In today’s Q&A interview, you will learn how Charles Byrd developed his productivity practices, managed products and built relationships. I met Charles in 2015 and have been looking forward to sharing his insights with Project Management Hacks readers.
1. What is your background in project management and industry?
I have a deep history in project management. Out of college with a BBA in information technology I started on a help desk providing 2nd and 3rd level support for Cadence, a Silicon Valley software company. I then started managing tech projects while concurrently working on and earning my Master of Science in Information Technology.
I was then promoted to be a project manager and founded our company’s PMO. I led our team of 12 to become PMP certified and personally managed the largest projects in our project portfolio including customer facing projects with budgets exceeding $5 million dollars.
From the PMO I earned a promotion to the director level founding and managing the Social Media and Collaboration department. The roll was also project focused as I created the company technology roadmaps, and implemented the solutions globally, managing international teams.
To forge new paths, last year I founded the company Byrd Word, LLC – specializing in productivity training, marketing, and technology. My work includes speaking engagements, coaching and an Evernote productivity training product.
2. What is a past “favorite” project you led and why?
As it was a passion to enable and streamline modern communication across our 6,000 employee enterprise, I rolled out MS Lync, WebEx, and Salesforce Chatter. I’d have to say the WebEx project was a personal favorite. We had a great team and a streamlined project management process using Asana. Lync was a favorite with employees and was the most utilized tool company-wide rolled out in 2014. In this project, I knew the marketing campaigns and education strategies would be key. To both make a greater impact, and to have some fun, I invented IT TV – a CNET style series of entertaining and informative video news segments, interviews, and internal commercials.
I used the IT TV platform, which brought in accolades from across the company, to land key communication opportunities in our company-wide communication meetings and mailings. This not only brought a spotlight to the projects creating a buzz, it garnered executive management support along with the company’s prestigious IT Innovation Award. HR and Marketing also sought this creative approach and expertise requesting that I produce IT TV content for their company-wide project roll-outs as well.
3. What would you tell younger Charles about running successful projects?
Running successful projects is all about relationships, communication, and rolling with the punches. Most projects have their hiccups, challenges, and unexpected turns. By identifying the key stakeholders, and really listening to their goals, delivering on those goals is easier. The strong relationships provide the support needed to get through the challenges on the way, leading to happier outcomes. Next would be creating a communication structure and task management system that is streamlined. If it’s complicated, it won’t get used.
I’ve learned the principle of progressive elaboration is in full effect. It means you don’t know what you don’t know until you get there, dig in, and figure it out. I’d also share with a younger self that being overly optimistic about timelines can create expectation resets along the way. When you dig in, things expand a level deeper and broaden awareness regarding choices, and what needs to be accomplished. An Agile approach wins every time in these situations due to its inherent flexibility and delivery focus. I’d also recommend keeping in mind Pareto principle (i.e. the 80/20 principle) and Parkinson’s law (i.e. that work will expand to fill the time available). Both concepts are always at play and must be balanced.
4. What are some of your favourite project management tools?
As a productivity geek, I love combining systems and technology that work in the real world. When systems are cumbersome, they don’t get used. Managing tasks via email is painful. I recommend using tools like Asana that put conversations in the context of the tasks they are regarding. When updates are received in real time, it reduces the need for as many touch points or status meetings enabling more productive use of time.
5. What role does Evernote play in your project management process?
Evernote plays a KEY role in my projects and daily life workflow. It would be difficult for me to function without it. I have over 17,000 notes in Evernote at this point. Most people have heard of Evernote, and many have tried it. The missing part of the equation is learning how to apply it to projects, planning, and life in a way that starts making everything else easier – FAR easier.
This is precisely why I’ve created a course to help people and businesses do exactly that called Zero-to-60 with Evernote. It provides basic tool how-to info, but digs deeper with custom workflows, templates, use cases, and best practices that enable you to hit the ground running – quickly. There is a magic feeling you get when you can put your finger on anything – the moment it’s needed.
I use Evernote as a repository and working area for important information that comes in from a barrage of sources: Email, the web, paper documents, PDFs and digital files. I also use it for meeting notes, daily priority planning, and as a working session place to capture ideas, plans and thoughts before further organizing that information where appropriate, whether that is a task management tool, project planning tool, or wherever it’s needed. I then link back to the notes that have the additional detail. Evernote’s tag and search capabilities alone would make it worth using, then it goes way beyond that with its other uses and features such as its mobile simplicity, web clipper tool, PDF annotation and more.
Tip: Did you know you can snap a photo of text, and then search for any word in the photo? How cool is that!
6. How do you use mind mapping and what tools do you recommend?
I’m an advocate and user of mind maps. I use them for planning, and also for quick reference to information. I actually use them in combination with Evernote as well to provide a relationship based structure. For small planning mind maps I use iThoughts on the Mac. I am also a heavy user of a tool called The Brain, which is a dynamic mind map that can handle large volumes of connections yet is still easy to view and navigate.
7. In your current business, what types of collaboration tools and techniques do you find helpful?
In my current business, I use an array of tools, a few of which are noted below.
- Slack – instant messaging tool
- Asana – Team task management
- Evernote – Repository for everything you want at your fingertips, working, and planning area
- Skype – Video calls and chat
- Zoom.us – Video conferences with groups
- Gmail & Google Apps
8. Over the past year, you have grown your network significantly. What was your networking goal and how did you get started?
I’ve always known networking was important. Growing up my dad always told me this and was a master at it himself. I’m a people person, so fortunately it comes fairly easy for me, but I’ll also say it’s a skill to be learned. In the past, I thought I was too busy for networking as there is always so much to do. When I started my company in 2015, I made a point to make time for it, and all I can say is – it’s totally been worth it. It has led to opportunities it would take years to get any other way – if ever.
My goal was to make one or two connections a week.
I got started in a few ways –
- Joining online groups with the people I wanted to learn from and get to know
- Attending conferences and mastermind retreats making a friend or two (or more) along the way
- Emailing or messaging specific people proposing physical or virtual coffee, to chat and get to know them
Consistently listening and understanding other people’s goals takes relationships the furthest as it gives you a basis to provide them value. This could be strategy advice, system recommendations, coaching, or simply an introduction to someone else in your network that can help further their goals.
In Facebook groups for example I start by making a short list of interesting people who are contributing much to a group. Then I message them to chat a bit and propose a virtual coffee via Skype. The interactions are always beneficial. Adding people on LinkedIn or Facebook as connections or friends is another great way to get to know them – giving you a jumping off point for a conversation and to identify ways you can provide them value. Bruce and I are friends today supporting each other’s businesses and goals and we hold weekly calls because we met through an online business group.
Sometimes an email goes out, and weeks later I get a reply. It’s how I’ve landed multiple major best selling authors to join me for interviews on my video blog or arrange joint venture partnerships.
Networking Tip: The fortune is in the follow-up!
9. What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know where or how to get started with networking?
Figure out who you want to hang out with and learn from. Read what they read (or write). Research or ask where they hang out, what groups they are in and so forth. Then go where they go. Introduce yourself and get to know them. Find ways to bring them value and build rapport.
I approach this networking activity with two concepts:
- Show up. Be present. Deliver value.
- It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Note: You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most socially, financially, health-wise and more. As we strive for continuous improvement, it’s frequently best not to be the smartest person in the room.
10. How do you provide value or support to people you network with?
The way I provide value is by first listening to what people are trying to achieve. Then I think about ways to further that goal, whether by a tool, technique, or process – and also by introductions to others that could be helpful. For example in October I spent two weekends in a row with marketing virtuoso and best selling author Ryan Levesque who is working on his second book along with doing many webinars for his audience. After being in a mastermind group with him and contributing content there, I offered to assist him with a personal training on a great writing tool called Scrivener and specific strategies to improve audio and video in his presentations. This is a primary example of understanding someone’s goals, then finding a way to help further them. This by its very nature creates good will, establishes you as an expert, and builds the relationship. This led to talks with Ryan about having my company build his flagship course, along with multiple high power introductions he provided.
I did the same for a public speaker and real estate company CEO name Adi Gorel who personally owns 200+ single family homes and manages portfolios of thousands of homes for his International Capital Group clients. I provided multiple Evernote and marketing strategy sessions to significantly simplify his workflow and strengthen his message. Adi then asked me to speak at his real estate conference in San Francisco landing me additional clients along with students for my pilot Evernote course being launched at the time. These connections also led to speaking at a national conference called Ignite at the Anaheim convention center to several hundred eager attendees bringing in testimonials such as this one from publisher Geoff Young:
“I have been trying for a year to figure out how to organize a system that my team could use to organize their lead generation and follow up. Charles did an amazing job of laying out the steps to get this done. I flew 3,000 miles from Philly to LA for a 3 day convention, but it would have been worth the trip just to see Charles’ presentation and get to pick his brain for 20 minutes.”
Without networking and making real connections, these opportunities wouldn’t have existed.
11. What products and services do you offer and where can we find out more about that?
On March 15, my Zero-to-60 with Evernote productivity course is launching. Through the networking techniques discussed above I’ve aligned several partners to promote the course throughout the year that will reach 100,000 people. Productivity, system, and marketing consulting is also available on a limited basis. On March 15, I will be presenting a webinar for PMI – Evernote for Project Managers – An Introduction (Editor’s Note: ProjectManagement.com members can earn 1 PDU to maintain their certification when you attend Charles’s webinar).
Since you’re reading this on Project Management Hacks, I’ll give you access to module 1 of the course FREE! Once released you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade to the full course at a special discounted price. A streamlined Project Management workflow (and life) awaits!
Editor’s Note: Contact Charles below to ask about the free offer for his course.
12. Where can readers find you online?
- Byrd Word, LLC, Company Website: http://ByrdWord.com
- Zero-to-60 with Evernote course: http://Zero-to-60.net
- Productivity video blog: http://facebook.com/thebyrdword
- Twitter: @thebyrdword