Nicole Jackson Miller, is the Founder of The Project Designer, a company that helps entrepreneurs manage their projects and their people.
From her 10 years of management experience negotiating deals for major TV networks, overseeing 6- and 7-figure projects online and even orchestrating some of the behind-the-scenes magic of the Beijing Olympics, Nicole basically knows her stuff.
Today she runs a successful Project Management agency, mentors and trains Project Managers, and supports entrepreneurs with Human Resources (or their “people” management!)
[1:18] Definition of Project Management
Project Management is managing projects that you have in your business. A project can really be anything. A project can be of any size, from anything from starting your business, bringing in a new team member to launching an online program or membership site.
Project Management is essentially making sure that the ideas you have and want to execute actually get done.
2.15 How Nicole Came into the Project Management Field
She’s worked in television before she had her own business. It taught her a lot about managing her own time. The television environment was fast paced and operationally lean, so that meant there were a lot of projects happening and a few people to execute them. This forced Nicole to learn how to be the master of her own schedule – to learn how to priorities and communicate with people and keep up the quality of the project. It was natural to break into the project management space, we were able to explain what we did and manage the different pieces of projects.
[5:02] Defining Moment to Project Manage on own
There were several moments in my corporate job where I asked myself whether I want to do this job. I was such a perfectionist and wanted to do everything well. I was the epitome of wanting to climb the corporate ladder. I battled eating disorders, relationship problems and alcohol – I wasn’t an alcoholic, but was using different coping mechanisms. That was when I realized I needed to figure it out. I dived into myself and got the help that I needed which opened up a whole new world for me spiritually. I realized that I could make an impact on the people I was around, so, with the advice of my spiritual teacher, I started where I was. I had an urge within me to start my own thing .There were many restrictions in terms of what I could do in my job setting, so I started to explore the online space.
[9:48] Being in a position to empower people and your team
Move away from typical responses – how to manage your team, during the difficult times or challenging times where they need you the most – if you can be with them throughout that experience, that’s what keeps great people around you. It ties into starting where you are, in every moment you have the ability to impact the situation which takes a lot of self awareness and presence. I remember being on teams and when something messed up, the memory was around being told off or scolded and my work effort was not acknowledged. I try and bring those experiences in when I manage my own teams or my clients – as long as you’ve done a great job hiring and you trust the people around you, you have to trust that they are working just as hard as you are. I believe that as a CEO, you have to be there for your team. They are the ones who will help you grow.
[12:48] The other elements of People Management
People can be anyone in your business – from a team member, partner to a coach, who is helping you in your business. It really comes down to relationships. The things that go into People Management boils down to developing relationships including knowing how to communicate; when things are going well and when things are not going well and to also work out a way to ensure things are getting done – that the teams able to execute as smoothly as possible.
[14:28] The element of hiring and firing and building better communication
If you’ve hired well and managed well, you don’t have to fire as much, or hopefully at all. It’s going to happen if you’re in business for longer than a year or two. I think of building a team as dating – sometimes you’re great with someone to a certain level and then you realize it’s time to part ways. Then there are others whom you grow and develop with together and you’re able to keep going. It’s the same principle with relationships. Hiring is a big one – make sure you are making the best decision for you and your team, and the first step to that is knowing yourself. The second step is being able to communicate that. When it comes to hiring people think they have to change who they are in order to be able to have a team, and although there are certain tweaks you can make to improve yourself and develop professionally, you’re just going to be who you are. The most important part of that is to find a team that works with that. I think good people are everywhere and I also think it’s really tough to find a great match. It’s the same thing with people on your team – just because they don’t work with you, doesn’t mean they’re not good at what they do – they’re just not the right match for you. I find that the best clients to work with when I help them with hiring and team management are the ones that know themselves and know how to communicate it.
Firing is one of those thing that sucks to have to do it. Make sure you understand what happened and what needs to be done different next time. A lot of people go to fire and don’t realize that this could be avoided by simply having an open conversation with someone. I only fire quickly on two occasions – if someone has done something illegal or they have a poor attitude. If there’s an issue, address it fast, but it doesn’t mean you have to fire fast. An open conversation with your team can reveal exactly what’s going on so you can be in a position to be there for your employees or co create a solution before you just jump to re-hiring.
[20:37] Conscious Conversation: Catch The Fire before the Explosion
Nicole connects with her team weekly, or twice a week to talk through things, clarify things and adjust it. It’s a great way also to give feedback to my team and I’ve learnt every time something keeps coming up, it’s because I haven’t addressed it. If I’m on the phone to a client with a team member and something occurred that I would have preferred to have been done differently, I will bring it up with them. Otherwise that behavior will simply not change. It’s my job to communicate that. When I don’t say anything, it almost always happens again. It’s a practice that I believe in and it’s worked. It may be a difficult or uncomfortable conversation to have, but if I procrastinate, it will keep happening. Miscommunication is no communication. As a leader of your business, you have to manage. People often want to delegate management, which you can do a degree. You can have a whole director level, however you still have to know how to manage your people. Managing is like a muscle, you have to practice it.
[25:47] Balance between Planning and Planning Way Too Much
I have a Project Management company and I launched something without a plan. Obviously I knew it wouldn’t do too well and I was talking to my team member about it and she was making suggestions on how this process could be improved for next time. Planning is an important stage, you need to ensure that everything works rather than just throwing ideas on a wall and hoping it sticks. Everything works together. It was a great lesson to me because I preach project planning all over the place. It was one of those instances I had to get out there and do it. I did get other clients from it , just not in the way I thought I would.
[28:54] Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make in Planning or Managing
When you hire, to really understand yourself and be able to communication what you need and go through a process. What can sometimes happen is that they decide they need customer support immediately. If you rush the hiring process and you’re not very clear on what you need and how you need your clients or customers to be supported – you may bring on someone who is not a great match. Part of that is not finding a great fit, but even if it’s a great fit, they’re not able to communicate what you need efficiently. Have people read a job post, fill out an application and interview them. Ask all of your questions. Make sure you get along with them, because you’re probably looking to grow your team and your business.
Kamila talked about her hiring process. In college, you’re not really told how to apply for jobs and to be noticed. Have that application and be clear about what you’re looking for. Some people are filling out applications mindlessly and not paying attention. In the past, if somebody misses a call or interview, I don’t chase.
Attention to detail and timeliness that is demonstrated earlier on is something you can learn about a person in the process. Think about how you would hop onto a sales call and evaluate how you can take on the new client. There’s a lot of things that come up that will indicate how it will be like to work with them later on.
The next mistake will be that plans are not run past their team. Any time we work with a new client, a conversation is had and an evaluation of how things are going to pan out. Nicole uses the example of a client she had who was about to launch something. She was heavily reliant on an assistant at the time who seemed to be MIA The importance of communication and conversation around expectations of the launch. When you are the owner of your business, you are responsible for everything that happens in your business. Accountability can be taken by team members. Plans need to be communicated to the team.
[37:28] Advice for consciously knowing who to hire
When you’re looking to hire somebody in your business, start again with knowing yourself. What do you like to do and what don’t you like doing. Think about what you like doing and what you don’t. A person who loves design is not going to hire a designer. A client she had was copywriter because when she wrote, she stopped. Think about the kind of support you need and what area you need it in. What is it your passionate about? Do that. Whatever slows you down, get support. The same things go for team. Team members are passionate, so there is no template for who to hire first. Know yourself, Know what your passionate about and priorities and hire those first. Then question your team about what they like and don’t like doing and delegate or hire there. It’s all about relationships and communication. If you don’t talk or communicate with your team, you would not know this information. If we can create happy business and happy teams, it’s so much better. We all lift each other up.
[42:12] Gift for our Listeners
A resource that talks about hiring, managing and firing available at theprojectdesigner.com