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Managing Bigger Projects: Deskaway

Managing Bigger Projects: Deskaway

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    A simple task list doesn’t cut it when you’re working on a project with more than one person involved. Even when your project isn’t for work, a group project requires a different approach (and different tools) than one where you’re responsible for every single step. DeskAway offers an interface that can help you manage a number of projects — and offers a free version that you can use for up to three projects at a time with five team members. While there are more than a few project management web applications out there these days, very few offer a free version that you can use with more than one team member.

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    The Learning Curve

    Whenever I take a look at any sort of approach to project management, one of my big concerns is the learning curve. Many of my non-work projects involve people who aren’t really technologically savvy. I want something with a simple interface: if it isn’t entirely intuitive, I want easy-to-find resources to figure out what step is next. Deskaway makes each step in the process of creating a new project simple. It also includes explanations right on the page, along with demo videos. You get the choice of of turning the helpful tips on and off — I was comfortable taking off the training wheels after a few minutes, but I can see how someone not used to web applications would need them longer.

    One of the thoughts that kept popping into my head as I was adding information to Deskaway is that it would work well with committee-based projects. I’ve worked on a couple for volunteer organizations and it seems like this sort of interface would work for a group that wanted to share out tasks for its larger projects — like creating a newsletter or planning an event. The price tag makes it useful to nonprofits, and its interface certainly makes it useful for a wide variety of users.

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    Standout Features

    There are certain features that are considered standard for any project management application. But DeskAway does have a few features that I think make this web application stand out. The import / export options go beyond what I expected. If you decide you want to move off of DeskAway at any time, you can request a full backup of all of your project data. DeskAway makes that information available to you as a .zip file you can download for use elsewhere. You can also import data from Basecamp, if you so desire.

    The support offered for DeskAway’s users is also solid. In addition to email support, DeskAway also uses GetSatisfaction to provide help. Those tools, combined with DeskAway’s helpful instructions, make using the application simple. I also particularly like the wide variety of notification options that DeskAway offers users. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t necessarily like checking in on the website every day, you’ve got the tools you need to make sure that notifications wind up where you’ll actually see them — whether that’s in your email or in your RSS reader. All of DeskAway’s tools combine to make for an easy-to-use project management option.

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    Growing With DeskAway

    One of the other benefits of DeskAway is that it’s scalable. You may start out with just three projects you want to organize today, but if you have ten more by the end of the year, it’s not really a problem. Sure, you’ll have to switch to a paying account — but the system itself works no matter how many projects you’re juggling. You can still see at a glance what needs to done. And you can keep an eye on just what your team members are up to, through a variety of email settings, RSS feeds and even a built in blog to share information. If you really do reach the 10 projects level any time soon, you may need to make some changes from the settings you use for three projects. While you might want an update every time someone makes even a small change to your project now, but that’s probably not the case when you’re juggling multiple projects — but DeskAway offers the flexibility to go either way.

    You can also make DeskAway more a part of your company, a useful trick if you want to let clients or sub-contractors see progress on a shared project. You can upload your own logo and effectively brand DeskAway as part of your own organization or business — a technique that works for non-profits as well. When setting up your DeskAway account, you also get to establish a subdomain on DeskAway where you log in and work: it can easily be yourorganization.deskaway.com.

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    If you are growing, DeskAway’s project management tools offers an additional feature that can wind up being very important. Unlike many wikis or other tools you might consider for managing a project, DeskAway offers SSL security. While it isn’t a free feature, if you do wind up relying on DeskAway for your business needs, I think reliable security measures are bound to be a plus.

    Trying Out DeskAway

    If you’ve used DeskAway — or you try it out — please share your experiences in the comments. It’s free to sign up and takes maybe five minutes to actually get going on a project. Has it worked for you? Any features that would make it better? Any projects it works particularly well with? Let us know.

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    Published on September 18, 2018

    17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

    17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

    Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

    Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

    Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

    After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

    Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

    1. Show your appreciation

    In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

    The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

    Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

    2. Communicate effectively

    Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

    Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

    3. Be open to dialogue

    Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

    New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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    In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

    For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

    4. Provide constructive criticism

    Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

    So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

    Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

    Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

    Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

    5. Conduct one-on-ones

    Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

    While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

    Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

    More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

    6. Build training programs

    In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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    From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

    While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

    7. Offer growth opportunities

    Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

    Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

    Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

    8. Reward them

    Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

    If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

    Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

    9. Encourage team outings

    Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

    From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

    10. Involve them

    Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

    Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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    11. Set meaningful goals

    In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

    Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

    12. Empower them

    You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

    Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

    Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

    13. Deal with conflict

    A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

    How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

    As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

    14. Implement a flexible work culture

    Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

    Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

    It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

    15. Host engaging activities

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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    From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

    16. Maintain a positive work space

    Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

    Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

    These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

    17. Avoid discrimination

    Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

    In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

    The bottom line

    Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

    It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

    This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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