Projects work better with empathy

Empathy is one of the most important characteristics to develop as a project manager. The more in tune you are with the needs of your team and your client, and the more effort you put into understanding those needs, the greater chance the project has of being successful. But what does it mean to be empathic?

Rather than responding to problems with a silver lining in a bid to move the project forward on time, real empathy can require taking time to make changes, or simply a face-to-face chat to connect with someone who is struggling, letting them know that you understand.

Being empathic is not the least you can do – it is in fact, the most you can do. It requires a lot of effort, but can make all the difference when it comes to the outcome of your project.

For your clients

Being empathetic to your client’s needs is one of the first rules when it comes to great project management. This isn’t always as straightforward as it seems.

It is important to check in every once in a while and evaluate your relationship with your clients. Project management is a high pressure job. It can be easy to get caught up with deadlines and details and lose the connections you have with the people you are working with.

Feel their frustrations – don’t just acknowledge them

Every client is different, which means that understanding and addressing their unique frustrations is important. If a certain process doesn’t suit your client, don’t launch into an explanation of why your pre-meditated agenda works best. Sometimes, you might have to tweak your workflow or agenda to fit them.

Likewise, you should also communicate with your clients in a way that is comfortable for them. Start off by asking how the client prefers to be contacted. Do they prefer phone, email, Slack? Sending messages via a medium that they struggle to respond in can make them feel uncomfortable from the get-go.

Search for the reasons behind requests

Unexpected requests from a client can be frustrating at times, but you should never take the request at face value. Although it could seem as though that the idea was pulled from thin air, there is often a motivation behind it.

Bear in mind that there are pressures in the client’s workplace that you will never see or fully comprehend. Instead of making a quick judgement, try to get to the root of why they are making a certain request. Sometimes, it won’t mean changing anything about the project, but simply addressing a concern from the client’s team.

For your team

One of the most important aspects of project management is taking care of your internal team. You should be looking out for their best interests and should always remain approachable, should anyone want to discuss an issue with you.

Use empathy to create a fair working environment

Make sure that you understand and adapt projects around different ways of working. For example, maybe there is one person on your team who likes to work on just one or two projects at a time. Someone else on your team might find it difficult to speak with clients directly.

Be aware of these differences and step in as necessary. If you are flexible and empathic, you can create an optimum working environment for everyone on the team.

Don’t let the project become the problem

The way that you conduct projects will have an impact on the working environment your team experiences day to day.

When projects don’t go according to plan, try to refrain from using negative language – and I’m not referring to swearing here. Negative language can actually be a lot more subtle. Be cautious of sarcastic terms such as “our favourite project” creeping into everyday conversation. This can affect your team’s morale more than you may recognise.

You should be able to joke around as a team, especially when it comes to tough times, but as a project manager you need to keep track of the language your team uses on a daily basis. This will help to stop a negative mindset from developing.

After all, when the project becomes synonymous with “the problem”, your team won’t want to work on it anymore.

For your projects

I believe it is also important for project managers to have a sense of empathy for the project itself.

Can a project ever really go “to plan”?

No two projects are exactly alike. Although it is certainly possible (and advisable!) to take learnings from one project and apply them to others, you will never truly know what to expect until you get stuck in.

It can be hard when we are faced with challenges that we didn’t see coming. You can find yourself thinking that the project hasn’t gone to plan. But here’s the catch – you can never truly create a watertight plan for how a project will unfold.

It is the nature of our roles as project managers to develop a full understanding of the project – and this includes the bumps in the road that appear along the way.

Why are you working on the project in the first place?

Ask yourself why the project is important from the outset. This requires more work than simply understanding the client’s business and their customers. Take time to connect to why the project is important, what it achieves for the end users and how it will make a difference.

When challenging times come, remind yourself of the first project meeting and what you really set out to achieve. This should help to bring some clarity beyond the problem and provide context for your current struggles.

Rather than focusing on just getting the project done, remind yourself that you are working on something that will make a real difference to someone!

In summary, being empathic can be a key factor when it comes to developing closer relationships with your clients and your team. And when these relationships flourish, so will your projects.

As an exercise, try to create a list of action points that will help you to develop a more empathetic approach. This could include:

  • A weekly or fortnightly call with a client – scrap the agenda and instead focus on catching up and building rapport
  • An internal survey for your team, or a suggestion box for how to improve processes
  • Write a report for your team on how you dealt with something unexpected during a project, focussing on the positives and the learning experiences that came with it.

 

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Redirecting Rejection

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At one point in time, almost all of us have faced some sort of rejection.

Whether it was from a school, a company, family, friends, coworkers, or a promotion that you didn’t receive, rejection hurts. However, rejection has a way of teaching and redirecting us to things, people, places, and opportunities that are sometimes better than originally expected.

“Rejection is protection for something greater that is to come”

Rejections mean taking risks. Risks help us to understand more about who we are and where we want to go. More so, risks help us develop the skills to deal with the inevitable adversity life brings.

Find the lesson in the situation. Turn adversity into self-growth and self-exploration.

“You are so much stronger than you think”

According to MRI studies, emotional pain triggers the same pathways in the brain caused by physical pain. This may be why we personalize with the pain of rejection – amplifying and prolonging the sensation.

Rather than identifying with the rejection, or the pain, it can be beneficial to separate what happened to you from who you know that you are.

A helpful way of doing this is by talking to yourself like you would a friend. If your friend got rejected, would you tell them that they were unworthy or undeserving? Probably not. Then why do we talk to ourselves in that way?

Sometimes something good has to be subtracted from our lives before something better can take its place – Ann Spangler

It’s an amazing feeling when someone immediately gets who you are and what you have to offer. Why then do we spend time on those that don’t care, trying to convince them, when there’s someone else who is ready to receive us?

I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat – Sylvester Stallone

Sometimes rejection is just one person’s opinion.

Get a second opinion.

It might have been bad timing – try again.

Or, try again in different ways.

Maybe it was due to lack of knowledge – do more research. Interpret the rejection as an opportunity to learn. Ask questions to uncover as much as you can behind the rejection.

A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success – Bo Bennett

Remember, the most successful people got rejected and failed before they succeeded.

Your time is next – trust the process.

Qualities that make a good team great

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1. The team is a ‘tribe’

In his book, Tribes, Seth Godin argues:

“Tribes are about faith – about belief in an idea and in a community. And they are grounded in respect and admiration for the leader of the tribe and for the other members as well.”

The business world is leaning more and more towards this ‘tribe’ mentality. People now don’t just want a ‘job’, but to be part of something bigger, to do work that they really believe in, and to make a positive difference in the world.

2. A Culture of Caring

You know when you walk into the office and someone says “How was your weekend?” These guys actually want to know. And if it was a bit rubbish, they genuinely care and will offer something to help you feel better – a hug, a coffee, a way of reframing your experience, or just the feeling of being heard.

And because we all care, this helps to foster an environment where everyone is always ready to help each other out when needed, which brings me on to…

3. Shared responsibility

This shared responsibility means that we share learnings with each other in situations that may not have gone as we’d hoped, and ensures that we all feel a part of every success we have as a company, regardless of our personal contribution.

Great teams empower you to do great work

Writing proposals that win 80% of deals

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If you want high-ticket clients, proposals make or break your business. Learn how to write a winner.

Most of the time, people don’t believe me when I tell them that it’s 100% possible to close 80% (or more) of the deals you write proposals for. Problem is, most people have no idea how to write a winning proposal.

1. Write the words that matter most, write results

When you’re selling consulting services, you’re selling results. Your clients care about 1. how much money you can make for them or 2. how much money you can save them. That’s it.

People argue this with me all the time. They say, but Kartik, what if my coaching service is about building confidence and self-esteem in executives—

To which I reply:

I bet you sell a lot more self-esteem when you correlate it with higher revenue for those exec’s companies.

As much as it may pain some, all business transactions boil down to dollars made or dollars saved. If you’re a consultant, you’re a business selling things to other businesses (business to business or B2B for short).

So, no matter what you sell—at the end of the B2B day, we’re all selling money.

Here’s what winning proposals say

1. How much money your services will make (or save) the client

2. The objectives/tactics you’ll use to get that dollar amount

3. How little your price is in comparison to what you’ll earn (or save) the client

The above are the sections in your new proposal, like this:

  • Goals (dollars you’re going to make/save the client)
  • Objectives and Tactics (the actions you take to deliver that dollar amount—bonus if this section includes intellectual property of yours)
  • Price (how your price compares to the returns of your work = ROI)

2. Always agree on the price before you send the proposal

In a workshop a few months back. I told the room: agree on the price before you send the proposal.

One person cried to me afterward: I know this sounds crazy, but that’s such simple advice, and I feel like an idiot for not doing something so simple.

I empathized deeply because I’d been there. I felt like an idiot when I realized that what was killing my deals was that my prospects were seeing numbers they simply weren’t prepared to see.

Never send a proposal without first agreeing on the price, unless you’re on a mission to get ghosted.

Agree to price in person or via Skype if you can. A phone is second best. Never try to agree on the price in an email. Do it with your voice so that if they object to price, you can negotiate right then and there. You don’t want to risk an email, or proposal, being ghosted.

Step 3. Know the data and be all about the data

You can only help people if you’re tracking metrics and data. Don’t write blind proposals. Either has the prospect share reports and data with you via phone or email or if you can, have a look at their analytics/data yourself.

For example, if you’re a web development consultant, you need to see web traffic details, SEO performance, cart click-through rates, and more.

A question I’m often askedBut what do you do if your client says, “we don’t have any data.”

Answer: Even better. Your proposal then becomes all about helping them collect and harness data to make better decisions/more money.

A question I’m often asked: But what if you sell something that isn’t typically tracked and you’re not even sure that it’s possible to track with data?

Answer. Be innovative and create your own way (intellectual property) to track data. For example, if you’re an executive coach focused on self-esteem, come up with a confidence tracker or mood scorecard, some way to track TANGIBLE results. Then, correlate those results with money.

Step 4. Sell results, not objectives

Let’s say you provide web development services to e-commerce businesses. You need to calculate a dollar amount that your services are worth.

What special abilities do you have (i.e. SEO skills, a/b testing, personalization) that will drive traffic to that website? How much money is that extra traffic worth?

Let’s say you’re going to drive 20k more hits per month with a new site you’re proposing. You’ve had a look at the prospect’s analytics data and you know they currently convert 1% of visitors to buyers. But, you’re confident you can improve that to 10%. You also know that their average purchase is $100.

So, you’re giving this client: 10% x 20k x $100 = $200k per month.

Your proposal should break those numbers down—just like they are above, spell it out. Then, you need to back those results up with case studies, testimonials, and references from happy clients.

Go write winners

Why Startups Fall Apart at 50 Employees

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Ask anyone who’s worked at more than one startup and they’ll probably tell you the same thing: Young companies start to go off the rails once they hit 50 employees. I call this the “teenager” startup phase.

What does this look like?

Employee one through 10: At a certain point, the original employees stop learning new people’s names. They won’t come right out and say it but they start to resent having to show yet another noob how to do the same simple things. Their tolerance for mistakes, even for the same mistakes they once made themselves, goes into the toilet.

Employee 10 through 25: The second tier of employees then starts to form small, protective cliques. They may occasionally drop references to the “good old days.” They place growing importance on things like titles and status. Discussions might start to percolate about adopting the title prefix “Senior.”

Employee 26 through 39: This is the group where power plays start to happen. If the “teens” are going to form tribes, the late-twenties and thirties are going to start raising hell against the old guard.

Employees 40 through 49: WTF is going on?

While this scenario may not be true for every employee in every group, it always happens to at least a few people after a startup hits 50 employees. Like I said, I’ve been in each group and I’ve exhibited each of these behaviors, so I’m not judging here.

Well, maybe I’m judging a little. But we need to talk about what to do when your company feels like it’s going off the rails. We need to get our teenage startups out of the house and into the world like functioning adults.


Hitting chaos at 50 employees could mean several positive things. For one, it definitely means a company is growing, likely faster than planned. And as long as the growth doesn’t get too far out of hand, that’s a good problem to have.

If growth is indeed happening and it’s organic, your company has probably already developed an internal culture, lexicon, and set of operations that may not be documented but are definitely understood. Communication probably happens more on a face-to-face and on-demand basis than in memos and meetings, which means there’s likely not a lot of time wasted getting everyone on the same page.

Chaos is also a sign that your company’s executives are spending time building the product, penetrating the market, and satisfying customers. They’re probably not hung up on the structure of the company itself. But the chaos is also definitely a sign that it’s time to start paying attention to this gawky teenager of a company before it rebels and runs away.

Even if everything goes right, things will go wrong.

As any parent knows, there’s no cure for the teenage years; we just have to wait it out. There’s an old buzz theme about the chaos that I hate: “Storming, forming, norming, performing.” It applies here, but I hate it because I don’t think it actually helps us.

We can’t cure chaos. But we can put measures in place to survive the storm. Here are the measures I’m most familiar with or intrigued by:

Do nothing

This is a valid option. A lot of companies do this until they start losing people. And by “do nothing,” I don’t mean doing absolutely nothing. That’s impossible because issues will come up and we can’t hide from them. Instead, “doing nothing” means proactively doing nothing and then solving each issue as it arises.

I don’t recommend this solution.

Think about what happens when we start to hand out titles like “senior” without rules for how those titles get handed out. Let’s talk about meetings. We’ll need rules as to when and how they get created. Otherwise, everyone’s calendar will eventually fill up, conference rooms will become scarce, and nothing will ever get done. Even things like working remotely need to be considered. If we don’t have standards in place, and even if everything goes right, things will go wrong. I’m not just talking about abuse here; I’m also talking about how the rest of the team can be effective when one or more of their co-workers aren’t in the same place.

Startups are usually scared of becoming stale, corporate, or heavy-handed. And I get it: I hate those things too. But at some point, the structure becomes mandatory and it’s better to be proactive about it.

What I’d rather do: Centralize and be transparent. At the very least, create a single truth for rules, processes, guidelines, and FAQs. Make sure everyone has access to those documents. Then be transparent about why you’re doing things the way you do them. This isn’t just about rules; it’s also about the company’s overall philosophy.

Hire tons of middle managers

This is the polar opposite of the “do nothing” strategy, and I’d compare it to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This strategy usually happens way too early in a company’s growth cycle. Plus, hiring more people to manage other people means wasting a lot of productivity for a little bit of order.

If we’re hiring managers from outside the company because they have experience leading teams at larger companies, they’ll have to integrate themselves and learn how we operate before they can be effective. Often these people will try to bring their older, larger company’s schema with them, which doesn’t fit.

But if we promote from within, we’re likely burdening our best people with something we didn’t hire them for. For example, often a CTO will take the best developer and say: “Here, manage the rest of your team for 50 percent of your time.” Then the developer’s productivity bottoms out on the coding side, and the rest of their team becomes resentful on the management side.

What I’d rather do: Create owners and team leads instead of bosses. At 50 employees, people usually don’t need management. However, things and processes do. This includes the product, the front-end development, the hiring, the invoicing, and whatever else you can think of. Give various people ownership of those things or make them team leads of those processes.

Do what that other company did

I’m all for stealing smart ways of doing things and adopting them as our own. I steal bits of Agile for methodology. I nick stuff from Amazon all the time for strategy. I really like what Lyft is doing with UX. But do you remember the trend from about three years ago when several Silicon Valley companies tried to solve income disparity by making everyone’s salary public? Yeah. That was a valid problem but there’s no way you can convince me that making every salary public was the solution. That strategy may be working for them (or not), but I don’t have any evidence that it will work for my company.

Trendy solutions come and go. Open workspaces were all the rage to promote teamwork, then earbuds happened. Unlimited vacation is starting to wane as a recruiting tool. On the other side, parental leave for work-life balance looks like it will stick. My point is that just because one, some, or even most companies are adopting a policy, that doesn’t mean it will work for you.

What I’d rather do: Divide and experiment. Take pieces of policies from different companies and run small experiments to see if they’ll work in your environment.

Stop hiring and outsource

This strategy says: Once we hit a certain number of employees, we can stop hiring and outsource everything. This could include some clean breaks, like outsourcing all of the development, all of the human resources, or all of the support. It could also mean adding external resources to internal teams, like consultants and independent contractors, offshore teams, and third-party service providers.

This strategy will let you run a tight ship. You can expand and contract on the rocky growth road without cutting headcount. On the other hand, 50 employees are usually just a stepping stone to 100 employees or 1,000 or sometimes even more than that. There are huge risks in having all that knowledge and experience out-of-house.

This strategy is also trickier to implement than it sounds. We’ll have to make surgical cuts as we grow and once we hit the 49th employee, what happens next? What happens when we find that next awesome hire? Do we need to let someone else go, or should we wait for someone to quit?

What I’d rather do: Lease with the option to buy. A lot of startups bring on contractors and part-timers who eventually become employees—but only when there’s enough money, enough runway, and enough need for that resource. I built two of my startups that way. Do this on a larger scale as you grow, absorbing teams when it makes sense. Run each team like an independent organization within the company.


If there’s a cure for chaos at 50 employees, it might have its roots in that last solution. What if a company organizational chart didn’t flow vertically from top to bottom but rather looked like a series of pods? Those pods could have their own pods if needed. Then company leaders would exist as a single-person pod with spokes to the larger pods.

Each pod would be run independently, like its own little company within the company. Then the outsourced resources could be their own pods, and they could come, go, and be absorbed as necessary.

I don’t know if this strategy would work. It might be wild, and it’s certainly hard to put on a sheet of paper. I’m sure it comes with its own set of problems. But my point is if we want a cure for the chaos of 50 employees, we need to build a different kind of company that runs in a unique way from day one.

And until that happens, we need to keep an eye on our teenage startup until it becomes a functioning adult.

Useful Chrome extensions for web developers and designers

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Chrome extensions are very useful for both the developers and designers, some of these extensions enhance the abilities of developer tools, some replicate the features in developer tools. Every extension in the chrome marketplace are valuable in certain scenarios but installing all of them is not a wise thing. Among many extensions, there are extensions available for web developers and web designers. Few worthy extensions are listed in this article to help out the new developers and designers.

 

1 Responsive Web Design Tester

Responsive Web Design Tester chrome extension helps developers and designers to ensure that the website is responsive or not.

2 WhatRuns

Whatruns chrome extension helps to discover the technology stacks implemented in a site. With a single click it identifies the types of front-end frameworks, types of marketing strategies, Content Delivery Network (CDN), Content Management System (CMS), are identified.No signup required and it is completely free.

3 ColorZilla

ColorZilla is an advanced and most popular color picker and eye dropper tool for both chrome and firefox.

4 UserSnap

Usersnap lets you capture your screen and allows you to annotate on the captured image.

5 PageRuler

Pageruler is used to get the dimensions of an element, its position in a webpage. Measurements are in the form of pixels. To get the measurement, simply we have to draw in the page and it displays the height, width.

6 Dimensions

Dimensions is a tool for designers to measure screen dimensions. Measuring happens in a vertical and horizontal way that is from mouse pointers up/down and left/right.

Dimensions work perfectly for elements like input-fields, buttons, videos, text icons, gifs but it doesn’t suit for measuring images.

7 WhatFont

Whatfont helps to lookup the fonts used in a webpage. It identifies the font family of a text by just hovering to the font. It also detects the services from where the fonts are served like Typekit and Google font API.

8 PerfectPixel

PixelPerfect is for designers, with the help of this extension one can design a pixel perfect design with perfect accuracy. This extension allows users to put a semi-transparent overlay to compare their design and outcome.

 

Best Tips & Practices For WordPress

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Undoubtedly, WordPress is one of the best, flexible, and easy-to-use & update and SEO friendly CMS which comes with thousands of essential WordPress plugins and themes that makes building a WordPress website a breeze.

However, unlike other CMS software’s WordPress too, require daily maintenance in order to work smoothly. Having a well-maintained WordPress website that offers a hassle-free user experience is the key to a successful online business.

Therefore to help you in this, I have come up with useful WordPress website maintenance best practices that will provide you with a comprehensive list for making your WordPress website user-friendly and SEO friendly.

Website Speed Test

Regularly checking website’s page speed and loading time is essential as they help to enhance user experience which result in more traffic and sales.

Look For Broken Links

Broken links can have negative impact on your SEO rankings since it stops search engine robots from effectively indexing your website therefor it is essential to find and fix the broken links immediately.

301 Redirect

Clicking on a link and landing on a 404 page is quite frustrating for a website user. Hence, to avoid this implement 301 redirect to redirect web pages with broken links to other similar pages.

Update WordPress Version

To ensure your website’s security is robust and to not miss out new features, it is necessary that you always upgrade your website to the latest version of WordPress.

Delete Spam Comments

To make sure your website is optimized and clutter-free, it is vital to clear up spam comments from your website.

Delete Unwanted Plugins & Regularly Updated Them

Too many plugins can affect your website speed as well as pose a security treads, therefor it is critical that you remove unnecessary plugins from your website.

Since outdated plugins leave your website open to malicious hacks. Therefore, prevent this, ensure that you always updated plugins to the latest version.

Clear Trash

Clearing out database trash should be a part of your daily maintenance to make sure your website runs and functions smoothly.

Media Files Clean-Up

One of the biggest reasons you run out of storage space on your website is because of redundant and temporary media files. Thus, cleanup those unnecessary junk files from your media library in order to improve the performance of your WordPress website.

Optimize Database Tables

Clearing database table after removing plugin or a theme will help to optimize your database leading to enhance website speed.

Test Browser & Device Compatibility

If your website runs on difference browsers and devices then checking its compatibility on each of them is essential if you don’t want to lose out on potential traffic.

Image Optimization

Using optimized images on site, you are able to deliver content at a faster rate which resulting in improve search engine indexing as well as enhanced user experience.

Check Website Navigation

Unruly navigation can be a major source of frustration for users. Therefore, check all navigation links on your website to deliver smooth and hassle-free user experience.

Remove Post Revisions & Drafts

If you blog on a regular basis, then there are chances that your database clogged with post revisions and drafts. Thus, it is necessary that you review them on a regular basis and delete them to keep your database optimized.

W3C Validation

To make sure website pages are not violating any norms or standards of W3C organization, it is critical that you validate your website from time to time.

Disable Automatic WordPress Update

With automatic update chances are very high of website break, its best practice to update WP core and plugins locally first and then apply it on the live site.

Database Backup

Backing up your website database is of utmost importance in order to ensure that your business doesn’t suffer a major setback in the event of a server failure or hacking.

If Database is gone all gone, its best practice to take backup of DB on daily basis or at least weekly. As if server crashes or site gets hacked you have recent version of site which can be used for the restoration. Backup buddy is one of the best plugin for this purpose.

Update Your Content

Keep your website content fresh and updated to avoid hurting your website’s ranking and traffic.

Review On-Page SEO

Make sure all on-page SEO elements are present on a web page or a post is essential for a SEO friendly website.

Check Website Security

Website security should be given a top priority on your daily maintenance checklist to ensure that your website is functioning smoothly and it’s safe from all malware, viruses and other internet security threats.

Disable Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Disabling trackbacks and pingbacks in WordPress is the best way to restrict spams on your website.

Change Passwords

One of the most effective ways to prevent malicious attacks and hack attempts on your site is to change your passwords frequently.

Disable Debug Mode

Disable debug mode in WordPress to prevent error messages from being published on your live site.

Keep Eyes On Web Host Statistics

Checking up on server uptime, bandwidth usage, disk space and CPU throttling is another essential WordPress maintenance task that you should not ignore.

Increase Memory Limit

The memory limit in WordPress is by default set at 32MB. However, as your business grow, it is essential that you review and increase your site’s memory limit (disk space) in order to seamlessly upload images, video and other files.

Run Website Through WP Checkup

From website’s security and performance scanning to SEO and more, running a WP Checkup will help identify any issues on your website in a sec.