Motivation in the Workplace- Are Your Project Managers the Problem?

Motivation in the workplace is a big deal. If your team isn't motivated, projects get hacked together, customers get disappointed, and more things just seem to go wrong.

A motivated team that feels appreciated also performs better. They're more likely to speak up at meetings when they feel heard, and they're more likely to work longer and harder to make you happy.

If hiring project managers that are super-organized is the number one thing you hire them for, being able to motivate people should be second. Motivated workers work harder and will make you more money.

Unfortunately, some people are born motivators and some folks aren't. You can't fault one of your project managers if the ability doesn't come to them naturally. You can however, help them develop motivating habits by asking them to be mindful of the five things below:

A Positive Frame of Mind

Having a positive outlook for a project is key trait to instill in your project managers. When a PM trash-talks a client to his employees or contractors, he's basically saying, "don't take what the client wants seriously." At this point, you've put out the fire in their motivation and have subconsciously told them that the client is a joke and that they don't need to work as hard to please them. If you want the people who work for you to be happy, motivated and driven, your PM should display the same confidence and integrity. Keep frustration out of the communication loop.

Clear Communication

Clearly communicating tasks and directives can really help motivate your PM's team. You do not want a PM that is flippant with directions. Project Managers should also never assign tasks and then chastise their team for performing them. The importance of clarity in communication with contractors cannot be said enough. Project Managers should be the most accountable people on your team in terms of deadlines and milestones, but if contractors aren't keeping up to speed, there may be a communication breakdown.

The Right Environment

The environment your project managers establish for their teams directly correlates to how successful they are. Demand that your managers foster an open environment so that team members are given the freedom to question anything about a project without persecution. This can lead to new discoveries in efficiency and project heuristics. The goal of an open team environment is that everyone is working towards and thinking about the best way to finish the project. If your PM needs "sensitivity training" in terms of giving constructive criticism, work with them on it. No idea is a stupid idea, and nobody should be allowed to tell anyone they "don't think that's a good idea" without coming up with an alternative solution.

Daily Words of Encouragement

A quick daily word of encouragement can really boost motivation in the work place. Have your project managers shout people out for the good work, especially when they meet or come in ahead of deadlines. A group email is always nice, but it can be sent directly to the team member too. Make a point of thanking someone on your team for his or her hard work at least once a week.


All of these things start with you. Set the example for your managers by creating open environments where you communicate clearly, acknowledge hard work, and move forward in a positive manner. Teach by example and your project managers will follow suit.

As a bonus, give your managers the power to give their teams perks. Give them the ability to treat their team to gifts or a catered meal. Wantful is a neat gifting site that allows you to pick gifts your team might like and they get to choose what they want.

It's the little things that show your team that you care and that you're excited about working together in the future. Do you have an effective way of boosting motivation in the workplace? Let us know in the comments.

6 Ways to Prioritize Tasks Better in Any Project

In The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson wrote,
"The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones."

Do you know the difference between your important and vital priorities? One might say that in the work/life balance, sleep is a pretty vital priority that often goes forgotten, especially in the start-up world!

And on that note, there are important and vital priorities in your business too. Spending the time to decide what matters most can be as simple as the process of paying down debts one credit card at a time, paying off the lowest balances first.

Do you know which priorities have the lowest balance? Which ones will take the most time to complete, versus how mission-critical they are to holding up other wheels in the project?

Below are six ways to prioritize tasks better, smarter, and in a way that won't create a lengthy priority out of creating new priorities!

1. Time

The most basic way to prioritize a task is to ascertain how much time you have to complete it. Is it due today? Is it due in a month? Your answer may mean working on it right away or moving on to a more urgent task.

Another element of time is how much you estimate the task will take to complete. If it's only five minutes, does it make sense to move it to the top of the queue and off your list?

If You're unsure of which task to complete first, ask yourself this question: If you only had two hours to work on one thing today, what would it be? Does one task jump out? Now go and do it!

2. Context

Are you in the right place to perform the task in question? Context can mean that environmental and resource requirements need to be met in order to complete a task.

For example, perhaps you're traveling and your laptop doesn't have InDesign on it needed to complete the task of updating that brochure You're working on. If it can't be done right now, delegate it or move on to the next task.

3. Resource Availability

Much like prioritizing by context, you can prioritize by available resources. You can't pour concrete without a cement truck, so if your resource isn't available, move on to the next task. Or better yet, check in with your cement crew to see if things are still on schedule to pour in the afternoon. Then move on.

4. Task Review

Do you have a process for prioritizing project addendums? You know, those phone calls and emails that creep up throughout the project with new ideas and updates?

Those tasks need to be integrated into whatever priority list you've already created. Performing a task review every week, possibly with the client, can help you spot new tasks that may need to get done first.

This may seem like giving yourself more work, but if you get into the habit of reviewing the week ahead, you'll gain the advantage of spotting trouble, hiccups and holdups in advance.

5. Fortune Telling

Some people are professional fortune tellers and psychics. Your customers and clients can benefit when you play that role for them.

Projects have twists and turns that occur during their lifecycle. Foresee when these things are happening and quickly mitigate their impact. The sooner you're able to spot these hiccups, the more time you'll have to craft an action-plan to combat them. These unexpected tasks become less unexpected with a watchful eye and professional experience.

6. The Magic Hat Trick

Sometimes you have so many tasks that your brain gets overwhelmed and completely melts down when you look at your task list. This leads to procrastination and is where the magic hat trick task management system can help get things done.

Instructions are as followes:
  • Write down all tasks on strips of paper
  • Place strips of paper with tasks on them into a bucket, hat or whatever container you have on hand
  • Shake the container and mix up the strips
  • Select one strip of paper and remove it from the bucket
  • Read and perform the task on the strip of paper
  • Discard paper when finished
  • Repeat until all tasks are finished and your container is empty
This trick might sound a little juvenile, but when a task list is too overwhelming to look at, this little trick keeps your mind focused on one thing at a time. You're not worried about what's coming up next because you can't see it. Your only mission is to empty that container. Simple but powerful.

These are some of the many ways to prioritize tasks. Do you have a special way of prioritizing what you need to accomplish? Share them with us in the comments.

10 Ways Business Resource Management is Overlooked

The core problem in business resource management is not knowing who's doing what. No one's on the same page, time's being wasted and money is being spent to keep the whole charade going.

Wouldn't it be good to know where things may be overlooked so that you don't fall into the "time is money" cliche?

Below are 10 ways business resource management is overlooked.

1. Hiring

The entire hiring process can be filled with setbacks and useless meetings. Defining who's in charge of the hiring process puts the responsibility on a singular person.

2. Firing

The last thing you want is to have multiple people in charge of letting someone go. It's a topic that should be handled with care but as the saying goes, the only thing worse thing then firing someone is not firing.

3. Purchasing

Your company has multiple departments. Each may have its own purchasing power. Wouldn't it be great to know if another department has a piece of unused equipment that's needed by your department? It would! Simple resource management software can quickly gives you the entire scope of equipment you have at your disposal.

4. Project Management

It's always a best practice to assign different tasks to the team member with the right skillset. This introduces responsibility and accountability for the various tasks within a project. But how do you know who has the bandwidth for the new tasks? Do they have the right skill set required for the task? Resource management software give you this snapshot of team members at a moment's notice.

5. Equipment Management

If your company relies on equipment to get jobs done, it's easy to overlook which piece of equipment was checked out and when will it become available again. Do you have a system in place that can quickly see where everything is? Searching around for who has what is waste of time and money.

6. Sales Teams

Are your sales teams are constantly calling each other's leads? This a big problem that is aggravates potential clients and kills deals. Get everyone on the same page and to collaboratively make more money!

7. Client Management

What's going on with your current clients? At what stage are they into their project? This is information that is business critical and should be available to you at a moment's notice. Having this high level picture of how your clients are doing is a big deal.

8. Expenses

Keeping an eye on business expenses is one of the keys to success. Try reviewing your expenses during a weekly or monthly routine.

9. Workplace Efficiency

Are things getting done in the time you thought they would? Should you be billing for more hours? Keeping an eye on efficiency across the board (that includes you!) can make big a difference.

10. Business Intelligence

You've collected all of this data, but who's in charge of it? What methodologies, processes, and technologies are you using to process it? Are you spending money to collect this data? The data isn't good to anyone unless someone is responsible for to measure, organize and re-plan it.

These are just ten common areas that are often overlooked. What other places do you see resource management slipping? Let us know in the comments.

How to Manage Remote Employees More Effectively

Learning how to manage remote employees is a new skillset that just about every employer needs to get familiar with. With all the fantastic ways we can communicate via the web, our teams are no longer bound by geographic location. Your marketing director could live in Dubai and your office assistant could live in Dublin.

Lets begin with an overview of goals you should have in mind when managing remote employees.

  • Creating a system that shows an overview of the team's effort.
  • Giving employees a balanced and equal share of work.
  • Effectively managing due dates.
  • Motivating employees, even when they're 3,000 miles away.

Synchronize your team members.

If you don't already have a task management system, start looking, like now. It will be difficult to manage your team if you don't know what they're doing. Give yourself a couple weeks if you're adopting a new system. It will be difficult to get everyone on board, but be diligent. Set the example for your remote workers by using your task management system to its fullest extent.

Give ownership to tasks.

Making your employees accountable will give them a sense of accomplishment as well as make their tasks ahead much more clear. Giving everyone updates about who's working on what will keep communication up and competition friendly.

Be a guiding light.

If you see a task or project going astray, correct it constructively as soon as possible. Spend more time on the phone with remote employees to keep them on-task and on schedule. Sometimes remote employees get behind without anyone noticing until it's too late.

Plan further ahead than anyone.

Always have a back-up plan, you never know when you may hit a snag or need to let one of your remote employees go. Firing a remote employee is even more difficult than one in-house because it's typically you that will be re-training "the new guy".

Let the software do the heavy lifting.

You don't need to micromanage tasks. Let your software tell you what upcoming milestones and deadlines are ahead. Day Planners are for real estate agents, not project managers.

Meeting Deadlines

  • Always ask your team what their estimation is for a task. You may be surprised at how much time they think it will take.
  • Hold constructive discussions to find out what hang ups your team may have.
  • Build in extra time for unforeseen challenges.
  • Daily check-ins may help as deadlines approach.

Keep The Good Feeling Going

  • Acknowledge and appreciate important achievements individually and collaboratively.
  • Create an open environment where your team members can speak their minds.
  • Be overly available to them. An open communication policy is essential.
  • If you have the ability to send your team gifts, send them one when they finish a project. Even something small like an Amazon gift certificate can really boost someone's spirits and keep them motivated.
  • Bring the whole team together once a year. This will do wonders for building company culture.
  • Hold project wrap-up meetings to glean insights into what worked, what didn't and what could be removed.

Learning how to manage remote employees may take a little time but you'll get the hang of it. Organization and communication are the most important skills to strive for when forming a remote team. Have you had success managing people remotely? Do you have any insights into what make remote teams tick? Please share them with us in the comments section.

How to Fire a Contractor Before It Hurts Your Project

Knowing how to fire a contractor is an art form. It takes planning, tact and a keen assessment of the situation. Let's face it, no one wants to fire anyone.

But if you've ever watched a project fall behind because one of your contractors couldn't keep up or was in learn-as-you-go mode, you know that firing a contractor is one of the most stressful parts of managing a business.

In this article we hope to give you a framework for firing a contractor and some helpful hints to make the process as smooth and conflict-free as possible.


Knowing how to fire a contractor all starts with the right level of preparedness. Below are a few precautionary steps you can take even before you start working with a new contractor.


We aren't lawyers nor do we play them on TV, so please seek your professional legal council when drawing up the agreements that pertain to you and your business. The agreements you have with your contractors are the first place you can tighten up to make firing a contractor easier.

Your contracts should explicitly include language that states you have the right to terminate the contract and agreement for any reason and at any time. This agreement clause is helpful when you're trying out a new contractor and you may need to let them go quickly.

Add a "work for hire" line into your agreement for any intellectual work so that the creator of that work can't claim ownership of the content after they leave.

Vetting Your Contractors

How does that saying go? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

The same is true for hiring contractors. Finding good people to contract work out to will save you the hassle of having to fire them later. Even when you're busy and struggling to meet deadline, check their references and mentally scrutinize their work. Technically this isn't exactly in the scope of how to fire a contractor, but it's certainly a good way to avoid having to fire them.

Keeping a Stable

Having a stable of contractors on deck is a business savvy way to keep things running smooth. A contractor's not making the grade? Switch them out for one of your trusted contractors. The key to making this work is to build trusted relationships with your contractors that rock.

Did they really kick butt on that last project? Send them a bonus. Is it their birthday? Send them a gift. This is where constant communication with your "stable" is crucial. It also means you need a simple, easy to use resource planning tool (ahem) to organize which contractors are available.

Monitoring Your Contractors

Constant communication is the key to keeping a good relationship with your contractors.

When you're working several active projects, its key to have daily contact with your contractors. A daily check-in meeting is a great way to see how a project is progressing and one of the best ways you can foresee problems arising before they get worse. You can use services like Hipchat or Skype to get updates throughout the day.

Observe how your contractor acts, too. Are they constantly late to meetings? Are they always missing milestone dates? They may need more motivation for you or they may need to be let go. There isn't any way to sugarcoat it. Some people just don't take contract work seriously. They see a paycheck and they just want to get to the finish line. If you get that vibe from them, let them go before it really hurts your business.

How To Fire

This is the easiest and the most uncomfortable part of the process. One thing to note before you fire your contractor: keep detailed records of the systems, services and tools that your contractors have access to.

You should have the ability to control any account they have access to. The last thing you want is for your freshly fired contractor to take revenge.

When dealing with a new contractor it may be a good idea to have weekly (or even daily) file check-ins where they submit their latest work into you. That way if you have to fire them you have their latest draft of the project.

Tips for the firing

  • Be calm and friendly, remember it's just business.
  • Be short and to the point with why you're firing them. You don't need to get into great detail or insult them. If they wasted too much money, it might be your fault for waiting too long to recognize the problem.
  • With contractors you may want to explain to them that this project didn't best fit their skillset, but future ones might.
  • If they reach for external excuses, explain to them that you've already made up your mind.
  • Explain how much they'll be paid based on the work they have already performed (another reminder to keep good records and log hours weekly!)
  • Keep a record of why you fired someone and look for warning signs in the future.

Firing someone sucks. Being prepared and organized can make the process less stressful and help you spot problem contractors earlier. Do you have a contractor horror story? We'd love to hear about it.

7 Business Resource Management Tips To Save You Money

Business resource management is part of the day-to-day management of running a business. And everything you do in your business, from the way you manage your time to the contractors you keep on payroll, have an effect on your monetary resources.
  • The way you pay your bills (payroll software, staff, etc.)
  • Receiving money from clients (invoicing, payment processing, etc.)
  • What you spend money on (contractors, supplies, etc.)
Understanding how to manage these assets can make or break you business. Below are seven business resource management tips to save you money. The order of importance may depend on your priorities:

1. Watch Out for Bank Fees

These days it seems like there's a bank fee for just about everything. Whether it's a fee for maintaining a monthly minimum or over-drafting your account, it's important to know what fees you may incur. Have your bank give you a list of fees. You may even want to switch banks if you feel like these are too high or unreasonable. If you have several business accounts with monthly fees and are only using a couple of them, close the extras.

2. Make It Easy for Clients to Pay You

Technically this is a money-making tip and not a money-saving tip. But, if you're making money aren't you also saving money?

Many businesses still don't take advantage of the number of payment services out there. These services (Paypal, Invoiceable, Harvest, etc.) make it easy for your clients to pay with debit and credit cards, and even automatically send invoices when they're late. These services often cost money and/or take a percentage of the amount charged, so be sure to read the fine print and use them wisely. The real benefit of these types of services is the increase in cash flow. The faster and more consistent, the better.

3. Stop Spending Money on Dining Out

It's fun to be the boss and take the team out for a meal. Businesses can get caught up spending needless amounts of money on food. Take a step back and think, do you really need to have Friday's lunch catered? Food is one of the worst, least deductible tax write-offs, so maybe instead of every week, you have Friday's lunch catered once a month. You could save $200-$500 a month! It's important to reward your team when they have worked really hard, but make sure it's a prize, not just an expected perk.

4. Go Easy on the Supplies

Purchasing pens, paper, copy machines and other miscellaneous supplies can get out of hand very quickly. Be strict about the budget you set for supplies. Think about what supplies you really need to do business. You may not need that $2000 copy machine after all.

5. Skip the Booth & Just Attend

Ok, it's cool to have a booth at your industry's biggest conference but they are a an infamously huge waste of money when done half-hearted and without a full-on lead-generating strategy. You essentially pay an exorbitant amount of money to have your team confined to one place during the show. At least part of your team always needs to be at the booth.

It's true that some networking may occur within the confines of your booth, but if you and your team were in five different places at once, you'd have better business development opportunities by not having to babysit the booth. Just going to a conference is expensive. Save thousands by skipping the booth and just attending. Be a bag sponsor if you want.

6. Set an Example

As the saying goes, "Be the change in the world". Culture within a company is set by executives but it's also set within individual departments and teams. Set the example for your team. Demonstrate how you use company resources and your team will follow.

7. Be a Better Scientist

"We've always done it this way because that's how we've always done it". That statement gets repeated at hundreds of businesses on weekly basis. Most businesses have forgotten how to experiment.

Every company is guilty. You have a repeatable process that works, you already have a relationship with one vendor. Why should you change any of it?

You should always be striving for the best, but the unknown may be better and cheaper. To start experimenting you only need to ask yourself this one question, "Is there a better way of doing this?". It could a faster way or a cheaper way. It could be as simple as using a new software tool to help give you better perspective of what your team is up to.

Be curious, try new things and you'll make discoveries that benefit your business by saving them time and money.

These seven business resource management tips are just the beginning. Every company is unique so we hope we've sparked your imagination. Business resource management is about getting creative with the way your company uses its time, money and effort.

What is Resource Planning?

What is resource planning? Good question. Depending on whom you're talking to, resource planning can mean something different to just about everyone. So for this article we'll just discuss resource planning in general terms.

A great way to think of resource planning is the organization of people, equipment and other critical assets to complete a task. This could be a task for school, organization or in the workplace. It's used for managing many simple tasks and also complex projects, like building a spaceship. Most of the time you won't need to plan out simple tasks and projects, but when things start to get complicated you'll be glad you had a simple to use resource planning tool like

Resource planning is most essential for when you're in charge of a time-sensitive project that requires a team of people, lots of equipment and has multiple phases before the project is complete. Below are few key areas resource planning can come into play. We'll be using a couple different real world scenarios to illustrate these points.

Gauging Bandwidth

Imagine you're the production director of a video production studio. You have been asked to submit a proposal for seven 30-second commercials in four weeks. This could mean a great deal of money to your firm, but does your company have the bandwidth to take on such a large short-term project?

Before submitting a proposal, you should probably find out what the availability of your production crew is, what production facilities are open and what equipment is unavailable. You need to have all of this information at your fingertips in a simple organized system.

Using a tool to manage all of these resources can help you determine which projects you have the bandwidth for. Because there's nothing worse than taking the time and resources to bid for project you can't complete because you overlooked what resources are available. This will save you time and money.

Avoid Losing Money & Making Clients Mad

A video production company is just one example of how a company can use resource planning in the discovery phase of a project.

Let's now pretend you're already knee deep into a project and you have a situation pop up where you need to act fast to keep everything running smoothly while keeping the client or customer off your back.

Pretend for a minute that you're now the construction site manager for the newest Dunkin' Donuts to be built in the great city of Providence.

You're three days away from the building being complete when one of your flat bed trucks breaks down.

This is a big problem. You have to deliver the Dunkin' Donuts sign for the outside of the building. This could keep the entire job from being complete for an extra couple of days if you have one single resource to transport that sign.

By more effectively planning your resources, you can reroute a secondary flat bed truck that was on its way back from another job site, preventing a needless delay and keeping your client pleased! And we all need another Dunkin' Donuts, right?

Keeping Contractors Happy

So you've saved the day in both your video production and construction companies but there is another area that resource planning can have a huge impact on. Keeping your contractors happy.

Much like a maitre d' in a restaurant, you need to spread the work around to keep your waiters (in your case, contractors) happy. Resource planning lets you know who's doing what and who's available to handle something new.

Steady work keeps contractors happy and more reliable and makes your organization run like a well-oiled machine. It makes business sense to use resource planning.

So we hope we answered your question. It's a topic that's near and dear to our hearts. How does resource planning fit into your workflow? How does it save you money? Lets us know in the comments!