource planning.

Trello

Trello is a Checklist-based system to keep you on top of your team members To-Do lists. You can also attach files, images, and due dates to each task. Tasks can be categorized and you can filter by keywords or person. The software is designed to automatically scale to fit any screen size, including phone and tablets.

Freedcamp

Freedcamp is fully customizable for user permissions, allowing you to select what co-workers and clients can see. You can also receive instant notifications by email or SMS about everything happening on your project. Freedcamp also provides the possibility of using project templates saving you the time for entering redundant information everytime you start a new project.

In a nutshell, if the essence of project management is the breaking down of multi-faceted projects into smaller tasks and milestones assigned to various collaborators, then project management applications and software should assist you in organizing and breaking those complex operations and individual tasks down into specific data available at your fingertips; thus, providing more efficiency into the process than contemporary paper documents and spreadsheets offer. Therefore, your decision to purchase a project management software for your small business should be a long-term strategy for your organization:

  • Make a list of features you need today (and maybe in the future)
  • Assign weights to each feature based on its importance to your business
  • Review each software platform (start on their website)
  • Use a simplified QFD chart to compare various programs and narrow down your choice to just a few
  • Test the waters by emailing/calling each software provider to evaluate their customer support and agility to respond to your requests in a timely manner.

A final note of caution: Not all these project management software programs will survive today’s competitive marketplace, and one can easily predict that only a few will remain in a few years. So make sure your selection is not just based on price and short-term advantages, but also looks further on the horizon.

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Managing Procurement and Suppliers for Project Managers

Properly managing the procurement process and your supply chain is extremely important for Project Managers. A lot of factors can go wrong with time delays, poor quality products, mishandled or lost shipments. Delays and inferior products can be costly and potentially hamper your project and negatively impact your contract, as well as your reputation with your clients. Below are 10 key points to implement with all your projects to minimize procurement problems.

1. When sourcing suppliers and materials, carefully include all the technical requirements outlined in the main contract with your client. This will ensure that you are procuring the correct materials and the project will satisfy your client’s needs.

2. Transfer the risks for delays and for missing performance to suppliers, especially if they are part of your main contract with your client. It is important that they are held responsible for their part in the process and will work to guarantee you the service and performance you require.

3. Define an escalation process with the supplier’s management (and stipulated within the Purchase Order) in case the supplier’s staff does not follow the original plan. This will help to mitigate any problems quickly and get the results you demand.

4. Request a time schedule from the suppliers and do a sanity check on how they will be achieving your project goals and objectives. Proactively keeping everything on schedule and on task will guarantee minimal problems and alert you to any potential setbacks.

5. Define precise delivery dates for components as well as document submittals, and identify them on the supplier Gantt chart. Clearly establishing defined dates will help to keep everyone working on a schedule and reduce the chance of conflicts or mix-ups.

6. Define a detailed closure process within the Statement of Work (SOW) including the document submittals, user manuals, as-built drawings, etc. Clear instructions and documentation will increase the overall communication process minimizing potential errors or omissions.

7. Use Project Management applications and set up weekly or bi-weekly calls with the suppliers to monitor the progress. Today, there are numerous computer software and mobile apps connecting project stakeholders. Keeping close and consistent communication channels open help to establish excellent working relationships and allows to be easily aware of the ongoing status of the orders and quickly remedy any issues before they become a problem or impact the project.

8. Request monthly progress reports from suppliers and compare with the time schedule that they provided at the beginning. This will guarantee that the suppliers continue to meet your requirements and are being held accountable.

9. Do not hesitate to escalate the issues if you start to see any delays. It is best to be proactive and nip it in the bud, so to speak. A project becomes one year late one day at a time!

10. Make sure your suppliers keep track of their “Lessons Learned” in order to take advantage of the learning curve savings on multi-unit projects or on your future contracts.  Continuous improvement is important to everyone within the process. If the suppliers want to be included for future projects, it is to their benefit and yours to be cognizant of all the components learned within the project and incorporating them again for you.

Following these guidelines will assist you as the Project Manager in achieving the most out of your supplier relationships. Often, the performance of your supplier will reflect on the performance of your project. Therefore, it is critical that you manage your supplier’s performance carefully, to ensure that they produce deliverables which meet your expectations, and that you get the maximum value from them.

How to Improve Communications With Your Suppliers

To help you improve your communications with your suppliers and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

Cultivating Productive Working Relationships For Project Managers

No two people are alike and nor do people do things exactly like.  Their needs, motivators, understandings and perspectives are as diverse as the world around us.  Sometimes this gets easily forgotten when you’re managing others and busy juggling multiple demands.  As well, it is easy to place your expectations and way of doing things onto others without fully understanding how you are perceived.

It is important to cultivate a productive working relationship.  And, as a Project Manager you will be working with many team members who don’t necessarily report to you directly. So it’s imperative to establish a productive relationship with everyone in order to gain focus on your projects.

To do this you need to build trust, create a respectful environment, be sensitive to others, as well as establish the right tone and atmosphere within your area or team.  This will also help reduce personality clashes, and in the end lead to higher productivity and satisfaction for everyone. Here are a few key suggestions to put to use:

  • Get to know everyone you work with on more of a personal level, especially the team members working on your projects.  Find out what motivates them, what they like or dislike in their daily jobs.  Different people are motivated by different aspects of the daily work.  For example, if a team member wants to participate in certain meetings or project activities in order to be more aware of the progress, try to accommodate that person.  Or, if another team member has to start her day early but leave at 3 PM to take care of her kids, it’s important to be understanding and flexible, and both of you find ways to work around the challenge on your project as much as possible.
  • Clearly review the roles and responsibilities with each team member.  If you work for an established and reputable organization, which has been managing projects for many years, chances are that roles and responsibilities have already been defined within company processes.  Review them with the team and make sure each team member knows what they are responsible for and understands how their part impacts the project or the organization as a whole.
  • Set up quarterly one-on-one sessions with each team member in order to hear their concerns and suggestions.  If you don’t, they will be talking about their concerns with others including their immediate supervisors, who might then be contacting yours.  So be proactive and address any issues head-on before they get escalated.  Each team member should understand that you are open to suggestions, and they can come directly to you if they have any issues or concerns.
  • Be respectful of others differences.  As our society becomes culturally diverse and our interactions with others around the world become easier and closer due to technological advances, it is vital we learn to cultivate productive working relationships with everyone.  Celebrate the differences and be open to learning something different.
  • Set the right tone and atmosphere. Be positive and lead by example. This helps to promote a comfortable and respectful environment, in which others feel free to openly communicate and share ideas, knowing they will be valued and seriously taken into consideration.

In a nutshell, being cognizant of everyone you are managing or working with allows you to better manage them and the project as a whole.  When you have control of the situation, you can better use your time to focus on the goals of your project and increase your overall productivity.

How to Get Better in Managing Your Projects

To help you manage your team members and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

 

Liquidated Damages: Quick Tips For Project Managers

In a perfect world, projects are completed on time and exactly according to specification.  However, we don’t live in a perfect world and not everything works out according to plan. To effectively manage this risk, sometimes within the contract a set amount (called “Liquidated Damages”) is agreed upon to be paid for each day that the project is late or under-performing.

What are Liquidated Damages?

Liquidated Damages (LD) contractual clauses are beneficial in mitigating the uncertainty of damages incurred due to supplier’s breach of the contract, such as the failure to meet the completion date or failure to reach a certain performance threshold. To demonstrate how LDs are calculated, let’s outline this construction example:

ABC Rentals decides to build a 7-storey building containing 40 apartments for rental.  ABC Rentals estimates that after completion this project could generate revenue of $42,000 per month (which works out to $10,500 per week or $1,500 per day).

ABC Rentals signs a contract with XYZ Construction to build the complex and deliver it on June 30, 2014.  As the owner, ABC Rentals ideally wants the project completed on time and according to specification, however, in case it isn’t ABC has calculated and set in the contract an amount of $1,500 per day as “Liquidated Damages” as a genuine pre-estimate of likely loss of revenue. In other words, if XYZ Construction delivers the building 10 days late, they will have to pay 10 X $1500 = $15,000 of LDs to ABC Rentals.

Further, XYZ Construction in turn can decide to place a Purchase Order to PQR Electrics for completing the electrical wiring of the building. XYZ might decide to include LDs of $300 per day in the PO to PQR to reduce any risk of delays from PQR. The LD amounts in that PO can be proportional to the ratio of the main contract (between ABC and XYZ) and the value of the PO (between XYZ and PQR).

The LD amount in the contract is to be a genuine pre-estimate of the actual damage or loss likely to be caused or incurred to the owner.  It is intended to be a fair and reasonable compensation.  It is not to act as a penalty fee or a fine charged to the contractor, nor a disproportionately excessive compensation.

Liquidated Damages are not just for delivery delays. They could also be assigned to specific “performance” related issues. For example ABC Rentals could include another clause in the contract imposing that the Solar Heating System for the outdoor swimming pool should be able to increase the average temperature of the pool by 5 degrees within 60 minutes. If during the final tests the 10-degree increase in temperature is achieved in more than 60 minutes, then XYZ Construction should pay to ABC Rentals one-time liquidated damages of $1000 for every additional 15 minutes. This will ensure that the XYZ Construction will not install a low efficiency heating system just to save money.

Quick Tips for Project Managers:

  • Understand how the LD values have been calculated by your client (they don’t usually come out of a hat). When placing LD figures into a contract, it is prudent on the client side to prepare a brief summary supporting the estimated values.  This must be based on the estimated losses that will be triggered from contractor’s breach of contract, and cannot be extravagant or unfounded.
  • Review the LD clauses in detail.  Some LD clauses are very complex especially if your project delivers several components to the client and each component has a different amount of LD attached to it. In some cases LD could even exclude each other so it’s important that you (and your team) have a good understanding of the contract clauses. Breakdown the timeframes and expectations for each and every component clearly in Excel tables and worksheets, and calculate estimates for the LDs risks as your project progresses (based on delivery dates or any other criteria that is used for imposing the LDs).  This will allow you to keep up-to-date assessments of where you stand and the risks involved as each component of the project becomes completed.
  • Include LD Clauses in your contract to your suppliers to protect yourself against their delays.  That’s called “Risk Transfer” (refer to the PMBOK Guide in Chapter 11). This will assist you in mitigating any unforeseen setbacks and delays that are forced on you by your suppliers, thus making it difficult for you to deliver and meet your contractual obligations to your clients.
  • Document and communicate.  Make sure you have clear, concise and regular communication with your client about the estimated LDs.  You should also closely document and maintain careful records of the events and situations that caused your organization to be in breach of the contract specially if some events were not under your control (such as Force Majeure events, delays due to your client or your client’s other sub-contractors). Good communication during the project is essential for minimizing Liquidated Damages at the end.
  • Negotiate and settle your LDs as part of a global negotiation with your client towards the end of the project. This is the best way to minimize the due amounts. In calculating a reasonable sum for the damages associated with the delays, all the facets of the project affected should be carefully assessed and determined by differentiating the apportioned stages of work completed.
  • Finally, a couple of suggestions that you can convey to your sales teams:
    • Before signing the contract do try to include Bonus clauses in there, specially if you realize that early delivery or higher than expected performance means savings or additional revenue for your client. Many large energy projects include such Bonus clauses (mirroring the LDs) because if the unit is delivered earlier than expected or if the generating unit is more efficient than model test predictions, well.. it would mean more revenue for the owner in the long run!
    • LDs should be capped within the contract, for example to maximum 10% of the contract value.

How to Improve Communications on Your Projects 

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

So you received your PMP Certification… Now what?

Congratulations!  All the hours of dedication and studying you put into your certification have finally paid off.  Celebrate and enjoy the moment…  You deserve it!

But, remember this is not the end of the road.  It’s important for you to continue your hard work and maintain your PMI credential.  You have come this far, you don’t want to lose your status.

After passing the PMP Exam, certified Project Managers must demonstrate their commitment to the profession and continuous learning by accumulating 60 PDUs (Professional Development Units) over a 3-year period within PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program.  One PDU is equal one hour of “Learning” activity.  The purpose of PDUs is to keep you engaged, focused and growing professionally.

 

What are the different PDU categories?

There are 6 categories of courses and options that you can take to earn your PDUs, depending on your PMI credentials (PMP, PgMP, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP).  Below is a breakdown of the categories:

  • Category A: Courses offered by a Registered Education Providers (REP) of the PMI
  • Category B: Continuing Education or Online courses
  • Category C: Self Directed Learning
  • Category D: Creating new project management knowledge
  • Category E: Volunteer service
  • Category F: Working as a Professional in Project Management

For more detailed information on each of the particular categories, check out www.pducategories.com or  www.pdu-courses.com to determine your specific requirements.

 

How to plan earning PDUs online?

Breaking down the PDUs equally into 20 per year will help to eliminate any last minute cramming and rushing in the final months of the third year.  For long-term success, it is critical to undertake the time-management skills you studied for during the exam prep, keeping in mind that it is important to lead a balanced life with your personal and professional aspirations.

While considering how to tackle the PDUs, it is important that you devise and map out a thorough plan on how you are going to manage the commitment.  Many successful Project Managers utilize this opportunity to strategically incorporate the PDUs as objectives within their professional career path.  Determine which particular categories work in your situation and match your interests and specific goals.

Note: Don’t forget that you can claim 15 PDUs if your title remained “Project Manager” during the 3-year cycle after your PMP exam (check under Category F).

 

Where to take your online PDU courses?

There are many benefits to taking your courses via http://www.pdu-courses.com.  The average market price per PDU for good quality courses can range from $20 to $80.  With pdu-courses.com, you get online trainings that not only exceed your quality expectations, but cost an average of $10 per PDU.  You also get 1 free bonus PDU for every 10 PDU that you purchase. All that can translate into substantial savings when you add up all the courses you need over a 3-year cycle.  As well, you will be guided on how to claim your PDUs by using your PMI username and password.

 

Effective Email Communications for Project Managers

Email is an extremely efficient written communication tool. It has many advantages, which explains why everyone’s inbox seems to be constantly overflowing and inundated daily with large volumes of emails. As a project manager, email is a great vehicle to keep the communication flow organized. It keeps you in touch and on task for projects with co-workers and clients. However, with all the benefits come some negative consequences to watch out for. These can easily arise if you aren’t careful and mindful in your use. Mishaps can hamper the effectiveness of your emails and be quite detrimental. Outlined below are 10 key rules to keep in mind when you send your next email:

1. Keep your emotions out of it. Think first, then react. Never send an email when you’re angry. It’s easy to get upset and vent your frustration, but that could easily turn against you in the future. You don’t want to regret your impulsiveness later on. It is a good idea to assume that your boss, his boss, and your company lawyers will all read your emails one day!

2. If you get a bad or unpleasant email, and you absolutely have to write something down, write it down but have the discipline not to press ‘Send’ for at least 6 hours. It is better to cool down and take stock of the situation before firing off your reply. With a fresh perspective, re-read your email and make the necessary changes so it is a more diplomatic version. Remember that your facial expression, vocal inflection or body language can’t be conveyed in an email, so messages can be easily misconstrued as too harsh or critical. It’s important your email contains a neutral, business-like tone.

 3. Do not copy people that are not absolutely needed on the email. Most co-workers (especially managers and executives) hate it when you copy them without a valid reason that would require some ‘Action’ on their part.  It also reduces your leverage when you really need it.

 4. Be careful of its content. Once a dispute reaches the courts of law, all email correspondence can be accessible by opposing parties. Email communications carry the same weight as other written letters and documents.  You could be held accountable for what you said or forwarded on.

 5. Stick to the facts, and keep guesstimates out of it. If you have to provide an estimate based on incomplete data, mention it clearly in the email. Or, provide your contact with the information you have and tell them that you are working on the other data and will follow-up with it as soon as it is available.  Being clear and honest is the best policy and it goes a long way in building trust.

 6. Even if you mark an email ‘Confidential’ or ‘Privileged’ it will not necessarily protect you against other parties accessing the information. Use phone calls and face-to-face meetings as much as possible, especially for sensitive or private information that you don’t want leaked or have a paper trail of. Even when an email is deleted, it can still be accessed and retrieved from the hard drive or server.

7. Don’t overuse the ‘Urgent’ or ‘High Priority’ feature too often. Use it sparingly and only for those very important emails that require urgent or immediate attention. Using it too often will decrease its effectiveness when the time comes that it really is crucial and of high priority.

 8. Keep the subject to the point and straightforward.  Longwinded responses and discussions are better for meetings than emails. Most people will not take the time to read the entire email. They will quickly skim through it. It is best to be concise, to the point and on topic. Quickly summarize and highlight your key points, then suggest a meeting or phone call to further discuss.

 9. Carefully reread and proof your emails before clicking the ‘Send’ button.  Be sure to use spell check.  Avoid costly mistakes and improper grammar and punctuation. Make the emails professional looking and ensure they contain what you really want them to say. You want to make a good impression and not come across as too casual or unprofessional.

 10. Avoid using legal terms in your emails to your client or suppliers as such terms might automatically initiate certain reactions on the part of the receiving party or create certain obligations for your own organization. Terms like ‘Force Majeure’, ‘contractual’, ‘breach of contract’, ‘violation’ or ‘damages’ are typical terms used by legal personnel and should be avoided in regular project communications unless absolutely necessary. Talk to a lawyer to learn more.

By following these 10 tips you can start building the baseline for effective email communications and avoid costly mistakes, unwanted hassles and misunderstandings moving forward!

 

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

Managing International Projects? Communicate Virtually But Effectively!

In today’s increasingly global society, more companies are discovering the need to conduct business with customers, clients, and vendors from around the world.  However, the expensive business travel – combined with the time and effort involved – can be a burden for even larger companies to bear.  That’s why more businesses around the world are discovering new ways to manage international projects that center on virtual communication.

If you’re a project manager managing a global project, it’s vital for you to be able to connect with team members who might live in different countries or in different time zones.  Luckily, a host of virtual communications tools have made it easier than ever for PMs to arrange meetings, communicate with team members, and make important decisions with teams from around the world – without even having to step in an airport. In this article, we’ll discuss the most powerful virtual tools you can use to manage international projects, including tips and techniques for optimizing your virtual communication:

  • Conference Call Numbers:  Placing international calls can be expensive.  Having local numbers throughout the world can be even more expensive, as you’ll have to pay for each individual number.  However, toll-free or paid conference call numbers easily eliminate these obstacles by giving a general number that can be accessed in any international location.  What’s more, many of these conference call numbers are capable of hosting multiple calls, which means you can conduct your meetings with more international clients, employees, and vendors. Numerous vendors offer high-quality conference calls that can be utilized by organizations of all sizes and types.
  • Video Conferencing Software:  Video conferencing software allows multiple users to attend a virtual meeting using nothing more than a web cam and an Internet connection.  Video conferencing software gives you the face-to-face interactions you need without resorting to the expense of business travel.  You only need to send an email invite to your meeting attendees and designate a time to meet – it’s that simple. One of the most popular video conferencing software is Skype, a free service that allows you to host web meetings with anyone in the world.  Companies that can afford to spend a little more money can invest in a more sophisticated brand like Microsoft Lync.
  • Web-Enabled Computer Display Sharing: Many online services now allow for computer display sharing, which means you can hold a virtual meeting and share the information that’s on your computer.  Web-enabled computer display sharing is usually performed in conjunction with video conferencing software, so be sure to find a service that offers these advantages.  A web-enabled computer display sharing service is perfect to avoid any miscommunications that could arise as a result of attempting to disseminate complicated information. Free and subscription-fee computer display sharing services range from Join.me, WebEx.com, and TeamViewer.com (all are compatible with PC and Mac). Some even have mobile apps for iPad or other tablets.
  • Social Media:  Social media represents an excellent way to connect with friends and family.  However, sites like Facebook and Twitter come with serious challenges for conducting business communications with clients or suppliers. 

Some Warnings & Tips:

Now that we’ve explored the best virtual communication tools on the market, let’s take a look at some quick-fire tips you should remember when using any of these tools and software: 

  1. Make sure that you keep minutes during any phone conversations and virtual meetings.  Distribute these minutes of meetings (MOM) to attendees to ensure that no miscommunications have occurred.
  2. Always keep records of your phone calls and video meetings, especially if you’re conducting business with a new client or vendor.  After all, a verbal contract is only worth the paper it was written on.
  3. Don’t use social media to communicate important project messages.  Sending a message via Twitter or Facebook looks unprofessional, especially with other virtual communication tools available to you.
  4. Be sure to check your Internet access and response time before any virtual meeting.  You don’t want your Internet to drop out right in the middle of an important conversation.
  5. Place links to your tools on your shared server so that team members can access them.  Provide authorization codes and passwords to employees who require them, and set up a “test” session for all before the real thing.

The 21st century technology has revolutionized the way individuals communicate with each other – and this applies to the business world as well.  Now business leaders can manage international projects, meet with clients in different time zones, and even make international sales without leaving the comfort of the office. Of course, effectively managing international projects is only possible with the aid of the best virtual communication tools. By using the tips in this article you’ll quickly discover that it’s simple and efficient to talk to clients, team members, and vendors from around the world.

 

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

To help you improve your communication skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few recommended online courses:

 

 

Getting Results Without Authority

Many times there will be projects you are responsible for managing that involve co-workers that you have no real direct authority over.  They do not report to you but to a different functional manager within the organization.  However, you are responsible and accountable for the work they are doing on this particular project.

As a project manager, it is up to you to provide the groundwork, set the tone and establish the framework and timelines on which the project is based.  This involves providing boundaries, setting priorities, and cultivating a creative and productive atmosphere.  It is important for everyone to understand their role, how it impacts the other members, and the steps that need to be accomplished for the project to be a success.

Outlined below are a few key components to getting results without having the full authority:

Win The Team’s Trust

  • With Team Members: Open and honest communications provide more positive results than does having an authoritative attitude.  No one wants to feel like they are getting pushed or demanded to do their job.  If you present yourself as understanding and instill an open, two-way communication channel within the group, you are much more likely to get everyone on board. Establish and maintain trusting relationships with team members. They will have more confidence in the project.  Not only will they feel they can come to you if there is a problem, but you will be able to do the same.
  • With Functional Managers: Establish good trusting relationships and communication with the functional managers.  Keeping in close and regular contact with the managers that your team members report to is critical.  It is a great idea to schedule regular face-to-face meetings with them to report on the project’s progress, and how each team member is doing.  It is important to keep your comments positive and not overly critical of their staff.  Remember, you will need to enlist the support of these powerful stakeholders to ensure you continue to get the resources that you need.  If you are too critical, the next time you ask for their assistance or a particular staff member, you might not get it.

Understand Roles & Responsibilities

  • Get to know the ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ that are defined by your organization.  Unless you are managing the first project in the history of your organization, these roles and responsibilities must have been established by your executive management in the past.  The sooner you know them in detail, the better you can clearly understand where one team member’s responsibility stops and the other team member’s starts.  If your organization has not defined or established clear roles and responsibilities for their staff, you might have a bigger problem on your hand.  If this is the case, you should do one of two things – i) outline and present recommendations to your executive managers explaining why it is important to implement; or ii) get busy and update your resume because obviously your  management have no idea where they are heading, and so is your project and reputation.
  • Share this list of ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ with your team.  Make sure they clearly understand what the organization expects and what is required of them.  It is a great idea to review them in your team meetings at least once a quarter, or whenever communication problems arise.

Understand Organizational Processes

  • Firmly understand the different processes that have been established within your organization to allow for a seamless flow of information.  Review these processes with team members and collect buy-in from everyone at the early stages of the project.  Identify any weaknesses or problem areas and make changes required for your project to run effectively.  You might need to involve functional managers as well.

Manage Conflicts

  • If a conflict arises, always refer to your organizational processes and the ‘Roles & Responsibilities’ before taking a side in the conflict.  The issue should be fully addressed and discussed openly with the team members.  If it can’t be resolved and all options have been exhausted, only then should it be taken to the functional managers.  Escalation should only be used a last resort.   As an effective project manager, you want to be seen by your team as a competent problem solver.  If you can’t do this then you will definitely not command respect or be able to exert any authority.

Having the ability to win respect, influence people and foster cooperation is absolutely critical to project management success.  How you get everyone to work together to achieve the desired results is paramount.

How to Get Better in Managing Without Authority

To help you manage your team members without having direct authority and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below:

 

 

How to Beat Holiday Boredom and Earn Your PDUs?

If you are one of those Project Managers who are really hard to keep entertained, or if you constantly need to learn something new even during your vacations, make sure you plan ahead so you won’t have to deal with holiday boredom.

Holidays or vacations can be depressing at times if you have not planned for some fun learning activity. When you feel bored at the end of a fun day at the beach, and you need something to fill your spare time with, you need to think about bringing along a small laptop with internet or WiFi connection, and you need to think about earning your PDUs

(*) The Professional Development Unit (PDU) is the measuring unit used by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to quantify approved learning activities for PMI Credential holders such as Project Management Professionals (PMP®). Typically, one PDU is earned for every one hour spent in a planned, structured learning experience.

With the growth of wireless technologies, laptop wireless Internet access is becoming readily available in many locations. The good news is that all major cell phone carriers in the US/Canada/Europe make it relatively easy to connect, and regardless of which carrier you use, the connection process is very similar. Connection speeds will be fastest in areas where digital coverage is available. When WiFi is available, it is definitely one of the best and fastest ways to connect to the Internet while on vacation. Some carriers also offer mobile WiFi HotSpots which you can use for sharing internet connection between several computers and other devices. Any connected device can enjoy 3G connectivity at just the touch of a button. These mobile hotspots fit in the palm of your hand and wirelessly connect up to 5 devices including laptops. They are ideal for temporary work sites or standalone kiosks where Internet service is needed and a power outlet is not available. Some features include:

  • Connect up to 5 Wi-Fi enabled devices including laptops, tablets, wireless projectors and more simultaneously
  • Share files easily with on-device expandable memory storage
  • Safeguard your privacy with customizable password protection and wireless encryption
  • Rechargeable battery up to 4 hours battery life on a single charge
  • No software installation required – just press the power button to create your Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Carry anywhere – barely larger than a deck of cards
  • Enjoy download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps

Most Project Management Professionals (PMP®) or other PMI Credential holders (PgMP®, PMI-RMP®, PMI-SP®) find it a real challenge to earn their Professional Development Units (PDUs) required every few years. In fact, a large majority falls further and further behind obtaining their required Professional Development Units (PDUs) for maintaining their hard-earned certifications. Lack of time is the biggest culprit, lack of planning and discipline another. But the biggest issue is that most people have no idea about the available options at reasonable prices. Most professionals don’t know that earning PDUs can be accomplished after the business hours, from the comfort of their home over the Internet, and at a reasonable cost, sometimes even during your holidays!

Earning PDUs is not necessarily as challenging or daunting as many might think. It is actually quite easy, and it can fit into the regular routine of the career goals that most professionals have. The purpose of PDUs is to keep PMPs engaged and growing professionally.  Think about your goals for earning PDUs: If you are a Project Manager you have many responsibilities that require varied skills, much similar to the skills of a Business Manager or a General Manager. In fact, many project managers aspire to become Business Managers or General Managers some day. So, the first step toward incorporating PDUs into the normal course of business is to determine your personal and professional objectives. What is missing from your knowledge base? Are you as comfortable with Accounting, Finance and Six Sigma aspects of your work as you are with the routine Project Management processes? Are you able to follow a high-level conversation with your company’s executives during your quarterly Project Reviews?

Having a good plan and buying an online video-based training before departure is sure to keep you busy at times, and avoid those ridiculous situations where you get bored on holidays.

Our Suggestion: at www.pdu-courses.com the objective of online courses offered is to help Project Managers prepare for the set of skills that they will need during their career. The only call for action for you is to assess your needs and map them to your personal and career goals, while earning the required PDUs. The online training courses offer great quality at reasonable prices. The average market price per PDU for good quality courses ranges between $20-$80. At www.pdu-courses.com the online courses not only exceed highest quality expectations using interactive video content, but cost an average of $10-$12 per PDU.

 

Managing Multiple Projects in 10 Easy Steps

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In today’s hectic workplace, where “lean” is the buzzword of the day, it’s rare for a Project Management Professional (PMP) to be able to concentrate on only one project at a time. In most companies, project managers are expected to juggle between multiple projects, without letting anything fall through the cracks. While this can be challenging, it’s not impossible.

Managing multiple projects can be what separates the men from the boys in today’s workplace. As companies strive to keep costs in check, the manpower to fully and comfortably staff projects may not exist. At the same time, new projects are constantly being added to company’s backlog in order to reduce costs and increase efficiency. The combination of these factors increases the focus on project managers, and their ability to get things done in an effective, efficient and timely manner.

When new projects are dumped on your shoulders, you need to know how to deal with them, and how to make them fit in with everything else you’re doing. You’re the PM, and the company isn’t going to be interested in hearing excuses. So, to help you out, here are our 10 Commandments on how to manage multiple projects:

Priority List

1. Establish priorities

It often seems as if every project is the highest priority for your company’s executives. Everything has to be done right now, and below budget. Nevertheless, some projects have a greater potential for benefit than others. Those should be the highest priority ones. While it might seem that all projects are important for executives, the reality is something else… and you have to find out which ones are more important than others.

When you haven’t been given clear priorities, establish them yourself. If you look at the various projects from the viewpoint of potential benefit to the company, it would make it clear which ones are the most important ones. Don’t make the mistake of only thinking about financial benefit when you do this though, as other benefits can ultimately accrue to a greater overall advantage to the company. Having open communications with company executives will help you establish priorities.

Once you’ve established priorities, get someone with the appropriate authority to sign off on them. Be clear when you speak to them, letting them know that you’re not trying to shelve any projects, but rather that you want to establish which project gets precedence, if and when there is a conflict. You’re only planning ahead.

Parallel Schedule

2. Develop your schedules in parallel, not in a vacuum

All of your projects’ schedules have to mesh together in some way. If you have several critical items, from several different projects, that are all due at the same time, you’re going to find yourself stretched awfully thin. It’s best to create one master plan, with all the critical milestones on all your projects on it. That way, you can fit the various schedules together and look for conflicts earlier.

Planning this way helps ensure that you aren’t overburdening any of your resources, including yourself. You need to ensure that each department, work center or individual that is involved in any of those projects is scheduled in such a way that they can get everything done. This is actually an advantage that you have, when managing multiple projects, instead of having each project managed by a separate project manager.

One Schedule

3. Schedule your work as ONE project

When it comes to your own personal work schedule, and the work schedules of your team members, schedule your time as if it was all one big project. Don’t try to think in terms of spending X percentage of your time on project A and Y percentage of your time on project B. Look at what tasks need to be done and when they need to be done by. Then, schedule yourself accordingly. You’ll find that this causes you to spend more time on one project one day and more on another on a different day. That’s okay, just as long as it balances out in such a way as to get everything done. Ultimately, that’s your goal.

Delegate

4. Focus on what you are best at, let others do the rest

When you don’t have enough staff, it’s easy to try and do everything yourself. But, you need to remember, you’re the project manager, not a worker bee. While that doesn’t mean that you can’t get your hands dirty, you need to be sure that you have the time to do so, before committing yourself to anything.

It’s good for the team’s morale when they see you working alongside them. But, do so wisely. Make sure that the areas you choose to work on are areas where you are strong. Learn to delegate the rest to others to make your time have the greatest possible impact (even if it means keeping your hands off of something that you enjoy).

Memory

5. Don’t depend on your memory

As much as they keep upgrading memory on computers, nobody has come up with a memory upgrade for the one between your ears.

This is even more important when managing multiple projects. The more areas you are working on, the more details to keep track of. If you depend on your memory, you might remember it eventually; but eventually might be too late.

A good rule of thumb is “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” Force yourself to develop the habit of writing everything down. That way, when you need it, you can find it. Today, there are online tools and even mobile apps that can help you keep things organized and up-to-date. We recommend Trello.com which is also supported by mobile apps. You can use it as an Action Items List for yourself, or even give access to others for review and upgrade.

Checklist

6. Make good use of checklists

Checklists are a great way to make sure that everything gets done. Every task that gets assigned and every detail that needs to be completed should appear somewhere on a checklist. That way, you don’t have to remember them.

You can use checklists as a reminder to get status reports from team members. When those team members tell you it’s done, ask to see it. Until you see the work completed, it stays on that checklist. Again simple tools like Trello.com can be used to keep things organized and check-marked.

Communication

7. Keep communications open

Make sure that you communicate with every team, every day, even if it’s just for a moment. That moment you spend shows that you’re still interested, still involved and think that the team members are important. At the same time, it gives the team members an opportunity to identify risks early and tell you about any problems they are having.

If you want something done, you need to check on it. People will do what is expected and inspected. It’s not enough just to expect it. That moment of time taken to inspect it, is what makes sure that it’s really done and done correctly.

Manage Your Time

8. Manage your time

Time invested in managing your time is the best time spent. You need to go into every day with a plan. Granted, things will happen to try and destroy that plan, but having that plan puts you a leg up on that day. When you don’t have a plan, the day manages you, taking you where it will, which probably isn’t where you want to go.

Don’t let yourself get bogged down in any one thing. Everything seems to take longer than you expect. That’s okay, just because it’s trying to take longer, doesn’t mean that you have to give it that extra time. If a meeting is scheduled to last an hour, and the hour is up, end the meeting. Everything else can wait until next time.

A very important part of managing time and delegating properly is to realize the importance of any one activity or problem. There are those who will bring every decision to you, expecting you to make it for them. Empower people to make their own decisions; then you don’t have to.

Often, we can get caught up in things that are urgent, but not really important. How did those things become urgent? Many times, it’s because somebody didn’t do what they should have, when they should have. If that’s the case, put it back on them and let them run around in circles taking care of it; don’t let it become your problem.

Secretary

9. Don’t become project secretary

The amount of paperwork that is associated with some projects can be daunting. Just trying to keep everyone informed can be a task to challenge Hercules. You aren’t the file clerk or the secretary for every project team member. As much as possible, delegate those clerical tasks to others, so that you can concentrate on managing the project. A good secretary makes your life easier, not harder.

Management

 10. Don’t let others manage you

There are always those who have their own agenda. These people don’t see you as a manager who is getting projects done for the company; they see you as a resource for their agenda. Watch out for them. They’ll try and piggyback their pet project onto one of yours. You have enough work to do without taking care of them. Another way that people try to manage you is by telling you what to do and when to do it. Granted, your boss has this right, but he and his bosses are the only ones who do, especially if they have already established your priorities. If you are the project manager, then you need to manage the project. That starts with managing your own workload.

There you have it. Ten steps to successfully managing multiple projects. Granted, there’s a lot of effort to do all that, but it’s much more work if you don’t do it. To be successful in managing multiple projects and multiple priorities requires staying on top of your game. Success in project management is a combination of factors. However, more than anything, it requires keeping yourself focused on managing and not on doing the work yourself. No matter how much of a temptation there might be to get down and dirty with the troops, keep it under control. Yes, it’s good to rub elbows with them, but whatever you do, don’t let that keep you from doing your primary job; that of managing.

Online Training

How to Get Better in Managing Multiple Projects

To help you improve your capacity in managing multiple projects and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing some suggestions below:

 

Working with Difficult People for Project Managers

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Let’s face it, conflict is a fact of life. Unfortunately, it’s also a fact of working with many people when you are a Project Manager in a medium or large size organization.

Avoiding people who cause conflict only works where you don’t have to work with them in the future. For the rest, it’s necessary to find a way to deal with them, preferably while keeping the conflict to a minimum.

So, who are these difficult people? They can be people from any department, any profession or any company that you work with. Some might have years of experience in the organization and specialize in a very specific field – which makes them indispensable for your project – but they thrive on conflict, and no matter what you do, they’ll be difficult.

They’re not all the same, nor are they difficult in the same ways. Some are always confrontational and argumentative, others interrupt you all the time, and there are those who criticize everything, regardless of the source. You can add to the list the ones who won’t make any compromises, don’t listen and don’t deliver their part of the scope as per expectations.

One thing these people all have in common is that they don’t communicate well with others. Nevertheless, being aware of who they are and how to deal with them can reduce the level of conflict and make your daily life easier.

Get Ready to Deal with Difficult People

The number one thing that you have to do when dealing with difficult people is to try and understand them as much as possible. Often, the difficult behaviour they are manifesting is only a symptom of a deeper underlying problem. They are taking their personal problems out on others, often without even realizing it. It doesn’t matter if those problems are temporary or long-term; they affect the person’s attitudes and actions. Ultimately, as a Project Manager you might not be able to change the root cause of the problem, so you need to figure out how to work with them the way they are. There are some key things you need to keep in mind when trying to deal with difficult people:

  • Remember that even difficult people have the right to their opinion, even if you think they’re wrong. If they are criticizing, that’s their opinion, nothing more.
  •  Don’t make it personal. It doesn’t matter how personal it may seem, it isn’t.
  • Don’t let their problems become yours. Even if you try and help them through it, it’s their problem, not yours.
  • Remember that you don’t have to respond. Often, any response will just escalate the situation. In those cases, your best response is to walk away.
  • It’s very easy to strike back at these people, reacting instead of acting. This will only escalate the problem. Watch out for your own ego.
  • Don’t forget that they aren’t necessarily right. People who are negative are wrong more than they are right. You don’t have to accept their negativity and criticism as true.
  • When you have to deal with difficult people, make sure that you keep yourself above the problem. Don’t allow yourself to get down to their level; keep yourself aloof, like the eagle, flying above it. This will help you to keep from getting emotional and keep the situation from escalating.
  • It always helps to go into sessions well prepared. Know what goals you want to accomplish in your session with them, and how you are going to deal with any problems that they cause. By being mentally prepared for their problems, with pre-planned reactions, you are much less likely to be drawn into their behavior. Rather, you can keep the moral high ground, controlling the situation and removing the problem they are causing.

Dealing with the Stress and Negativity

You want to be careful with how you handle the stress and any negative feelings that crop up from dealing with difficult people. We’ve already mentioned not reacting to them in the same manner in which they are acting, but what do you do with all that negativity and stress? It’s important to dissipate it in some way, so that it doesn’t become a cancer within you.

Burying the problem is not dealing with it; it’s just hiding it from yourself and everyone around you. Unfortunately, even though it’s hidden, it’s still there, eating away at you. It’s essential that you are proactive in dealing with this, not just passive. You need a methodology for elimination, such as:

  • Forgive them quickly – This is probably the most effective thing you can do. When you forgive them, it releases all the negativity and stress. You don’t have to do this to their face, just do it in private.
  • Don’t accept what they say – If you don’t accept it, it shouldn’t be able to affect you. On the other hand, if it is affecting you, don’t try and tell yourself that you haven’t accepted it.
  • Don’t rehearse it in your mind – This is very common, especially when we are offended. The mind wants to “replay the video” so that we can see it over and over again. All this does is to increase the offense.
  • Find a way to dissipate the stress – You need some activity to help get rid of stress. For some people, exercise does this. For others, some sort of recreational activity or personal hobby gets their mind off the problem and reduces the stress.
  • Put yourself in their shoes – It’s always easier to accept someone’s actions when we can see it form their point of view, through the lens of their problems.

Failure to properly deal with the stress that difficult people bring into your life can cause serious problems like high blood pressure, digestive problems or even heart attacks. When you eliminate the stress, you’re helping yourself overcome the problem; protecting your health and preparing yourself for the next day’s issues.

Keep Your Relationships Positive Even with Difficult People

You want to keep your relationship as positive as you can. While you can’t change their attitude, you can change yours. Even if they are negative, keep your responses positive. Ultimately, that can do more to change their attitude than anything else you can do. While they may still be negative with everyone else around them, they will respond to your  attitude by being more positive with you. This really works, and the effort you put into it will pay off !

One way that you can maintain a positive relationship is to make a point of thanking them for their collaboration if and when they deliver results. Do so in public if you can. Everyone likes to be thanked, even difficult people. It shows that you aren’t against them, even though you might have to be firm at times.

Have a Last Resort Plan B (and Make Sure They Know About It Too)

As a last resort, you can always calmly let them know that you know the escalation process within your organization (all organizations should have one). Be careful how you do this though, as you don’t want to make it sound like a “threat”. Instead, be positive, by saying that you don’t want to go that route, but would rather find a way to work together for everyone’s benefit.

Make the Most of the Situation

Finally, always take these challenges as opportunities to improve your people skills. What can you learn from dealing with that difficult situation? How can you better deal with it in the future? What can you change, to prevent escalation in other confrontations? Make the most of the situation and it will help you in the long run.

As you learn to deal with difficult people, it will actually make you a better leader. Great leaders are forged in the furnace of affliction, not born with natural leadership abilities. As you work with difficult people, you are honing your leadership skills, preparing yourself for bigger challenges and greater responsibilities.

How to Get Better in Dealing with Difficult People

To help you deal with difficult people, improve your interpersonal skills and at the same time earn some PDUs, we are providing a few online courses below: