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, iStockPhoto.com.  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.



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.

Dealing with People Challenges


What do you do when you have someone on your team who is not pulling their weight or creating challenges?

How do you address these issues in a way that will be perceived in a positive light and will inspire change?

It happens to all of us, people challenges consume a great deal of time for managers and project managers.  How you handle them is important.  Your first reaction or impulse is most often not the most effective one.  Telling someone what they have done wrong or how they are not measuring up is often not the most effective way to get them to change their behavior.  And if it does work, it may have side-effects that are even more unpleasant than the initial offending behavior.

The first take a good look at the issue.   Typically, the symptom is what you will see, but it is not the true issue.  You want to address the true issue.  Which means you may have to ask about the behavior before suggesting the changed behavior.

Let’s look at this scenario. . .

Mark is the owner of a company that develops mobile apps. He has several teams working for him; a development team, a marketing group, and a sales team.  The development team is the largest group and on a different floor than Mark’s office. The development team is on a tight timeline to deliver the next release.  Mark meets with the leaders of each of managers, including the development manager, Eric, each week.  He trusts them and things are progressing.

One morning Mark decides to stop by to see Eric in development before going to his office.  It is 8 am and Eric, the manager, is the only person in the development group in the office.   Mark speaks with Eric and continues on with his morning.  But he is angry.  How can the team be working hard if there is no one in the office at 8 am?  Don’t they know how important it is to meet this deadline?  After chatting with his colleagues and fuming over the issue for a few hours, he calls Eric to his office.  Mark tells Eric that he wants to establish a new policy; everyone must be in the office by 8 am.

Problem solved, right?  No, unfortunately because Mark was only looking at a symptom, he was seeing a problem where none existed.  He was mandating an 8 am start time, thinking he would get more working hours out of the team if they started earlier.

The Symptom     =          No developers are at the office at 8 am.

The Goal               =          Ensure that the developers are putting in the necessary
hours to get the work done.  Get the most from his staff.

Mark needed to let go of the symptom that infuriated him earlier in the day and focus on his goal.  Then start asking questions.  Find out why folks were not coming into the office in the early morning.

  • Was this just an anomaly? Or did this happen every day?
  • How late was the development staff at the office?
  • Did folks work at home as well?
  • Were there reasons why individuals needed special hours?

In just asking a few questions he would have found that the development team traditionally rolled into the office between 9 and 11 am.  Which sounds like a lacks environment.  Keep asking questions and he would find that they often worked until 10 or 11 pm.   There was another factor; the testing team started work at 4 pm. Many of the developers needed to interact with this group and had started coming in later in the morning so they could stay until 6 or 7 pm – allowing them to work with the testers for a few hours.  All of this was good stuff – but Mark didn’t see it.

By creating this new mandate, he created a more unpleasant side-effect.  The team was offended that he did not know about how committed they already were and how many hours they were putting in each day.  In response to his mandate, the development staff began leaving the office promptly at 5 pm each day.   Although Mark did resolve the symptom; the whole development team was in the office at 8 am each day.  He didn’t get what he wanted.  Not only did he reduce the hours his team was putting in on the project, he also insulted his team, which also had an impact on the team’s morale.

Be sure you are achieving what you want – look deeper than the symptoms on the surface.

When you are ready to address the issue, take the time to set up the right environment.

  • Clear your mind & let go of your anger
    Even if you are sure they are sabotaging your project, or simply being mean. Clear your mind of the negative thoughts.  Going into the conversation with a preconceived notion of why they are behaving in such a way will mean you won’t be able to listen to them.

If you are angry or upset about what they have done or if you are angry about something else, take some time to let that go first.

  • Pull them aside
    You may need to schedule one-on-one time, or simply take them aside. But whatever you do, don’t address a problem in front of others.  This is a bullying tactic.  You are possibly embarrassing them or you may find that others don’t share your view.  Either way addressing something in public is never a good plan.
  • Know what you want to be different
    Even though you don’t know “why” they are causing issues; you should know what you want them to change and be prepared to be flexible.

The Talk

Start by telling them that you have something important to discuss. Approach the issue with the appropriate level of seriousness.   Be prepared to give them some positive feedback first.  Let them know that you are having this conversation because you value their contribution.  Give them a couple of compliments.  Be specific.  The conversation can’t be all negative – they won’t hear you.  Now, talk about their behavior.  What you saw, what you experienced, and what you know to be true.  Don’t make assumptions and use “I’ statements.

“I noticed you were late yesterday.”


“You were late yesterday.”


“I have not received your status report this week.”


“You never turn in your status reports.”

And then listen.   Ask them how they see the situation.  Let them know how their behavior impacts the project or the organization.  Ask how they can improve or change the situation.   This should be a discussion, not an edict from you.  Come up with a joint plan to correct the issue and determine if you need to follow up later.  If follow-up is needed, schedule that now.

“Let’s check in next Tuesday to see how you are doing.”

This way you can keep your conversation private.  Don’t publicly refer to this discussion.  This should remain a private discussion between you and the staff person you are trying to coach.   Scheduling a follow up discussion will also let them know you expect a change and that you intend to follow up.

When dealing with people challenges, be sure you are addressing the real issue not the symptom and take the time to consider how you approach the issue.   You want to achieve your goal with a minimum of side-effects.

4 Critical Leadership Skills Needed to Successfully Manage Project, or anything for that matter

leadership2A good project manager does more than simply delegate and track tasks, they must possess some true leadership skills to be successful.  Here are four skills to think about when hiring a project manager or anyone in a leadership role.

  1. Filtering Skills
    Knowing what is important and what to ignore comes from experience. Even without direct experience in a specific expertise, it is important to have trusted advisors that can be relied upon to identify priorities and those things that are time wasters.
  1. Consensus-building Skills

Knowing how to lobby and campaign for new ideas is a sign of a true leader.  A true leader is not interested in getting credit of the idea, they are interested in getting things done.  They plant seeds, they create a buzz about their ideas – their ideas catch on and are presented by other people and groups.  They are able to work through objections and navigate through obstacles along the way.

  1. Listening and Questioning Skills

Leading a team requires you to understand the value of each team member and the contributions of their team and stakeholders. They take the time to listen to alternate ideas, to the objections and concerns.  Taking the objections and concerns seriously and make sure that all of the voices are heard.

  1. Relationship Cultivating Skills

Having an extensive network inside and outside the organization is critical to a leader’s success.  Gaining consensus is sometimes a matter of knowing the right person to ask or the right way to present it.  A leader relies on their resources; formal and informal – it is not possible to know everything.

10 Ways to Maintain a Positive Environment


How to Maintain a positive environment with your team.

1)  Listen

2)  Believe in your people, trust them.

3)  Be optimistic and positive.

4) Insist on respectful treatment of others

(call people by their names, show trust, people are not disposable, monitor you mood)

5) Don’t play the power card.

As the leader you don’t want lead by power, you want to motivate and influence.

6) Monitor your preferences

(don’t play favorites)

7) Establish a balance between micromanaging and staying in touch.

8) Model the qualities you want in your team

Everything from how you dress, your attitude, working evenings and weekends, etc.

9) Care.

Show interest in your team members as people, with lives outside the office.

10) Provide training and growth opportunities.


10 Way to Inspire Others

To be a good leader, you will need to inspire other, to motivate them to go above and beyond.  Communicating your vision clearly, leading by example, and setting reasonable expectations are a few great ways to be inspirational.


Here are 5 more ways to be inspirational.

1.  Enthusiasm

Being positive, finding the silver lining will make people want to be part of your team.  Enthusiasm is contagious, a smile is contagious.  You will see that people will flock to you, trying to figure out what you know that makes you see things positively.

2.  Trust

Earn their trust.  This can’t be faked you will really need to be trustworthy.  You need to keep your promises, avoid gossip, and admit when you are wrong.   Trust takes time to earn, but it is easily lost.  Don’t waiver on this one.

3.  Treat Everyone Equally

People notice when you play favorites, don’t do it. We are all equal human beings regardless of our gender, politics, race, religion, and other factors. Love and care for people without consideration of these irrelevant factors that have no influence on the quality of a person. Treat others how they want to be treated, no matter their background, to inspire trust and confidence.

4.  Remain Calm

Just as people like to follow positive people, they tend stick close to those that remain calm in the storm.  Whether the project is veering off track or someone is lobbing insults your way – keep your composure.  Don’t show your frustration or fear.  Stay the course.  Take some time to determine the most appropriate action.  Don’t jump to conclusions or respond with a knee-jerk action.  People want to know their leader has things under control.

5.  Care

I have shared this tip many times and I am always asked; “How can I show my staff I care?”  The first thing to know is that you can’t pretend – people can sniff out insincerity and it will backfire immediately.   You will need to truly care about the people who work with you.   How do you do that?  Just like you do every day with the friends and family.  You listen to them.  You lend a hand when it is needed.  You give of yourself to make their lives easier.  People will notice.   In turn, people will step up to the plate and help when needed, they will go the extra mile if they believe it will make your life easier.

Happy Employees = Productivity

Years ago I was told to prop up a small mirror on my desk and to look in the mirror when I talked with people on the phone.  The thought was; you are more likely to smile at your own reflection and when smiling the happy and pleasant tone could be heard on the other end of the phone.    I still keep a mirror by my phone, research that indicates happy workers are more productive, engaged, loyal and creative.

A study by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization indicated that disengaged workers had 60% more errors and 37% higher absenteeism.   Conversely, Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, found that the brain works better when a person is feeling positive.  And positive individuals tend to be better at solving problems and more creative.

Learning how to create a pleasant working environment that will encourage productivity is critical to your success as a leader.  People are likely to work harder when they enjoy what they do and when they like their team members, including their leader.

In the Journal of Business Ethics Rosa Chun defines 6 Positive Practices Dimensions, these characteristics have been found to have a direct link between virtue character and organizational performance, financial or otherwise

  1. Caring  People care for, are interested in, and maintain responsibility for one another as friends.
  2. Compassionate Support  People provide support for one another including kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
  3. Forgiveness People avoid blame and forgive mistakes.
  4. Inspiration  People inspire one another at work.
  5. Meaning  The meaningfulness of the work is emphasized, and people are elevated and renewed by the work.
  6. Respect, Integrity, and Gratitude  People treat one another with respect and express appreciation for one another. They trust one another and maintain integrity.

How can you cultivate these principles within your team?

Connect with their goals

  1. Take the time to learn what your team members want individually. Take time to understand their professional goals are professionally and what it means to them personally.  Then show them you are committed to helping them get to where they want to go.  The University of Michigan’s CompassionLab with Jane Dutton found that demonstrating compassion toward employees fosters individual and collective resilience in challenging times.
  • Identify tasks and project that you can assign them that match and support their goals. Discuss how these assignments are supportive of their personal goals
  • During performance reviews discus their skills and strengths and how they are moving forward toward their professional goals.


True teams foster each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.  Demonstrate your commitment to their success by stepping outside your role and do something just for them. When you are self-sacrificing your staff will in turn be inspired to more loyal and committed themselves and will likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees. Daan Van Knippenberg of Rotterdam School of Management has shown that employees of self-sacrificing leaders trust their leaders more and are more cooperative.

  • Before your team will openly discuss their weaknesses with you, you will need to acknowledge your own. Let them know that your only successful when they are; and that you value and need their contributions to be successful.
  • Openly share areas where you lean on their expertise.

Inspire, notice their abilities

Even when they can’t see them – be observant. Once you notice an individual’s talent or strength, let them know and be specific.  Then find ways to bring out that talent by providing opportunities and training to support it.   Stay positive and encouraging, emotions are contagious – they need to be genuine to catch on.

  • Looks for soft skills such as staying cool under pressure or their patience helping a co-worker, let them know you notice and appreciate their abilities.

According to Alexander Kjerulf, founder of Woohoo Inc. and the organization’s “chief happiness officer,” happiness is the “ultimate productivity booster.” In his view, happy employees excel at managing their time, make better decisions, and possess other leadership skills.

A smile can go a long way!  A positive workplace improves people’s relationships with each other, brings out their strengths and amplifies their creativity.  Developing a positive, healthy culture will result in higher levels of effectiveness — including productivity, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and financial performance.

All good things!

Project Management for non-Project Managers


Small business owners, students, and working professionals, often play the role of a project manager, even when they are completely untrained.

For all you poor souls thrown into managing projects, I’ve got a few tips to help you stay on track.

Know your goal. 

All projects by definition have an end goal.  A project is something that has a start and end.  A project has an objective.  To be successful you must clearly understand your goal and everyone involved must share that understanding.  Many project are perceived to fail simply because someone was expecting something else.  Communicate your objective clearly, communicate it often.  It should be your mantra.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Hold regularly scheduled meetings, whether it’s a weekly status meeting or a daily call.  Hold the meeting even if there is nothing to report.  Share what you know, say everything is on target and open it up for feedback.  These meetings are not just for you to check status or share progress, they are an important part of the communication process.  Regular meetings provide a forum for discussions about small obstacles or other issues.

Ask questions, lots of questions.

When you ask if their deliverable is on-track, most folks will say yes, even if there is an issue.  So ask questions.  “Anything that might get in the way of delivering on time?”  “Can we do anything to make it easier?”  Ask about the process for completing the task.  I find that having the individual step me through their process will prompt questions and often uncovers potential road blocks and concerns.  Some folks don’t like to have you dig into their process, try talking about it in terms of reporting their progress.  Something that takes more than a day to complete, you might want to show percent complete or where you are in the process.

You can manage what you can’t see.

Remain calm.

When things go wrong, and they will, no one wants to deliver the bad news.  Stay positive.  Thank whoever shared the issue with you.  Now you know.  You want to hear bad news before someone else does.  You want the opportunity to address it.  And you want to report it to your management – they should not be telling you of issue.  That’s your job.

Stay calm and positive.  You got this.