Being a Strategic Leader Is About Asking the Right Questions

If you asked the world’s most successful business leaders what it means to “be strategic,” how many different answers do you think you’d get? Consider this number: 115,800,000. It’s the number of unique links returned when I searched online for “strategic leadership.”…

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Tribal Leadership: The Key To Building Great Teams

Have you ever wondered about internal organization dynamics and why some groups of people (who aren’t on the same team) are more successful than others? Why different “tribes” inside the organization seem to be at war with one another lowering performance in increasing politics? Why certain gro…

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How to Hack Your Brain for Insane Focus and Productivity, According to Harvard Research

The science-backed tips to destroy distractions and stay productive in the digital age. Studies indicate that most of us have incredibly short attention spans (in fact, some have found that we have shorter attention spans than goldfish), and it’s only getting worse….

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In a Difficult Conversation, Listen More Than You Talk

When Jared walked into a meeting to discuss a new marketing approach for a product, the conversation didn’t play out well. Five minutes into the dialogue, the product manager, Françoise, started interrupting him with questions he was planning to address later in the pitch….

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10 Quotes to Get Your Day Started

I love quotes…and motivational quote and a cup of coffee are a good way to start the day.  Here are 10 great quotes to get your day started.


1.  “Action is the foundational key to all success.” –-Pablo Picasso

2.  “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”–David Allen

3.  “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”–Franz Kafka

4.  “Ordinary people think merely of spending time, great people think of using it.”–Arthur Schopenhauer

5.  “It is not enough to be busy…. The question is: What are we busy about?”–Henry David Thoreau

6.  “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”–Walt Disney

7.  “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” –-Dwight D. Eisenhower

8.  “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”–Zig Ziglar

9.  “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”–Thomas Edison

10 “You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.”–Warren Buffett

Presentation Zen

PresenationZenThis book reaffirmed what I believe from a design perspective.  Simplicity, simplicity. The book itself is beautiful, just what you would expect from a book on design. Gorgeous pictures and lots of white space. 


Living in the world of corporate IT, there is a constant push to put complex diagrams and a exhaustive text on each and every slide.  Garr confirms my belief that if your whole message is on your slides, then there is no need for a presentation or even you.  You can simply hand out your slides or provide a CD of the slides to the attendees – no meeting or presentation session needed. This is of course what many of us do at the IT conferences we attend.  Just pick up the CD and locate the presentation you missed, and review the slides.  Most of the time you’ve gotten the whole message in 10 minutes, why bother attending a sleep inducing 60 minute presentation.  


Garr’s book is full of wonderful suggestions and tips for creating presentations that support you as a presenter ensuring people are listening to you, and not just reading your slides. Knowing that it is difficult to process both verbal and written information at the same time, Garr suggest that you keep the content on your slides to a minimum in order for your audience to listen to you.  He’s taken Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint to a new level. [The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.  — Read more: “How to Change the World: The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint“]


I have seen many presentations given by folks who are not comfortable in front an audience and their presentation is their crutch.  With all their content on the slides they don’t have to remember the message or the flow, they allow the presentation to guide them.  PowerPoint has allowed our talented professionals to neglect the art of public speaking.  Although Garr’s book is primarily about the design of slides, he is suggesting you lean on your story and speaking skills, and only use your slides to support your message. Even going as far as to say you should be able to do your presentation without your slides.  Wow.  This is quite the radical concept in the world of corporate IT introverts.  This is always impressive when it happens. 


The most common objection to the “less-is-more” approach is that there is no take-away.  Garr’s suggestion that I am a huge fan of is to create a separate hand-out.  Oh my word, an actual document! Not a “slidument” the ever so awkward combination of slides and document.  In my career I have written many documents to accompany my presentations, mostly due the process by which I work.  I am a writer, so I often write out my message first then create the slides to support it.   The concept of a separate hand-out allows you to provide more support and back up data.  Of course this requires additional work and assumes the presenter truly knows their topic.


The artist in me detests the lack of unity in most presentations that use a mix-match of clip-art.  Bad clip art is worse than no images.  And please, please no cheesey animations.  The best use of animation I have seen is when it is used to build a slide as you talk to the points.  But no sound effects, not swooshing and swirling objects, it is very distracting and so juvenile. The book also turned me on to a great site,  Love the site, a wonderful source for low cost photos and artwork to compliment your presentation. 


Garr also suggest that when you are planning your presentation, you start with analog brainstorming; pen and paper.  Another concept that I fully support.  Designing your presentation before outlining or “storyboarding” your message is very difficult.  The concept of storyboarding has really enhanced my slide presentation process. Like before, I start with an outline, which can then be developed into a hand-out.  I storyboard the presentation.  This allows me to consider each of the main points of the presentation, hopefully less than 10, and then developing 1-2 slides for each main point.  This keeps the number of slides to a minimum.    Only after I have the outline and the analog storyboard do I open up PowerPoint.  The storyboard along with my new friends at iStockphoto allows me to create a beautiful presentation that compliments my message. [check out my presentation planning worksheet]


The book also provides a few great tips regarding the art of presenting.  There are definitely more books out there on this topic. [“Presenting to Win” by Jerry Weissman, and “The Articulate Executive” by Granville Toogood] Garr’s tips are important and further drive home the concept that the audience should be looking at you and not reading your slides. A few great ones are;

  • keep the lights on during your presentation – let them see you,
  • and invest in a wireless remote – so you can move out from behind the podium.

The book has created a mini-movement with me and a few colleagues, we keep our presentations as Zen as possible.  There are also the knowing glances as we see those overcrowded slides in other presentations. There’s a bit of competition to find the best photo to accompany the message.  Thanks Garr for adding a bit of creative spirit to my work day!


An absolute must-read for anyone creating presentations, join the movement and commit to never do a presentation with content overkill!


For extra inspiration, check out the Presentation Zen blog.



Need Help to Build a Project Plan?

Using templates can save you a great deal of time when writing documents – and there is a lot of documentation when planning a project.

You can use a Project Plan template to create a comprehensive project plan for your project.  Our template includes explanations for each section and suggested content.  Our Project Plan template contains the following sections:

  1. Project Information
  2. Project Definition
  3. Approach
  4. Governance and Reporting
  5. Project Controls
  6. Schedule & Dependencies Management
  7. Financial Management
  8. Risk Management
  9. Issue Management
  10. Quality Management
  11. Change Control
  12. Resource Management
  13. Stakeholder Management
  14. Communications Plan
  15. Lessons Learned

To successfully manage your project, you will need to conduct regular status meetings, provide status reports to the project team and project stakeholders and track individual action items.

  • Project Status Report Template
  • Stakeholder’s Report Template
  • Change Management Process Document & Request Template
  • Action Tracker Template
  • Project Communication Tips

These templates are aligned with Worldwide standards: PMI and Prince2.

Healthy Relationships – Building Rapport  

Having healthy relationships with co-workers can increase job satisfaction and help boost morale in the office.  Here are ten ways to build rapport with co-workers.


  1. Show empathy.  Demonstrate you understand how the other person feels and can see things from their point of view.
  2. Openly share when you agree with the other person, and say why.
  3. Ask open questions.  Open questions require more than a yes or no answer.
  4. Use feedback to reflect and clarify back to the other person what you think they have said.  This gives opportunity for any misunderstandings to be rectified quickly.
  5. Find links between common experiences. Talk about things that refer back to what the other person has said.
  6. Let go of stereotypes and any preconceived ideas you may have about the person. Be non-judgmental towards the other person.
  7. Admit when have made a mistake or you don’t know the answer.  Acknowledging mistakes will help to build trust.
  8. When you disagree with someone, give the reason first then say you disagree.
  9. Use the other person’s name early in the conversation. This will help you remember their name and it shows you hear them.
  10. Smile!

The Art of Delegation

New managers struggle frequently with delegating tasks.


As former contributors, it is difficult to step up and manage the contributions.   It is likely that they have been promoted to a management role because of their superior skills, which means they are most like better at doing the job than their staff.  New managers are apt to choose to do the task rather than delegate.  It is good to remember. . .

You can’t manage if you are doing.

Five Tip for Delegating

1) Tell people what you expect them to do.

On a regular basis, tell employees what your goals are and your standards for performance.  People need goals.  There isn’t any human activity without them.  Don’t assume that they know what you want.  Tell them as specifically as possible.

2) Make the work valuable.

When you can, assign people to the kinds of work they like and can do well-work that they regard as valuable to them.  Give them work that enables them to achieve their personal goals, such as growth, advancement, self-esteem, professional recognition, and status.

3) Make the work doable.

Increase employee’s confidence that they can do what you expect by training, coaching, mentoring, listening, scheduling, and iding resources.

4) Give feed back.

When employees try to do what you expect, give them feedback on how well they are doing.  Positive feedback tells them what they need to continue doing; criticism helps them to correct mistakes.

5) Reward successful performance.

When employees have done what you asked them to do, reward them with both monetary and non-monetary recognition.