Steps in a Comprehensive Training Approach

Training is usually provided as the project solution is about to be deployed. However, on many projects the team does not start thinking about training until the end of the project. This is much too late. The key to an effective training approach is to start the planning process early. If you wait to consider training needs until the end of the project, you will not have enough time to do it the way you would like.

Training has a mini-lifecycle of its own. Some organizations call this a “workstream”. There are five main steps.

1. Start with the strategy (maybe)

First think about whether you need a Training Strategy. You would want the strategy if your project is complex and there is a large training component. All strategy documents on a project are typically done in the Analysis Phase. The strategy includes an understanding of the stakeholders, type of training needed, the desired outcome of the training, assumptions, risks and the overall training approach.

2. Create an overall Training Plan (for sure)

The Training Plan is created during the Design Phase. If you have a Training Strategy, the Training Plan simply contains the additional details required to make the classes real. If you do not have a strategy, then the Training Plan typically has some initial aspects of the strategy, and then quickly gets into the details as well. The Training Plan would include a description of the classes, number of classes offered, timing, the delivery mode (in-person, virtual, e-class), content development process, etc.

3. Develop the training content

You develop training content at the same time that you are developing the rest of the solution. Isn’t that a novel concept?

4. Test the training content (optional)

You can test your training content and delivery in a controlled class delivery. The test training is offered to the internal team, or perhaps to an initial customer group as a pilot test. This serves as a test of the material and helps prepare the instructors so that they will be more comfortable delivering the training to customers.

5. Implementation

The training classes are delivered based on the timing specified in your Training Plan. You should have developed (and perhaps tested) your training content, and you should be ready to go regardless of when the actual training is needed.

Summary

What you see in this approach is that the training process follows a lifecycle. You analyze (Training Strategy), design (Training Plan) construct, test and implement the training. This lifecycle allows you to have all of the components you need as you need them.

Keys to Allocating Staff in a Matrix Organization

Identifying and allocated staff to your project is a critical component of project HR management. In a matrix organization people are assigned full time to a functional organization, but can be temporarily assigned full-time or part-time to a project as well. In this case, their functional manager may be responsible for part of a team member’s workload, and a project manager is responsible for assigning the work associated with the project. The matrix is especially efficient if your project does not need a full-time and long term commitment from team members. These people can be used on projects for as long as needed and the revert back to their functional organization. 

The matrix organization can be the most efficient at utilizing and leveraging people’s time and skills. However, it only works if the functional manager and project manager (or multiple project managers) recognize the challenges and work together for the company’s overall benefit. The two areas to focus on are planning and communication. Planning ensures the resources are reserved for your project. Communication helps ensure that the resources are actually there when you need them.

  1. Planning. Functional managers and project managers need to plan the resource needs together and in advance. The functional managers need to maintain a planning window of upcoming projects and an estimate of their resource needs. If your staffing requirements fluctuate a lot from month-to-month, or if the projects cannot be forecast many months in advance, you can at least plan using a three-month rolling window. You then update and refine the plan on a monthly basis. The closest month should be pretty firm. Two months out should be pretty close. Three months out and beyond is best guess.

  2. Communication. After the planning comes the proactive communication. Remember that in a matrix organization, project managers need resources to do their work, but they do not own them – the functional managers do. So, the onus is usually on the project managers to make sure that the resources are available when they are needed, and that there are no surprises. For instance, if you and the functional manager agree that a specific set of people will be available for one of your projects in two months, don’t just show up in two months and expect them to be ready to go. In fact, you should expect that they will not be ready if you have not communicated often and proactively. The project manager should gain agreement on resources two months in advance. The resources should be confirmed again at the next monthly staff allocation meeting. The project manager should double-check resources again two weeks before the start date, and follow-up with a reminder one week out. You are much more likely to have the resources available when you need them if you take these proactive steps.

Many companies and organizations struggle trying to optimize the people allocation in a matrix organization. Overall staffing success in a matrix organization depends on having good planning processes in place, maintaining a partnering relationship between the project managers and functional managers, and communicating proactively and effectively.

Prevent Projects from Stalling

Below are four reasons that could contribute to a project being put on hold or lose steam:
•Lack of Interest in the Current Project – In the beginning, your project was the next best thing. It was the shiny new toy. It was the bee’s knees. We could keep going, but you get the point. Everyone’s attention was focused on the game-changer of a project that was going to turn the company around or bring in millions of dollars annually in recurring revenue.
As time passed, the initial shine wore off a bit. It may not have panned out to be quite what everyone was expecting. Sure, it’s producing some results, but they are not as stellar as originally projected. Interest begins to wane as the project drags on. Some work needs to be done to wrap the project up 100%, but it’s like pulling teeth to get anyone to spend any time on it.Mayday!

•MORE Interest in Another Project – The second reason your project could stall is that the next new project has come along and is giving your old project a run for its money. It’s not that the project you are working on is any less important than it was, it’s just that there’s only so much bandwidth a company can provide each project. Choices have to be made, and everyone’s choice at this time is the new project that just came in the door.The executives of the company and even the project sponsor are now more concerned about this new project. They ask for status reports and updates on a bi-weekly basis, and are ready and able to push obstacles through and get things resolved for their new golden child. Unfortunately, your project takes a back seat.Mayday! Mayday!
•Problems That Can’t Get Resolved – Nothing will suck the life, energy, and joy out of a project like problems that won’t go away. They can range from resource issues to technical challenges that seem impossible for anyone to resolve. Whenever somebody talks about this project, the same issue is brought up over and over again.
I’ve seen projects grind on for MONTHS, nearly paralyzed by a single, unsolved technical problem. The project bounces from one department to the next with the hopes someone will find resolution to its problems, to no avail.Mayday! Mayday! Your project about is to stall!

•Approvals that Can’t Be Obtained – Another area where projects have a tendency to falter is when proper approvals can’t be obtained. A project manager worth his salt is going to have approval gates set up throughout the project to ensure there are no surprises down the road, and that everyone agrees it is okay to move forward. Some of the toughest approvals to get are during the planning phases of a project.
For example, how do you know that ALL business requirements have been captured? Or, how do you know that this is the BEST design solution possible to solve this problem? You don’t know what you don’t know, and people are reluctant to sign off and give their blessing going forward. Their procrastination leads to lack of momentum, which leads to…Mayday! Mayday!

Rescue Project

Your project is about to stall and you’re about to go down with it! The good news is that with corrective action you can avoid a project stall. Below are four steps you should take to ensure your projects stay in the air:
1.Realize Your Project is About to Stall – Yu need to understand and acknowledge that your project is in danger.
Has the activity around your project waned? Are fewer people attending your weekly meetings? Are email threads drying up? Do the executives ask you specifically how things are going with your project? The answers to these questions will clue you into whether or not your project is in trouble.

2.Bring It to the Attention of Others – Once you’ve confirmed your project is in trouble, be sure to let others know about the problem. Take it to the project sponsor and let them know what’s happening. Find out if your project is still viable and relevant.
Chances are that they may not even be aware of what has been happening, or that support for your project is dissipating. Get them reengaged and reinvigorated like they were the day the project started.

3.Get Rid of the Dead Weight – Once you’ve confirmed the project is viable and relevant (by the way, if it’s not…kill the project so you and your team can work on something else), focus on the areas that are causing the project to grind to a halt. Get everyone on board and focused on resolving the technical problems plaguing the project. Get the approvals you need to move forward. Throw overboard anything that is weighing the project down and causing it to not progress. Ask your reinvigorated project sponsor to help get some of the dirty work done.
4.Have a Reset Meeting – Finally, bring the team together (this could even include the client) to reset expectations. Talk about the fact that the project is still important to the company, but that it just got off track a bit. Also stress that the necessary problems have been, or soon will be resolved and it’s just as if the project is starting again from day one. These reset meetings go a long way in getting and keeping the momentum going again.

Taking the four steps above will ensure you pull your projects out of a stall and have a smooth rest of the flight!

Manage Request for Proposal

To most businesspeople, RFP stands for Request for Proposal. This is when a company submits requirements and specifications about a project to multiple companies to bid on. The company will then award the job to the most appealing proposal based on price, time, quality, and adherence to their requirements. Notice I said that RFP stands for Request for Proposal to most businesspeople.

An RFP typically comes in to a salesperson. Eventually, they get around to looking at the details, but it may sit in their inbox for a day or two or even up to a week before they start taking it seriously. Only when they open the RFP do they notice that it has a deadline! Instead of the full three weeks it may have initially had, it has been pared down to two weeks because it sat in their inbox. Panic ensues.

Next, the nature of an RFP means that it’s usually a big project. Companies don’t go to the trouble, effort, and expense to put an RFP together for a project that’s small or inconsequential. No, these are projects that could bring in hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to a company’s bottom line. Often, they are the type of projects that keep people employed and on payroll for a long time, perhaps years. It’s important to the commission-based salesperson, as well as to the company for the sake of its employees, to respond to RFPs. Panic ensues.

Finally, RFPs have a tendency to require new technologies or are somewhat complicated in nature. The solution for this company’s problem is not something that can be bought off the shelf; that’s why they put out an RFP. Companies responding to the RFP need to think of creative solutions, and quickly.

Panic ensues…and, we all know who gets pulled into situations with sudden deadlines out of nowhere. That’s right, a project manager. Project managers are pulled in to quell the panic and bring some order to the chaos. You’ll typically get invited to an RFP meeting about 10 minutes before it’s about to occur, and are told to clear your calendar for the rest of the morning.

It’s a fire drill you’ve been in before: the mad dash that lasts two weeks as samples of this and that are pulled together, long questionnaires are answered, company references are provided, and so many hoops have to be jumped through.

How to Manage the Request For Proposal Mayhem
•Throw Conventional Project Management Out the Window – The runway to takeoff Full length portrait of a busy businessperson running late is so short that you have no time to set an RFP up as a “real” project.You won’t have time to create a Work Breakdown Structure, communication or risk management plans, or even set up a project in the time management system to track time against.

It’s not that these things aren’t important, but in the 2 weeks you have to put your company’s proposal together, you have to make the decision to be working on the project itself or working on the components that support the project. These are all well and good for longer-term projects, but they just won’t work for such a short runway.
•CLEARLY Identify Deliverables – Remember that meeting you were called to about 10 minutes before it started, the one where everyone met in a conference room and the RFP was put up on the wall for all to see? The most important thing to get out of that meeting is a crystal clear identification of the deliverables that are expected at the end of the sprint. Obtain an extremely tangible and non-ambiguous list of what is expected to be completed and when, and most importantly, who is responsible for each task.
•Use Excel to Track Progress – No need to put together a full-blown project schedule here. Just assume that everything is on the critical path, there’s no float or lag time, and everything is dependent on everything. That’s why Excel is the best place to monitor the progress of an RFP project. A simple spreadsheet with Task, Owner, Date Due, and Status is all it’s going to take to keep an RFP from crashing and burning. Keep this task list updated to the minute, and accessible and visible for all.
•Bi-Daily Communication – I don’t know if there’s such a word as bi-daily, I’ve never heard anyone use it, but the bottom line is that everyone should be apprised of what is going on with the RFP at least twice a day.

The best way is to have an all-hands-on-deck meeting first thing every morning with everyone that is associated with the project. You may end up with 10-12 people at these meetings, and that’s okay. Tasks and activities are moving so fast that there will always be something for everyone who attends these daily meetings to accomplish.

Then, that afternoon, email the highlights of tasks you are tracking in the Excel spreadsheet to the entire team. You can attach the entire spreadsheet, but do include a screenshot in the email of the plan that includes what was just accomplished (so anyone can disagree if they don’t believe it’s done), and the next immediate steps and who is responsible.

These next immediate steps will undoubtedly need to be done the next day, but the screenshot will put people on notice that they may need to step it up a bit to get it done.Repeat this schedule of communication every day for the next two weeks; quick meeting in the morning, email update in the afternoon.
•Throw the Culture out the Window, Possibly – Some companies Throwing culture out windoware extremely siloed in their approach to projects. Their people are conditioned to only pick up the ball when everyone else has done their part to the point of perfection. Or, they may only help with those areas that are directly in their department to assist with.

Make it clear to everyone that this type of behavior is not going to fly on this project; that they may have to temporarily defenestrate their routines and processes for their own sakes. This is an all-hands-on-deck project that is good for the company and everyone involved. Everyone is going to have to dig in, go above and beyond, and get out of their comfort zone to make it happen.

Yes, responding to an RFP is a frantic time in many companies. There’s never a good time for an RFP to come in; at the same time, there’s never a better time for an RFP to come in. If you’ve been given the privilege of managing a short-term RFP project, go ahead and embrace the opportunity and make the most out of it. Then, sit back and wait as the client mulls over the responses they received and hopefully picks your company to complete their Really Fun Project!

Surviving New Leadership Role

Being dropped into a role of leadership is both a compliment and burden. And it can be a bit overwhelming, too. With expectations coming at you from the top and bottom, it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are 10 tips garnered from colleagues and personal experience, each one vitally important in successfully managing both campaigns and staff.

 

1: Understand the difference between being a manager and a leader (with leadership as your goal)

Leadership is an act of inspiration, while management is an act of control. Your new role requires you to be responsible for projects, staff, departmental goals, and more. Each of these is both dependent and independent of one another, so finding the connections between them and working to maintain them becomes your sole responsibility.

Leading in projects means you are always in the front, taking the time to invest everything you have into your task. Leading your staff means taking an active interest in who they are as people, learning their needs, and giving them the required tools to be successful. By leading, you will inspire a sense of trust and confidence by those under you and, in the end, will encourage them to follow.

2: Assess the situation

You were put into the role for a reason, and generally, that reason is to solve a problem. So… get to know the problem. Learn every angle and uncover every bit of information, then construct a portrait of the situation. Include interviews with your staff in your research. This shows that you value their input and experience. It also gives you critical information from those who are on the front lines. Compare this data with the reports you have received and include it in your problem portrait. Above all, see things as they are. Knowing where you are is the first step in knowing where to go.

3: Review objectives

Contrast the newly defined problem (#2) with your stated objectives. These are goals given to you by upper management and information gathered from other sources. A colleague of mine said that this step is almost as important as situation assessment because the objectives represent the map out of the current situation. In addition, this step verifies that the stated objectives are either sufficient or insufficient to solve the current problem. If it’s the latter, you have the opportunity to exceed expectations and show those who appointed you that they made the right decision.

4: Seek a mentor

Should this be higher on the list? Probably. But given your new situation, practical tips take priority. Find someone in a higher role who has more knowledge more than you, has the experience to prove it, and is willing to impart both. Invest the time needed to build a relationship and bring this person questions you can’t answer yourself. Above all, learn from your mentor’s mistakes. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it — so learn about this person’s managerial past and the hard lessons he or she had to learn.

5: Mentor others

Act as a mentor for your direct reports and other members of your professional community. Record your successes and failures, using them as lessons to impart to others. This gets you into a service mindset while requiring you to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Invest time in others and you will be helping them and benefiting yourself as well.

6: Hone your time management skills

As a leader, your time management skills must be superb. Everything depends on your ability to balance the daily tasks appointed to you, with both project management and other duties. Here’s one piece of advice that has trickled down and been put to good use: “Feed the eagles, not the turkeys.” It’s easy to get bogged down in things that don’t matter and forget to focus on those tasks that can make you and your team soar.

7: Improve communication

Communication is one of the pillars of successful business and the cornerstone of successful leadership. Be clear about status updates and expectations for projects. Be intentional with your staff and take a genuine interest in what they have to say and what their experience has been. The book Crucial Conversations says that the conflict from poor communication is easily the most destructive element in any relationship. But this destructive force is easily remedied if the intention to communicate is there.

8: Understand it’s not about you

True leaders understand that their success is dependent on those they serve. For your staff, it’s imperative that you invest the time to get to know them, and by doing so, learn what they need from you to succeed. For your projects, it’s important to invest the needed time in each task both with delegation and personal involvement, ensuring that the goals are achieved. With your customers, it’s about exceeding their expectations by making what you do an act of service. It’s not about your success — it’s about everyone and everything you serve.

9: Do a team outing

Want to bond with your team? Hang out with them outside work. While the personal barriers in the modern workplace aren’t what they used to be, there still exists a natural apprehension with being “who you are” while on the job. Outside work, people can be themselves. Be sure in these hangouts that you don’t put yourself in any compromising situations. Remember, you are a leader 100% of the time and the example you set, whether in the workplace or not, is always monitored.

10: Trust your team’s abilities

Micromanagement is not management. It is an active compensation for a lack of genuine trust. Once you have assessed your staff and equipped them to be successful, take a step back and show them that you trust them. Let them soar with their newfound confidence and give them the chance to shine. In doing this, you will be able to better assess who works on your team and who does not. Serving your staff means being honest with them. And sometimes, when it’s not a good fit, serving them means letting them go. Again, remember that it is not about you, it is about them. Trust them to accomplish their objectives.

Promoting success

By ensuring that those around you are successful, you will be successful.

By YeeKai Lai Posted in Career

Habits of Guardsmen

The term habit generally has a negative connotation, but if you form the right habits that drive you toward success, you can’t lose. To be an effective team member, people usually need to break old habits and develop new ones by letting selfishness fall by the wayside. The Guardsmen community forces you to break habits that don’t positively contribute to mission success. If you can’t make that happen, you’re done.

I’ve gotten these habits right, and I’ve gotten them wrong. But those mistakes of yesterday have forged me into a better leader and team member today. If you want to be part of an elite team and are going to shed old habits, make sure to keep these!

  1. Be loyal. Team loyalty inthe corporate environment seems to be a dying philosophy. Loyalty to the team starts at the top. If it’s lacking at the senior executive level, how can anyone else in the organization embrace it? Loyalty is about leading by example, providing your team unconditional support, and never throwing a team member under the bus.
  2. Put others before yourself. Get up every day and ask yourself what you will do to add value to your team, such as simply offering your assistance with a project. The challenge is overcoming the fear that your team member might say: “Yes, I really need your help with this project…tonight.”
  3. Be reflective. Reflective people often spend too much time analyzing their actions. But imagine if you could harness this talent into something highly valuable? Reflecting on your mistakes, ensures you never repeat them.
  4. Be obsessively organized. Some of us innately have this ability, often to a fault, and some have to work at it a bit more. You have to find a process that works for you. I’ve known people who will put something on their to-do list after they did it and then cross it off to feel a greater sense of accomplishment! Whatever your system is, make it work for you.
  5. Assume you don’t know enough. Because you don’t. Any effective team member understands that training is never complete. It’s true in the Guardsmen, and it’s true in any elite team. Those who assume they know everything should be eliminated. Those who spend time inside and outside of the workplace developing their knowledge and skills will provide the momentum for their team’s forward progress.
  6. Be detail-oriented. Attention to detail is one of our company’s values. Do we get it right all the time? Of course not. Imagine, though, if all members of a team are obsessed with detail in their delivery? Don’t ask yourself what you are going to do today to be successful; ask how you are going to do it.
  7. Never get comfortable. Always push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you do this continually with every task you take on, that boundary will continue to widen. This process will ensure that you are continually maximizing your potential, which will positively impact your team.

You may be wondering how you could ever have a relaxed life if you maintain all of these habits. But that’s the beauty of it. If you enjoy what you do and form good habits, it all becomes second nature. Maintain these habits, and encourage your team members to do the same.

By YeeKai Lai Posted in Career

Get Employees to Think Strategically

What leadership skill do your employees, colleagues, and peers view as the most important for you to have? According Robert Kabacoff, the vice president of research at Management Research Group, a company that creates business assessment toolsit’s the ability to plan strategically.

He has research to back it up: In the Harvard Business Review, he cites a 2013 study by his company in which 97 percent of a group of 10,000 senior executives said strategic thinking is the most critical leadership skill for an organization’s success. In another study, he writes, 60,000 managers and executives in more than 140 countries rated a strategic approach to leadership as more effective than other attributes including innovation, persuasion, communication, and results orientation.

But what’s so great about strategic thinking? Kabacoff says that as a skill, it’s all about being able to see, predict, and plan ahead: “Strategic leaders take a broad, long-range approach to problem-solving and decision-making that involves objective analysis, thinking ahead, and planning. That means being able to think in multiple time frames, identifying what they are trying to accomplish over time and what has to happen now, in six months, in a year, in three years, to get there,” he writes. “It also means thinking systemically. That is, identifying the impact of their decisions on various segments of the organization–including internal departments, personnel, suppliers, and customers.”

As a leader, you also need to pass strategic thinking to your employees, Kabacoff says. He suggests instilling the skill in your best managers first, and they will help pass it along to other natural leaders within your company’s ranks. Below, read his five tips for how to carry out this process.

Dish out information.

Kabacoff says that you need to encourage managers to set aside time to thinking strategically until it becomes part of their job. He suggests you provide them with information on your company’s market, industry, customers, competitors, and emerging technologies. “One of the key prerequisites of strategic leadership is having relevant and broad business information that helps leaders elevate their thinking beyond the day-to-day,” he writes.

Create a mentor program.

Every manager in your company should have a mentor. “One of the most effective ways to develop your strategic skills is to be mentored by someone who is highly strategic,” Kabacoff says. “The ideal mentor is someone who is widely known for his/her ability to keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions.”

Create a philosophy.

As the leader, you need to communicate a well-articulated philosophy, a mission statement, and achievable goals throughout your company. “Individuals and groups need to understand the broader organizational strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate it into their own plans and strategies,” Kabacoff writes.

Reward thinking, not reaction.

Whenever possible, try to promote foresight and long-term thinking. Kabacoff says you should reward your managers for the “evidence of thinking, not just reacting,” and for “being able to quickly generate several solutions to a given problem and identifying the solution with the greatest long-term benefit for the organization.”

Ask “why” and “when.”

Kabacoff says you need to promote a “future perspective” in your company. If a manager suggests a course of action, you need  him or her ask two questions: First, what underlying strategic goal does this action serve, and why? And second, what kind of impact will this have on internal and external stakeholders? “Consistently asking these two questions whenever action is considered will go a long way towards developing strategic leaders,” he writes.

Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees

With so much attention paid to innovations and disruptive business models in the venture capital and startup world, it can be easy to overlook the vital importance of great people.I keep a quote from legendary venture capitalist Arthur Rock in mind when hiring: “What I’m interested in is investing in people.”Of course, every company wants stellar employees who are impactful, high performers. Identifying those high performers, however, takes hard work in recruiting, screening resumes and interviewing.

Horsepower: I’ll take intelligence over experience any day of the week. Job descriptions alone can intimidate a lot of people — particularly younger people, who often feel that they lack the experience that the job description suggests they will need. That’s unfortunate, because I’ve found that most of the time intelligence trumps experience. An intelligent candidate can quickly learn a job and frequently ends up doing it better than someone (less intelligent) who has been doing a similar job elsewhere. Experience is certainly valuable, but brains are the horsepower that drives the business.

Ownership and pride: “Run the mile you are in.” This is a distance-running mantra from Runner’s World Editor-in-Chief David Willey that I think applies to many aspects of our personal and professional lives. No matter your current job or where you are in your career, are you focused and engaged and do you take ownership? Do you have pride in what you are doing? Do you have pride in your colleagues and your company? “Run the mile you are in” applies not only to distance running; it applies to life, and it applies to how you will succeed — or not — as a teammate in business.

Work ethic: What we are doing — redefining the private equity investing model and bringing fresh capital to consumer goods startups — requires both smart and hard work. We achieved strong growth in 2013, our first full year in business, because our team works very hard. It’s more than that, really. It’s teamwork that is self initiated. The valued employee is not only the one willing to work hard; she is the employee who searches out ways to contribute most. She should have a work history of having demonstrated not only a willingness to contribute, but a desire to lead, come up with ideas on her own and to grasp fully the feeling of pride in his or her accomplishments.

Integrity: This is an attribute that is not always easy to flesh out. But it is too important to gloss over in the interview process. I try to gauge integrity by asking interviewees for examples of difficult decisions they have had to make or ethical dilemmas they’ve faced. I’m looking for candid responses as to how they handled these situations. What was their decision-making process?

Teamwork: This is my version of the ‘no jerks’ rule. So much of what we do involves collaboration that we must have team players across our business. It is good for business results and our corporate culture. I’ve met nice people who just weren’t effective teammates, but I haven’t met a lot of great team players who were jerks. I want people who are ego-less and put the interests of the company above their own and are eager to share information and help their co-workers.

By YeeKai Lai Posted in Career

Leadership Attributes Go the Extra Mile

I like to call a certain typical leadership style “shock and awe.” You know, managers who deploy yelling, profanity and arms that turn like windmills to motivate employees. Unsurprisingly, these techniques are not exactly effective in creating a devoted and engaged corps willing to go the extra mile for a growing business.

That said, I understand that it can be hard to figure out how to walk the line between motivation and authority. Here are some leadership traits that engage employees so your firm soars:

1. Think Cool Hand Luke. Employees like to work in an environment where their supervisor is soft spoken and comfortable in his or her skin. People who do not raise their voice and remain calm during stressful events stand out and create a karma that is fulfilling and long lasting.

2. Take the High Road. Many times on the journey to success, your team will be faced with choices that cut corners and may lead one from the straight and narrow path to one of ethical ambiguity. Always take the clear ethical path. It sets a tone that an occasional short term setback is okay as long as it leaves one’s character intact. This will create a culture that purges miscreants and embraces the good. People like to work for honest people.

3. Be Transparent. Period. Speak directly and without lies of omission — it’s rarer than you think. At the first sign of challenges, share bad news or constructive criticism early. Do not let issues fester and do not cover them up. Lance wounds fast and clearly. Explain why you did what you did, and move on. The typical alternative is to gloss over issues, which generates mistrust among the team since the shrewd associates will wonder what else you’re lying about.

4. Success is Due to the Team. Compliment your team frequently. Wins, even small wins, should trigger healthy doses of praise, which should be lathered liberally. The leader should never take credit — it’s about the team.

5. Failure is the Leader’s Fault. General Dwight Eisenhower famously wrote a “failure” letter (thankfully never necessary) in case the U.S. troops did not prevail against the Nazis in Normandy, France in June of 1944. He takes the fall for the team: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

6. Mentor, Not Bully. Counsel your team to success. Browbeating and stick wielding does not motivate top performers. They need suggestions and tips.

7. Grant Freedom. Hire great people and get out of their way. Talent will succeed and does not need constant engagement. If you have to micromanage them, you failed in your hiring and promotion process.

8. Cure Mistakes Fast. Unsuccessful and underperforming employees must be mentored to success, or part ways quickly to clear the way for an accomplished person in that role. Rock star employees are constrained by co-workers who generate serial failures. Top employees become demotivated as leadership does not aggressively prune the dead wood.

Procurement Planning Made Easy

Procuring services on your project is a common occurrence but it can be a risky procedure for project managers. The problem is that you have very little say over what a supplier does or how they do it. Once you’ve outsourced the work, they are responsible for managing the process to deliver it, and they might not do it exactly how you would like.

That’s why procurement planning is so important as it helps mitigate the risk that something goes wrong.

Every project should have a procurement plan, and this will give you confidence that you have put the processes in place to make the procurement go as smoothly as possible. There are four main steps to procurement planning, so let’s look at them in turn.

1. Identify Your Requirements

What are you going to procure? You can work this out by making a list of the things you need to buy for your project. For each item, add a detailed description. Then justify why you have to source this externally. Your project sponsor will probably want to know why you can’t use in-house resources. This is a ‘make-or-buy’ analysis and sometimes you will find that it is better to use the resources that you already have or to build your own. But for some items, it will be far better to buy (or hire) them. For each item on your list, use your expense tracking software to calculate how much it would be. Remember to multiply the total price by how many units you need.

2. Research The Market

Whatever you want to procure, there are likely to be a number of companies competing for your business. You have to choose between them, so it’s best to do some homework first. Do some research into the main competitors in the marketplace and their market share. This can be useful because if you then run into problems you know that they have a large base from which to support you.Think about where the companies are. How many hours in the day do you have where you and your supplier are in the office and could have a conversation about your requirements?Once you know who you could procure from, start narrowing down the list to your preferred vendors. You can ask them for references and quotes, and where appropriate, ask to organize visits to other clients to see their products in action.

3. Create A Procurement Schedule

The procurement schedule is a document that sets out the tasks and timescales for the procurement activity on your project. It’s like a mini project plan. Writing down all the tasks in the schedule will ensure that you don’t forget anything important.Start with the first thing you need to do – choosing a vendor. You’ll already have your shortlist, but you may want to ask them more questions, see product demonstrations or do further analysis before making your final choice. Then you’ll have to negotiate a contract, which can also take time so allow enough time in your schedule for this.Then you’ll have to work with the supplier to produce the deliverables. This involves sharing specifications and probably being involved in the testing. You’ll also have to accept the deliverables, so you should work together to define acceptance and quality criteria.Finally, once the work is complete you will want to review how the whole procurement process went. You can put this review meeting on the schedule as well. Make sure that the dates on your procurement schedule tie up with the dates on your main project schedule.

4. Define The Procurement Process

The final step in good procurement planning is to define the process. It may seem strange that we have left this to the end but it is worth working out the rest of the steps before getting into the detail of the process. Of course, you could do this step in parallel to the rest of your procurement planning, and you may find that your Project Management Office or company has a procurement process that you have to follow anyway.If they don’t, you will have to establish this yourself. Document the steps involved in the procurement process and who will be involved. It’s important to get the roles and responsibilities clear so that nothing is overlooked. Your process documentation can also reference any corporate templates that should be used during the procurement, for example for the contract or for product specifications.Share as much of this as you can with the supplier so that they know what to expect and what you are expecting.These steps may sound easy, and really, they are! Working through them will enable you to produce a comprehensive procurement plan to manage your supplier engagement on the project and deliver all your products successfully.