Investing in yourself and your skill set

By Jim Annis


From the breakroom to the boardroom, you have admired them from afar. They are magnetic personalities who truly take care of themselves physically. They are committed mentally to lifelong learning — including developing their career through certifications or college degrees. At a cocktail party they may be fascinating with a ring of people hanging on their every word. In the HR department, we can spot them before they come into the interview. It may not be fair to judge them based on that fact; however, it is an observation proven repeatedly. On the flip side, during our company’s official casual days, we have observed that employees who consistently wear jeans, t-shirts and ponytails seem to be the same ones that have no real interest in personal or professional growth. We desire to see everyone strive to be the former.

What’s certification worth?

Explore the options and show some initiative with due diligence. Hire a career coach, ask a mentor or a mastermind group — someone you trust to give you guidance and share experiences. Research your company’s tuition reimbursement program. Make sure the degree you seek fits the company and/or career path. There are many industries in which people simply “collect letters” behind their name without any purpose behind them. Don’t be “that” guy. If you are new to the industry, get some experience under your belt first and then get the certification to be sure you are committed to the long term.

Increasing your knowledge, credibility and marketability

People who truly pursue life wear it on the outside. They ask more questions. They invest deeply in their relationships. They strive to become more marketable. They dig deep, discover their strengths and demonstrate a higher level of ability. By investing in yourself, you feel more confident and give yourself a personal boost. This puts you in control of your future and makes you more flexible if something happens and you need to find something else.

When should you or your company pay?

This is one of those gut response questions. Are you in it for the long run at the company? Then research the tuition reimbursement policy. If leaving is the ultimate goal, then please pay for the education yourself. At The Applied Companies, we will pay even if the degree or certification is not related. We want people to be more educated, regardless as to if they stay with us or not. Does it mean that someone can take advantage of us? Sure! We still hold ability to manage it.

Great, so where do I start?

If you have been putting off investing in yourself until you can immediately achieve your big lofty goal, rethink your strategy. Habits start with one little change. Invest sooner than later with baby steps. It’s easier than you think. You are absolutely worth it.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

Read article in the RGJ here.

How to manage project managers

By Jim Annis


This is a cautionary tale of The Project Manager (external) and The Sponsor (internal). Imagine for a moment both taking the Shakespearean stage, then bowing, encouraging audience members who are cheering, while holding their noses at those who relentlessly “boo.” Neither role is an easy one. Each requires a range of management skills and talents not often possessed at once in a single person. Alas, we need them both. Here is some guidance to prevent a comedic tragedy at your workplace.

The project manager

This protagonist has a job to do: 1) manage the project, 2) manage their time, 3) manage the budget, 4) manage you – his client, and 5) manage the team. Outside vendor partners may be better at selling their abilities than implementing your purchase effectively, so you need an accountability partner.

The sponsor

This dashing and daring internal champion should be allowed to set aside the time and to invest in the learning capacity of the technology that you are implementing. They essentially need to become a “mini expert,” at least in concept. Adding a project to an employee’s plate and not giving away something else that was already there is dangerous. Result – the project never gets enough energy and focus.

Managing projects you don’t understand

Example: IT-related software. You purchased something and you were also “sold” something … it all starts at that point, correct? We hope not. Research deliverables up front. Seek out industry associations and peer groups, including who’s posting about the process, recommended best practices and pitfalls to avoid. These are also great reference sources for the specific company trying to “sell you.” Make no assumptions about anything, including what is included in the scope of work and what you have to pay extra for. Your questions might provoke a response like, “You’re making much ado about nothing.” Beg to differ and have the courage to slow technical or other experts down with, “Please do not go to page four until we know everything on page three.”

Avoid the freeze

Screeeeeeeech! That’s the sound of your project coming to a sudden halt. Over $50,000 invested and now it is languishing in the management meeting “parking lot.” Start from square one, clearly convey the value of the project and how it will consistently affect stakeholders. Pay attention to it systematically. Whatever your timelines and deliverables turn out to be, working in the “wins” is a must. Recognizing that milestones are met, budgets are at or under estimates, reporting is like clockwork and communications are going smoothly will keep everyone motivated to press on.

When to pull the plug

Projects fail. Project managers fail. Ask yourself, “If I took over this job for the first time today and found this project going on, would I support it or get rid of it?” Ask the team, “If money was not an issue, what would you do and how would you do it?” That should remove any over commitment, inertia, and fear.

The end

There will always be new “acts” in your project management drama, from bright shiny object syndrome, to complete shifts in business practices like the cloud, leadership should constantly be selling and reselling the importance of the change in the workplace. A happy ending to your serious project is possible.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.