Tools - Best Practices for Report Cover / Title pages

A strong cover page sets the stage! Often, we leave it plain, cold & too formal.  In a multimedia rich world we can avoid boredom and get excited about the content (cover page introduces you to this).

Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to have a first opinion within 30 seconds of seeing things and this will lead to a judgement or opinion that they form within their mind. So do not underestimate the value of spending extra time on that cover page.

The next part is for you to either reverse that judgement (if it is a bad one) or to enhance, foster and cement it (if it is a good one).

Thus, ensure you spend some time on that cover page and do not have a "one template fits all"  attitude.

At a minimum, create a theme for your cover page based on the:

  • receiver, 
  • sender,
  • content, 
  • presenting technology (if applicable), 
  • and constraints (e.g. time, money and quality).

A sample cover page could include:
  • Header/Footer:  this is variable, examples of what to include are: Title, website, sending company name, receiving company name, * Confidential * wording, 
  • Content:  be short, specific, this is your landing page for the people you are trying to present something to, align the body of the document to the type of cover page you need to have
  • Confidential or Proprietary Notice: depending on how confidential or how much IP is involved, have a simple one liner or include a legal statement
  • Logos (do not need to be drawing attention, subtle logo in the right space is key (header/footer or embedded somewhere on the page)
  • Diagrams - this is low hanging fruit, people are visual and seldom do I see an image, yet it is very easy to do, it can be a descriptive image that related to the content, or it can simply be a background image (eg.  drops of water if the content is water management).

Other key things or guidelines include:
  • Title
  • Subject
  • For (company and if possible a name)
  • From
  • Date
  • Slogan (if applicable)

The items below depend on the size of the document (for small files you may incorporate them directly on the cover page or if a large document these types of things should be on the second page):
  • Version Control
  • Contact Information (address, tel, email)
  • Controlling Author
  • TM or copy right statements

A final note, do not be afraid to have your cover page in a different font then the rest of the body.  This also shows a bit of flair and can gain more attention.

A few links below touch on this topic, but surprisingly not a lot out there...

Title page creation in MS Word (visual)

Do's and Don'ts

Sample cover pages

PMTip - Does a Project Plan bring value?

Immediately, the day you start to execute the plan, you will find that your plan has flaws.  This is because your plan has become out-dated and incorrect as soon as it is put into play.

TRUTH:  In a living interactive world full of human interaction - everything is changing, with and sometimes without logic and no person has the ability to 100% totally predict the future - and this is a constant we live with and try to get things done as best as we can.

TRUTH: We can sometimes be arrogant with our plan and think it is SO good that there will be a "Single Optimal Future" that must be achieved. 

TRUTH: In the real world of a project, there will be "Multiple Possible Futures" and you will never know all the influencers, so you must be managing your project from start to finish and try to be a close as possible to your original plan.


So why do we get so stressed when things do no go according to plan? Why do we Curse the Plan?

ANSWER:  ha, ha, there is no single answer, and never will be, this is so complex and is essentially part of a journey - not a race!  

Continue to chip away and "Stay the Course". We must be able to manage our stress when we have to conduct "Decision making with levels of uncertainty".

The higher level of project risk that exists (e.g. complexity and uniqueness), the higher the level of unknowns.

Thus one should expect things to not go exactly to the plan.  But to continue to identify the multiple possible futures and multiple possible paths available to take us into the best future that we can estimate with the current information at hand.

One must find the path that best balances the objectives and available resources (e.g. people, time, money, equipment, materials, etc) and remember that each path will have a fork, and decisions must be made which fork in the road is to be taken.

This again is why it is so key to spend time up front, in early stages to really have the buy-in and support of the objectives and value that the project must produce.

4 Techniques to help manage this include:

1)  Include in your project lifecycle more phases/stages that occur early on (few people with few resources spent).  If following the PMI methodology, these would occur before "Initiation". In mature organizations it is common to have a:
- Concept Stage: identify the idea, identify value, talk through it and don't try to complicate or over analyze, 

then also include a
- Proposal Stage: talk about feasibility at a high level, is this real, do you think we could achieve it, this is where the amount of resources spent to conduct the feasibility plan or even pilot, will be highly based on the risk threshold of the organization

Then after those two stages are complete (ensure you have gates and deliverables to close the gate), the project can move into the standard PMI lifecycle stages/phases which include:

  • Initiating
  • Planning,
  • Executing,
  • Monitoring and Control,
  • Closing
Finally, it is key to remember, the earlier you bring in a PM, the better.

2)  Clearly know AND understand the different levels of objectives, from top executive sponsor role to the front line stakeholder and customer.  Also it is key that the objectives have a simple definition of the associated value that will be produced.

3)  When we face the unknowns we always have constraints (we will be limited in resources), thus decisions will have to involve "Trade-offs" and must always go back to the objectives.  Ensure the project does not stray too far into a future path that is not recognizable from when the project was started. 

4)  As soon as the idea is hatched, bring in a PM to start the coordination of flowing through the project in a structured manner.  Today we are so inter-connected, that there will be risks that simply cannot be foreseen.  A project manager too often is hired and focused on managing the budget, schedule, scope and quality.  But to truly get maximum value from a PM, enable them to focus on Integration and to coordinate the inter-connected variables that exist within the project - between all the diverse stakeholders.  And it is ever so key to do this right from the start.

PS:  just a quick reminder, don't think it is okay to throw the plan out the window, or minimize the importance of the plan.  We always must plan, do and circle back with a continuous check.  Follow as close as possible to the plan, and take corrective actions as needed.  AND ensure things get recorded (what did not go according to plan) and plan the time for proper lessons learned after the objectives are achieved.  

While in the midst of execution, emphasize working to achieve objectives, we need to change how we think about planning. There could be less emphasis about deliverables, since much of the scope will lack clarity and thus you are destined to not go according to the plan. But ensure if you have a collaborative, creative team, then know your journey and you will achieve your objectives (thinking about the solution, not the parts).

Thoughts - Think about your decisions, but not too long!

Don't get caught-up in over-analysis - Yes easier said than done!

Depend on your team to address the risks as they arise.  But continue to move forward and respect innovative discussions - those are the sources of the game changers.

Good reminder below....

We all sometimes sit on the fence tooooo long before we make a decision.

This does not mean to rush into things..... you need to have information at hand before you make a decision.  Validate the credibility of the information and understand the capability of the people that gave you the information.  Then check the info as soon as you act and adjust accordingly, refer to a popular lifecycle from  Deming if needed:

Plan - Do - Check - Act

Build the trust, bring your team into the justifications and logic around the decision since they will also need to be there to handle the risks and unknowns - that surely will be present once you start to act on the decisions.

Remember, businesses and technologies are changing every day/week/month and the globe is so interconnected that you can be impacted.  If you are afraid to act, firm up your risk management and change control process, often failure to act costs more in lost opportunities and integration/procurement costs (others are waiting and being impacted) - so take that into consideration.

Buckle up - the world will only get more interconnected. Be timely in your decisions.

Tools - Checklist for Project Kick off - focus on non PM roles

You are kicking off a project, majority of people on your team are not project managers, so ensure everyone is on the same page to get the work done.  We all need to understand what is a project framework – essentially – the platform from which we all stand upon and follow and work together to achieve objectives and deliverables.

Below is a basic checklist to help stakeholders not experienced in PM.  It helps identify areas that may need additional support to get up to speed and enhance their PM understanding - so we all are on the same page :-)  
  1. Do you understand how to link the project with business value-add
  2. Is it clear to separate between the project vs operations vs strategy
  3. Do you understand how the project fits into the “real work world” once it is done
  4. Do you understand the support systems to help manage priorities, accountabilities, risk, change & stress
  5. Is it clear how the team and company will initiate the project in a formalized, structured format that also follows globally accepted best practices
  6. Does everyone understand the project lifecycle and how you will flow through the project start to end (initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close a project
  7. Is the project plan broken down into clear knowledge areas (Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, HR, Communication, Risks, Integration, Procurement, Stakeholders, Safety, Claims, Environment, Financials, Records, Relations)
  8. Is it clear who the client is and how to manage that relationship
  9. Do you understand how to clarify priorities and then when there is conflict how to manage the trade-off decisions
  10. Do you have a system to help manage influencers (risks, assumptions, constraints, dependencies)
  11. Is there a system to help identify future solutions that are aligned with the business to further maximize value (future strategies, lessons learned)
  12. Is there a understanding of the learnings you will get from this project and how it will also align with your career path
  13. Is it easy, clear and prepared so you can leverage templates for the project
  14. Is it easy, clear and structured so you can understand how the work will follow/fit within a management system (overall way that the project will be started, delivered and ended)
  15. Do you know of other systems, templates, methodologies that you can also bring to the table to help this project have a higher probability of success (we are all part of the success factor and each project is unique)

Often we spend so much time training our PMs and ensuring they have all the tools, but don’t forget the other 99% of the team that also needs to understand project frameworks and methodologies. The trick is to find the balance as to what level of detail do they need to know.  Today we have flatter organizations and also stakeholders that want to be more empowered and take a more active role.  Checklists help narrow down the areas that can be addressed or enhanced asap.

PMTip - Is PM Training all the Same? What is Project Management?

When someone talks about continuous PM Training - often a Manager/Exec states the company does not need it, since they already did the PM training.

Often I hear PMs telling me, they took a PM training course, but then are not allowed any more.  They tend to hear " all PM training is the same, and especially when it leads to certification (e.g. PMP) and thus we don't need more of the same thing".

I fully agree to not duplicate things, but, wow, PM is so diverse, and every few years the profession has major advancements - since it is an enabler of business (which is constantly evolving). One thing for sure, you want success in business, you must be open to creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and the ability to evolve and continue to learn.

PM is an incredibly tough profession.  Mostly because everyone can rightfully say that we are all Project Managers and we all do Project Management. Thus we can also technically say we are already doing it so do not need training, or we already know so much we do not have time for more, or there is not enough value to take a class since it is too subjective (not enough immediate, tangible results).

Project Management is extremely diverse, unique, complex full of risk and varies greatly depending on the:

  • sponsor, 
  • project manager,
  • team, 
  • risk thresholds, 
  • stakeholders, 
  • culture of the organization, 
  • tools available,
  • clarity of success,
  • etc, etc, etc.

Thus the type of training, or education or coaching/mentoring and delivery approach can also have tremendous variances based on different instructors, methodologies, learning approaches, technologies, experiences, knowledge, tools, certifications, etc.

I like to think if you really wanted to get a few degrees to help master Project Management, in no order of importance, I recommend getting:  business, commerce, engineering, psychology, sociology, law, science, drama, physiology, computer science, statistics, math, education, HR, marketing, etc.

So how can we define Project Management then???
In its essence, PM is a structured approach on how to successfully deliver business. 
We must remember, business is fluid and there is no perfect answer as to how to do it (not like math or science).  We must always try to apply specific science around it (process and workflow and tools and templates) however one must be adaptable since each scenario will carry a level of uniqueness around it (so can be very different based on the situation) and has subjectivity since it will involve many human interactions and expectations.

Couple more points of interest, included below are definitions of Project Management from leading organizations:
  • PMI:  Application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.
  • ISO:  Note: now has a PM set of standards called ISO 21500:2012, best definition I found was:  Application of methods, tools, techniques and competences to a project, includes the integration of the project life cycle accomplished through processes.
  • Prince 2 Definition: Planning, monitoring and control of all aspects of a project and the motivation of all those involved in it to achieve the project objectives on time and to the specified cost, quality and performance.
  • Wikipedia: The discipline of carefully projecting or planning, organizing, motivating and controlling resources to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria.
  • Merriam-Websters Dictionary:  believe it or not, this dictionary does not have the word project management defined
So when you get a chance, take training from multiple instructors, multiple associations, multiple methodologies, and store all those tools and techniques in your toolbox, you can never have enough for your next project - and keep the learning going  :-)

Thoughts - Project Design Perspectives (solution focus vs requlatory focus)

Just attended Weftec (worlds largest Wastewater Conference, over 20,000 people).

Is amazing when you discuss project solutions and ask for diverse perspectives from multiple areas of expertise.

When I discussed wastewater (sewage) projects, the majority of the time people that worked the booths (vendors) raced to the technical side of things.  They would ask what do the regulators require, and that their solution will meet or better those parameters of treatment.

I am an Agrologist with a huge passion about water.  I look at it very differently; asking what can we do with the clean water after it is treated, identify concepts/options, then work backwards from that to a category of treatment, then continue to go from there (e.g. MBR, SBR, MMBR).

The regulatory guidelines must be met, however, they should not drive the project objectives. They can be seen more as deliverables.

The End-Users (people that pay and receive the value) generally want an integrated solution - water is complicated so solutions must be understood at all stages of planning.

Often regulations, permits and the technology recommended is based on traditional, legacy ways of doing things - this gives us comfort.  People that bring new perspectives are seen as dangerous, or naive.

However, the legacy approach (recommend what has been done 100 times before) is not meeting standards of "up and coming communities" that are growing and also have educated, active, involved, progressive Mayors, Councilors and Citizens.

Often when talking with the end-users (town officials looking for solutions) they wanted to discuss the entire treatment cycle with a focus on the water.  They did not have a focus on regulations since many thought that Canada is lagging in that area when compared to rest of the world.

I was quite surprised at this, our culture can change quickly so be adaptable on how you manage your project planning.

Once again, if you were designing a sewage plant, imagine how different the approach becomes and who is involved in the planning if you looked at these two perspectives:
A) - mechanical design of the sewage technology that meets existing government regulations (Mechanical/technical perspective)
B) - solution design starting with understanding what can you do with the clean water once it is treated, then work backwards from there, involve the right people first, then get to the details second (Agrologist/water/soil/holistic perspective)

On your project, don't be afraid to involve people that are not normally involved in your project planning.

Work backwards and identify if their expertise can play a major role to give you new perspectives, then involve them more and focus on objectives before the deliverables.

Come up with solutions that help the end-user, not just systems that are driven by regulation. Diverse opinions drive innovation, both mechanical and Agrologist perspectives are needed but be patient and get feedback from each, and ensure you know when to involve them within the project planning lifecyle and steer the feedback in accordance with the objectives.

Thoughts - Top Traits of PM and Business

Understand and incorporate these qualities / skillsets into your work everyday!

Note: They have evolved over the past decade.  Long ago, top qualities were all technical, then the focus became systems and communications. More recently, see below a list of the top 6 traits for today's successful business and project manager:

1)  Empathy
Tricky word to understand, becoming integral in the work place, especially with new generations, every single one of us wants it but the work place seems slow to adopt it (until now), merriam-webster defines it as:
  • the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this

In a world where we tend to think of business in terms of the bottom line and financial metrics, a discussion of the role of empathy in business seems like an indulgence. But is it really an indulgence, or is it a marketplace imperative instead?  We now have studies that show how organizations with happy employees, strong organizational health, empathetic leaders, and maybe even a social mission, outperform their peers.  See a good link from Forbes on this:  

2)  Trust
A word we often over-look and take for granted, hard to earn and easy to lose, merriam-webster defines it as:
  • assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something, one in which confidence is placed

Success in projects and business unquestionably requires some willingness to cooperate with and have faith in others. The question is, how much faith and in whom? When your project budgets, finances and resources are on the line, how can you do a better job of gauging trustworthiness and thereby improve your likelihood of success?  See a good article from Harvard Business School below:


3)  Communication
A word we humans have a tremendous level of variance in terms of how we understand what this is and how it should be provided or received (huge risk around successful delivery), merriam-webster defines it as:
  • an act or instance of transmitting, information transmitted or conveyed, a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior; also :  exchange of information

The ability to communicate with people at all levels is almost always named as the most important skill by project managers and team members. Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback. There is a great deal of value placed on openness and directness. The project leader is also the team's link to the larger organisation. The leader must have the ability to effectively negotiate and use persuasion when necessary to ensure the success of the team and project. Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and team achievements by creating explicit guidelines for accomplishing results and for the career advancement of team members.

4)  Cool Under Pressure
In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget and with no major problems or obstacles to overcome. But we don't live in a perfect world 

This type of skill must be practiced – and that environment is not fun. But you need to create an approach so when it occurs, you become systematic and grow and improve each time.  Some good tips include:
  • Do a dress rehearsal before the event (if you can predict it, go through it in your mind, prepare and visualize)
  • Address most urgent need first (prioritize and attack in sequence)
  • Listen (adrenaline will be flowing, people will want to run and shout, slow the pace, get multiple perspectives)
  • Know when to take a breather (respect the stress you and others are under)
  • Block out the white noise (anything unnecessary must be put to the back burner)

5)  Collaboration
A word that we need to see the value that it brings, it is the true skill that makes our earth move to the next level, merriam-webster defines it as:
  • to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor, to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one's country and especially an occupying force, to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

The most successful initiatives are driven by internal collaboration across organizational divisions as well as partnerships with external stakeholders to share mutual goals. "The more allies you have, the better," said David London, senior director for US government relations at eBay, which is the group responsible for the company's energy policy.  For more tips, see link below:

6)  Problem Solver
One of the more traditional traits, still required in the PM field, can have multiple definitions, Wikipedia defines it as:
  • consists of using generic or ad hoc methods, in an orderly manner, for finding solutions to problems. Some of the problem-solving techniques developed and used in artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, etc. are related to mental problem-solving techniques studied in psychology.

Problem solving and decision-making are important skills for projects, business and life. Problem-solving often involves decision-making, and decision-making and there are processes and techniques to improve decision-making and the quality of decisions.  See link below to learn several techniques that are always helpful:

Challenge yourself to practice these traits every single day?   

Thoughts - When do you need Mentorship?

Answer - until you Die.

Who needs mentorship?
Answer - everyone, especially people in leadership/management positions.

Too often humans feel they achieve a level in their career, then they become content, complacent and feel they now have the knowledge and experience to plateau and give direction and manage others.

They then tend to focus on doing work in accordance to what they know best and feel most comfortable doing.  Next thing you know, even more coasting occurs and attitudes such as "don't rock the boat - if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it - it worked before so it will work again".

What these types of people are missing is that every 1-2 years, somewhere in the world, what they know (as an expert) has changed and they are becoming out of date.  New approaches and new learnings are available, but this will require growth, challenge, uncertainty and more intellectual work.  It also requires a collaborative, open door mentality, since new things will come from outside your group, from outside your city, from outside your country!

So how can a professional maintain growth and ensure it is properly aligned with all the other variables and constraints that they have to deal with on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

One amazing and simple tool that can address this is:  Mentorship.

I am not talking getting a few people around and asking for their thoughts...... that is more about being a friend and often the truth will never come out in case feelings get hurt and often only exciting topics are discussed.

I am talking about a formalized, structured form of mentorship.

Formal mentorship should include:
- objectives (why)
- trusting stakeholders (who will you work with, who will see/discuss the mentorship)
- clarity on the role of the mentor and mentee
- accountability of the mentor and mentee
- confidentiality and confidence in privacy (is there a process)
- pure interest in the mentee (the mentor must have your best intentions in mind, way too often, people mentor and give feedback but also make themselves feel better or they simply focus on discussing mistakes and weaknesses, I have often found managers have low confidence and good intention is there, but the pure vested interest into helping the mentee is not fully there)
- plans and milestones (does not have to be single all encompassing, but smaller sub plans around smaller milestones, you are on a path and a marathon, not a sprint)
- documentation and records (collect, monitor, track, trend, optimize)
- quantifiable tools and techniques (the how) in order to support the mentee
- regular meetings (booked out as far as the plan states (e.g. weekly for 6 mths, biweekly or monthly for 1 year)
- structured agendas
- be flexible to what works for both the mentor and mentee (the road ahead will not be totally clear sailing, there should be fog, curves, obstacles, be open to adapt

Mentorship programs are often available in every city.  If you cannot find one, simply go ask someone that you trust and feel there can be synergies.  The mentee must feel comfortable and initiate the process. Also, one will be very surprised, the mentor gains much in this relationship.  Mentors (like all humans) often like to share successes that they have had and also share their perspectives and opinions.

Final point, mentors do not have all the info at hand when giving their opinions, thus regard it as that - an opinion.  They will never know 100%, but they will try to give their opinion based on the information that they have received at that time.

Attached below is a message from a great mentorship program locally run in SK.

The Raj Manek Mentorship Program is currently expanding our social media outreach. We’ll be posting thoughtful content regarding mentorship, leadership, productivity, strategy and other business-themed topics, as well as information about upcoming Program events, seminars and webinars on our LinkedIn Company Page. Please go to the following link directed to our LinkedIn Company Page, and click the follow button in the upper right-hand corner:

A few other links:

ted talks- The importance of mentors

Million Women Mentors - Business Case for Workplace Mentoring

Harvard Business Review - CEOs need mentors too

Tools - Pre-Sales Checklist

Do not underestimate "Pre-Sales or Concept" work activities that need to occur before you Initiate a project. The level of formality should be aligned with the Tier Rating of the project.

As discussed, before a project starts, you can set up a foundation (well worth it)..... or set up a mud pit (do not be surprised when that extra level of stress and anxiety appear - and help others understand this too).

PMI does not even do this approach justice. The PMI process groups start with Initiation.

I would like to see the following process groups:

  • Concept/PreSales
  • Propsal
  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Control
  • Closure

This also helps people understand, business, operations and projects are all in the same family, they need each other and integrate with each other to deliver ultimate value for the client.

In this very first stage, one could leverage a checklist such as below:

ID #
Project Tasks
Confirm key owners, influencers and recipients
Define Justification (e.g. market demand, business need, technology, legal, societal, client request, etc)
Analyze Sales/RFP or other project documents that are associated with starting a project
Define very high level resource requirements (money, people, material, equipment, tools, time, etc)
Identify possible sources for resources
Confirm engagement strategy
Analyze Organizational Design capability and strength associated with potential work
Review project potential with business vision, mission, mandate, values, strategy, model and objectives
Conduct peer reviews
Complete Account Plan
Complete Sales Response Strategy and Documentation
Start Project Proposal or Charter (as per methodology)
Review Key Information accuracy and levels of risk/source of error
Confirm Project approach (phased/staged workflow)
Understand negotiation strategies and boundaries
Review Plans with resources
Refine and Present SOW and PSA
Attain final approval/modifications on formal documents
Sign off on SOW, PSA and formal documents
Identify and begin Project Acceptance Table
Start a high level (informal) lessons learned / feedback forum
Present and ensure understanding of project vs operational environments and approaches to be taken
Temper the excitement of “wanting it all – or scope creep before we know what we are even doing” - with the understanding of trade-offs, constraints and prioritization (support management of expectations)
Enhance the excitement of new value for the organization
Communicate project gate closure and move to next stage

And of course, assumed it already an integral part of the Pre-Sales/Concept stage, is to ensure the value and the business case work.   WE ALWAYS do work for a return in value and the level of probability of success associated with receiving that value is dependent on the risk tolerance of the organization.  Ensure that is talked about and very clear, as always right at the start!

Thoughts - How Critical is Sales in Project Management

Some say Sales is the # 1 role in business. And business is very much made up of projects.

A great PM I know recently took 3 days of sales training which reminded me how important sales is within a project environment. 

We all need to understand, respect and embrace sales.  We are always selling tangible products/services, ideas, approaches, innovations, perspectives, and of course, aspects of: scope, schedule, budget, quality, resources, communications, risk management, procurement, safety, environment, documentation, etc.

The key for these types of sales is what we exchange for the sale.  It does not have to be a monetary exchange, it is of the more pure form of sales.  Think of it as more of a barter, which is "back to the basics" of selling.  We sell something and we get something in return.

Thus sales is critical and we must also understand what helps it become more successful. 

One thing to remember is that we all sell in different ways. I'd like to share a few tools and thoughts you may or may not agree with, but that is the beauty of sales (much like Project Management)...... there is no TRUE SINGLE approach, it depends on the person and the product/service and stakeholders involved. 

So remember the similarities between sales and project management and ensure they both receive attention.

Lets cover a few simple myths and truths about sales:

Myth - sales is about numbers, and one should expect to fail the majority of the time
Truth:  sales is about relationships and planning. With relationships come trust, that is what people want to have in a transaction or in a decision that needs to be made.  Planning provides the confidence that what you say you can do you will be able to do.  Especially if it is a plan that incorporates a systematic approach (e.g. project management methodology)!.  Often junior sales processes do not have a solid plan, thus have that high rate of failure.  Senior sales pick their battles and say no to ones that are not aligned with their plans and abilities.

Myth - all people can sell anything
Truth: there are many, many variables that make a successful sales person, and even then, you still have to align that skillset with the correct product/service to have success.  You may also be more successful selling different things at different stages of your career, simply because your different levels of patience, confidence, expectations, judging of people, desire, humbleness, entitlement, persistence, passion, etc.  Many personality traits influence success and it is very rare to see people that can sell diverse products/services within diverse cultures, environments and with diverse tools, equipment, support and training.  Sales is tough and there is a reason that it is one of the highest paid professions.

Myth - with the right training you can quickly change your sales success
Truth:  I wanted to emphasize this, so see the Truth above. Often we think to get trained and then it will be easy.  That is not the case.   Key thing is to pick your strengths and then align them to the job.  Know what style you have and what can you sell with that style. Love and believe what you do and things will follow. 

We truly live in a borderless world, where there is an over-abundance of choice.  It is less and less about the product/service, since they can be found everywhere.  And it seems that we all get too busy in the grind so often can't discover when we need to be sold something to help us get to that next level. Humans do not do well with so many choices, they buy less if there is more choice and delay longer before making a decision. Or we just stick to what works and get nervous about change.

Great people in sales understand how to bring forth and then manage a client's expectations.  Be up front, ensure the sale is clear as to what is included in the exchange.  It will never be perfect and there will be gaps, just ensure there is an incremental gain in value that follows a plan and then listen and focus on growth of the relationship to get to that next level and keep on climbing in a structured manner as possible.


Tools - Recognition (amazing value for your dollar)

A company I know starts each executive reporting meeting with a "shout-out".  Whereby each exec (round the table) has to recognize a person (something above and beyond). Then in addition, that exec sends a note to the person to let them know and to also recognize them again.

Wow, so much value in so many ways associated with such a simple process. A true leader creates a work environment in which people feel important and appreciated.

How often do you read about employee survey results that stated: “the organization does not care about their employees or the organization does not appreciate what I do”. The majority of those surveys consistently ranked praise and attention from their managers as the # 1 thing that would make them feel as if the company cared about them and their well-being and result in more loyalty, enthusiasm and pride in their work.

However, I also know of companies that over do it.  You constantly here "good job".  But quickly you lose clarity on exactly what was the good job, or are they serious, or expectations of praise on any and all aspects of your job.

So can try to focus on three key things:
a) find a consistent balance (when to praise and when not)
b) understand the platform from which to present it
c) make it as formal as possible (but NOT administrative)

To elaborate on b) as per above, it highly depends on the personality of the individual and the team that is receiving the recognition.  Present it in front of peers, or the entire team, or an organizational event, etc. Maybe highlight it with a picture or a note in the news bulletin or social committee board. You need to establish the platform and at a minimum, understand how it will be accepted by the recipient and other surrounding stakeholders.

To elaborate on c) (as per above), you should at a minimum cover 3 things:
1) state what happened 
2) explain why the individual is being recognized 
3) emphasize how it impacted the project/company

Other Examples of how project managers can reinforce recognition include:
• Write a short personal note – add the small things that were noticed and personalize it with a signature and a thank you. Tie in something outside work if possible (e.g. appreciate the time spent away from family).
• Give a gift – the gift does not have to be expensive but has to be sincere. Be creative, the gifts must be balanced between individuals, groups and the entire team. Examples of types of gifts include:
  • corporate merchandise,
  • gift certificates,
  • motivational artwork,
  • home improvement items,
  • chocolate,
  • gift baskets,
  • dollar store items;
  • days off;
  • pass to leave work early;
  • flexible scheduling;
  • food (breakfast, lunch, supper, treats, donuts, ice cream, etc.);
  • catered lunches (with special themes);
  • external food (BBQ, restaurants, hotdog vendors, etc);
  • cakes for special occasions (events, birthdays, milestones, work anniversaries, holidays, etc.);
  • formal training, conferences, lunch presentations;
  • memberships (e.g. associations);
  • professional educational support (e.g. classes, certifications);
  • something for their significant other.

• Give cash or options or bonuses – ensure the focus is not the gift but the reason why the reward was given. This ensures that when the money has been spent, the employee remembers the recognition.

• Keep it simple - if you are extremely short on time, schedule reminders in your calendar to recognize a minimum of 1 person per week. This could include a simple thank you and some details of how you are aware what happened, why the individual is being recognized and how it will make an impact.

Tools - Microsoft Project Steps before Baseline

MS Project is not an easy tool, but it creates one of the best Gannt Chart or Schedule display tools you can get.

People ask for a simple guideline that can be followed to create a Baseline for the Schedule.

Note: I also recommend following this if you are looking to track real costs, or levels of "Effort" (as PMI would call it) but in the MS Project software it is called "Work". One must clearly understand if you are tracking Calendar Time vs Duration vs Work.  Each tells a different story and has their place.

12 Steps Before Baseline and the Sequence to do it in, includes:
1)  Project Start Date (Project - Project info)

2)  Calendar (Project – Change working time)

3)  Effort Driven Schedule (File - Options – Schedule)
·        New tasks created (Auto)
·        Work is entered in: (Days)
·        Default task type (Fixed Work)
Note: Duration = Work/Units
(Advanced – Display Options)
·        Show Project summary task

4)  Task Entry (Deliverables, Work Packages, Tasks)

5)  Activity Sequencing, Dependencies/Linking (FS then SS, FF)

6)  Resource Sheet (enter initials)

7)  Assign Resources to tasks

8)  Assign level of effort (Work)
·        Milestones (zero effort)

9)  Level resources, alter resources

10) Verifications

11) Set the baseline

12) Track Actuals and Progress (% work complete)
·        % Work Complete Column
·        Bar colours and styles, bar text
·        Critical Path (View – Highlight)
·        Red/Dashed Status Date (Project - Status Date – right click gridlines)

PMTip - EQ Core Capacities

I took an EQ Assessment & continually go back to it - to continually learn more about myself.

It puts a formal approach and more of a science around how I work with different types of people under different types of environments.  It is never black and white, however, this is essentially a tool that lets me grow in one of the most critical aspects of project management and business (relationships).
Objectives of this assessment were to self-identify how well one can manage relationships in the midst of uncertainty (and thus this will also include how we manage risk, complexity, conflict and stress).

The assessment talked about 3 key building blocks.  By studying and understanding them, one can build tolerance, resilience, and adaptability, and give new capabilities to relate more effectively with others.

It is so important to realize how projects are managed today versus in the past.  The focus today is so much more on the "people side" vs the "systems side", and thus must include a focus on both yourself and the external people you interact with. 

There are many assessments out there, the three core capacities that were focused on for my assessment included:

1) Self-Reflection
Self-Reflection is the ability to access and name our experience, including our feelings, thoughts, wants, intentions, and body sensations, and the ability to observe our thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the moment as we participate in life. Having the ability to first experience and name our experience, to differentiate our experience from others, and to reflect and learn from our experience is fundamental to emotional intelligence, the very driver of our capacity to learn and grow. It is key to know one-self.

2) Self-Regulation
Experiencing varying levels of distress and pain is a natural part of life. This causes us to feel some degree of disequilibrium. Self-soothing is the capacity to experience our distress and manage it in ways that help us reestablish our equilibrium or balance without requiring others to change. We all soothe ourselves and our emotions daily in a variety of positive and negative ways, both alone and in relationship. It is key to measure how we regulate our emotions.

3) Empathy
Empathy is the ability to identify and analyze what another person is experiencing and to know what that must be like; to "get into another person's shoes." Deep empathy also will include an understanding how the other person is feeling. It is key to measure our levels of accuracy and compassion.

For more details, can start by visiting sample websites below of some great people that know this area:
(Note: the link above also has a free download)