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9 Ways To Develop Your Leadership Skills
Leadership 5 min read

9 Ways To Develop Your Leadership Skills

After a certain point, career development depends on more than technical skills and a willingness to work hard. You also need a few soft skills, not the least of which is the ability to take on a leadership role

5 Quick Tips to Avoid a Sales Slump During the Holidays
Collaboration 7 min read

5 Quick Tips to Avoid a Sales Slump During the Holidays

Some businesses almost make an audible sound of relief as they ring in the New Year. Truth be told, not all businesses fare well during holiday shopping madness. For retailers, year-end is often the busiest time of year for sales. For service providers, however, a slow season from Thanksgiving to New Years is almost expected… But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five tips you can implement right away to avoid the dreaded holiday sales slump. As luck would have it, these tips can also be implemented any other time you’re experiencing a major sales nosedive. 1. Use Seasonal Content Marketing to Your Benefit People crave content, especially related to things going on in the here and now, like holidays and current events. Christmas and New Years (or any other holiday or major event) can provide major opportunities to cash in on content people are already searching for. A recent study from Outbrain indicates that people not only spend more money during the holidays, but also consume more digital content. So much content, in fact, that the demand is greater than the supply. Think about two basic things: what your customers need and what they’re already searching for online. For example, a couple good content ideas for the new year if you’re a business service provider might be: “5 Business Resolutions for the New Year That Will Transform Your Business” or “5 Quick Ways to Avoid a Sales Slump During the Holidays”. (See what I did there!?) 2. Master Your Upsell Upselling and cross-promoting are good sales practices any time of the year, but they can be especially useful for bringing in cold hard cash when you’re going through a slump. It’s much easier to sell an existing customer an additional product than it is to drum up an entirely new customer. If you’re new at upselling, it’s best to keep your upsale options limited. More is not always better, and can confuse the customer. Offering one or two upgrades or add-ons is more effective than offering a bevy of options. Business experts also suggest bundling your products or services to make the upsell. The likelihood that a customer will purchase multiple services increases if they can do it in one purchase, as opposed to multiple purchases. For example, if you can offer a package that includes social media, email marketing, and SEO, you’re more likely to make the sale than if you try to sell them separately. 3. Ramp Up Your Referral Discounts The holiday season is an opportunity for demonstrating your gratitude to your clients, customers, and business contacts. When you’re experiencing a sales slump, it’s a good time to make a list of your valued clientele and business providers. In addition to sending your valued clients a tasteful holiday greeting, you can also ramp up your referral discounts to drum up a bit of extra business. If your business contacts feel appreciated, they’re a lot more likely to send people your way. Freeman Lewin, CEO of corporate gift company Gimmee Jimmy’s Cookies, talked about the effectiveness of referral discounts by saying, “The one thing that makes successful companies stand out from the rest is how they treat their customers and peers. Never underestimate the power of referral discounts and appreciation.”  4. The Power of PR & Self-Promotion The one good thing about going through a sales slump is that it gives you extra time to focus on your PR and branding. Too often business spend every waking hour pleasing their customers (which is a good business practice, no doubt), but much to the detriment of their own marketing. There’s no time like a sales slump to revamp your marketing and PR campaigns. Never be afraid to toot your own horn. If you have positive customer testimonials, share them. If you’ve recently won an award or been featured in a business magazine, flaunt it. Perception is reality and how customers perceive your brand can make or break a buying decision. Shameless self-promotion doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. 5. Refine Your Sales Process When was the last time you really performed an audit on your sales process? Is the way you’re drumming up business really that effective? Take the time you’re in a sales slump to measure the return on investment for your key sales activities and make changes where necessary. You just might find that you can eliminate those cold calls after all, and get higher conversion rates with warm marketing. Refining your sales process to include only the activities that generate a high return can not only get you out of the holiday slump, but also increase your profit the rest of the year. Bonus Tip: Followup, Followup, Followup Followup should be a standard sales practice all year round, but it’s one that most people miss. There’s no time like the end of the year to reach out to contacts you’ve talked to throughout the year and find out if the timing is right for collaboration. Leading with something of value, such as a related case study or trending news story, is always the best followup option, rather than just calling and asking for business. Think Outside the Box While your business is idling, chances are there are others looking around for opportunities to expand. The holiday season is the best time to reach out to new and existing contacts and see what opportunities you can bring to each other. Be flexible. There’s no time like the present to explore new avenues for sales and examine new ideas. Think outside the box.           About the Author: Blair Nicole is a PR & Media Relations guru by profession and a writer by choice. She’s a contributor at Elite Daily, Social Media Today, Examiner, and Inquisitr, among others. She’s a full time traveling nomad and sits on the Board of Directors for 3 non-profits. Her motto is ‘kick ass, don’t kiss it.’ www.Blair-Nicole.com

5 Warning Signs Your Current Project Management Tool Just Isn’t Cutting It
Project Management 5 min read

5 Warning Signs Your Current Project Management Tool Just Isn’t Cutting It

As your organization changes, your project management needs will change, too. Growth is great, but it makes the need for clear communication and task management more important than ever.   If you’re already paying for a project management solution, it can be difficult to justify the cost and time it will take to implement a new one. Plus, adoption can be a concern in organizations where staff members are slow to accept new processes and procedures. So how do you know if it’s worth it to upgrade your project management tool? Here are four signs that it’s time to find new software: You’re using several different tools How many steps does it take for your team to complete a task? If you’re using a separate task management system, time tracker, and sending emails, there’s a good chance communication is falling through the cracks. Using several different, disconnected tools opens the door to wasted time, duplication, and missed opportunities. If it’s been awhile since you’ve updated your software, you might be surprised to learn that many products cover several project management needs in a single system. Look for a tool that can house all of your processes and communication from the same interface to avoid confusion and missed opportunities. Your work isn’t accessible in the cloud Most growing companies benefit from moving their project management system to the cloud. If you’re ready to move to the cloud, you’ll benefit from faster communication, easy implementation, and ubiquitous access to all of your work. The best part? Cloud-based project management tools can save you from the upfront cost burden of a perpetual license. New hires have a hard time learning the ropes If you’re spending more time training a new hire to use your project management software than on their actual job, you have a problem. Your project management tool should be easy to learn so new hires and veteran employees can get acclimated quickly and start being productive. Your vendor should also offer training and troubleshooting documentation, so you don’t have to explain the ins and outs of every workflow to every team member. Your organization is changing Growth is a good thing, but sometimes it makes things complicated.  When you add new team members and projects, your project management software can’t always keep up — especially if you’re using an outdated system. You need to find a system that can grow with you. Many tools are scalable and offer different plans for small, medium, and large businesses, as well as the ability to add and remove users without hassle. You have too many meetings Isn’t the point of a project management tool to cut down on busy work and unnecessary meetings? If you’re gathering the team in the conference room for project updates and brainstorming sessions every day, your software isn’t doing enough to help. A project management solution should house discussions, progress updates, tasks, deadlines, file attachments, and more. Use those meetings to set broader priorities and solve problems. Your team can use the extra time to complete tasks and focus on delivering top-notch work. If you’ve made it through this list and it’s clear that you need to update your project management tool, talk to your team about what features they need and what pain points they have with your current system. Use their feedback to guide the research process. Author Bio:  Megan Pacella is a contributor for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in B2B marketing and sales. She has also written for USA Today, Bearings Guide, 10Best Nashville, and other publications. Ready to Upgrade Your Project Management Tool? Download our free collaboration software buyer’s guide. It includes questions and features you should carefully consider when selecting a new tool. Or, start a free trial of Wrike's Project Management Solution! (We double-dog dare you!) 

Lose the Cubicles: 5 Reasons to Embrace an Open Office
Collaboration 5 min read

Lose the Cubicles: 5 Reasons to Embrace an Open Office

Open floor plan offices are taking over traditional workspaces, breaking down flimsy cubicle walls and strengthening the camaraderie of your team. At apartment-finding service ABODO, we know how important your space can be. That’s why we recently upgraded to an open-concept office ourselves, with department “neighborhoods,” a work-free theater room, seating spaces, and plenty of private office spaces for meetings and phone calls. Other than that, everyone — CEO and executive team included— is out in the open and sharing tables.   Although open workspaces have received some pushback as of late, arising largely from noise complaints, there are numerous upsides to permanently folding up cubicles and opening up the office. Here are 5 we can personally attest to: Availability Like I mentioned above, at ABODO HQ, executives and upper-level management are working side-by-side with their departments. That means there’s no working up the nerve to knock on office doors, or wondering when your boss will be around for questions. They are around for questions and conversations, as are the rest of your coworkers. Innovation Sitting around and staring at the same four walls, cubicle or brick-and-mortar, day in and day out doesn’t exactly lend itself to innovation. Having your teammates within speaking distance opens up communication so you can quickly bounce ideas off one another, be they bad or good, and land on new ideas that neither would have stumbled across alone. Collaboration is key to innovation, and if you need collaboration, it’s waiting all around you. Productivity Many worry that the two factors listed above will actually diminish work productivity. But this doesn’t have to be the case. In addition to quick feedback, employees should still be entitled to uninterrupted work time. For this reason, many companies create “quiet zones” with more private workspaces, or enforce a “quiet time,” during which time interrupting others’ work is prohibited. There are also other cues to signal “busy” to chatty coworkers, such as investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones or a shift to a more distant seat. Flexibility One of the key points of open-office setups is the flexibility — you aren’t stuck at a desk behind fuzzy gray walls that barely have the structural integrity to hold up your wall calendar. Instead, you can move from your desk to a couch or chair for a change of scenery. This flexibility leads to higher productivity and job satisfaction, according to Harvard Business Review. Privacy Likely the largest complaint or concern is the loss of privacy that those cubicle walls provide. And to some extent, it’s unavoidable: When you’re sharing table space, insulating yourself from the noises around you can be tricky. And it’s just as difficult to feel like you have privacy if you’re having a delicate conversation or private phone call (which is what extra meeting rooms are perfect for). But, a different HBR report found that more workers were dissatisfied with sound privacy in cubicles than in open workspaces. Fewer workers overall reported being dissatisfied in this aspect, suggesting that most employees are happy to see and be seen. An open-concept office might not work for every business — especially one that requires constant phone contact — but many are finding that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Before you make any decision, consider how often your team requires meetings (which can be trimmed with the proper work management software), how closely their work is tied, and if your current space could also support alternative seating, which is a key ingredient in open offices. Author Bio: Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace based in Madison, Wisconsin. In just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding, and helps more than half a million renters find a new home every month.  

How to Improve Your Social Media Marketing Productivity
Marketing 5 min read

How to Improve Your Social Media Marketing Productivity

Social media marketing can be extremely time-consuming. Monitoring mentions, responding to comments, managing your engagement on multiple profiles and doing everything possible to ensure you get the best results from social media—it all adds up to a lot of time spent using and switching between different apps. A good social media management tool can save you a lot of hours, while also improving your results. This infographic lists 5 top social media management tools on the market right now, rated by customer reviews. Infographic brought to you by Seriously Social and G2 Crowd. Credit: Ian Anderson Gray   The real trick when finding social media management tools is to find the one that has the features you need, whether based on the social channels you use, or the goals you have for your social media marketing efforts. From there, it’s a case of finding the perfect plan for your dashboard that provides the features you want at no extra cost. Sometimes this can prove problematic, as many tools have hidden costs that you may not know to look for. Let’s examine how you can use social media management tools to improve your productivity. Customer Relationship Management Social media has always offered a way for businesses to have a closer relationship with their customers, but now, it’s more important than ever to not only respond as promptly as possible to any inquiries, comments and customer service issues, but also to create a more personalized experience for your followers. Social media management dashboards are now incorporating more complex CRM tools. For example, you can organize and segment your audience by tagging users. Many tools also allow you to see all of the past conversations you’ve held with a certain social media user. This way, you’re always in the loop and by showing you remember past discussions you give that personal touch that can help build stronger connections with your followers. More and more businesses and marketers nowadays are using influencer marketing to reach a bigger audience and get more traffic, engagement and make more sales, and a social media management tool can help you in those efforts. You can use it to identify any influencers that are already in your list, as well as other influencers in your niche. From there, it’s just a question of engaging as much as possible with them, in order to build mutually beneficial relationships. A social media management tool with a strong CRM function can help you not only with customer service on social media, but it can also help you develop stronger relationships and to find more potential leads. Set Up an Editorial Calendar In order to be successful on social media, you need to post updates often and at the right times. Being organized with your content can help with this in the long run, especially if you’re using an editorial calendar, which is a feature I’m seeing more and more in social media management tools. Up until recently, one of the biggest draws of social media management tools was that you could easily schedule updates for your social media accounts. Now, though, tools make it easier to schedule your content more intelligently and help you make sure you don’t miss any opportunities to raise your traffic and engagement. Evergreen content is also on the rise, with more and more marketers striving to create content that will remain relevant months and even years from now. If you have any evergreen content, make sure to add it to your editorial calendar in order to re-publish it regularly and get the most out of it. Collaborate with Your Team When you have multiple social media profiles to manage and don’t want to work 24 hours a day, the best thing to do is to get some of your team members to help. Find a tool that has team management capabilities – the more, the better. This will not only free up some of your time, you might find that some of your team members are better at social media and getting better results. Most tools will allow you to assign tasks to team members, which they can see when they open their own accounts. For instance, if you’re get a lot of mentions and comments, you could have someone from your team assigning the most important ones directly to the head marketer, while they respond to all the other mentions. Some tools also include a breakdown of analytics by team member, so you can see what each person’s response time is, what kind of engagement they’re getting, and more. How Are You Using Social Media Marketing Tools? Social media marketing has evolved a lot over the years, and marketers’ needs are changing as well. Social media management tools are evolving to meet those needs, and are becoming more than just tools for scheduling and publishing to a few social accounts. How are you using these tools to become more efficient and productive? Share your favorite tools and tricks in the comments below. Author Bio Highly regarded on the world speaker circuit, Lilach Bullock has graced both Forbes and Number 10 Downing Street with her presence! Listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers, Lilach has been crowned the Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle, and is a recipient of a Global Women Champions Award for her outstanding contribution and leadership in business.  

7 Stakeholders To Consult Before Starting A New Project
Project Management 3 min read

7 Stakeholders To Consult Before Starting A New Project

When starting a project, there are plenty of things to do: planning your schedule, plotting dependencies and milestones, finding the right tools, setting up your budget and allocating recourses. But one of the most difficult (and important) tasks is finding the right people to work with. After all, the success of your project doesn't only depend on your funds, goals, and ideas. Consulting the right stakeholders from the very beginning can make your project run more smoothly and result in better outcomes. Here are 7 people you should work with to make your project a success. 1. Users Who could be more important to consult than the very people who will use the product of your project? Find out their expectations and requirements — the more details, the better. If you are aiming your project at a particular group of users, your top priority should be making sure your project delivers something of great value to them.  2. Subject Matter Experts In most cases, SMEs are either IT or engineering staff, but it can be anyone who possesses the skills or expertise you need: technicians, architects, data analysts, developers, business analysts, testers, IT team and more.  3. Finance Team Having a clear picture of your finances is a very important part of project management. A good finance team can review your budget plan, check your models, and help you with any issues that may arise, like staff rates, formulas, etc. Additionally, they can help you put together a business case for the project you are working on by reviewing your benefit assumptions.  4. Senior Management When you decide on your objectives and project strategy, always consult with senior management to make sure your project is in alignment with overall business goals and objectives. It's also a big step in securing project sponsors who will be engaged in your project's success.  5. Legal Team If you're working on a new feature or security upgrade, you need to be proactive in discussing potential legal issues. Even if you are informed on all the legalities for your project, there is always a chance that you are not aware of upcoming changes to codes of practice. Luckily, a legal team can not only inform you on what you should expect, but will also deal with compliance and issues of any legal kind. 6. PMO Resource allocation, estimates, templates, models — seasoned project managers can help you identify best practices and find similar projects whose success you can learn from. Project management offices typically have searchable databases that you can look into to find all the information you need.  7. Yourself Listen to your gut! Your experience is a valuable resource — along with that of your project team. Draw on all of it to create the best possible strategy to execute the project and achieve your goal.    Author Bio:  Kate Simpson is a professional writer and editor. She works for assignment help team where she is a senior content creator for various projects and also manages an editing team.

5 Ways Your Perfectionism is Killing Your Business
Leadership 5 min read

5 Ways Your Perfectionism is Killing Your Business

As a business owner, having perfectionist tendencies can push you to go the extra mile. Yet the desire to excel and the desire to be perfect are two separate outlooks that business owners and leaders often confuse. While having high standards and goals is a profitable business strategy, and a great way to motivate employees, perfectionism can actually be detrimental to your success. Here are six ways this mindset can hurt your business. You Never Take Risks Year after year, you’re in charge of making the decisions that impact the growth and productivity of your business. Innovative ideas and risky decisions may arise and if you’re a perfectionist, your first instinct may be to shoot them down. While it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons of major decisions, creativity and evolution are critical to your business’ success—and that means accepting some element of risk. The willingness to adapt to changes across your industry is a must if you want to stay competitive. Run the numbers, get advice on the situation, and make an informed decision—don’t automatically say no. You’re Not Well Liked It’s no secret that perfectionists aren’t the easiest people to work with. If you strive for perfection each and every day, you’re likely also demanding perfection from your employees as well (or they perceive that you do). This could lead you to become controlling and critical, hyper-focused on your exact vision of what the project or final outcome should be. No one wants to work for a dictator, and if your team doesn’t respect you as their leader and don’t enjoy working for you, you risk losing great employees. Take a step back and consider how your perfectionist tendencies are projecting onto your employees. Make it clear that they have your trust and the freedom to do their jobs, and remember that their ideas and visions of success are likely just as good as yours. You’re Afraid to Fail   Fear of inadequacy could be driving your perfectionism. In a poll of 1,000 American adults, fear of failure was the number one fear, and as a business owner, it’s easy to cover that up with perfectionism: If it’s perfect, then nothing can go wrong. If it’s perfect, I can be sure I’ve done the absolute best that I can. While it’s good to let fear push you, rather than control you, you run the risk of letting that mindset take over. When that happens, nothing is good enough, skewing your idea of what a job well done actually looks like. In the end, nothing is good enough, and you’re still not managing the fears that are hurting you and your business. You Hate Opposition Although you may strive to be perfect, your ideas, work and management skills aren’t. No one’s are! If you take extreme offense to feedback or are closed off to different ideas, you’re hindering the growth of your business. “In the modern workforce, true perfection is flexible—and is completed by working as a team to develop ground-breaking innovations. Even if your method is flawless, it can always be enhanced by the insight of others,” say small business experts at The Office Club. The most successful leaders across all industries adapt to new developments and changing circumstances—sometimes on a daily basis—and being a perfectionist can stop you from achieving that. You Can’t Meet Deadlines Perfectionists often feel the need to thoroughly review every single thing with a fine-tooth comb. While supervising and consistently reviewing the work of your employees is vital, micromanaging others keeps people from meeting deadlines and being productive—and it may even drive them to look for another job. Once you’ve approved a project, delegate it to the senior employee involved, and move on. Make a point to do this once a week so that one day it just comes naturally. You’ll slowly feel yourself start to unwind and loosen up, allowing the perfectionist tendencies to fade away—and your team and business to thrive. Author Bio: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and has five years of experience in the marketing world. She is currently a professional blogger and has been featured on Ms. Career Girl, LifeHack, ThinDifference, Manta and StartupNation. Follow her on Twitter at @Jlsander07.  

How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams
Leadership 5 min read

How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams

Ubiquitous high-speed internet connectivity, free wifi, and secure access to your company’s network allow today's organizations to employ workers from all corners of the globe. As a result, over the past 10 years, remote work has grown by 103% in the US alone, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.  Fueled by increased worker satisfaction, and an average cost savings of over $11,000 per worker yearly, the ability to effectively manage a remote team is a must-have skill in today’s world.  Benefits of Remote Teams Finances: The financial savings are the most obvious advantage remote teams offer your company. As a matter of fact, according to McKinsey, some organizations manage to cut their labor costs by as much as 70%. Now, nobody is claiming that outsourcing is perfect, and it definitely isn’t for everyone, but the fact is it can save you a lot of money.  Convenience: In addition, organizations with remote teams don’t have to worry about renting large office spaces. Telecommuting allows employees to jump right into assignments no matter where they're located, which speeds up the workflow, increases productivity, and according to PGI, even lowers worker stress.  Focus: Finally, employing a remote team allows you to focus on improving the core of your business. Outsourcing peripheral services and projects such as coding and content creation enables you to work on the big picture and concentrate on acquiring and nurturing customers. Tips on Managing Remote Teams While it’s not difficult to see why remote work has been steadily gaining popularity among workers and employers over the last several years, managing workers who don’t report in person comes with a unique set of challenges. Overcoming these obstacles should be your top priority, so let’s see how you can solve some of the biggest problems and learn how to manage remote teams. Tracking & Improving Productivity For starters, when you’re not physically able to see your team members on a daily basis, it can be quite difficult to track the amount of work they complete and help them overcome roadblocks. Tools like Wrike can track team productivity, clarify team priorities, and provide a central workspace for your team to collaborate. And if a member of your team experiences technical difficulties and needs vendor support to resolve the issue, a tool like Securelink can help you manage remote vendor access and provide your employees with peace of mind.     Hosting for Video Conferences Treat remote meetings exactly as you would face-to-face gatherings. That means dedicating enough time to preparing and sending out agendas, creating slides, and familiarizing yourself with your video conferencing app so you can head off any technical difficulties. To keep your team engaged, use media and visual aids to keep the meeting moving, stick to the agenda as much as possible, and keep meetings short and focused. Consideration of Time Zone Differences If you have team members spread across different states, or even continents, be prepared to work non-traditional hours. Project managers have to accommodate their remote workers by being available during the hours when most of the team is awake and working.  Depending on time zones, this means some members will have to log in earlier in the morning or later in the evening to connect with the rest of the team. If this is the case, you need to know your employees’ personal commitments before you schedule them off-hours.  Additional Reading: Helpful Books on Remote Management As more organizations embark on new ways of working, a new culture of knowledge sharing has developed to help professionals make more informed, educated decisions. Ebooks like Wrike's The Art of Staying Productive Across Distance and Zapier’s The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work give you comprehensive, practical advice for managing remote teams.  Author Bio:  Oscar Waterworth is a writer from Sydney, Australia and a senior editor at Bizzmarkblog. He enjoys reading about the latest in the tech, marketing and business industries. Oscar writes a lot, so stay updated with his latest posts by following him on Twitter.     

Switching to Wrike: Implementing Change Management Across Distributed Teams
Leadership 7 min read

Switching to Wrike: Implementing Change Management Across Distributed Teams

Meryl Johnston, Founder & CEO, Bean Ninjas Bean Ninjas is an online bookkeeping firm that caters to online businesses. They’re not your traditional bookkeepers. Bean Ninjas were named Xero Bookkeeping Partner of the Year (QLD) in 2017 and were finalists in the Bookkeeping Firm of the Year at the 2018 Australian Accounting Awards. Meryl is a Chartered Accountant and entrepreneur. Prior to Bean Ninjas she ran a cloud accounting consulting firm, worked in both commercial accounting roles, as an auditor (BDO), and as a lecturer in accounting and audit. Process is the backbone of productivity. Teams thrive on routines and processes to keep work organized and goals on track. However, sometimes poor processes are detrimental to productivity. If processes are inefficient or ignored, things fall through the cracks and people start pointing fingers. When it came time for us to evaluate our processes, we found a lot of room for improvement. As a team of 12 distributed across six countries, it was extremely important for us to establish an efficient process for getting work done. As the number of managers grew across teams, so did the need for automatic reporting. Since Trello wasn’t able to provide that level for reporting, we decided to look into changing our processes and tools altogether. Coordinating across time zones is a project in and of itself. Requests, approvals, and revisions can take weeks just corresponding back and forth. The three biggest challenges for our distributed team when we considered why work from home pros and cons were: Uniting on communication and culture Finding and accessing important information Rolling out and learning a new tool We needed to figure out a way to streamline our processes so our distributed team could function like a well-oiled machine. Embracing change management It can be a difficult and time-consuming project to change the software that underpins your business. Giving your team the option of using a new tool can result in a less than 30% adoption rate—at which point, there really is no point in having it at all. So it’s very important to get the right buy-in upfront from everyone who will be using the new software. We found there are three distinct phases of change management and key steps to successfully get your team on board with a new software: 1. We involved the team in the buy-in If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Have an open discussion with your team from the start and involving them in the process of evaluating a new tool will increase your chances of adoption and usage. Here are the steps I recommend: Obtain feedback: We had everyone in the loop from the start. We discussed why we planned on changing tools and how we thought everyone would benefit from it. Conduct a survey: We created a survey that asked our team what their biggest pain points are with the current software. What do they like? What would they like the change? Agree on qualifications: We decided what capabilities are a must-have in our new software and aligned on how this tool was going to help us achieve our goals. Rank contenders: We listed out the softwares we were vetting and ranked them based on which ones met the most qualifications. Test software: We chose a couple to test out. Then had a team member check out the areas of the software that were most important to our team. Select software: Once our team came to a consensus on which tool is best, they were motivated and excited to start using their new tool. Our Wrike implementation was easier because we received upfront buy-in on why we needed to change systems. We also understood the pain points of different team members and were able to explain how the new software would solve them. 2. We prioritized implementation Implementation is such a crucial process when changing work management tools. Wrike is a flexible tool and we wanted to ensure we set it up so that we could map it to our goals in the best way possible. Here’s how we onboarded with Wrike Identified our internal Wrike Champion: Scheduled an initial kickoff call with our Wrike Champion and managers to go over goals and expectations. Tested Wrike: Identified an accountant who would be the lead in rolling out the first test. After two months of testing, we rolled it out to the team. Set up training: We set deadlines for everyone on the team to complete the training and created our own training videos on how we want our team to use the software. Once training ended, we had different team members present a screenshare in Wrike so we could make sure they understood the new workflow. Obtain feedback: We frequently touched base with our team and asked for their input on the new setup. They’re much more likely to follow a new process when they’re involved in creating it. 3. We continually monitor & optimize Be patient and don’t expect everyone to learn and adopt the new software in a week. We continue to monitoring our team’s usage and feedback so we’re open to new ways of using the tool. We’re constantly asking ourselves: How can we optimize new features? What existing integrations would be useful for our team? We want to ensure we make the most of our powerful new project management software. This means seeking to review the way we are working and to make incremental small improvements. Key lessons learned Change management doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some key lessons we learned when implementing a new tool. Devote time for trainings. We significantly underestimated how many hours it would take us for implementation which created internal resourcing issues. Diversify trainings. Schedule group training, but also host one-on-one sessions to ensure that each team member is understanding the nuances of the new system. Motivate teams to use the tool. Encourage managers to lead their team with the adoption of the new software or set up some reward for their first completed project to incentivize them. Be patient. Understand that adopting a new tool takes time, but continue to monitor and make sure usage is improving. Be open to feedback. Where there is push-back from the team about the new software listen to their concerns and look into whether there is a better way to organize work by automating repeatable tasks.

3 Types of Feedback Leaders Must Give to Develop Their Teams
Leadership 10 min read

3 Types of Feedback Leaders Must Give to Develop Their Teams

Most managers think they give enough feedback, but their team members’ opinions prove this isn’t true. Zarvana CEO and founder Matt Plummer discusses different types of feedback productive managers should give and how frequently they should be given in order to raise employee engagement and growth.

Automations to Increase Project Management Productivity
Project Management 7 min read

Automations to Increase Project Management Productivity

When it comes to project management, productivity tools can be a lifesaver for your sanity and your bottom line. Platforms like Zapier allow you to automate a wide range of tasks by connecting one application to another and indicating what operation must be accomplished. These automations are called "zaps," and are composed of a trigger and a corresponding action. In this article, we'll look at a few zaps that agencies or consultants can use to save time when managing client projects. To get started, you'll need accounts with both Zapier and Wrike. Both services allow you to create free accounts, so you have nothing to lose. Once you're set up, you can try the following zaps:   1. Create New Clients For those that bill prior to beginning work with a client, you will want to create a zap where whenever a new client is created in FreshBooks (or any invoicing software supported by Zapier), a new client folder is automatically created in your Wrike account. Once you've connected both FreshBooks and Wrike accounts, you will be able to filter customers based on specific criteria if needed, and then match fields from FreshBooks to your new folder in Wrike. You can use multiple fields from FreshBooks to add in the optional description field for your Wrike folder.   After you've configured a zap, you get the option to test it and make sure it works. If everything is fine, click Continue, name the zap (make it unique), and activate it. 2. Review New Files Do your clients send you files using Dropbox, Google Drive, or other online filesharing apps? If so, create a zap that adds a new task to your client's folder as a reminder for you to review the new file.  First, you select your client's directory in Dropbox (or folder if you are using Google Drive). Then, you match fields from the Dropbox or Google Drive file to the new task in Wrike. I like to include the "direct media link" to the file in the description, making it quicker to access. After you've configured your zap, test it. As usual, click Continue, name the zap, and activate it. This zap will ultimately help you manage files you receive from multiple clients using multiple file sharing applications. 3. Manage Client Communications If you're not using a CRM, you can mimic the feature of tracking conversations related to your projects inside Wrike with a zap. Start by creating a Communications folder under your client's main folder. Next, add a zap that creates a new task in the Communications folder whenever you receive a new email from your client. Here's how to set it up if you use Gmail: Once you connect your Gmail account, set a filter to specify emails from your client. You can do that by using your client's email address (from:[email protected]) or by using the label that your client's emails are organized under (label:your client).  Next, turn your emails into Wrike tasks. You will need to match fields from your email to format the new task in Wrike. I like to match the title of the task to the subject line of the email, and the description of the task to the body of the email message. You can also add additional options for task type, importance, and assignees for those who should reply to the email. After you've configured the zap, test it. You will need an email from your client in your inbox — doesn't have to be new, but it does have to be in your inbox (unless you specified another location in the Mailbox or Tag Name field during setup). If everything works, click Continue, name the zap, and activate.   You can even expand the process further by creating new tasks in your client's Communication folder whenever your client sends a Twitter update. The setup is similar, except you start with a new tweet instead of a new email.  If you use Mention, you can also have any mentions of your client across social networks, forums, etc. added to your client's Communication folder. For those helping with reputation management, or who simply want to stay on top of the latest news about your client, the Mention zap will turn any new mention into a task that can be assigned to the appropriate member of your team for further action or review. 4. Simplify Task Management What if your client likes using another project management system, but you would prefer to keep everything in Wrike? That's not a problem. Let's say that your client uses Trello. You can create a zap that creates a new Wrike task in your client's project folder whenever you're assigned a new card in Trello.  You can set this up using any board you have access to in your Trello account. Just connect your Trello account, specify the board, list, and a custom filter to separate your assignments from other member's assignments. To get only your assignments you will need to filter by ID Member — you'll also need this number when you test your zap - but for now, just use your name. From here, you will match the Trello card fields with those for your new task in your client's project folder. Then click Continue and test your zap. Click on the "See trigger sample link" to find a card that has been assigned to you and scroll through to find your ID Member number. Go back up to that filter in Zapier and replace your name with your ID Member number. If everything works, click Continue, name the zap, and activate. You can set up similar zaps for clients using several other project management applications as well so no matter what programs your clients use, you can still keep track of all your tasks in Wrike. But Don't Stop There... I hope the zaps above have given you some ideas on how to use Zapier's automation to optimize your work within Wrike. Be sure to explore the list of apps you can connect with Zapier to discover additional ways to streamline the tools and platforms you already use. About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and professional blogger who develops high-quality blog content for businesses. You can follow her on Twitter at @kikolani.

6 Tips for Becoming a Successful Freelance Project Manager
Project Management 5 min read

6 Tips for Becoming a Successful Freelance Project Manager

Freelancing has its perks: be your own boss, enjoy work flexibility, work in a private space with everything from the tilt of your desk to the room temperature and lighting exactly how you like it. What we can often overlook are the immense challenges that come with going it alone, especially as a freelance project manager. Finding work is only the beginning. There are numerous different types of project managers. How much do project managers make? How much does an IT project manager make? Or, for a more specific role, how much does a construction project manager make? There are so many other factors to consider: the ebb and flow of your income, managing multiple deadlines that don’t inform each other, and making a mistake means fully owning your actions. You alone are accountable. It can be both scary and liberating!  If you’re thinking of stepping into the life of a freelance project manager, here are 6 things you need to know to succeed. 1. Keep Your Skills Sharp Even if you’ve been in the industry for years, you are now looking to re-enter on your own terms. The problem is, rapid advancements in technology, changes in company structure, and new management approaches make keeping up-to-date a constant battle.  Staying attuned to new ideas (and ways of thinking) is absolutely crucial. This doesn’t mean you have to read a pile of academic journals every morning; it can be as simple as reading project management blogs or enrolling in a leadership and management course. Ongoing learning (and up-to-date certifications) is what will set you apart as a forward-thinking, innovative professional — the exact traits that companies look for in project management consultancy. 2. Get Your Name Out There A freelance professional with minimal experience and limited connections is unlikely to be a front-runner candidate in the eyes of an employer. This doesn’t mean your case is hopeless! Although it is always better to begin freelancing as an established professional, there are other ways to set yourself apart from the crowd. Expand your network by attending conferences, connecting with industry leaders on social media, and joining established online project management communities. Promote your name and work online, and most importantly, always take a confident stance — even if you don’t feel that way. Chances are someone will repost your social content, your LinkedIn request will be accepted, and that phone call could put you on the right track to a job. 3. Build Your Portfolio That being said, if you don’t have the work to back up your statements then you may not be taken seriously as a project management consultant. It is imperative in this field that you have proven experience in: leading both short- and long-term projects, risk and crisis points, team management, and effective communication skills. This is where case studies, personal references, and hard data are your best friends. Whether you’ve been in the industry for a year or a decade, you should be adding to your personal portfolio from the moment you’re hired on a new job, and should continue until you walk out the door. 4. Set Remote Work Hours Freelancers inevitably spend long periods of time working remotely; it is part and parcel of the job, and remote work has its own challenges. Set clear, consistent working hours from the get-go to save yourself from stressful, late-night sessions. Any experienced project manager will tell you that delays are probable, problems likely, and mistakes inevitable. Running yourself ragged by working long hours will not only make these roadblocks more likely, but diminish your ability to handle a situation deftly when the time comes. Be sure to keep track of the hours you are working, and compare them to the average billable hours for consultants in your field — and when the project becomes too large, communicate this to your contact.  5. Keep Communications Clear Good communication is the best tool a freelance project manager has. Making the effort to maintain an open dialogue with stakeholders across all aspects of a project is a must. Anything from a daily wrap-up email to a weekly status update meeting will save you headaches later on, and demonstrate your confidence and reliability as a freelancing professional. An extra tip; be upfront in sharing your challenges and setbacks. It will make your successes all the greater in the eyes of your stakeholders.  6. Understand Who You’re Working With The only way to understand what a project needs to deliver is to have a clear grasp of the organization's goals and principles. (It's also crucial in knowing whether the project is a good fit for your skills and freelance portfolio.) This means being able to identify whether their needs align with your own professional ambitions and values. A good working relationship is based on mutual trust and understanding, and freelancing is no different. If you don’t thoroughly understand your client, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage before you even start. Set Yourself Up for Freelance Project Management Success It can be easy for freelance project managers to buckle under the pressure of working remotely, especially when the role is so closely tied to teamwork and communication. But with these steps on how to become a project manager and how to start a project management business, you can equip yourself to hit the ground running and build a successful consulting career that will take you places you never thought you'd go.  Author Bio Helen Sabell works for the College for Adult Learning, and is passionate about lifelong learning. She has designed, developed, and authored many workplace leadership and training programs, both in Australia and overseas. 

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