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Interview with Scott Berkun

Interview with Scott Berkun

Scott Berkun is one of the writers on the web who known by many people – articles such as Why smart people defend bad ideas, How to learn from your mistakes, Work vs. Progress are linked by many blogs and discussed by many people.

Scott Berkun Photo

    He was a program manager at Microsoft, leading some major projects on design and development. Through his experience on the previous job, he is able to venture his own project management and product design consulting business, wrote a book on project management, and continue to write articles for his web site. Knowing him will be quite interesting for me and also for lifehack.org’s readers, with a bold heart I asked him to spare a time for interview.

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    Lifehack.org: Would you tell me more about yourself? You were a program manager at Microsoft Corporation for quite a long time, and you have been successful on leading your team. Does it set an expectation for you on how you pursuit your life?
    SB: I’m the kind of guy that wants to do great things. I try to never do anything by half – either do it, and do it well, or don’t. I think many of the skills I learned as a program manager apply well to anything: being clear on goals, being honest and open, and working hard to get what you’re going for. My success so far with writing and consulting have definitely come about with help from those skills.

    … I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.

    Lifehack.org: What makes you set a life goal on writing books?
    SB: I love books. They represent many of the best things about our species: sharing knowledge, expression, creativity and commitment. Books have changed my life many times and I wanted to find out if I could do the same for someone else. Or at least write my thoughts down so I don’t have to remember quite as many things.

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    Lifehack.org: This year you have passed a very big milestone for your life – the release of your book The Art of Project Management. Why would you choose this topic for your first book?
    SB: I wanted to capture what I thought I’d learned from being at the right place at the right time during the dawn of the Internet age. If I’d waited 5 years to write a book like this I doubt it would have been as straightforward, practical and useful – it was all still fresh in my mind enough to tell it all honestly and give advice pulled from experience.

    Lifehack.org: Are they exact challenges and experience you had faced during your work at Microsoft?
    SB: Many of them are in the book – all the stories in the book are true (though some names have been changed here and there). I certainly made lots of mistakes: but what’s funny is that as you get older it’s the mistakes that have the most value and make for the best stories. Making mistakes is good for you!

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    Lifehack.org: What is the most important thing to be a leader in your work or personal life?
    SB: I think leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity.

    Lifehack.org: On top of writing books, you also have written some short articles which are freely available for online readers. Articles such as “Why smart people defend bad ideas” and “How to learn from your mistakes” are some of the most popular articles around blogs and web sites. Would you tell me your thinking process on how to come up with a topic to write?
    SB: I think about things i wish someone else would write, but that doesn’t exist. Or I’ll find it and see another way to attack the same question. Then I get going. Essays take lots of time to write and many of them don’t work out well enough to publish, but that’s the basic process. I’m a curious person and I try to follow that curiosity when I sit down to write. If I’m being open, I never know where the essay is going to go.

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    Lifehack.org: How do you manage your time with many responsibilities from days to nights?
    SB: Everyone gets 24 hours a day. I try to make each day represent my priorities. So I write every day (even weekends), work on my consulting business every day, and exercise and do silly things every day. I figure if I can manage each day well, the weeks, months and years will take care of themselves.

    Lifehack.org: Do you have other projects coming up?
    SB: I write an essay a month on the site – the blog that’s been up there has been mostly supporting the book, and that ‘s changing now. I expect to write shorter pieces up there. I’m planning an east coast book tour for October (if anyone wants me to come speak, contact me). The next book is a novel (fiction) and it should be wrapped up by late September. After than it’s back to non-fiction. The next book will likely be about managing ideas and creative thinking.

    Lifehack.org: Scott, it is my pleasure to talk to you. Looking forward to read your book very soon. I am sure the book will help me a lot on my daily job. All the best on your consultant work and book writings!

    Essays by Scott Berkun
    Project Management, Web design and product usability services
    The book: The Art of Project Management by Scott

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    Last Updated on August 7, 2018

    14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

    14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

    Being a leader of a company or organization is certainly a difficult and often frustrating position – but it can also be tremendously rewarding.

    Whether you’re just starting out as a leader, or have been leading for a while, you’ll be sure to benefit from knowing the essential traits that all great leaders possess.

    Effective and successful leaders transcend the title of ‘manager’ or ‘boss’. They’ve found a way to achieve the perfect combination of charisma, enthusiasm and self-assurance (with a healthy dose of luck and timing probably added to the mix).

    It may seem like some people are gifted with leadership skills, but the truth is most leadership traits can be learned, adopted, and strengthened with time and practice.

    As we delve into the list of effective leadership traits, you will learn the behaviors and attitudes of a good leader.

    The 14 most important leadership traits

    Please read through the list of leadership qualities carefully. Take note of which of the traits you excel at – and which ones you need to work at.

    Traits for better self-development

    1. Vision and mission

    Having a clear picture of what needs to be achieved is a crucial quality of good leadership.

    This vision is often communicated in a mission statement, such as this one from Starbucks:

      How to develop vision? Spend time pinpointing what you need to achieve, and then plan the steps to get there. Here’s a complete guide on creating your own vision.

      2. Self-motivated

      It’s no coincidence that successful leaders have an abundance of self-motivation.

      Without a decent level of self-motivation, you’ll struggle to become a strong and respected leader. However, if you don’t have a lot of self-motivation right now, don’t despair.

      One of the secrets is to have definite goals to keep you motivated at all times. Some people also choose to reward themselves every time they achieve a goal, and this is certainly a good way to keep yourself enthused and motivated. Learn how to set an ambitious yet achievable goal here.

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      3. Optimism and positivity

      Positive energy is contagious. Great leaders are overflowing with this type of energy.

      Not only does a positive mindset make leaders easy to work with, but it also gives them a constant source of inspiration and ideas.

      Tap into this energy by aligning yourself with positive people and positive goals. Find out more about the habits of positive people here.

      4. Emotional stability

      In leadership positions, frustration and stress are daily occurrences. This is why leaders need to have strong and stable emotions. They can’t allow themselves to be easily knocked off track.

      If you’re prone to losing your emotional stability when stressed or frustrated, try some of these techniques: breath deeply and slowly for 30 seconds, go for a walk, drink some water (instead of tea or coffee), turn your focus onto something you can resolve. Here’re some effective ways to control your emotions.

      5. Self-confidence

      Watch a presentation by any CEO and you’ll see that even if they’re not natural presenters – they make up for this by having powerful self-confidence.

      It’s not just CEOs who have self-confidence, any successful leader will have this trait in abundance. One reason for this, is that only a confident person can persuade others and gain their respect.

      Worried that you have low self-confidence? Try faking it. Psychologists often recommend that if you ‘act’ at being confident, you’ll start to look, sound and feel like you ARE confident. And in time… you will be.

      If you look for more ways to boost your self-confidence, this confidence coach has got you some nice advice:

      How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence

      6. Decisiveness

      Leaders are frequently called upon to make decisions (some leaders may have to make dozens of decisions every day). In fact, you could say that making decisions is one of the key things a leader must do.

      Spend some time observing highly-successful leaders and you’ll see that they are quick to make decisions. They also enjoy making decisions, rather than stressing out like many non-leaders do when they’re asked to decide on something.

      Put yourself in the leadership bracket by developing your decision-making skills. Start with small decisions – and then work your way up to bigger and more difficult decisions. Once other people notice your decision-making prowess, they’ll automatically see you as leadership material.

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      I know it’s really quite difficult to make the right decisions sometimes, but don’t worry, here’s a guide for you:

      How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

      7. Passion and enthusiasm

      Expressive. Active. Energetic. These are words best describe a passionate leader.

      Great leaders are lively, driven and are possessed with zeal and purpose. It’s this passion that helps them achieve big results. If you want to emulate their success, then you need to develop passion and enthusiasm for the work at hand, and the end goals.

      Take a look at this Passion Pyramid to find out how importance a leader’s passion is to the team:

        One way to do this is to find what motivates you, and keep your focus firmly on that. For example, i f you’re motivated by helping others, then make sure your role and company are both suited to realizing this. If you’re motivated by money, then put your focus on achieving bonuses and pay rises.

        Take a look at Leo Babauta’s guide on how to find your passion.

        8. Accountability and responsibility

        Exceptional leaders know that at all times they’ll need to take responsibility for tasks and their results. This includes things likes individual and team performance, as well as being accountable for when things go wrong.

        When negative things occur (and you can guarantee they will from time-to-time), a great leader will immediately step in and take responsibility. Initially, they’ll try to resolve the problem in as quick and smooth a way as possible. But if this is not feasible, they’ll be sure to say that the buck stops with them – and they take full responsibility for what has happened.

        To develop your leadership skills, you must never shy away from responsibility or accountability. If you prefer to sweep mistakes under the carpet, then you’re demonstrating non-leadership traits. Try owning up to issues and finding solutions to them. By doing this, you’ll immediately gain people’s respect.

        Find out some tips on how to be a more responsible person here.

        9. Focus

        Distractions are everywhere. And it takes major focus to stay committed to tasks and goals. The best leaders understand this, and therefore, they’re always looking at ways to boost their team’s focus.

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        One way leaders do this, is to keep their team intensely focused on the bigger picture. This might entail allocating specific time for tasks and eliminating any non-essential work.

        If you’re easily knocked off track, you’ll need to spend some time boosting your focus. Try planning your day, week, month and year to help ensure that you don’t fall behind with achieving your goals. Check out the 7 strategies of staying super focus recommended by a productivity coach.

        10. Ever-learning

        Leaders know that to be successful they need to continually update their skills and knowledge. They deliberately learn all they can about their profession and industry, so they’ll able to make confident and assured decisions.

        Why is ever learning so important? I’ll leave it to you to find out the reason here:

        If I Am Living a Good Life, Why Should I Bother Learning New Stuff?

        Imagine a CEO of a solar power company. His company may have amazing solar panels, but when it comes to discussing business with potential buyers, if the CEO or his sales team show a lack of understanding about the solar industry and future trends, etc., they’ll be unlikely to win any business.

        It’s exactly the same for you. If you’re a team leader at an electronics store, you should make sure you fully understand all the products that you offer. But go beyond just that, and read about upcoming products and trends that might change what customers are interesting in buying in the future.

        Traits for effective communication

        11. Empathy

        The best leaders understand the feeling of their team members, customers and associates. They know when to praise, and when to discuss problems (usually in private).

        Without empathy, leaders will be seen as cold, harsh and lacking understanding. They’re also likely to be regarded as untrustworthy.

        One way to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is to have regular informal discussions with your colleagues. When you do this, you’ll quickly learn their fears and desires. And when you understand why they have these – you’ll be in a position to express empathy. You can also learn to be more sensitive to others’ needs by taking up these communication skills.

        12. Persuasive and influential

        Communications are at the heart of all transactions. Whether it’s pitching for a sale or resolving a customer complaint, how you communicate will determine the outcome.

        Charismatic leaders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) are confident and persuasive communicators. They know how to win over audiences and leave a lasting impressing in people’s minds.

        There’re some common barriers that you’ll have to overcome in order to communicate effectively:

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        How to learn effective communication? You could join the world-renowned U.S. nonprofit Toastmasters International. They’ve been training people in the art of public speaking since 1924, and members have included Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, and Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.

        If you don’t have time to join a club, then practice your communications skills at home. You can do this in front of a mirror, or even better, video yourself presenting, and then ask some friends and family members for feedback. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up on.

        Traits for ensuring an engaging team

        13. Team building

        If you put a bunch of random people together, you may have a loose definition of a team. In reality, a real team has purpose, drive – and a leader lighting the way.

        If you’ve worked in different teams and with different managers, you’ll no doubt have come to this conclusion:

        Managers who treat their team members like children are unpopular with the team. Conversely, managers who treat their team members like adults, are respected and well-liked by the team.

        The days of disciplinarian managers are passed. Nowadays, successful team leaders know how to inspire and motivate their team, while keeping a harmonious atmosphere between all team members.

        14. Fostering creativity

        Solutions to problems are rarely black and white. Often it takes a leader who can ‘think outside the box’ to come up with answers. In other words, a leader must be creative, and also help to foster creativity and innovation throughout their team.

        Creativity is not only associated with pursuits such as arts, literature and music, running a team can be just as creative. There will be times every day when you need to come up with ideas and give guidelines for your team to come up with theirs to solve problems.

        Leadership is a journey of continuous learning

        Leadership is an amazing experience that will take you on roads you’ve never traveled before.

        Begin now to build your skills and experience, pick out the traits that you currently lack – and then work on developing those.

        It will take tons of practice and time before becoming an effective leader but eventually you will join the ranks of great leaders.

        Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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