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Avoid Pains Converting a Manual to an Automated Process

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 08:30
One of the things you don’t want to do when you convert manual processes to an automated system is keep inefficiencies or redundant steps in a process, so it’s important to take your “as is”...

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Workplace Success – What You Need to Know This Week

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 09:00
Here are three stories people are talking about this week. 1. Amazon’s rules for hiring the best people Amazon has found ways to mechanize their hiring process, in order to make its processes...

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QuickBase EMPOWER2015 Keynote: Obama for America COO

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 08:30
We understand how important it is to have real-time, centralized and share-able information to make critical business decisions and to run a successful department or business. This couldn’t...

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How to Offer Criticism that Employees Will Welcome

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 08:30
Managers often hate delivering criticism, so performance problems may continue to grow. But there is a way for managers to deliver criticism that employees not only welcome, but helps them be more...

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Hiring Managers: How to Deal with Unresonable Expectations

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 08:30
Until you can hire a cyborg, you’ll have to settle for flawed humans. The 2014 Job Preparedness Indicator study conducted by the Career Advisory Board confirmed previous reports that a skills gap...

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Build a Strong Reputation – Communicate Minor Achievements

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 09:00
Build a strong reputation by making the most of minor achievements. In my seminars, I am fond of discussing the importance of perception. You could be the smartest, most talented individual your...

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Make Better Decisions By Conducting Pre-Mortems

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 08:30
Ever had a project flounder or outright fail and wished that you could have foreseen the obstacles you encountered from the start? This technique will help you do exactly that.  When you’re planning...

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How To Create A Project Communication Plan

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 08:30
A communication plan that will guide the messages to a project’s affected stakeholders is a critical part of any project. How well you communicate throughout the life cycle of your project can...

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How Introverts and Extroverts Can Live in Harmony at Work

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 08:30

Most work groups will have a mix of introverts and extroverts in them, and their differing work styles can cause conflict or frustration if not managed well.

Extroverts, after all, tend to engage in more social interaction at work, and often prefer or even need to talk through ideas and processes in order to be their most productive. Introverts, on the other hand, often prefer to work in relative quiet without interruptions and can have trouble focusing when there’s constant conversation around them. Extroverts can easily annoy introverts by too much noise and talking, and introverts can come across to extroverts as chilly or aloof.

These differences can affect both job satisfaction and productivity. If you’ve got a team full of extroverts and one or two introverts, those introverts can end up with nowhere quiet to focus and feeling drained by interruptions or noise around them. Alternately, if introverts dominate on your team, the extroverts who find themselves in the minority might feel isolated and have their own troubles being productive if they get more done when they’re able to talk things out and bounce ideas off of other people.

So when you’re managing a team with mixed work styles, how do you resolve conflicts between introverts’ need for quiet and focus and extroverts’ need for talking and collaboration?  Here are five compromises that will let everyone,  regardless of where they fall on the introvert/extrovert scale, be reasonably comfortable and productive.

1. Cultivate an office-wide awareness of different working styles. Openly acknowledging differing preferences along the introversion/extroversion scale is an essential step to figuring out solutions that will work. If introverts come to understand that extroverts are often more productive through conversation, and extroverts come to understand that introverts aren’t freezing them out when they put on headphones and keep their heads down, you’re more likely to find compromises people are happy with.

2. Zone your office space for different work styles. Designate some space for conversations and groups working together where people can make noise without guilt, and designate other spaces “quiet space.” If you can, let people choose where they work, and let people move from one to the other as their work needs dictate. You don’t need to revamp your entire physical space, but simply having some quiet conference rooms (and encouraging people to use them when they need quiet space to focus) can go a long way.

3. If your space is limited, encourage people to go off-site when they need quiet or interaction. If you don’t have spare conference rooms to zone for these uses, encourage people to go off-site when they need to. If their roles allow it, your introverts might be thrilled to work from home or a coffee shop when they particularly need to focus. And your extroverts might love the idea of holding a group brainstorm at the pizza shop next door.

4. Consider having set “quiet hours” each day, where any noisy activities take place in rooms with closed doors. Otherwise, introverts may end up feeling like they’re always having to flee shared space if they need to concentrate in a quiet area.  This is something you can do team-wide if people like the idea, or it might just be a solution for an otherwise mismatched pair who share an office to implement on their own.

You can balance that with “noisy hours” too if there’s a need for it!

5. Make “let’s take this to a meeting room” a standard phrase in your culture. Create a norm on your team where after a certain amount of time, a conversation is deemed a “meeting” and moves to a more appropriate location (like a conference room). This will allow extroverts to keep having the discussions they may need to work effectively, but without creating ongoing distractions for those who need a quieter space to work.

You May Also Like:
How to Keep from Being Distracted in an Open Office
How Introverts Can Succeed an Be Leaders in the Workplace
Four Tips for Getting the Most from Your Introverted Team Members


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Daniel Levitin on How to Conquer Information Overload

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 08:30

Too much information has overloaded our brains, leading us to become more forgetful and indecisive. But an expert says there are ways to think clearly and make better decisions – and never again forget where we put our wallet.

Every day millions of us search for our car keys, our smartphones and our sunglasses. We can’t remember passwords for our online banking account and lose critical emails or other bits of data important for our work.

While dealing with such stress and frustration, we’re being constantly bombarded with information from thousands of different sources. For example, in 2011, Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986, or the equivalent of 175 newspapers. Is it any wonder that we become paralyzed by the sheer volume of incoming data, causing us to have more and more brain blips?

Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist, psychologist and author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload,” says that while we’re all faced with “an unprecedented amount of information to remember,” most of us are still trying to “keep track of things using the systems that were put in place in a pre-computerized era.”

For example, one of the problems is that the computer has evolved into “that big disorganized drawer everyone has in their kitchen.”

“We have files we don’t know about, others that appeared mysteriously by accident when we read an email, and multiple versions of the same document,” making it difficult to determine what is the most recent, he explains.

But he says that he’s found examples of how high achievers manage to keep things running smoothly without getting bogged down by information overload. Their systems make a “profound difference” and enable them to have time for fun and relaxation, he says.

Here are some ways Levitin – using scientific research – says that we can become better at being more focused, productive and less stressed.

  1. Just say “no.” Become your own enforcer of no email or Internet for certain periods so you can sustain your concentration. Don’t check your email every time something arrives in your in-box, but instead check your email only during certain periods. Prioritize your critical tasks for the day and then stick to the plan, learning to ignore that nagging voice that’s trying to get you to do something else (like checking out funny goat videos on YouTube.)
  2. Reach for the reset. When the brain goes into “brain wandering mode,” it is serving as a neural reset button that gives you a refreshed perspective. A 15-minute nap can provide such a reset, as can reading, walking outside, looking at art or meditating.
  3. Do an information dump. If it’s supposed to snow tomorrow while you’re at work, forget reminding yourself to bring your snow boots. Just get the boots and set them by the door. That way, he explains, the environment is going to remind you about taking the boots instead of forcing your brain to keep track of it and clutter your thoughts. If you find ways to rid your brain of so much responsibility, you can better focus your attention on what is in front of you.
  4. Buy some index cards. Putting a to-do list on a computer or smartphone may not be the best method for focusing on priorities. The problem is that you have to scroll through the whole list every time you consult it. But with index cards, you prioritize your tasks with the most important on top. (It’s a technique used by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg).
  5. Control incoming messages. In a method used by executive assistants at the White House, correspondence is sometimes put into more than one category. Reports or letters might be filed by committees and by projects, and is marked as it comes in with appropriate tags. If you have a phone conversation that you need to remember, jot down your notes and send it to yourself in an email that you can then file accordingly. You can also set up different email accounts – one for personal and one for business. That allows you to turn off your personal account when working on business and limit distractions.
  6. Purge once a year. You may procrastinate about making a decision on whether to throw something away, and before you know it your email is overflowing with thousands of emails awaiting a decision or stacks of paper teetering on your desk like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. “It’s important to go through piles on a regular basis to whittle them down, trim them, or re-sort them – not everything in them remains relevant forever,” he says.
  7. Take 10. Psychiatrists work in 50-minute sessions, allowing them to jot down their notes before the next patient. So instead of scheduling back-to-back meetings, give yourself 10 minutes to write down your thoughts, what happened and what needs to be done. It’s also a good idea to give yourself 10 minutes before a meeting to review what needs to happen. “It’s good neural hygiene for your brain to give it time to switch into the mind-set of your next meeting gradually and in a relaxed way before the meeting starts,” he explains.  At the same time, if you get interrupted while working on a project, make notes so that when you return you’ll be able to resume the work more quickly.
  8. Scrutinize your junk drawer. “Our junk drawers provide a perfect metaphor for how we live our lives,” he says. Old shopping lists, broken dog collars and five screwdrivers of the same size don’t make a lot of sense, and that’s why we all need to take time to check out the “junk drawers” in our offices and computers. Is the item serving you? Does it clutter up your thinking so that you’re not open to new ideas? Is the purpose clear?

“Getting organized,” Levitan says, “can bring us to the next level in our lives.”

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3 Ways to Gauge If Your Business Needs to Make Big Changes

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 08:30

Any good business plan anticipates change and growth. But what do you do after you’ve reached those goals and benchmarks you set for yourself? Even the best-designed systems and processes are subject to a range of variables that will make them less effective or even counterproductive though the life of your business. When is it time to change what you do and how you do it?

These are a few indications that your business can use an upgrade.

1. The business has grown beyond expectations or experience.

You are no longer the plucky startup but established in the field. In fact, you’re a contender. Are you still managing like you’re working in the studio loft? Conversely, you lead a young department in a large corporate structure. Your unparalleled success has you and your team noticed by upper management. Now you’re getting more work and responsibility than you can handle. You’ve met your initial goals and expectations. Simply put, growth is ready for you. Are you ready for it?

This is a great time for reflection. Take a careful inventory of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re headed. You’re never going to have a better time for course correction and setting the future trajectory of the company or your career. Do you want to remain small and work for a more elite clientele? Or do you want to take on the entire business world? Are you staying local or looking at the big prize of international outreach? Or is it time for your business to cash out?

Growing too quickly has challenges that even the most diligent and motivated entrepreneur may not be ready to face. Now is the time to create the values, strategy, and philosophy that are going to lead you, your employees, and your company to the next chapter.

2. Your workforce is older and more experienced.

You’ve trained a cadre of loyal, hardworking associates or employees, and your current team is a collection of individual experts who work well without supervision. How can you reward them and retain the experience you’ve invested so much time and resources in maturing? It might be time to see how they can lead and how they can grow a junior staff.

It’s time to find out what their goals are, to determine if the next step in the ladder of success is as ready for them as it is for you. It could also be an opportunity to look for new ideas and new employees, people to report directly to the more experienced staff.

The downside, of course, is that this puts you a step away from the ground level of operations. But if growth is one of your goals, this is expected and necessary. You’re also giving the people you’ve worked with the chance to manage. If that hasn’t been a goal yet, it certainly should be.

This is also a good time to ask difficult questions. Has your leadership been a component in the growth of your employees? Are the people under your direct supervision looking to you with respect…or fear? Have you instilled any of your best qualities in your people? Have you been the kind of manager you wanted to be? Building trust and encouraging your people to trust one another can make your new course correction a great moment in their lives.

Being generous with opportunity has its own rewards. Upper management is probably looking for someone who can grow to the executive level. And the people who have worked under your supervision can provide an excellent example that you’re that person to encourage progress. Great leaders don’t just build loyal staff; they build future leaders in the process.

3. You need to keep current with technology and compatibility.

You’ve just learned that the project management software or CRM you’ve been using is losing support. While the rest of the company has grown and made improvements, you’re still using computers and processes that are working piecemeal with the newer systems in order to work at all.

This is a problem whose solution usually involves money: There are organizations and individuals lining up to sell you something bigger, better, faster, and perfectly compatible. Now is the time to look at the numbers. If you have a clear trajectory of what’s ahead—greater volume, enhanced productivity, a change in focus from one product to another—the old software or older processes may now be subject to a radical change. Is your current stack of software customizable enough to grow with you?

Poll the staff who have managed the old system, and get their opinions. With their input, the transition will move more smoothly. Ask them questions about the flaws the older model had, and find out what they need to work quickly and more efficiently. The outlook of experience will be very important when you’re getting a buy-in from the people who are letting go of the old and learning how to make the new work most effectively.

A smart leader knows when it’s time to make the big changes. A skilled change leader can make them painless, exciting and even invigorating.


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