Format Efficient Progress Reports

Spend less time updating your boss about the status of your team’s projects. Follow this simple template:

  • Title. [insert project or task name] Progress Report
  • Date. Include the report’s date and the time period it covers.
  • Status. State the stoplight status (green, yellow or red).
  • Overall metric. Example: Use the heading “Percent Complete” and provide actual versus plan percentages.
  • Executive summary. List all the major points in your report.
  • Progress of components. This section contains every detail about every part of the project. Include developments, accomplishments and future plans. List your roadblocks and the work being done to clear them.
  • Next report due date. Establish a timeline for the next report and stick to it.

— Adapted from “How to Write a Progress Report,” F. John Reh, Management,

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What Would You Choose: Money or More Flexibility?

A recent survey found that most people would prefer more flexibility and free time over money. What would you choose? Answer in the comments section.

Free time or money.

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When the Biggest Problem is the People

A day in a dysfunctional office can feature more drama than a soap opera: coworker conflict, gum-flapping gossips, turf wars that are entrenched in the culture and demanding divas of either gender, just to name a few.

No wonder studies estimate that managers spend about 20% of their time—the equivalent of one day each workweek—dealing with employee conflict.

Instead of shutting the door and trying to ignore it, consider that you might be the trigger, or at least adding fuel to the flames. Make sure that your actions contribute to a calm workplace.

Do you:

  • Consider job candidates’ attitudes and fit with your organization’s culture? It’s easier to train an employee to develop the necessary skills than to change someone’s attitude.
  • Involve yourself in employee battles when you should—and only when you need to? If you keep solving problems, employees will keep bringing them to you.
  • Act as a coach, instead of a referee? When you show employees how to get along, everyone will have more time to focus on the work.
  • Apply consistent standards for behavior across the board, no matter how much a “star” employee contributes to sales or other areas? Drama kings and queens can cost you more than they are worth, with the distractions, resentment and turnover they cause.


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Shorten Rambling, Unproductive Phone Calls

When you are busy,  you just don’t have the time to spend on long, unproductive phone calls. Use these phrases to keep phone calls under 10 minutes:

  • “I have only eight minutes to discuss this.”
  • “My next appointment is waiting.”
  • “I’d like to discuss this at length with you, but before we proceed, would you please send me a detailed written description of all your points to be sure I have them right?”
  • “I don’t have much time. What’s your No. 1 issue right now?”
  • “What should our next step be?”

— Adapted from 101 Productive Things to Do in Ten Minutes or Less, Columbia Books,

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Is Your Brand Helping or Hurting You As You Climb Your Way to the Top? 5 Ways You Could Be Destroying Your Promotion Opportunities

Top Candidate

Don’t underestimate the power of personal branding—that is developing a trusting, knowledgeable problem-solving persona that people can relate to.

A strong personal brand can land you a job at a new company. In fact, recruiters will make decisions about whom to interview based on people’s online reputations. In addition, a strong personal brand can drastically improve your interactions with customers.

Those are all great reasons to develop and manage your personal brand, and here’s one more: Your personal brand can make or break your career advancement opportunities within your current organization.

So, if you have any desire to move up within your organization, whether that is moving from one role to another or moving into a management job, you need to make sure that the personal brand you currently put out there shines the best possible light on you and your abilities.

Here are five of the biggest personal branding mistakes that might be holding you back:

  1. Not knowing what your personal brand is. Right now, you have a personal brand. It may not be the brand you want, but you have one. The goal is to develop a positive one both externally with customers and prospects and internally among your coworkers. Are you the trustworthy advisor? The office clown? The isolated hermit? The loudmouth, busy body? Not knowing how others perceive you is as dangerous as not caring about how they perceive you. Pick a few trusted friends, family members or coworkers and ask them to be honest with you about how you come across to others. Be prepared to hear some criticism, and don’t become defensive the minute you hear something you don’t like.
  2. Failing to take your personal brand seriously. You can be the top sales person in your company and still be overlooked for promotions if people don’t perceive you as a leader—and we’re not just talking about your boss here. Your coworkers’ perceptions matter too. If they don’t see you as an asset and respect you, it will be apparent in their interactions with you. You’ll meet more resistance, have a harder time collaborating and experience more conflict—all things that could hurt your advancement opportunities.
  3. Allowing your personal life to affect your personal brand. It is highly likely that your boss and your coworkers have Googled you at some point. What they find there can big-time tarnish your reputation. Social media profiles filled with images of your partying, inappropriate or derogatory comments or even just tons of typos can make the powers that be think twice before promoting you. Research yourself and spend some time cleaning up your online image.
  4. Thinking you can behave however you want. Bad behaviors are remembered the most. If you are rude to people, talk bad about others, gossip, whine, bully, use inappropriate humor or shut yourself off from the rest of the world, that’s how people will think of you. Forget the good work you do. People will only remember how you act. Decide whom you want to be and then make your actions fit that persona.
  5. Believing your trophies are enough. Receive all the accolades and win all the awards in the world, but ensure that your brand is not just about winning. Personal branding is about positioning yourself as an expert, a problem solver and as someone others can trust and rely on. Forget all the slick talk, brownnosing and bragging, and instead prove to everyone around you—not just the management team—that you can be counted on. That’s how you will move your way to the top.
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Provide Foolproof Instructions

When staffers follow instructions correctly the first time, their productivity soars and your
frustration level drops. Follow these steps to ensure employees get it right every time:

  • Verify oral instructions. When you assign a task, ask the staffer to write it down; watch as the person takes notes. If you speak with someone by phone, ask the person to read back the instructions. That guarantees that the person understands what you want done.
  • Create deadlines. Always attach a specific deadline—a date and time—to any tasks you assign employees. That creates a sense of urgency.
  • Allow for a margin of error. Things don’t always go as planned, so build in a little lead time. If your boss needs the report by Friday, tell your staffers that you’ll need the work Wednesday afternoon.

— Adapted from “Put It in Writing,” Jeffrey Mayer,

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Don’t Let Good Ideas Die

Leaders who focus solely on “the next big thing” may pass by numerous employees’ suggestions and solutions.

Yet those small ideas often have the potential to deliver big savings in terms of time, money and productivity. So whenever a worker offers a good idea, no matter how small, stop and ask: “Where else in the organization could that idea be used?”

A single small idea can be applied in many other places, ultimately turning it into a big idea. But it’s easy to miss the opportunity. Consider the following small idea from an appliance salesman at a nationwide retailer:

Customers often bought refrigerators without realizing that the new appliance wouldn’t fit through their doorways. Delivery crews would often damage both the appliance and the doorway before boxing up the refrigerator and returning it to the warehouse.

Nationwide, the problem was costing the retailer millions of dollars. The salesman’s solution? Cut pieces of string to the length of the appliance’s critical dimensions and staple them to the customer receipt. Then ask customers to use the string to check the doorways and to call immediately if the appliance is too wide.

The salesperson’s co-workers adopted the idea, as did several other stores in the area. But the suggestion never raveled to more than 2,000 locations, so the company squandered the idea’s huge potential.

Does your organization have a system in place to capture and capitalize on small ideas?

— Adapted from “Big Results From Small Ideas,” Alan Robinson, Industrial Management, Institute of Industrial Engineers,

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Remembering All Those We Lost on 9/11/01


Image source:

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5 Rules for Becoming an Intellectual Maverick

Life Requires More Than a Whisper of Wisdom, Says Venture Capitalist

No matter how well our lives may be going, many of us seem to be at our wit’s end when it comes to attaining that next level of success, but there is a solution to this challenge, says world-traveling entrepreneur Julian Pencilliah.

Whether we want to improve our relationships, spiritual development, emotional well-being, health or monetary ambitions, we so often find that we’re our own greatest enemies, says Pencilliah, author of “The Jetstream of Success,” (

“You see it time and time again – individuals rise out of the most devastating circumstances and transform their lives into greatness,” he says. “If you’re in a place where you feel that life’s closing in on you, and you have a pressing urgency to transform your misfortune into a positive opportunity, then you must embrace the fact that realizing your potential is a process.”

How does one start this process? Become a student of your own history and become an intellectual maverick, says Pencilliah, who reviews the attributes that must be developed to make progress possible.

Irrevocably change your world. Piece together an ever-fuller understanding of yourself with the intention of reinventing yourself a thousand-fold. We should always aim toward exponential achievements, with the wisdom of knowing that we are not chasing the achievement, but rather chasing the consciousness of who we need to become in order to materialize our success.

  • Think with sophistication. This is your capacity to become more strategic in your approach to life. This simply means that you need to become more process-oriented, rather than goal-oriented. Intelligence is knowing what’s required of you. Sophisticated thinking is the process of making successful decisions over a lifetime.
  • Exceed probability amplitudes. Achieving success in any arena of your life is framed within your ability to eliminate innate weaknesses and biases. History tells us that not all greats have off-the-chart IQs, nor are they born with limitless freedom. In fact, it’s the triumph over less-than-favorable circumstances and a determination to achieve that often builds the character necessary for success. Great individuals set out to achieve outstanding results, and make their decisions within intellectual criteria. All the greats have engaged a higher impulse, a higher bandwidth, and an inherent strength.
  • Smile with radiance. Life is beauty in every direction, but we are often unable to see it if we are too consumed with our lives. The simple truth is that you can touch more of the beauty of life only by touching your own beauty. If you look through the lens of love, gratitude and contribution, then you will be able to see and touch more of the infinite beauty that makes life on Earth a heaven. Learn to smile like sunshine every day and brighten up your world.
  • Get lucky. “I would love to tell you that your destiny is written in the stars, but it is actually written within the confines of your interpretation of life,” Pencilliah says. “Luck has more to do with self-engagement than any random twist of fate. Be bold and champion your life to exceed the probability amplitude of any statistic of luck.”
    We are all endowed with the ability to achieve success in any facet of our lives; success is framed within the definition of the analytical tools and emotional disciplines necessary to champion your life forward, he says.

“Above all, I live by three simple words: compassion, love and gratitude,” Pencilliah says. “We need to act on these three words daily. Doing so will irrevocably change your world.”

Julian Pencilliah, (, is the author of the new book, The Jetstream of Success, (, which is an Amazon Top 10 e-book best sellers in the self-help category. As a venture capitalist, he has taken a bold approach to life, which includes 20 years of accomplished business acumen. Whether it’s going face-to-face on a dive with great white sharks in the depths of the Atlantic, racing Formula One cars throughout the world or being on a game drive with Virgin billionaire Sir Richard Branson, Pencilliah’s lifestyle has served as a platform for him to draw analogies to connect with readers. This allows the reader to stitch together an ever-fuller understanding of their self, enabling progress toward their ambitions.

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5 Tips for Working With a Disorganized Boss

Working with a forgetful, disorganized supervisor is challenging and reduces your productivity. Ease your frustration by implementing these tactics:

  1. Simplify communications. Make your points clear and concise. Use bullets to list out action items. Don’t overwhelm your boss with too many things at once.
  2. Write it down. Offer your communication in writing. Many people can process what they read more easily than taking a verbal command and carrying it out.
  3. Follow up. If you don’t hear from your boss on an issue, follow up. Request confirmation of receipt of highly important items.
  4. Clarify instructions. Before taking actions on a project, clarify your boss’s expectations. Don’t make assumptions if something is unclear. If you don’t, you risk delegating incorrectly to your employees.
  5. Prioritize needs. Talk about or write your most important items first. If your boss processes or reads only the first half of your message, he or she will absorb the most critical information.

— Adapted from “17 Tips for Working With a Disorganized Boss,” Jacquelyn Smith,

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