Enough of Scrum Already

The conversation goes on in the Scrum and Agile circles about how far a team can stray from the hard and fast “Rules of Scrum” before becoming a “Scrum Outcast” and … earning the derision and scorn of the “True Believers.”  But there is something about the stasis of staying the same and always playing by those rules that might bother some people.
Here are some thoughts on the concept of keeping to the rules or improving out of them.

The Rules Of Scrum

Scrum, despite its definition by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland as “a framework for developing and sustaining complex products” [1], has a distinct set of rules. Unbreakable rules. In fact, the subtitle of the Scrum Guide from which that definition is taken is “The Definitive Guide to Scrum: The Rules of the Game.

The rules are what make Scrum, Scrum. If you don’t follow the rules you are not doing Scrum.

Now this is not a consideration uniquely tied to Scrum. If you want to play chess, you follow the rules of the pieces (the way they move), the board (8 x 8), and the other rules of the game. If you want to do something else (say, introduce a new piece, for example, the “jester” (moves 2 up, 2 over, and the player has to tell a joke) then you are no longer playing chess. There are many variations of a game with balls, bats, bases, and players, but there is only one set of rules governing baseball. And so forth.

Each of the agile approaches has rules. Extreme Programming (XP) has its Twelve Principles which establish the rules for XP. If you do not follow all twelve of the Principles, you are not doing XP. Feature Driven Development (FDD) has its processes. And so on.

The concerns of the Scrum elite are valid. They are trying to make sure that teams that only follow some of the Scrum rules and not others, and fail, do not blame Scrum for the failure. In other words, the belief is that if you follow Scrum exactly as it is defined in the rules of Scrum, the software development (or the product development) effort will be successful. If not successful, the rules were not followed, in the form of software development called “Scrumbut” (“we are doing Scrum, but [specify some rule that is not followed. e.g. we still have a project manager] ).

When asked if Scrum can be performed without various of the defined components, such as having a Scrum Master, or daily stand-ups, or a retrospective, the Scrum community is fairly unanimous is saying, “no.”

Here are some random comments from the Yahoo Scrum Development Group and the LinkedIn Agile and Lean Software development Group over the past several years.

When asked if it were possible to “do Scrum” without Scrum Master (names withheld):

“No, it is not possible to have Scrum without Scrum Master. Have a great day.”

“You can still go and do the development work without a Scrum Master, but you can’t call that Scrum.”

“If you do not have a Scrum Master on your team, you are not doing Scrum. If you do not have two bishops at the start of a chess game, you are not playing chess.”

Similar responses applied to doing Scrum without a standup and without a formal end of sprint retrospective: “It’s not Scrum, it’s Scrumbut.” So changing the rules should be avoided since no one likes to be called a “but” especially a “Scrumbut.”

What If The Rules Stop Applying?

But what happens when the team or the players find the rules constraining or restricting or decidedly non-Agile?

Is that possible?

Example:

The team had been together over three years, using Scrum as their software development approach. They were by any measure a performing team under the Tuckman model. They regularly made all their sprint commitments and performed at a high velocity especially when compared to the other Scrum teams in the department.

Over the years, in their quest for continual process improvement, they made a number of changes which affected the basic tenets of Scrum.

Because they were co-located and talked among themselves continually, they decided that their Daily Stand Up was redundant. At the Stand Up, they retold what everyone already knew from the day before. Basically, they all knew what each other was doing. They said that they didn’t miss the Stand Ups and liked the extra fifteen minutes a day the got by not having it.

They also decided that waiting until the end of the Sprint to review what they were doing was too late, making the Retrospective also redundant. They were making changes during the Sprint and adjusting and having ad hoc meetings to address issues. The Retrospective had become a review of what already happened and a waste of time.

They eliminated it.

Finally, they realized they were able to deal with all the obstacles and impediments themselves. They didn’t need to go to a Scrum Master to act as an intermediary. They ran their own Sprint Planning Sessions, and Reviews with the Product owner and they certainly needed no further instruction on how Scrum works.

Since they were functioning as a high performing team, they also worked out all their issues among themselves. They suggested that the Scrum Master could better spend his time with other teams. The Scrum Master did. (I talked to the Scrum Master, who voiced no feeling of failure or resentment at being relieved of his duties. He had more of a sense of a parent watching the child graduate from college and enter the workforce on his own. He expressed that he hoped other teams would ask that he be removed.)

Their velocity and output continued to be high in terms of both quantity and quality. But they were not doing Scrum because they were not following the Rules of Scrum. And this is all right. Certainly, the team was not concerned about labels and in any case they still assumed they were doing Scrum. The Scrum Sheriff had not arrived in town as yet to tell them to cease and desist.

First Follow All The Rules

You have to follow the rules because you need a baseline from which to evolve. Otherwise, how would you know you have improved? To paraphrase the comment from Seneca, how are you going to know the direction you want to take if you don’t have a point to start from?

If you improve your process and change one of the rules of Scrum to make it better for you, then you are no longer doing Scrum. You can call it something else. Maybe Cricket or NuScrum or Murcs (Scrum spelled backward).

What Do You Call It?

So if it is not Scrum then what is it? We can probably call the process whatever we want. The team mentioned above had just such a discussion. One suggestion was to call it “Elvis” (from an Elvis fan) because “We’re fast and we rock.” Other suggestions included “Super Scrum” (with appropriate uniforms), “Uber Scrum,” “Scrumptious,” and, of course, “Over Scrum” which the team member highlighted the double entendre by stating, “We are so over Scrum.”

What was their final answer? What did they answer when other developers or management asked them what they were doing? What did they finally end up calling their approach?

Nothing. They decided that they didn’t need a name. Or a title. Or an “Agile approach.” They decided that they didn’t even need to call themselves “Agile.” They were simply developing software the best way they knew how. And that was enough for them.

Agile Is Not About Developing Software Or Product

Maybe we have it wrong. Maybe “Agile” is not about better ways to develop software. Maybe Scrum isn’t really a “product development framework.” Maybe Agile is a way to get a group of software developers together and work as a team and then as a high functioning team. Maybe software development is just what is done while the team is forming and performing. All of the practices and indications of Agile, from pair programming to the Scrum Master, to collective ownership of code, and so forth seem to be about improving the collaboration of the team as much as producing software.

Perhaps if we view “Agile” as a team development method rather than a software development approach, all the issues with being one approach or another start fading away. When the focus is on developing a high-performance team, backlogs, refactoring, having only three roles, Feature Lists, prototyping sessions, and all the rest become methods and techniques for developing the high-performance team.

Graduation Time

In the public school system in the US during the 1950s (I don’t know how long it continued) a graduation ceremony was held when the children moved from kindergarten to first grade of elementary school. I have an old photograph of myself graduating from kindergarten, passed on to my wife from my mother. In sepia tones, I am standing in front of a school wall replete with suspenders (the dress of the day), mortar board and some kind of certificate in my hand.

Am I suggesting that Scrum is like kindergarten? In a way.

Just as Robert Fulghum said, “All I really need to know (about life) I learned in kindergarten” so we might say about Scrum: “All we need to know to be a highly productive software development team we learn in Scrum.”

Just as in kindergarten and throughout all school, the ultimate goal is to learn something and to graduate. With Scrum (and with all Agile approaches) our goal is to learn something (especially about being in a team) and eventually to graduate from Scrum. And it doesn’t matter what we call the process we use after we “graduate” from Scrum. We can simply call it “Agile,”

Your goal should be to start with all the rules of Scrum so that you are doing Scrum and then improve to the point where you are not doing Scrum and graduate to something better: your team’s own software development process.

As Tobias Meyer once said,” the ultimate goal of Scrum is to eventually stop using Scrum.”

Author: 

Steve Blais, PMP, has over 43 years’ experience in business analysis, project management, and software development.  He provides consulting services to companies developing business analysis processes. He is on the committee for the IIBA’s BABOK Guide 3.0. He is the author of Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success.

Top 5 Things Your Clients Expects From You (as a PM)

Do we know everything? No. Do we know everything about the project we are leading and about what we are supposed to be doing? We should! We aspire to, but there are likely a few things missing along the way. We learn as we go along. Do we know what our customer is always thinking? What they think about our performance or how we are managing them, the team and ourselves? No.

Well, I’m hopefully going to close that knowledge gap a little.

Here are my top five things that your project customer assumes, hopes or wishes you knew about them and the project you are leading for them.

You’re The Expert, Not Them

You are the skilled Business Analyst or consultant. You and the Project Manager are the individuals leading the team with the skill set needed to identify, design, and develop their solution. If they had that skill set or the time to do it, they wouldn’t need you.

Understand that you are the expert. The client knows that and wants you in that role. They may annoy you, demand things, they may even seem like they are getting in your way or trying to take over, but really, at the end of the day, they will be the most satisfied and confident if you are in control, take the lead, and direct them.

Money Is Very Important To Them

We all must answer to someone higher up with respect to budget, profit margin, and overall financial health of the work we are performing. It works the same way for the project sponsor.

The project customer cares about the money they are spending on the project, and they want to feel comfortable that you are spending it wisely. Therefore, they expect this to be reflected in any weekly status reporting and dashboard view in terms of actions, work progress, and often budget analysis.

They Have A Day Job

They want you to know that while the project is very important to them and may be an important part of their career, they also have a day job. Rarely is the project you are working on their only responsibility. After all, they shouldn’t have to do too much on the project because you and your team are the real experts, not them, right?

They have other tasks to perform, bosses to report to, and even teams to lead. So they might not always be available with the information or decisions you need.

Keep them engaged, give them time, and be patient. And take charge and make good decisions in their absence.

They Do Not Know How To Test Very Well

Your client may not like to say it, and they may not show it, but it is often the case that project customers do not know how to test very well. And they certainly won’t be experienced on this new solution you are planning to implement. Help them. Don’t do it for them – that would be a conflict of interest. But you can help them with test cases and test scenarios and hold their hand through the user acceptance testing (UAT) process.

You may find yourself and some individuals on your team spending more hours before and during UAT than you had in estimated in the budget, but it’s worth it, and you’ll know to include more hours in the schedule and estimate next time.

You Are Not Their Friend

Keep it professional, no matter how friendly or easy the communication becomes.  If you let it go too casual, you risk missing some information sharing along the way by assuming the other party may already know.

The customer may seem very comfortable with you, but you are still not their friend. They are paying for your services. Run professional meetings, continue professional conversation, and engage them like they are the project sponsor, not your friend from high school. And avoid the drinks at the bar with them after a big onsite meeting – it’s just not professional.

Summary / Call For Input

We do everything we can for our project customers. Lead their projects, manage the budget, engage them and try to keep them as focused and confident as possible throughout the project. But we can’t get inside their head, and they don’t tell us everything. If we could, though, these are things that I feel they would be thinking that we should know as far as what is driving their behavior and management of the process.

Remember, the Business Analysts, Project Managers and teams are the professionals hired to manage the projects. But in the end, it is the customer’s project, so keep them engaged and informed throughout. Have those periodic one-on-ones with the project sponsor to ensure that you know what they are expecting of you on each engagement and at every turn. Sometimes their expectations need to be reset, and that’s ok.

The key is never to stay out of touch with them for very long.

What about our readers? What do you think your project customers assume you know about them and the projects you plan and manage for them? What do you think they wish you realized as far as what’s important to them? What, from your experience in working with project customers and key stakeholders, would you add to this list or change about it? Please share and discuss.

Experts Share Their Best Tips for New Project Managers

We asked experienced project managers to divulge their #1 tip for newcomers to the field. Not surprisingly, these process fanatics shared a plethora of great tips to help newcomers succeed in this ever-changing area of work.

Read through their project management advice below, and see what you can learn as you walk into your first, second, or even tenth PM role.

“I think that all the important tips could be summarized with a metaphor:
You should be like an Orchestra Director for your team, with a detailed project plan as score.”
Jose Ignacio Bernaldo de Quiros Ochoa

Everyone Agrees — Excellent Communication is the #1 Indicator of Success

Understand the culture

Communication is key, and much of that will be informal, so building your network and understanding culture and dynamics are key.
Thomas J. Dickie, PMP

Be accessible to learn more

Always allow people to come to you. Be accessible and listen to what project team members will ask or comment all the time. The more you know, the better you are able to make decisions. Buy knowledge and sell solutions unless you want to pay for project deviations.
Fábio Issao Watanabe

Communicate to identify changes quickly

I think that success depends on communication and focus on the goal. Good communication with the team identifies deviations in a timely manner. Good communication with customers can quickly identify changes in scope.
Oscar Teran

Keep detailed project notes to share

Follow up on tasks and Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Keep detailed notes and make sure everyone on the team is aware of what is happening.
Monteau (Montee) Outlaw

Discuss challenges, roadblocks, & risks

Make sure to be transparent within your core and your extended project team, as well towards your managers, owner, sponsor. Communicate roadblocks, challenges, and risks clearly and in advance for everyone to see. Know and accept: no one cares for, or is as committed to your project as much, as you are/must be.
Janos Veres

Listen to opinions from everyone, even if you reject them later

Keep communication channels open for all stakeholders: the team, the sponsor, the customer, the end user, your boss, etc. I am not saying that you let yourself be manipulated by every party, just try to listen before making decisions. Hear every opinion, then make your route.
Mehmet Degirmencioglu

Respect every opinion as if it were your own

Train communication, create empathy with your stakeholders. Respect and value everybody’s opinions, even if you don’t completely agree.
João Rodrigues

Challenge ideas to make them better

You are hired to manage projects; your team is hired to be the technical expertise to deliver that project. Therefore, if they are telling you something, it’s usually a good idea to take in what they’re saying and, in some cases, challenge it. If you’re not technical, ask for clarification on points you genuinely don’t understand. That’s normally enough for technical teams to make them think through their explanations, so they’ll carry out an internal check to ensure their thinking is sound.
Andrew Hudson

Build rapport and trust with clients

Build rapport with the client. Build trust and then never lose it. Under promise and over deliver. Plan and communicate.
Marc Hammoud

Don’t Pretend You Know Everything on Day One

Always ask “that question”

You may not have the experience needed to do things 100% correct the first time, so keep it real and allow people to give you suggestions. My #1 suggestion to newbies is: Always ask “that question”. Finding a balance between asking questions or following up offline is a talent you will learn over time, but for now, don’t be shy. You might harm your own project by not speaking up until it becomes a show stopper near implementation time. Speak up and you will find your team is truly on your side!
John Skowronski, PMI-ACP, PMP

Don’t isolate your team with overconfidence

Do not think you know everything. I’ve seen too many project managers take a hard line and push things through because they think they know best. That breeds resentment in the project team. I’ve seen project managers exert their supposed technical or subject authority on a project, only for that project to ultimately remove those additions at a later and more expensive stage.
Andrew Hudson

Learn from every experience

You don’t have to know everything about everything — it’s ok to ask questions and learn from each experience.
Ann Lynne Dodson

To Be the Best, Hone Your Leadership & Management Skills

Make sure you motivate and lead your team

Soft skills are very important. The people involved make the difference between success and failure. You can have knowledge and methods, but you need skills to motivate and lead.
Maarten Verreck

Manage your people, not just your documentation

Following the PM process and keeping up with all the communication tools like the risk log, issue log, schedule, and deliverables should all take a back seat to leading your team. For years I prided myself in being really good at the documentation side of project management, but it never really mattered that much. The most important skill a project manager must master is Leadership!
Larry Sparkman

Build a bridge for two-way trust

Trust is the biggest thing for me, because if I don’t trust my technical team then I’m inherently suspicious of them and vice versa. Building a relationship of trust, and therefore openness, is crucial if you are to deliver multiple successful projects.
Andrew Hudson

Stay flexible to take on every challenge

Keep your knowledge constantly updated, trying to develop new capabilities and remaining flexible in terms of project management methodologies to use, etc. Things can change very rapidly in this field, and as the leader of your team, flexibility and a listening ear are most important to manage the risks and change.
Nirmal Singh

Delegate wisely and lead by example

Learn what you can delegate. Learn who you can delegate to. Lead by example. Work harder than anyone else. Treat everyone you touch with respect and kindness.
Lori Galster

Train your people to be future leaders

It should always be remembered that delegation is not purely about sharing workload. Also it gives the team member a sense of ownership and liability and allows them to learn… Today’s team member can be tomorrow’s PM.
Andy Nelson, AMBCS, P2 Cert Practitioner

Think outside the box

The key for successful PM is communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. Working smarter and offering solutions. Thinking outside the box and strategically looking at the bigger picture.
Kassim Toorawa

Protect your team

You “Protect” the project team, they do the rest.
Onur Karabulut

And don’t forget to proactively celebrate success!

The most important part: celebrate with your team who made it possible!
Puneet Gulati, MSP, PMP, ITIL v3

Be the Person Who Keeps Work Organized & Meetings Focused

Use templates to stay organized

Try to stay as organized as you can, use templates and other tools provided by PMI (you can find them on PMI’s website).
Bhawna Mundotia, PMP

Document! Document! Document!

Always keep a track record of the work being done.
Pietro Cecere

Step up and capture ideas during meetings

If you are in a meeting that needs focus because people are talking in circles, step up to the white board or large note pad and start scribing their ideas, requirements, comments, issues, etc. — preferably into actionable categories. Do not speak! Just scribe. If they start to focus on what you are writing, then you can ask them if they want to identify owners for each actionable item.
Jerry B. Fisher

Learn What Inspires Your New Team, Then Achieve Success Together

Know the working culture before you introduce change

First understand the work/culture/situation, and then make your moves/changes. PMs always want to do something new and different based on their experiences, which is a good thing, but do it smartly. You can’t just jump in and start making changes to the system without understanding it; every company has their own limitations, constraints, and culture. Make changes in such a way that they get absorbed in the right attitude.
Santosh Maurya

Understand everyone’s motivations

Learn that project management can be as much about politics as handling projects. Remember that not everyone working on the project is actually for the project. Learn the motivations and intentions of not just your team, but also upwards to the stakeholders and business users.
Andy Nelson, AMBCS, P2 Cert Practitioner

Build a culture of sharing and innovation to build a strong team

Foster a culture where everyone’s ideas are heard to allow more innovation to take place. The added bonus is that the project team itself becomes a lot stronger — team members are far more open to suggesting and working through ideas if they know they’ll be heard, rather than thinking they’ll be shouted down all the time.
Andrew Hudson

Know the Limitations of Your Project Team — And Yourself

Don’t forget the human

The methodologies are great if well-used, but they won’t work if you do not remember that you are working with other people. Human responses are not always logical or predictable.
Tiago Prado

Know your team’s strengths

Understand the skill set & mind set of the people that you’re going to handle in your team.
Prabhu M

Leave egos behind

Be aware of strengths and limitations in your team and, more importantly, yourself. There is no room for egos.
Louie Turcotte, Jr

Find what sets you apart

Determine your specialization and go for it. The best thing you can do is to decide what sets you apart and make that shine. Remember you are turning concepts into realities and it takes creativity to get you there. Develop thick skin and never fall in love with your first draft, no matter what it is.
James L Thompson, PMP, CSM, Executive MBA, ITIL

Ask Questions to Understand Current Processes, & Keep Them Simple

Ask follow-up questions

When someone makes a suggestion, I like to follow up with background questions: When and under what circumstances have you implemented that in the past? Why was that approach successful? What made it more efficient, cost effective, etc.? Then I broaden my scope of understanding.
Lori Galster

Don’t make mountains out of molehills

DON’T make a huge mind-numbing deal out of the project. Newbies are generally so eager to implement their knowledge or are so psyched up about being in the shoes of a PM, they generally end up overcomplicating simple things. I have seen “accidental” project managers perform better than those who come to the job armed with the whole pedigree of PM tools, techniques, and strategies. It’s better to keep work simple and streamlined so that attention can be devoted to planning, actual implementation, and overall scope and quality control, instead of waiting for the heavens to open up and rain down!
Trina Moitra

Make progress the priority

Do not always look at things from a process perspective. Governance is important, but when it impedes progress then there is an issue.
Dave Regan

Clarify Everyone’s Roles & Responsibilities on Every Project

Understand your own role first

Clearly understand your role and responsibilities and your delegated authority. This will depend on the type of organization you’re operating under. Also understand your key stakeholders and their level of influence.
Kassim Toorawa

Analyze project heartbeats daily

I suggest accidental managers follow the RACI model and analyze project heartbeats daily.

R- Who is Responsible to do the work 
A- Who is Accountable for final decisions and ultimate ownership 
C- Who is Consulted before a decision or action is taken 
I- Who is Informed that the decision or action has been taken

The RACI model is helpful to define/identify/clarify roles and responsibilities. Once you have those, match them up with processes. It’s especially useful in clarifying roles and responsibilities in cross-functional processes. For example, an organization may have a person who performs the role of project manager, and may also perform the role of test manager.
Hambirrao Patil

Beware of role creep

Watch for ROLE creep, which is similar to scope creep in a project. In role creep, your role as a PM might be under constant pressure — from academics, LinkedIn groups, co-workers, and especially those working above you. This is because there are so many forces at work around a substantial project, especially in a non-projectized organization where there is no discipline to comply with standardized and repeatable project management processes. There will be pressure to be innovative, be creative, and be an agent of change, and you will have managers asking you to list all your accomplishments. Your ultimate role is always to deliver what is in the WBS and project plan, use a designated process for scope change, risk monitoring, and issue management, and maintain good communication.
Michael Ayres MS, PMP, CISSP, CSEP

Make Sure You Have a Full Understanding of the Project Objectives, Assets, & Risks

Know the project inside out

Understand the project — so the planning, objectives, results that the project wants to achieve, and of course know the monitoring plan: what are the indicators, its tools, etc.
Marta Acero

Set the goals first

Establish the goal and objectives (SMART) of your new project. Once this is done well, I would immediately do the PESTEL analysis and build the SWOT analysis. Then, it’s planning, communication, and organization. For your project setup plan, you can also use the What, When, Who, Which, Where, etc. model.
Osvaldo Mirante, PhD

Understand the project needs

Having a clear understanding of both the functional and technical definition/needs of the project upfront, with stakeholder buy-in, is extremely important.
Muqtader MBA

Make sure the project achieves its original goal

Focus on specified project objectives!
Muqtader MBA

Control the project scope

Knowing your exact scope of work very well is the key to controlling the rest.
Mohammad Hamdan, PMPⓇ

Think about what can outside forces could affect your project — positively or negatively

Look for organizational process assets that are available to you. Identify the environmental factors that will influence your projects and how they’ll be delivered.
Thomas J. Dickie, PMP

Make work actionable

Make sure everything is actionable and responsibilities are assigned and transparent.
Henriette Ebbesen Laidlaw

Allow time for multiple iterations

Plan and drive project activities according to strategic guidelines. Allow the project team a few iterations over viable and plausibly valid alternative solutions. Never be afraid to ask the project owner for clarification or adjustment of target, timeline, resources, or scope.
Janos Veres

Don’t forget to manage potential risks

You need to understand the organization’s culture to make a roadmap and deliver projects on time and within budget. You should also keep an eye on risks arising during the course of project implementation, with a risk mitigation plan in place.
Puneet Gulati, MSP, PMP, ITIL v3

Get Buy-In From Stakeholders Early & Manage Their Expectations Along the Way

Identify every stakeholder

Identify all stakeholders and develop terms of references. This will align all roles of different individuals in the project and make it easier to relate with them.
Lesiba Noah Konaite

Sell the project to all necessary parties

Involve as many as possible stakeholders at the beginning of a project to gain broader buy-in.
Andries Venter, Inclusive Project Manager

Hold 1-on-1 project feedback sessions

Before kicking off the project, connect with all the key stakeholders in 1-on-1 sessions to get their input on the project, their goals, their level of support, etc. This will uncover hidden “gotchas” and misalignment that may come up later if you don’t do this.
Tom Treanor

Make stakeholders believe in the goal, not just the budget

Getting stakeholder buy-in on the outcome and benefit of completing the project is more important than stakeholder acceptance of the scope, schedule, and budget. If decision-makers believe in what the project will achieve, they will be more likely to accept changes to the scope and tolerances if you can show that it will lead to a better outcome. If all you’ve sold is a budget and a delivery date, you’re doomed to failure.
Chris Cox

Continually manage expectations as the project goes on

Manage the stakeholders’ expectations within given limits. That would encompass all the necessary requirements such as deliverables, scope, etc.
John Mpungu

Don’t Be Afraid of Failure, Learn From It

Fail fast, recover faster

Failure is an option. Fail fast so you can recover quickly and learn.
Sreekumar Govindan

Turn mistakes into learning opportunities

Don’t be afraid of mistakes — learn from them. They are the building blocks for future success in this challenging and dynamic profession!
Susan Kirkpatrick, PMP, CSSBB

Deliver what the business actually needs

A high percentage of projects fail because they don’t deliver what the business needs. Even when you have that nice 400-page requirements document that was signed off on, it does not mean everyone understands what is being delivered.
Thomas J. Dickie, PMP

Ultimate Success Comes From Careful Management, Not Just Careful Planning

Manage the problem, not just the Gantt chart

Reality drives the schedule, not the other way around. It’s not about wrangling Gantt charts, it’s about wrangling people and problems.
James Radvan

Plan to succeed & persevere

Every day there is a chance that you will have your back to the wall. Plan to succeed. Coordinate your priorities, delegate to those in your team, and make the project work.
Paul Alwood

Keep your eye on the overall objectives

No one on the business side cares about the Gantt chart or status reports or the PM deliverables. What they are looking for is the capabilities to achieve the business objectives your project will deliver.
Thomas J. Dickie, PMP

And Remember: Nothing Beats Hands-On Experience

You can’t fake experience

Experience is the most valued ingredient of the perfect PM brew, and that can either come with the salt and pepper of years or from a very competent mentor. There is no way to fake experience.
Trina Moitra

Expose yourself to real-life situations early on

Gain as much experience in project management as you can. Books, theory, and concepts are all fine, but real-life situations are much tougher. The more you face these situations, the smarter you become. There is no better way to learn project management than to expose yourself to real-life situations.
Mangal Pandya

Rely on your people skills, and push for the success at the end of the project

Don’t give up. A Project Manager position is not a rewarding job every day. You have to work really hard to get things done (especially in a Matrix environment), so you have to rely on your people skills a lot. (Keep those sharp!) In the end, you will persevere, and when the project finishes successfully, you will love that feeling of success.
Bhawna Mundotia, PMP

What Advice Can You Share?

Let’s keep the conversation going here! Share your advice and thoughts in the comments below. Tell us what you’d add to this list, or expand upon a piece of advice that really resonated with you.

*Note: Some of the above responses have been slightly modified for clarity, grammar, and length.

10 Types of Blog Posts Proven to Drive Sales

Use it correctly, and a blog can be an excellent source of both traffic and links. However, while I’d never discourage you from creating the sort of content that can boost your traffic and potentially bring in links that will help you to climb further up the search engine’s rankings, on their own, traffic and/or links are not going to make a difference to your bottom line.

On that note, I’m going to take a wild guess that you’re here because you want your blog to do more than bring in traffic – you want it to drive sales, too. Well, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to get your blog working harder for you. Stick with me while we look at 10 of them.

1. The how-to

The how-to blog post is generally (though not always) a step-by-step guide that takes readers through a particular process. The best ones are based around clear, easy-to-follow instructions, and include images or video that help to illustrate each step. They should also be easy to skim through, so readers can quickly find a particular instruction.

The how-to is an effective sales tool in part, because it’s easy to optimize. Questions which begin with “how to” are common search terms – so much so, that whole websites have been built around answering these types of queries. Write detailed, useful, optimized how-tos and you should start to reap the rewards of additional targeted traffic arriving on your site.

Of course, we know that traffic alone won’t make us money. Real results happen when we’re able to convert that traffic.

To do this you need to…

1. Choose your topics wisely

Answer questions that your target market is likely to have and likely to ask towards the middle of the sales funnel.

For instance, a key goal of neilpatel.com is to encourage people to reserve consultations with Neil himself. It comes as no surprise then, that he’s writing posts like this. Link good or bad

“How to Determine if a Link is Good or Bad” is exactly the sort of question people who would be interested in one-on-one marketing consultancy would be asking.

2. Hold back just enough information to leave your readers wanting more.

Sometimes (though not always) if you give your visitors all the answers, they won’t need you. The more complicated your industry, the less this rule applies – sometimes you can give people all the information, but they will still need your help to apply the knowledge effectively. Still, it helps to keep a small part of the puzzle unsolved, to keep your readers wanting (and needing) more.

Key takeaway: Write detailed, long-form blog posts that answer “how-to” questions and target potential customers from the middle of the sales funnel onwards.

2. The cheat sheet

Cheat sheets are similar to how-tos in that they provide your visitors with valuable information that should help them to complete a particular action or set of actions. The cheat sheet differs from the how-to in its execution: they’re more of a “quick reference” kind of guide than a step-by-step walk-through. They also lend themselves well to infographic-style images.

Think: Cheat sheet

And: typefaces

In contrast, the how-to is usually presented as a text-based article.

Like the how-to, cheat sheets drive sales because they bring in highly-qualified traffic. The trick is to create content that captures potential customers at the right point in the sales funnel. By all means, create cheat sheets that help existing customers get the most out of your product or service. Anything that helps your customers use you more effectively will increase customer loyalty and retention rates. However, if you want to drive new sales, you need to create cheat sheets that help assist those who are in need of something you sell – not those who already have what you sell. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Sorry for Marketing‘s Jay Acunzo’s specialism is guiding others on their content marketing. This cheat sheet fits the bill perfectly. It’s designed to help speed up the content editing process and is aimed at marketers who want to streamline and improve their content creation. Tier one

This cheat sheet on browsers that do or don’t support HTML5 targets consumers that are ready to – but probably haven’t yet started – design a new website. These are precisely the type of visitors that a company that offers web design and hosting services would want to capture. Browser support

Key takeaway: Create cheat sheets that act as quick reference guides to consumers who could benefit from your product or service. If you can get a designer involved to up their visual appeal, even better.

3. The checklist

Checklists are an excellent sales tool because they help readers identify missing components in an important equation. Imagine a store that sells products people buy before they go on vacation – a “packing checklist” would make a great piece of content for them. The checklist

In this context, a packing list could help drive sales because it would allow the store to link to relevant products from within the list and influence purchases from consumers who had forgotten they needed to buy x, y, or z.

A checklist can help drive sales in pretty much any industry. I see my fellow marketers use them all the time.

The brilliant Heidi Cohen rang in 2015 with a seriously-comprehensive marketing checklist.

Postplanner created a checklist to help ensure that marketers are getting the most out of social media.

Moz compiled a detailed site audit checklist (if you’re ever carrying out a site audit, you need to use this – it’s awesome).

In marketing, this type of content works because it can help a potential customer realize how much help they actually need. Maybe they hadn’t considered they needed to do x and y. Maybe they don’t know how to do y and z. Either way, it illustrates to visitors how much or how little they know and encourages them to pick up the phone and make that call.

Key takeaway: Create on-topic checklists that are designed to help potential customers realize what tools or knowledge they’re missing that your company can provide for them.

4. The comparison post

Comparison posts pit your product against one of your competitor’s, as we see here in this post where HubSpot compares their CMS with WordPress’s. Is this sneaky? Maybe a little, but we see this strategy used all the time, across the board – not just online, and certainly not only in blog posts.

Ever noticed a supermarket advertising how much cheaper they are than the competition? Comparison

That’s comparison marketing in action. The supermarket is selling their products to you by highlighting how much you can save when you shop with them, instead of the competition.

You might wonder how you can legally get away with stating how much better or cheaper you are than your competition, and I wouldn’t blame you. Naming your competitors in your own advertising and marketing strikes me as something that would land you on shaky ground, too, but it’s actually okay… most of the time, at least.

The law surrounding comparison marketing differs somewhat around the world. However, it generally comes down to this: as long as you’re truthful, it’s fine.

This means you have to be damn sure about any claims you make, and be sure to include a disclaimer that gives the date that the claim was found to be true, in case something changes down the road.

Key takeaway: Write comparison blog posts that explore how your product or service matches up to your competitors.’

5. The guest post from a brand advocate (think extended testimonial)

If you’re a regular here, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of guest posting and that I regularly welcome guest authors to this blog. I do this to:

Diversify the voices on the blog
Build relationships with the people who write for the blog
Drive new audiences to the blog
Alleviate some of the pressure on me to keep the blog updated, all of the time
However… there’s another way you can leverage inviting a guest author to contribute to your blog – by asking a brand advocate to write for you.

Brand advocates are those people that love your brand so much that they regularly shout about it, and are willing to go out of their way to do so.

If you can track these advocates down, you should take the opportunity to speak to them about how you might be able to work together. This could entail getting them to write, or even film, a testimonial for you. It might mean asking them to mention your brand in some of their social media posts.

Alternatively, it could mean asking them to write you a guest post.

“Walmart Moms” is an excellent example of a brand that leverages their advocates. Walmart

The Walmart Moms are a group of Walmart advocates that have been selected to speak out on behalf of the brand because of how they embody the average Walmart customer.

The “chosen” moms (who are, I assume, paid) write blog posts for Walmart that offer advice and touch on their own experiences, while also linking to Walmart products and additional articles. Take a look at Linsey Knerl’s post “Growing from baby to toddler” to see what I mean.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, as mentioned above, you may have to compensate your advocates for their time. Asking them to write a short review is one thing; asking them to craft a 500+ word blog post is quite different. This effort should be rewarded, if not with cold hard cash, then with some sort of freebie or special benefit.

Key takeaway: Invite a brand advocate to write a guest post for you in which they talk about the merits of your brand or your products or services (just be prepared to reward them for their time).

6. The case study

A case study dives deep into a particular “case” in order to demonstrate the potential and effectiveness of a certain product or service. A case study is an excellent sales tool because rather than simply saying to a customer, “Use our product and you can achieve x, y, and z,” you use real-world examples to show them exactly how your product or service is going to accomplish x, y, and z.

It’s understandable then, that they’re a popular sales tool – the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Prof’s 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report found that of all of the tactics B2B marketers use, 58% percent of those surveyed said they found case studies to be effective. This graph shows the case study as the 5th most-effective B2B marketing tactic. Effectiveness ratings

Neil Patel regularly writes case studies. In this one, he details the processes used to help earn Timothy Sykes an extra $1.2 million a year: Timothy Sikes

Here he shows how he grew Gawker’s traffic by 5 million visitors: Gawker media

Putting an alternative spin on things, in this post, Neil actually writes a case study about case studies. Its purpose is to demonstrate how case studies can be used to generate more leads and sales.

In short: Case studies work. Although publishing case studies didn’t have a huge effect on the number of leads Neil was generating, they clearly helped his leads convert: He saw his sales increase by an impressive 185%.

Key takeaway: Hone in on a particular example of how your product or service helped a customer achieve a goal by writing a case study.

7. The wake-up call

The “wake-up call” is geared toward shocking your visitors into the realization that they’re doing something wrong, or at the very least, could be doing something better. The idea is that this scares your visitors into action – that action ideally being to purchase your product or start using your service.

It’s a common strategy used by digital marketers and SEOs. There are still a lot of shady companies out there and in-house practitioners who know less than they think they do. Consequently, it’s not difficult to “shock” companies into action. You just need to help them realize that their own online efforts, or the efforts of the people they employ to improve the performance of their site, are not up to snuff.

Take this post by Kissmetrics that explores how to determine whether or not your SEO company is in fact hurting, rather than helping, you. Or this article from BlogPress, which looks at 7 things you might be getting wrong when trying to write click-worthy headlines. This post from New State Films is another great example of this strategy: It explores five things you might be getting wrong when promoting your brand through video.

The key here is to avoid getting into a slanging match, or making yourself look petty. Be the bigger company and use a “wake-up call” post to not only show how others are getting something wrong, but to demonstrate that you have the skills, knowledge, and resources to do it better.

Key takeaway: Write a blog post that details what your potential customers might be doing wrong and how their mistakes could be affecting them.

8. The unique-findings post

Make a bold statement online, and you should be prepared to back it up with evidence. Why? Because it lends credibility to your argument. As stated in Lifehacker, “Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power. If you want someone to rally to your cause, support your position, or put you in a position of authority, you need to be able to back up your position and sway others from theirs.” (See what I did there?) Unique findings

However… sometimes you might have a theory or want to make a statement that can’t be proven with existing evidence. Alternatively, you might question or distrust the information that’s already available.

When that situation materializes, what’s the logical solution? To carry out your own research, of course. Especially when the information you hope to find has the potential to help drive sales.

Want to see what I mean?

Here’s a post in which Marie Haynes, author of “Unnatural Links: The Complete Guide to Recovery” uses first-hand data to demonstrate why removing thin content can help site owners recover from a Panda penalty. Panda recovery

This is the ideal topic for capturing visitors that have been hit by a Google penalty, and consequently, may be interested in purchasing her book.

In this excellent piece from Moz search scientist Russ Jones, we see Russ perform his own research to figure out what makes content from the little guys (i.e. sites that don’t have a huge domain authority) rank.

This sort of content has the potential to drive visitors to Moz’s Content tool, but it’s also a pretty neat plug for the content services offered by the post’s guest contributors – Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting and Garrett French of Citation Labs.

Key takeaway: Perform your own research and use it as evidence to help drive home why potential customers could benefit from your product or service.

9. The expert roundup post

An expert roundup is a post based around quotes from industry experts.

Sometimes a roundup post is formed almost entirely of quotes from experts, with nothing more than a short intro from the actual author. Take a look at this post on Small Business Ideas Blog to see what I mean.

Sometimes the expert’s quotes will provide the framework for the article, with the author adding their own commentary and filling in the blanks. I wrote a post back in July that should show how this works.

Bloggers love them because, with a bit of luck and/or the right connections, they’re really easy to create, they can be super-valuable to readers, and they make the author look good. Quote

Most importantly however, they provide the opportunity to tap into new, big, and engaged audiences. How? Most of the time, the experts who have contributed to the post will share it. This can potentially cause a domino effect whereby the post goes viral.

I recently spoke to Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard and the topic of conversation quickly turned to roundup posts. Turns out he’s a big fan. He said he’s done “a few expert roundups over the years, always got a decent amount of shares from it and traffic has been huge.” Then… he published this. Within a few days, it had been shared about 2000 times and had about 5000 views. Not f*in bad.

He told me he did this by:

Tweeting the influencers mentioned
Mentioning the influencers in a Google Plus post
Sending individual emails to each influencer to let them know the post was live and to thank them for taking part
But he didn’t stop there. In Adam’s words, “I then got in touch with Niall at TweakYourBiz.com about repurposing it as an infographic and publishing on TYB, so it would be a unique infographic for them.”

The resulting infographic (which you can see here) has had more than 32,000 visitors and been shared more than 2000 times.

Of course, we know by now that while traffic and shares are pretty damn awesome things to get, they’re not sales. But they do provide the chance to make more sales.

So how do you get them?

Choosing the right topic is key. It should be heavily aligned with what you do and should encourage visitors to want to take action. If you offer pay-per-click management services, you probably wouldn’t want to ask experts to comment on growth hacking. But if you can get them to talk about the biggest mistakes they’ve seen companies make with their PPC campaigns, you might be onto something.

Key takeaway: Ask experts to contribute to a roundup post with their answer to a question that is intrinsically linked to why someone might use your product or service.

10. The reverse psychology post

When we use reverse psychology on somebody, we are getting them to do what we want by asking them to do the opposite. It doesn’t work on everybody all of the time, but when it does work, it’s because the person fears their control is being taken away from them. In other words: They don’t like being told what to do. Reverse psychology

It’s particularly effective on children and teenagers. Ever tried telling a child not to play with a certain toy? Chances are, they grabbed it the moment your back was turned. Even more concerning, research has shown that warning labels on violent TV programs actually encourage young viewers to tune in.

But this doesn’t mean adults are immune to the effects of reverse psychology. In an experiment led by psychologist Daniel Wegner, participants were told not to think about a white bear. Over the next 5 minutes participants were asked to think aloud, saying everything that came to mind. If they thought, or spoke, about a white bear, they had to ring a bell. Participants were ringing that bell every minute. More interestingly, when the 5 minutes were over, those who had been told not to think about a white bear were thinking about a white bear twice as often as those who had been told to think about it. You can read a little more about this experiment over on Business Insider.

This research should mean it comes as no surprise that reverse psychology is a tactic commonly used in advertising and marketing.

Do you remember Little Caesars “Do Not Call” ad? It explicitly told customers not to call, and was accompanied by a clear instruction for visitors not to enter their address on their website. Little Caesars

How about Patagonia, who ran a full page ad in The New York Times instructing people not to buy a jacket? Patagonia

Or Oakwood School’s celebrity-packed donation drive, which asked people not to give?

I think you get the point! But while we’re on the subject, whatever you do, do not share this post. (Cheers iMediaConnection for rounding up the above examples).

Key takeaway: Write a blog post that’s based around telling your visitors to do the exact opposite of what you want them to do. The trick is to be clear it’s tongue-in-cheek. You’ll tempt your visitors into doing exactly what you want them to do, without inadvertently making them think poorly of you or your product or service.

Finish Line

That’s it for today. Do you know of any other types of blog posts that drive sales? Or have you tried any of these out and are able to fill us in on the results you saw? Comments are below… you know what to do!

3 Tips for Last Minute Holiday Strategies

Remember retailers and eCommerce manager, it is not too late! Cyber Monday is quickly approaching and it is either an online retailer’s new best friend or worst nightmare. Why? It’s that one day out of the entire year where online retail is in the spotlight on the mainstage and has to perform. Sink or swim.

As all retailers know, there is a ton of prep that goes into Cyber Monday from staffing and logistics, to technology and merchandising. So instead of providing a list of the 850 things that you need to make decisions on and execute for a successful Cyber Monday, I am going to skip ahead and just give you three simple things to look at once you are ready(ish) to go.

1. Keep it simple, stupid

Simple sales. That’s right. DO NOT MAKE COMPLICATED PROMOTIONS. This means no fancy coupons, different discounting on different items, or extensive rules. You need to be remembered quickly and easily for what you are offering. Why? Your goal should be that anyone who sees even one ad can rattle off your Cyber Monday promotion, therefore you make the list of sites to visit on that frantic day.

Cyber Monday is not a browsing holiday. People shop with a plan to get the things on their list, and you want to make that list. The best way to do this is to keep your offers clear, simple and memorable. Once you get someone on your site, then you can start the other offers and the add-ons.

Here are some great examples of doing this well:

2. Leak your deals

Why is Black Friday and Cyber Monday such a thing? Some people might say it is tradition, or just a stir-crazy way to get out of holiday family time. The one thing that is not in question is that it is a “holiday” created by hype.

So with that said, do not promote your deals too early. You need a “leaking” strategy. This could be done by emailing your customers with a sneak peak, viral videos, or more traditional ways. You can also have outsiders “leak” it for you as the big box stores do by sending their ads two days before to well-known Cyber Monday and Black Friday websites.

Get creative, think outside the box.

3. Rake them in and then what? Set Up Automatic Retention Marketing

So Cyber Monday is all about acquisition. Getting new folks in the door and making their first purchase. That is why you see many places marking their TVs down even sometimes to a loss, just to get people in and then “hopefully” keep them coming back.

Tracking and setting up retention programs are extremely important for this time of year. Integrating your eCommerce customer data with software like Windsor Circle will enable you to track purchases that take place during these heavy acquisition times. Then you can automate retention programs that are relevant to the individual customer’s preferences directly through your email marketing provider. This gives retailers the ability to get the most out of the holiday traffic and make up margins on heavily discounted Cyber Sale products by offering related accessories, similar products and automatic replenishment.

It is not too late to get this up and running, we can show you here. If you cannot fathom getting this done before Cyber Monday, many of the programs can be implemented using past data so you get them working for you even after the holiday rush.   Focus on your customers, and you can re-market later.

To wrap up, there is no shortage of things to do and manage this time of year for retailers. Instead of giving you a huge list, this just sheds some light on three key things that can help take some of the stress out of the season. Good luck and happy selling!

10 Team Motivation Killers

It happens to everyone: sitting at your desk, you realize that you lack any motivation whatsoever to get any work done. Good luck being productive when this motivation slump hits hardcore, infecting your entire office.

The only long-term fix for a lack of motivation is to find the motivation killers in your workplace and eradicate them. Whether it is an awful office space, a micromanaging boss or a lack of clear goals, getting to the source of the problem can boost productivity for your entire team. Learn about the top 10 motivation killers and how to banish them from your office. Then, make the fixes and get back to work.

10 TEAM MOTIVATION KILLERS - Infographic

How To Stay on Google’s Good Side (Infographic)

In the event that the words “Google Algorithm Update” don’t strike dread into your heart, than the way you earn a living must not be in the digital or eCommerce industry.  If that is the case, I want to know why you are here and what you do?  But that’s beside the point.  Every time Google releases another algorithm update your business has to evolve and change.  If you aren’t quick to change your practices and follow suit, and by that I mean update your content to Google’s new requirements, you run the risk of Google’s penalizing your digital marketing efforts.

Stay away from the ensuing headache by following these tips collected by the team at Quick Sprout.  The main shift is the shift towards a more organic experience for end-users and ability to be a trusted website on the internet.  Some quick top level things to remember: keep guest posting to a minimum, focus on relevance (and honest information), make sure your site is well designed (preferably responsive), and build trust.  All of this is to say Google doesn’t purposefully make these updates to hurt your business, in fact it’s to help with improvements online and make the internet a more trustworthy and easy to use place.

How to stay on Googles good side - infographic

10 Things that Successful People Do Before Bed

1. They review their day

Steve Jobs was a strong proponent of living life to the fullest every day. He wonderfully explained this concept when he said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

All successful and wealthy people, before going to sleep, they think about if what are doing has meaning. At the end of each day, they think about how have positively contributed to the world and review if the goals achieved are in line with their overall vision. Thus, they make plans to track their progress and take notes to put the best in every single things they do.

So today, before going to sleep, review your day because it will force you to clarify what you want and motivate you to take action on your goals.

2. They write down their thoughts

Emmy-winning talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres used to write down her thoughts, feelings and emotions when she was younger:  “Writing is truly cathartic, because it just lets it all out and brings the best out of you”.

Super productive and successful people write down their thoughts,  sensations, feelings and emotions. They try to analyze when and why things went right and wrong. They write to improve their communication and thinking skills to be a better leader. So, by writing things down you can help yourself to sharpen your thinking, clear your mind, destroy negative self-talk and pay attention to your most dominant emotions through the day. Journaling may tell you something that you haven’t really paid much attention to about yourself or about your life.

People like Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Winston Churchill kept a diary, so why not giving a shot?

3. They stick their noses into books

This is the proof that readers are great leaders. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is an avid reader. Each night before bed, he spends an hour reading a book, ranging on a variety of topics.

Many successful people in the world are voracious readers. They read at least for 10-20 minutes before going to bed every day and they learn from what others talk about. They expand their know-how to be better prepared to lead and motivate their team and build multimillionaire businesses.

Another big benefit from sticking your nose into a good book on a nightly basis is because reading  improve the long term health of your brain.

4. They set priorities for the next morning

With so many things happening on a daily basis it can be really easy to lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish. That’s why, before bed time, productive people review their schedule and plan for the following day.

They make a list of everything they have to do and before they start working they set priorities on the list. This allow them to go into the next workday feeling better prepared, more confident, and less stressed. Include this life-changing tip in your daily routine by writing down your top 3 to 5 most important tasks you need to do the next day. If for any reason you don’t do this, it should be the first thing you do every morning. And remember, every minute spent in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.

5. They spend quality time with family

“A man should never neglect his family for business.” -Walt Disney

Totally true! You have to spend quality time with your family in order to get connected and stay connected. Life is really hectic, and whatever you are an entrepreneur or an employee it always feels like there are a million things to do and the clock is against you.

But it’s really important to treat time with your family as a priority. So spend more time having meaningful conversations with your children, siblings or parents. Turn off the TV, eat dinner with your family and talk. The more time you spend together, the better chance you have of sharing quality experiences.

6. They get things done

Super productive people use their skills, talents, energies, and knowledge to the fullest extent possible. They do the things that need to be done, not just the things they like to do. They are willing to work hard and to commit themselves to getting the job done by the end of the day.

Nobody knows this better than US President Barack Obama that start the day the night before. When he awakens at seven, he already has a jump on things. We all have 24 hours and you need to use your time wisely, that’s why successful people squeeze the most out of those 24 hours as they can.

7. They do a digital detox

After being collapsed to the floor from exhaustion and lack of sleep, Arianna Huffington has been an evangelist for “unplugging”. In her best-selling book Thrive, she shares the importance of disconnect from our hectic life, relax and take care of our body and soul, redefining what it means to be successful in today’s world.

So, every night before bed, put your phone in another room, turn off the Tv and spent some time in stillness. You will feel your energy soar and overall health improve. In addition, you will have more time for other activities you really enjoy.

8. They spend time in nature

There is no greater example than Sir Richard Branson. However as Branson has demonstrated throughout his hectic business career, that doesn’t mean you have to cut out the things you enjoy most in life. To be refreshed and ready for anything, you need to find time to go in nature and have fun.

If you can’t swim in the crystal clear water of the Caribbean, having a walk routine could be a perfect way to turn off your thoughts about work after a stressful day and reflect on different things that interest you or to just empty your mind and enjoy the silence.

9. They meditate

Russell Simmons, Tim Ferriss and Oprah Winfrey, just to name a few, all meditate in the morning and before bed to perform to their full potential throughout the day. In fact, when our mind is more relaxed we are more receptive to ideas and find even easier to focus on frustrating tasks.

So set aside 10 minutes each day before going to sleep to meditate and let your thoughts flow naturally. The next day you will be more energetic, focused and productive.

10. They envision their future

Many successful people take a few minutes before bed to envision a positive outcome unfolding for the projects they’re working on. Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s super productive people who use visualization techniques to picture tomorrow’s success and get clarity on challenges and obstacles. So, spend a few minutes each night visualizing yourself as successful the next day. This will help motivate you to make it happen because you’ve already seen it in your mind’s eye.

If you can develop these 10 habits of successful people you will increase your productivity overnight and your life will be a lot better. So, what successful habits do you practice before going to bed?

4 Reasons You MUST Go Responsive/Mobile

Smartphones now make up 51.6% of the global mobile phone market, with about a quarter of the global population now owning at least one mobile device. And mobile commerce is following the same trajectory, with 22% of web traffic and 18% of M-commerce sales now delivered through mobile devices. It means that current and prospective visitors are more likely than ever to view your site on a mobile device.  If you don’t have a mobile version of your website, you might be loosing more than you thought. By developing a mobile site that enables you to deliver a seamless experience across any device, you’ll be more likely to increase more customer, longer visits and more conversions.
If you’re a Magento store owner without a Magento mobile site, it may be time to rethink your strategy. Just spend some minutes to continue reading and take these reasons into your consideration

#1.  Google Will Punish You If You Don’t Have A Mobile-Friendly Site

That’s right…Google is trying to put mobile users first. Google announced that starting April 21st they will be officially considering the mobile friendliness of a website as an integral part of their ranking algorithm for mobile search results. In order to avoid your Magento website being penalized by search engines, you can have a website that’s optimized for people using their desktop computers and a separate mobile site for people using mobile devices.

#2. 71% expect websites to load quickly on mobile 43% said they wont return to a slow website on mobile

Even though most websites are responsive and designed to load quickly whatever devices user access, mobile sites are designed specifically with phones and tablets in mind. Nobody obviously wants to waiting to browse a desktop website on their smartphone or tablet, mobile websites are specifically designed for handheld devices.  A faster loading site means that its less likely your visitors will “click away” in areas with less than perfect reception.  It also means that visitors have an easier time finding the information they are looking for quickly, which increases the chance that they will make an appointment. A slow website can kill you! Your Magento site needs to adapt to the slower speed of a mobile device given bandwidth and internet considerations.

#3. 74%of consumers use their mobile phone to help them while shopping, with 79% making a purchase as a result.

Visitors access your website via their phone for a specific purpose – usually to find a quick phone number, hours or locations quickly.  95 percent of smartphone users have used their phone to look up local information.After doing so, 61 percent called. And 59 percent visited. When asked why they would scan a QR code, 87 percent of smartphone users said it was to access a coupon, discount or deal. 42 percent of tablet users admit to using their tablet at the same time they’re also watching t.v. That means you will lose potential customers without mobile site with such awesome features for mobile user experience.

#4. Without Magento mobile site, you may be left behind

The number of mobile sites is growing so rapidly, your competitors may create one anytime to catch your mobile customers. Staying ahead of the competition is yet another benefit of Magento mobile site that you shouldn’t miss.

In a nutshell, without a mobile site, Google will start to block your website from searches done from smartphones, you risk losing visitors with a cluttered and off-putting site, with an inability to access information.  If you don’t have a Magento mobile version of your website, you might be losing more than you though

12 Habits of Amazing Leaders

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole.

Below are 12 essential behaviors that exceptional leaders rely on every day. Give them a try and you can become a better leader today.

1. Courage

“Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” —Aristotle

People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.

For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction.

Leaders who lack courage simply toe the company line. They follow the safest paththe path of least resistancebecause they’d rather cover their backside than lead.

2. Effective Communication

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” —Joseph Priestley

Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator.

Great communicators inspire people. They create a connection with their followers that is real, emotional, and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.

3. Generosity

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell

Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise. They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best – not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.

4. Humility

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

Great leaders are humble. They don’t allow their position of authority to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

5. Self-Awareness

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” —Latin Proverb

Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives, or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaderslike everyone elseview themselves in a more favorable light than other people do.

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90% of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Great leaders’ high self-awareness means they have a clear and accurate image not just of their leadership style, but also of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know where they shine and where they’re weak, and they have effective strategies for leaning into their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.

6. Adherence to the Golden Rule +1

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” – Jon Wolfgang von Goethe

The Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated – assumes that all people are the same. It assumes that, if you treat your followers the way you would want a leader to treat you, they’ll be happy. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention.

Great leaders don’t treat people how they themselves want to be treated. Instead, they take the Golden Rule a step further and treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Great leaders learn what makes people tick, recognize their needs in the moment, and adapt their leadership style accordingly.

7. Passion

“If you just work on stuff that you like and are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. So are boredom and apathy. No one wants to work for a boss that’s unexcited about his or her job, or even one who’s just going through the motions. Great leaders are passionate about what they do, and they strive to share that passion with everyone around them.

8. Infectiousness

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.

9. Authenticity

“Just be who you are and speak from your guts and heart – it’s all a man has.” – Hubert Humphrey

Authenticity refers to being honest in all things – not just what you say and do, but who you are. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives. Any time they spend doing so erodes their confidence in you and in their ability to execute.

Leaders who are authentic are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.

10. Approachability

“Management is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.” – Tommy Lasorda

Great leaders make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insight, and ask good questions is destined for failure. By ensuring that they are approachable, great leaders facilitate the flow of great ideas throughout the organization.

11. Accountability

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.” – Michael Armstrong

Great leaders have their followers’ backs. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up.

12. Sense Of Purpose

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey

Whereas vision is a clear idea of where you’re going, a sense of purpose refers to an understanding of why you’re going there. People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders give people that feeling.

Bringing It All Together

Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these traits at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act” some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.

What other qualities would you like to see added to this list? Please share your thoughts on exceptional leadership in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.