Monthly Archives: March 2014

Working Hard and Working Smart: Is it Impossible to Do Both?

When it comes to work, there is a big debate on whether to work hard or to work smart. Working hard is the notion that our parents believe in. This generation believes in doing overtime and staying until late at the office to do more and more work. As a result, it disrupts their work-life balance.

The new generation, however, believes in what is called working smart. They put great emphasis in working more effectively and having more ‘me’ time, relaxing with family and friends and treating work as the 8-hour-rule only. Once they have clocked out, work is invisible to them.

working hard vs working smart

While both parties have their own pros and cons, we begin to question, “Why does it have to be one or the other? Can’t we work both hard and smart to achieve our career goals?”

Turns out, we can. Here are three things about how working hard and smart look like:

1.     It’s all about balance.

Working hard and smart is not about keying the minimal hours, increasing productivity and getting more work in return. Working hard and smart is all about balance. Employees must know their own limits and if they are exhausted, it is okay to have a break and come back to the project refreshed the first thing in the morning. It doesn’t mean they don’t work hard. They work smart, as usually light-bulb moment comes with a fresh mind.

2.     It’s all about being strategic.

People who work hard are busy because they are overwhelmed with the tasks that are on their plates. They have five different projects with tight deadlines and while they are able to finish all five the projects, only half the effort is given. People who work smart and hard know how to set goals, prioritise the workload and continuously figure out better ways to handle projects.

3.     It’s all about working on the right things.

People who work hard on the wrong things are not going to be successful. People who work smart on the wrong things are not going to be successful either. The key is to know which work needs 110% of effort, and not just overtire oneself with a less important workload.

Want to learn more about how to become better at your career? Check out the Institute of Management courses.

What Do Employers Look for When They are Hiring?

When it comes to finding the perfect person for the job, it’s going to be tough. There will not be one exact person that can tick all the boxes.

That said, the key qualities that employers look for when they are hiring are similar over time. No matter the industry a person is in, odds are the employers want a person who is professional, committed, and has the initiative to work without constant supervision.

Apart from technical skills and expertise, here are four key qualities employers look for when they are hiring.

we want you job hiring

1.     Professionalism

When a candidate walks into that interview room, prospective employers will start to draw on some crucial first impressions of what kind of person he is. Is he confident? Does he know what the company really is and what job he is applying for? Has he conducted his research beforehand? These seemingly common skills may tell a lot more about how professional a person is.

2.     Initiative

While leaders strive to empower their employees to make decisions for themselves without needing their managers on their back for 24/7, it will not work if the employee doesn’t show any kind of initiative.

3.     Personality that fits the company culture

Having the right sets of expertise is not enough – employers are also always on the lookout for people with the right personality. Working requires the employees to work together in a team and if the person’s personality doesn’t really fit with the company, even with the right skills it’s going to be hard to foster good teamwork.

4.     Passion

Are they passionate about the work they are doing? Passion fuels most of our work and employers would like to know if the people they hire will work hard and take pride on what they are doing.

Many job seekers strive to show their skills and achievements in an interview. However, showing key qualities mentioned above to their future employers will give them an advantage in scoring the job.

To learn more about key qualities that employers look for, check out our Institute of Management training modules.


How to Deal with Disruptive Employees during Meetings

Do you have an employee whose actions are just disruptive to the team?

Imagine that you are holding a meeting and he is really disrespectful to the people presenting at the front. At first, you might try to ignore him, thinking that perhaps he is just having a bad day and soon enough he will be behaving as a professional once again. But as the meeting progresses, so does his disruptive behaviour.

disruptive behaviour in meeting

As a leader, how should you handle the situation? Do you confront the person in front of everyone? Do you act as if nothing happens?

While working in a corporate setting, we will always deal with different types of people and conflicts may happen. To handle the situation professionally, here are some intervention stages for dealing with disruptive behaviour.

intervention for disruptive behaviours in meetings

At first, you might want to try to ignore the person. If ignoring does not work, raising/lowering your voice might give him the signal that he is behaving inappropriately. If that still does not work, go up another level until you reach the level of confronting.

Most people know that they are doing something wrong when the atmosphere in the room changes. However, for those people who might need extra attention, talking privately during breaks might be necessary to ensure that the meeting still goes on successfully.

Remember that the most important thing in this intervention is the fact that it is a professional setting and that the remarks you are giving him are business and not personal. Ensure that you are not humiliating your employees in public or scolding them in front of their colleagues.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.


5 P’s for Planning Effective Meetings

Depending on your workload and the type of job you currently have, you may need to attend anywhere from two to 20 meetings each week. And yet many leaders agree that meetings are mostly a waste of time. They are ineffective and dragging, and most often they are spent talking about random things other than the actual agenda.

While we can’t always refuse to attend meetings, we can increase the quality and effectiveness of our meetings so that our time is managed properly.

Here are 5 P’s to help you plan better meetings.

planning effective meetings

1.    Purpose

Purpose talks about the reason of why this meeting is held in the first place. Ask yourself and your team – why are we holding this meeting? How will this meeting help me/the team/the project? If this meeting is not helping you to achieve your goals, perhaps those sixty minutes of your time can be spent doing something else.

2.    Products

Product here means outcomes or results. Here are the questions to ask beforehand: How will we know we have achieved our purpose? What specific measurable results do we want?

3.    Process

In your meetings, you need to specifically address the process – the methods or tools to achieve your goals. What methods will you use to attain your products, for example: brainstorming, structured problem solving? It is also important to try to stick to the agenda to avoid wasting time when discussions start to go off topic.

4.    People

The fourth P is People, which talks about the attendees and stakeholders. Through this meeting, can we identify the people who will be significantly impacted? Who has the essential information? Who needs to be involved in the decision making process? Who can sit in for the meeting when one of the invitees can’t attend?

5.    Preparation

The last P is Preparation, which is the most important P in planning for more effective meetings. Ask yourself: What can people who attend the meeting do before the meeting to assume success? Make sure you ask them to send you suggested topics to discuss prior to the meeting to ensure that everything important is covered.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.



The 3-Step Problem Solving Method

As humans, we face problems every day. Your client can suddenly file a complaint on that project or your boss can suddenly pick up on an error that has actually been there for months.

While addressing problems, we sometimes go into the fight with a hot head which can cause more damage than good. Here are the 3 steps to act as your guide when solving problems.

problem solving

1.     Acknowledge the problem

Even though it is obvious, many people find it hard to actually admit that they have a problem. When a project goes wrong, more often than not, they would try to save their own face for the moment, and when their manager finds the error, it has been weeks too late to repair the damage. Acknowledging and stating the problem with a cool head leads to better understanding of what’s at stake and thus better chance to find the resolution.

2.     Plan the next steps

When faced with a problem, it is best to sit down, take a step back and jot down all the pros and cons and plan the next steps with these in mind. If it is decided to go forward with this project, what would be the risks and how can they be minimised? If it is decided to drop the project, would it harm the company even more? Seek advice from the seniors if you must.

3.     Take action

Most people stop on the second step, which is planning. Even after weighing in everything, it is still hard to 100% predict the outcome. This can cause people to just wait and do nothing instead of taking real actions. Remember that the problem will still be there if you decide to not take action, and it may even go from bad to worse.

Want to get better at your career? Visit the Institute of Management website to find out more about our courses.

5 Why’s Approach to Problem Solving

As an employee, we will encounter some problems while trying to successfully deliver our projects.

At times, the solutions easily come to mind. At other times, we may need to consult our leaders on how to best address the issues at hand. However, there are times where we get stuck, as if there is no other alternative to save the project from collapsing.

Before we cry in self-despair and get scolded by our boss for failing that project, take a deep breath, grab a coffee, and go back to addressing the problem with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here’s one approach to problem solving that you can use to help you find the solution.

5 whys to problem solving

5 Why’s approach

Let’s have an imaginative problem: The car will not start.

  1. Why? –  The battery is dead. (This is the first why.)
  2. Why? –  The alternator is not functioning. (This is the second why.)
  3. Why? –  The alternator belt is broken. (This is the third why.)
  4. Why? –  The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and has never been replaced. (This is the fourth why.)
  5. Why? –   I have not been maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule. (This is the fifth why, a root cause.)
  6. Finally,  establish why? –  Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of my vehicle. (This is the sixth why, optional footnote.)

After you have answered all 5 Why’s, make a conclusive solution to the problem:  I will start maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule.

By asking yourself 5 Why’s every time you encounter a problem, you will be more likely to determine the root of the problem, which will then increase your chances of finding the right solutions.

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.


5 Characteristics of a Great Project Manager

The role of a project manager is crucial to the success of the project. A project manager does not only manage the budget, timeline and things to do, he also manages the team morale and delegates the workload.

Without a strong sense of leadership, a project manager may be qualified in terms of skills but he might not be able to settle conflicts that arise among his team members.

characteristics of great project manager

To ensure project effectiveness, here are 5 key qualities that a project manager should have.

1.     Bringing out the best of people

Project managers know instinctively as leaders that they can’t do everything on their own. They need their team members to tackle different kinds of work according to each person’s expertise to ensure success on the project.

Every day when they go to work, project managers should ask themselves, “How can I make my team members to perform better on this project today?” Whether it is to give guidance, provide resources or resolve conflicts, they are always striving to make sure their employees work their best.

2.     Experience

The more projects a project manager have handled, the more one knows about how to best approach a certain matter. A project manager who is highly experienced and knows what to do would be looked up to.

3.     Passion

No one wants to work for someone who is just doing what the clients ask or what the big bosses ask. That’s why passion is an important quality that a project manager should have. A great project manager is eager to ace a project instead of doing the bare minimum, and constantly shows his enthusiasm in doing the project.

4.     Management skills

Project managers who lack management skills will find it hard to get trust from their employees. If they can’t listen to complaints, provide solutions, give feedback, praise an accomplishment, resolve conflicts and build the team’s morale, it will be hard for the team members to work together on the project.

5.     Responsible

As followers, we want our leaders to have our back when things go wrong. We want a project manager who can lead us, show us the direction and achieve success together. And yet we also want the reassurance that our project manager will not just leave us in chaos when things get tough.

Want to learn more about how to become a great project manager? Check out the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.

Project Management 101: The Importance of using Project Management in Your Business

Without even realising it, we often use project management in every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s cleaning the house or doing an event, we use project management every day. We plan, execute, monitor, control and finish the things we set out to do.

In business settings, however, it takes skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully conduct a project. This is where the role of a project manager is regarded with high importance, as they are the people who make sure that things get done according to plan.

In this article, we will explain the basic aspects to note about project management.

project management

What is a project?

A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to carry out a unique task, service or result. It has a unique purpose and it is temporary – a project can go on for a couple of months or even a couple of years.

A project is not to be confused with ‘Operational Work’ as well. Projects terminate but ‘operations‘ are ongoing and repetitive. Another important difference to note is that projects change the status quo, while operations sustain business.

Who uses project management?

As a business expands, the nature of work itself requires rigorous management, due to increased business complexity, integration and diversification. Businesses and organisations thus use project management as they acknowledge the benefits of organising work as projects and the need to communicate and integrate work across departments and professions.

Factors in project management: Triangle of constraints

Every project wants to accomplish success. As a rule of thumb, a project has three influential factors to note: scope, time and cost.

triangle of constraints

This triangle of constraints describes the tradeoffs between scope, time and cost within projects that affect the risk, quality and resources of the product.

Why projects can fail

That said, a carefully planned project can still fail. Here are some common reasons for projects failing:

  • Lack of having a business case
  • Uncontrolled changes to the project requirements
  • No project management methodology/governance framework in place
  • Insufficient planning
  • Risks are not managed
  • Issues are not managed
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of commitment and responsibility by stakeholders

How to ensure project success

Furthermore, an individual project manager can improve the chances that his/her project will succeed by following:

  • A project management methodology that is based on best practices
  • Capture lessons learned throughout the project execution
  • Plan effectively and stick to the plan
  • Manage changes through a controlled process
  • Identify and continuously maintain engagement of stakeholders
  • Effective communications strategy and plan
  • Managing the project team by inspiring, motivating, leading
  • Always seeking to improve

This article is modified from the Institute of Management training module: Diploma of Project Management. For more information about the course, please visit our website.