The Story of The Baker

A story we often tell when we get asked what Project House is all about, is one about a Baker who loves to bake pies.  We’ll call him The Baker.  The Baker made pies all of the time.  His pies were well-loved by his family, who demanded pies for every conceivable occasion.  His pies were delicious and better than anything available in a shop.  Over time,  The Baker started making pies for his kids’ fundraising events, for his friends and their friends, and before he knew it, his pies were in such high demand that he had a business on his hands and he needed to hire some helpers and find a community kitchen space several days a week just to keep up with the orders.

 

Fast forward a few years and The Baker is in a bit of a pickle. His business has grown exponentially, which is wonderful, and he is proud of his success.  He has long outgrown his space, and he now needs a commercial sized kitchen with a huge warehouse space for manufacturing, storage, and delivery. He has a huge team, his online sales are growing, and his customers and family are suggesting that he open up a small storefront with a café. The Baker is feeling overwhelmed.  He needs a new website because the one his niece built for him originally, while lovely, does not give him the flexibility that he needs for his online sales business.  His logo could use a refresh as the pies are now shipping across the country and he really needs a more polished brand.  He is having some issues with a few of his employees, and he doesn’t know how to uncover the problems.  He suspects that he may need additional managers, and would really like to promote and train some of his current staff. He is doing his payroll manually and it’s giving him night sweats. He never had any formal training in anything to do with running a business, and as his company grows, he is feeling pulled in a million different directions.  He needs help in a variety of areas, but he doesn’t know where to start or who to reach out to for help.

 

Enter Project House…and we can help with all of The Baker’s headaches.  He doesn’t need to call multiple companies or consultants to come in and work in silos in all of these challenging areas, because Project House is a one-stop solution. We can work with The Baker to discover all of his many pain points, prioritize them, and break them into bite-sized pieces.  The Baker will have an achievable plan to work through all of his various business areas in a strategic and holistic way that will fit his needs and his budget. At Project House our goal is to help improve and align The Baker’s business, find efficiencies wherever possible, and leave things better and easier, so he can spend time on the right things and enjoy his work! 

 

Does The Baker’s story sound familiar to you?  We would love for you to get in touch with us to see how we can help!

We Love Being Part of Your Team

Last year, one of our clients went through a significant leadership change. We had enjoyed a great relationship with this client, and we felt trusted and effective, providing strategic and operational support regularly and easily. When our primary senior contact informed us he was leaving the organization, we wondered if our work with this client would continue, or if the new leader would be looking to make their mark by handling these pieces differently. We focused on ensuring a smooth transition from one leader to another, making ourselves available to bridge processes and systems, and support continuity.

After this initial transition period, once the new leader had an opportunity to assess their own goals and priorities and set their own tone with the team, he reached out to us. Happily we were asked to step even further into the organization, to spend more time 1:1 with employees, and to make ourselves known and trusted members of the team.

Months later, we are still spending regular time in this client’s office, dipping in more often when there’s a big project to deliver.  We are able to support them in a way that is effective and positive for us as well as the team, sharing our expertise and learning from each other.  When a challenge looms, we can head it off at the pass, or lend our extra muscle in the moment, before it gets too big to handle neatly.  We can help support and nurture the team culture as it evolves.

When this client grows to a size where they need to hire full-time employees to take over some of our services, we may shift into a more traditional consulting role where we lend a hand occasionally in areas where we can add value.  It will be great at that stage to already know and understand the business and to have developed trust with the team.  We will be able to provide training and support, and know that we’ve made a positive impact on the business at its various stages.

We love getting calls from clients who have a big challenge that needs tackling.  By giving us an opportunity to work closely with your team early on, we can help you mitigate risk and solve small problems before they escalate.  We can get to know your employees at every level and we can see your culture in action We can share our skills and experience, earn your trust, and become a valuable member of your organization.  All without breaking the bank or working more than you need.

May 14: Acing the Phone Interview Workshop

phone interview tips tricks workshop

On Saturday, May 14th Heidi had the great privilege and pleasure to deliver a workshop for Dress for Success in a beautiful space provided for the occasion by the School of Music at the VSO. Heidi designed the workshop, called ‘Acing the Phone Interview’, to help prepare attendees for phone interviews by knowing what to expect and how to put their best foot forward.

The workshop included a variety of practical lessons, including how to research a company to understand its business and culture and your potential fit, knowing what questions will likely be asked and how to prepare your answers, coming up with your own questions for the interviewer, and other tips for how to be ready for the call. Attendees got an opportunity to practice preparing their own questions and took turns interviewing each other.  Throughout the day, there was a lot of time for q + a, storytelling, and additional insight from the group.

Dress For Success workshop attendees

 

The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

 

Client Spotlight: Capcom Vancouver

Benjamin Franklin quote

Project House has been designing and facilitating manager training sessions for one of our amazing clients, Capcom Vancouver, in order to provide their employees with an opportunity to brush up on their skills, pick up some new ones, gain a fresh perspective and new ideas, and to feel more prepared and comfortable in their roles.

Our session on Effective Performance Reviews took place earlier this year, and was designed to provide training, tips, and insights on understanding and maximizing the evolving performance process, including how to give great performance feedback and guide effective goals.

More recently we met with managers to deliver training sessions on Communication and Feedback, which included components such as listening, comfort zones, and effective 1:1 meetings. Upcoming sessions will take place over the coming months, and will be tailored to cover a broad spectrum of management and leadership topics.

We are excited to provide this type of training to our clients and their teams, and we always enjoy partnering with employees and getting exposure to their insights, ideas, and best practices firsthand.

leadership training

HR is dead! Long live HR!

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I love being in HR.  I love people, their joy, their weirdness, their excitement, their grumpiness, their unpredictability.  I love learning as well as teaching.  I love being in a room the moment someone “gets it,” especially when that someone is me.  I enjoy the effort and reward of creating, coaching, and listening.  I enjoy being surprised, breaking big problems into smaller achievable ones, providing information and guidance.  I like being involved in bringing clarity, reasonable processes, and policies that work. I like rolling up my sleeves in the grey area that is human behaviour. Read more

Whoa Nelly! Hit pause before you send that next email!

Whoa_Nelly_projecthouseI did something I’m kind of sheepish about over the weekend. We have hired a delightful woman who works for us part-time. She is a very talented graphic designer and she is helping us stay organized and perform tasks in a variety of areas.

Here’s what happened: I was going through our Asana tasks (for those of you who are not familiar with Asana, it is an awesome task management web and mobile application that is great for teams or individuals) and just checking in on various projects that she had completed, and looking at the week ahead.

I came across one particular task and wanted to do a spot check. My role as her manager is to assign tasks and provide the freedom to complete these tasks in her own way and at a pace that suits her and our deadlines, but I also owe a duty to my clients to ensure that these jobs are being handled to the level of quality and service that is befitting of our company. In addition, as this employee is still new to our company, I want to ensure that she is getting the training that she needs from me, so before work goes out, I will often review it, or I will do the odd spot check on work to ensure that it has been done correctly.

My spot check on this particular web-based task revealed that the link was not displaying at all. In a quick moment of panic I sent this employee a note, thanking her for doing the work but letting her know that I had noticed that it was not working correctly, and asking her to fix it right away on Monday. I also inserted a quick reminder into the email to be sure that she doubled checked her work going forward.

Now, honestly, none of this is particularly that bad. I sent her a nicely toned email; I didn’t berate her or try to make her feel incompetent. Generally, my reminder to double check work is valid and a good rule to follow. Unfortunately, once I sent off the email and went back to my browser to close it down, I noticed that the link was in fact working. Apparently the content was a bit larger and had taken a few seconds longer than I had given it to load. So of course, I felt bad that I had sent this employee an email at all. I sent her a quick apology, explaining what had happened, and when she came in on Monday, I also offered up a verbal apology to ensure that the air was clear. No damage done, thank goodness, but it’s so easy for this kind of thing to spiral into something worse, so here are some takeaways:

1) Set the intention of your email before you write it. In this circumstance, I wanted this to be a teachable moment and avoid having this type of thing happen again. I also wanted my employee to know that I valued the fact that she had completed the task, even if it hadn’t been done exactly as I wanted (well…we now know it was!). The intention of your email shouldn’t be to berate or belittle someone, so make sure that it doesn’t come across that way. Which leads me to my next point…

2) Lead with a positive tone. When communicating by email (or verbally for that matter) you can either do good or do damage. My suggestion is to try to use a positive tone from the start, even if you are delivering negative feedback. I can be proud of the email that I sent her, as it started with a “Thank you for getting that job done, great work…I did however notice a small issue”. Much nicer than if I’d started with “I can’t believe what a mess you’ve made!” Imagine how that would have made her feel and how that could lead to a damaged relationship between us.

3) Take a step away, reread, and take a deep breath before hitting send. I’m not sure that I would have thought to go back and check the link again just to be sure that it wasn’t working – perhaps I will now that I’ve learned my lesson. I wish that I had taken just another few minutes before pushing send, or had come back to it, but at the very least, I can be happy that with doing items 1 and 2 above that I was able to avoid any longstanding damage.

If you are sending some feedback out or sending out an email that is particularly charged, I strongly recommend that you take a step away from the email for awhile after you’ve written it, and before you send it. If you feel the message could really have a negative impact on the other side, or if you are feeling particularly angry or upset, why not save the email and park it until tomorrow. You might find that after a good night’s rest you feel quite differently about the matter. At the very least, get up, get a glass of water or just walk around a little first.

When you come back to it – reread it. Perhaps double-check your facts, or even have someone else read the email for tone.

Lastly, take a deep breath before you hit send. If you still have any angst over sending it, then again ask yourself why – trust your next-day judgment; perhaps the message isn’t quite right, or it doesn’t need to be sent at all.

4) Take responsibility and be prepared for a reaction. Once you’ve hit send, it might be appropriate to follow up in person. If it’s a colleague or employee, you might ask them if they received your email and if they had any questions. And by all means, if you’ve made a mistake, make sure you take responsibility for it and own it, don’t forget to say you’re sorry!

So… in my case, no longstanding damage was done, no relationships were ruined, but it was a good reminder to me going forward. Email communication is fast and simple, but your words can be so easily be misconstrued or sent without realizing their impact. Sometimes a good old fashioned phone call or face-to-face may be the best action.

Looking for another cool option to send a message to someone? There is this neat web site where you can dictate a message and attach it to an email – the perfect way to communicate exactly the tone you want: www.vocaroo.com.

 

 

“Human Resources”: A rose by any other name

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Ok I get it – “Human Resources” is not a widely understood term.  The title is a bit cold and uninspiring, and people don’t want to be referred to as “resources”, but rather as living, breathing, creative beings.  “Human Resources” doesn’t really reflect the skillset within the profession either:  there is no hint of staffing or training, recruiting or leadership coaching, strategic planning or interviewing, onboarding or outplacement, contract negotiation or employment law…  “Human Resources” is a broad businessy term with no tangible indication of friendliness, supportiveness, or of helping people succeed in their work.

Fair enough.  Many companies avoid “Human Resources” by using the abbreviation “HR” (I often use this term because it’s shorter and friendlier), and others have created new titles that suit their culture better, such as Manager of “People Potential” or “Talent”.  Until a new term is commonly used, I’m happy to just work hard for my clients and companies, and to talk about the meaning of HR as I perceive it, and (more importantly) how it pertains to their individual needs.

As an HR professional who has also had a long career in project management and development, and who has often been a customer and a partner to HR, I know firsthand that the role of HR isn’t always clear to everyone.  At the heart of the profession is a focus on employees, their potential, and their success within a company.  In the overall corporate balance, it is important to have someone more focused on people and process than on product or finance, but who appreciates that all of these aspects are critical to a company’s success.

Here’s what I care about:  Are the right employees performing the right jobs at the right times?  Are they trained?  Are they happy?  Do they know what is expected of them?  Are they treated fairly and legally?  Do they have everything they need in order to thrive at work?  Are their managers and leaders trained and engaged?  Is their company thinking about future hires, succession plans, performance measurements, rewards, promotions, competitive salary ranges?  Are people being hired properly, introduced to their responsibilities thoroughly, and also terminated when it makes sense?  Do they have a voice at the company, and are the right people listening?

A great company cares about their people because they know that great employees are critical to a company’s success, that it is difficult and expensive to find and hire them, and that great employees leave companies when they are not challenged or appreciated.  Great employees also leave when their managers are not strong, and when they are not given opportunities to do good work or grow their skills.  A great company knows that a strong reputation as an employer matters, and that people will work harder (and for less money) if they feel good about what they are doing and about who they are doing it for.  A great company understands the importance of clear roles and expectations, solid hiring and onboarding practices, and the need to recognize when an employee isn’t working out – as well as the desire and ability to find out why, and to do something about it, even if that means letting them go.

Many startup companies have fewer employees who are, by necessity, forced to wear multiple hats – founders often juggle the roles of CEO, CTO, COO, HR, Administration, Office Manager, Caterer, Programmer, Web Designer, Janitor –this is just the reality of running a lean machine until there is more money to spend.  However, because employees thrive when they are managed and guided by people who like and appreciate (and are skilled at) managing them, these companies often make the decision to invest in HR, in either full-time or consultant form, as early as possible.  HR, if used well, can help a company find the best people, use them wisely, set them up for success, and help them stay motivated, active, innovative, and hard-working over the long-term.  Essentially, where there are humans, there is a need for someone who specializes in them.