Category Archives: Career

How to set up your team for success

Do you have a new team or are you starting a new project? Most teams rush straight into the work without having clear agreements in the beginning about where they are going or how they want to get there. The key ingredient for a successful project is clarity. If you want to set your team up for success, you should be clear about your project’s objectives and each team member’s role and responsibilities.

Don’t wait until you hit a bump in the road and then be forced to work out agreements in the midst of frustration and confusion. This is when conflict can arise in teams. Therefore, it’s important to clarify your expectations upfront to set up your team for success.

To lead a team effectively, you should try to establish rapport with each member. The most successful managers build their relationships on trust and loyalty, rather than fear or the power of their positions.

Here are a few ways to set your team up for success.

Start before your team does

The first thing you should do, before sitting down with your team, is to clarify your project’s objectives. This step, which is essential to successfully complete the project, is likely to be dictated by the client. Or if the project is an internal initiative, by your company’s management. It’s best to create a resource plan before starting the project. This plan should include details of the budget, hours needed for the project, the number of people included and the required skills necessary to tackle the work.

Many team members may work only part-time on the project, stealing time away from their regular responsibilities. If that’s the case, speak to their line-managers first before the project begins. That way you’ll have some understanding about what to expect from  each team member.

Clarify the roles and expectations

Try to reach out to each individual team member and nurture a relationship. Do this before the team’s first meeting. In doing so you’ll be aware of each member’s personality type and skill set. As a project manager, you should try to make the lives of your team members easier. While they are working on their individual tasks, you can clear obstacles from their path. Help them to meet deadlines, look for more resources or find more time to complete the project, if you must.

If your project involves both the business and technical side, make sure both share the same goals. Different agendas and opposite expectations often delay the progress of the project.

Set the right tone

You will play a big part in explaining the work tone of your team, especially at the beginning. You should talk to your team in a way that makes a positive impact. Remember that negativity can poison a team’s mood and effectiveness. Try to strive for an upbeat team spirit and an undivided team attitude. As the well known French author, Alexandre Dumas, said: “All for one and one for all.”

Having a sense of humour in a team is key. A fun environment can prevent a stressful situation. It’ll also help to get the most out of your team members. Instead of focusing on the problems why not turn your focus to the solutions? It can go a long way in maintaining a cheerful and positive atmosphere.

Foster the right behaviours

It’s important that you show your team how you expect them to work with your own good habits. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. A lot of obstacles will arise and you should overcome them calmly and openly. That way your team will learn the right way to respond to difficulties. You should have a life outside work to maintain a sense of balance and calm. There will come times when you have to work overtime to support team members to meet stressful deadlines. You should do things the way you’d like your team to do it. Try to set an example.

Deal with individual team members

If problems arise, don’t deal with the team as a whole. Instead, talk to team members individually. Some people will need hand-holding while others hate it. Some team members respond to a strong push in the right direction and others go into a mild depression if you’re too hard on them. It’s important that you know how to deal with each team member individually. You can do a project management training course to learn how to deal with different types of personalities you can find when working in a team. This course will also teach you about team management.

Being a project manager is quite a big role and you should be ready for what’s coming. And it all starts with getting your team ready. Together with your team, you should set goals in order to reach your full potential and make a success of the project.

Why you need to improve your writing skills

You might think that you don’t need to be a writer. But the truth is, we’re all writers now. Every email, text message and social media caption shows your friends and colleagues what kind of writer you are. And there are two options. The kind of writer who makes an effort to create copy that’s error free and the kind who’s happy to send out content which is riddled with mistakes.

You might not think that writing is important. There are so many other things you need to think about every day. How can you possibly find the time to worry about whether your writing is up to scratch? The reality is that every piece of communication you send out says something about you. It tells the world how much effort and pride you put into your work. It speaks to your professionalism and how seriously you value your career. Every single email you unquestionably dash off or text message you bash out says something about you. So it’s important that you know what it is you want the subtext of your written communication to be.

Impact of bad writing on your career

Still aren’t convinced? There’s a study and statistics to back this up! Consider a Grammarly study of 100 LinkedIn profiles. Each of the employees looked at had worked at no more than three employers during the first decade of their careers. Of these, half were promoted to director level within this time. The other half were not. What were the differences between these profiles? Here’s what they found:

Those with few grammar errors in their profiles were promoted to higher positions. Those who didn’t progress to director level in this time had 2.5 times the number of grammar errors in their profiles when compared to their peers who had been promoted.

Fewer grammatical errors correlated to more promotions. Professionals with only one to four promotions in this time period had 45% more grammar errors than their colleagues who were promoted six to nine times.

Fewer grammar errors are associated with more frequent job changes. The reality is that if you’re changing jobs often and looking out for promotion opportunities, you’re going to be looking at your LinkedIn profile more often. This means these professionals were able to look out for errors and make changes more often. People who stayed in the same job for longer periods of time often overlooked their profiles and didn’t catch the errors.

According to Grammarly, writing skills are indicative of a person’s work performance in these ways:

  • People who care about their writing show that they have the skills of credibility, professionalism, and accuracy in their work.
  • Knowing how to structure a grammatically correct sentence is a signal that they can analyse and explain problems a complex nature.

Says Grammarly chief executive Brad Hoover: “People with better grammar may be more ambitious in their search for promising career opportunities.”

It’s clear then that bad writing can have a negative impact on your career and future job prospects.

Tips to improve your writing skills

Some people think they aren’t good at writing. They convince themselves that they aren’t a writer and so don’t need to improve their writing skills. They don’t make any attempt to become better. They’re fine with just being okay at best and shoddy at worst. But the reality is writing is a skill which can be improved over time. It takes practise and work, and it’s worth it. Writing is something which can be taught and learned. There are many courses available online, whether you’re interested in improving your report writing skills or merely your general communication skills, you’re sure to find one which can assist.

If you’re in need of a few quick tips, here they are:

Keep it simple. Never use five words when one will do.

Know what you want to say. And be clear about it.

Put the most important information at the top. Cut the rest.

Keep your sentences short. Alternate between long and short sentences to create rhythm.

Reread and rewrite. Never send anything out without checking it over first.

Writing is something which can be improved over time. And the most simple way to improve your writing is to read. By reading more often, you’ll be exposed to examples of both good and bad writing. It’s important you are able to take these in and tell the difference between the two.

Pros and cons of studying online

People come up with dozens of excuses as to why they can’t study further. They may have too many things going on and feel they don’t have the time. Or it could be they don’t have enough money. Well, studying online could be the perfect solution as it makes it easier for you to study while holding down a job.

Studying further can help you enhance your skills, better your chances of career growth and bring you closer to getting your dream job. In general, it will help you achieve your goals in less time. But it’s not easy, especially when you’re working to support yourself. Which is why you may be considering studying online.

The thing is, studying online has both its pros and cons and you should consider them carefully before you enrol.

Pros
Flexibility
Studying online provides many benefits and makes life easier for a working professional.You won’t have to deal with being late for classes because you’re stuck in traffic after work. Some lecturers at university penalise you for missing classes, resulting in you not being able to write your exam. If you study online you get to be flexible with your time. If you’re working part-time, it’ll make life more convenient for you because you won’t have to drive straight from work and rush off to class. You can do the work in your own time.  

Versatility
Working and studying simultaneously can be extremely taxing. Both require you to invest a lot of your time. If you’re working, you may not have the time to attend classes. Online studying provides the tools for you to continue working and still pass your modules. Your work doesn’t have to suffer because you can study how and when it suits you. Online studying caters for working professionals and allows you to set your own learning times and be versatile with your schedule.

Cheaper
Online studying is much cheaper than enrolling in a traditional university. As a working professional, you might have a lot of expenses already. You may have bills stacked up that have to be paid, such as rent, petrol and groceries. And online studying will benefit you greatly because you’ll have the opportunity to study but at a much more affordable rate.

Limitless
You’ll have the option of studying wherever you want because all you need is the internet and a computer. You can study in the library, on the train or – if you don’t feel like being indoors – you can just go outside with your laptop and work in the garden. You’ll have the freedom to study in the manner that suits you best.

Convenience
You can study online while still in your gown, with a bowl of cereal next to you. You aren’t restricted to a classroom.

Variety of courses
There are many online courses to choose from. You can study online sales and marketing courses, finance, project management, the list is endless.

Cons

Deadlines
If you are juggling a lot in your life at one time, then you might find it hard to meet deadlines. Studying online takes a lot of discipline and willpower. And if you mix that up with the demands of work, you might find yourself overwhelmed. It can be hard to juggle both working and studying. You need to plan everything you have to do and be organised at all times. A set schedule will help you become more organised and help you stay on top of things.

Less personal
In class there are usually discussions where everyone can participate and put up their hands to either ask questions or contribute. Talking about a topic in more detail usually helps you understand it better. With online studying, there is a lack of face-to-face interaction, which could be challenging.
When you’re studying in the traditional way, you get to interact with your peers and tutors on a daily basis. And the interaction can help you tremendously because you’ll have the opportunity to solve problems with your peers, swap past papers and get extra information from them..  

The goal might be to advance your career and take it to new dimensions.
Studying online has made life easier for many working professionals. You get the best of both worlds – the ability to make a living but still study at the same time. You get to study where it best suits you and when.

But studying and working aren’t for the fainthearted, you may have to say goodbye to your social life for a little while. And learn to be very disciplined. You could end up feeling overworked so you need to learn to balance everything you do and make sure that you are able to manage your time. But the sacrifices will be worth it in the end.




What you need to know before starting a small business

Starting a new business can be scary. There’s so much you don’t know a single thing about. But the good news is that behind every successful business is an entrepreneur who was once right where you are now. These are the people who know exactly what you are going through. They’ve been there. They have been uncertain about where to turn and who to ask for help. It’s very likely that they hesitated before taking the next step. Theirs is the advice you should be looking out for.

 

Take advice from the pros. Apple boss Steve Jobs used to say that it’s important to be selective about the challenges you choose to tackle as an entrepreneur.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1 000 things.”

His Virgin counterpart, Richard Branson, said business owners should focus their companies on the thing they need and the changes they’d like to see.

“Think about changes you’d like to see as a customer – even if you’ve just noticed little details that need tweaking. Those little changes may add up to a big idea that leads to a new and truly disruptive product or service. This is essentially how we, at Virgin, launched our first successful businesses.

“We were very sensible when we started out, setting up connected enterprises like most other companies do. We went from running a small record shop to starting up a record label with recording studios and then added our large music megastores to our portfolio.”

 

Planning your next move. When you’re just getting started, it’s important that you know what your next move is and where you plan to be in the next five to 20 years. Only then can you really begin to plan your next move and way forward. You’ll need to draw up a business plan to guide you onward. It’s essential that you’re constantly measuring your success, taking note of the factors which help you and which hinder you along the way.

 

There are many factors which could potentially impact you, as a small business owner. In South Africa especially we have to protect ourselves from the twin issues of crimes and cost increases. Making sure you have the necessary security in place and planning your finances carefully should assist in putting your mind at ease.

 

Next up, you’ll need to start thinking about making your startup a success. It’s likely you’ve read thousands of articles, listened to many podcasts, spoken to friends who’ve done the same thing and scoured the stores for books on your subject.

 

And your startup is beginning to show the signs of your hard work. So, how do you take your business to the next level? If you’re looking to grow, here are some tips for moving your business to the next level.

 

Think about your timing. Just like everything in life, you need to be at the right place, at the right time. You need to be able to spot a gap in the market and get in there quickly. You need to realise what consumers want or need, before they even do. In order to do this, you need to always have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening, what they want and where there’s a need. You’ll need to always keep updated about everything that’s happening in your particular industry.

 

Spend time building your brand. Your brand is everything. It’s what will come to mind every time a consumer thinks of your product or service. You’ll need to connect on an emotional level with your consumers and ensure your brand is thought of as a leader and influencer. For this, you’ll need to pay attention to a number of different factors:

 

  • Choosing the target market that’s right for your product or service
  • Connecting in the right ways and in the right places with your target market
  • Making sure you and your brand are always known for providing excellent customer service

 

When all of these factors begin to come together, consumers will choose your brand over others. That’s when you’ll know you’ve made it.

 

Pivot your brand. This is when you move away from what’s not working and find a solution that does work for your small business. You definitely don’t want to do this too soon. But eventually, you’ll want to diversify and become known for something else. When the time is right, you’ll need to apply for the asset finance solutions to help you grow your business. Be sure to stick to related products or services as you grow because otherwise you’ll begin to feel disjointed. This could be confusing for your customers and push them to your competitors.

Your brand needs to be online. Seriously, get online now. What are you waiting for? The world is becoming increasingly digital and every company needs to be online. Make sure your website can be found easily by using use of some simple SEO strategies. You should also be using social media in the correct ways and to your advantage.

 

Take your time to grow slowly. But don’t wait for too long because someone else will have the same idea as you. They’ll move faster and you’ll never get anywhere.

 

Being a business owner is tough. That’s especially true when you’re starting out. But if you believe in your project and know the risks, you should go for it. That’s when you’ll not only survive, but thrive.

What 2016 tells us about financing a business

If we’ve learned anything from 2016, it’s that there’s plenty business can and must do to help protect themselves from events they could not have foreseen. To that end, it’s worth thinking about what we can do, as business people, to help keep our businesses afloat while the world goes on. Businesses won’t stay up because we want them to, but through hard work. We need to be able to handle what occurs and look out for dangers that might threaten their continued existence. Just as we care for any loved one, we must be mindful of what could pose a threat to businesses – 2016 shows us that many of the biggest dangers could come out of left field. To that end, let’s look at ways to protect our businesses from any possible dangers.

Look for bargains

We make our own success, but it also involves knowing where to find opportunities for that success to blossom. One clear way to make success into a reality rather than a dream is to find the best deals and bargains. For example, here is a detailed way one American finance writer managed to get an expensive electric car reduced in price. Instead of spending $35,000 on a brand-new electric car, he got it for under $14,000. Businesses must look at their financing options in terms of the best way to make the most out of a little – or, perhaps, how to get exorbitant prices reduced.

Beware “gurus”

Nobody can predict the future, yet many make their money off selling their beliefs to businesses desperate for a path. These finance gurus tend to offer vague reasons for their predictions, forcing businesses down paths they would otherwise have never gone. Consider some of the worst financial predictions in history, by some of the smartest people in the world. For example, in 2010, entrepreneur Richard Branson warned that “the next five years will see us face another crunch – the oil crunch,” predicting a severe supply shortage. Of course, six years later, the price of oil is actually lower than it was then. Businesses must on the evidence they have, that will benefit themselves and shareholders, not the words of those who claim to have knowledge they could not possibly have. The smartest people in the world did not think Donald Trump would get elected or that Britain would leave the European Union – yet both of these large events occurred and have dramatically changed the landscape. How many businesses were prepared when these events occurred? How many were protected from the financial fallout? For example, did these companies have protection for their immigrant employees? Did they have proper health coverage (the repeal in America of the Affordable Care Act has left millions without healthcare, meaning they might not be able to work – a reduction in people able to suddenly work will have a massive impact on businesses and therefore the economy).

Be creative

Business people must be more creative than ever, as they go forward. It’s using plant and machinery finance in clever ways to create more jobs, services and so on. It’s creating new advertising campaigns, drawing in younger people, getting active on social media. Creativity means standing out from others, an expression of individuality that draws people in so they want to work with us in various capacities. 2016 showed that creativity is key, especially in a world that is increasingly competitive.

Proper hiring and proper management

Our business is only as good as your least talented staff member. Hiring the best people must be at the top of our list of priorities. Businesses are made of teams, so if one person messes up, it falls sideways and upward. That is, it affects everyone, not just the work of the person who made a mistake. Competency must be paid for and rewarded, which means it is on us to treat our staff properly, doing what we can to retain them for as long as possible.

The longer someone works for us the better for everyone, since this establishes a long-standing dynamic that gives a measure of stability to the constant shifting market. For example, we could listen to various studies that indicate working from home has enormous benefits. Not only do people then feel more inclined to work for us, but their work improves, too. If our concern is that people need rigour and micromanagement in order to complete their work, the failure is ours not theirs – we should not be hiring people who can’t work when left by themselves. Otherwise we’re being teachers and watch dogs, not managers focused on production, ideas and so on. Implementing new strategies for the benefit of staff will go a long way to making a business better than it ever could be.

People are always looking for ways to stay employed after all and no one likes the sense of fear, when leaving. There’s no guarantee any job is forever and the lack of job security is one reason people tend to stay in position longer than before – after all, even advanced degrees are not guarantee we’ll be employed. Yet that shouldn’t stop us as business people putting effort into retaining the staff we do have.