Monday, February 29, 2016

66 Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts to Help You Photoshop Like a Pro


Raise your hand if you’ve ever wasted time in Photoshop.

I know the feeling: You know what you want to do – like crop a photo, select a certain tool, or change the size of the canvas – but you’re not quite sure which buttons to press to make that happen.

I’ve spent what’s felt like hours trolling through the Photoshop menu, hoping to stumble on the button I need. Wouldn’t it be much easier if you could just press a button and magically make it happen?

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I have good news for you: Photoshop has a wealth of nifty keyboard shortcuts that work just like that – minus the magic. By pressing a few keys on your computer keyboard at the same time, you can select tools, manipulate images and layers, and even make adjustments to your project’s canvas. 

To be honest, Photoshop has way too many shortcuts to remember if you’re just starting out with the software. It’s really hard to track of them all. So, if you’re a beginner at Photoshop who’s looking to save some time, check out the following shortcuts.

Note: All of these shortcuts can be accessed on PC and Mac, so we’ve included both types below. Mac instructions appear in italicized parentheses if the shortcuts are different on each platform. Also, unless the plus sign is a command (like in the “Zoom in” example), do not press the plus sign between commands.

If you can memorize them all, go for it. Otherwise, feel free to bookmark this page and come back again and again. We won’t mind. ;)

66 Photoshop Shortcut Keys to Save You Time 

Got something specific in mind? Click on a section below to jump to that section.

Getting Set Up

You’d think setting up your content in Photoshop would be second nature; but oftentimes, the shortcuts to change the background size or zoom in to your project aren’t what you think. Here are some of the most crucial shortcuts to know:

Control + Alt + i ( Command + Option + i ) = Change the image size.

Control + Alt + c ( Command + Option + c ) = Change canvas size.

Control + + ( Command + + ) = Zoom in. 

Control + - ( Command + - ) = Zoom out.

Control + ; ( Command + ; ) = Show guides, the custom-placed single straight lines that help you align objects to one another.

Control + ’ ( Command ‘ ) = Show grid, the automatically generated horizontal and vertical lines that help align objects to the canvas.

Choosing the Right Tools

These shortcuts will activate the previously selected tool in the group of tools. For example, if you have last used the Magic Wand tool under the selection tools, the “w” shortcut enables the Magic Wand tool – even though it’s not the default selection tool. But, if you haven’t used any tool in the group, it will enable the default tool. Make sense? 

Note: To cycle through tools that share the same shortcut, press Shift + the shortcut key. Or, hold Alt (Option on a Mac) and manually click on the tool in the toolbar.

v = Pointer, a.k.a. Move Tool pointer-tool.png (Also: Artboard)

w = Magic Wand magic-wand-tool.png (Also: Quick Selection)

m = Rectangular Marquee, a.k.a. the Select Tool marquee-tool-1.png (Also: Elliptical Marquee, Single Row Marquee, Single Column Marquee)

l = Lasso lasso-tool.png (Also: Polygonal Lasso, Magnetic Lasso)

i= Eyedropper eyedropper-tool.png (Also: Color Sampler, Ruler, Note, Count)

c = Crop crop-tool.png (Also: Slice, Slice Select)

e = Eraser eraser-tool.png (Also: Background Eraser, Magic Eraser)

u = Rectangle rectangle-tool.png (Also: Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, Line, Custom Shape)

t = Horizontal Type text-tool.png (Also: Vertical Type, Horizontal Type Mask, Vertical Type Mask)

b = Brush brush-tool-1.png (Also: Pencil, Color Replacement, Mixer Brush)

h = History Brush history-brush-tool.png (Also: Art History Brush)

j = Spot Healing Brush spot-healing-tool.png (Also: Healing Brush, Patch, Red Eye)

g = Gradient gradient-tool.png (Also: Paint Bucket)

p = Path Selection path-selection-tool.png (Also: Direct Selection)

h = Hand hand-tool.png

r = Rotate View rotate-view-tool.png

p = Pen pen-tool.png (Also: Freeform Pen)

c = Clone Stamp clone-stamp-tool.png (Also: Pattern Stamp)

o = Dodge dodge-tool.png (Also: Burn, Sponge)

z = Zoom Tool zoom-tool.png

k = Enable 3D Object Tools (in Photoshop Extended only) 

n = Enable 3D Camera Tools (in Photoshop Extended only) 

Using the Brush Tool

With the brush settings, you can change the size, shape, and transparency of your brush strokes to achieve a number of different visual effects. (Learn more about the brush tool here.)

To use these keyboard shortcuts, first select the Brush tool by pressing bbrush-tool.png

, or . = Select previous or next brush style.

Shift + , or . = Select first or last brush style used.

Caps Lock or Shift + Caps Lock ( Caps Lock ) = Display precise cross hair for brushes.

Shift + Alt + p ( Shift + Option + p ) = Toggle airbrush option.

Using the Marquee Tool (for Slicing/Selecting)

When used correctly, the marquee (or “select”) tool will let you select individual elements, entire graphics, and determines what is copied, cut, and pasted into your graphics. (Learn more about the marquee tool here.)

To use these keyboard shortcuts, first select the Marquee tool by pressing mmarquee-tool-2.png

Control ( Command ) = Toggle between Slice tool and Slice Selection tool.

Shift-drag = Draw square slice.


Alt-drag ( Option-drag ) = Draw from center outward.

Spacebar-drag = Reposition the slice while creating the slice.

Using Different Blending Options

Blending options include quite a number of features to enhance the look or your graphic. Blending options are located in the top menu bar under Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options, or you can double-click any layer to bring up the options for that particular layer. (Learn more about blending options here.)

Once you open blending options, you can cycle through blending modes manually by selecting them from the toolbar on the right-hand side of your screen above the layers panel.


Or, you could use keyboard shortcuts to select them without moving your mouse.

To use these keyboard shortcuts, select the Move tool and then select the layer you’d like to use the blending options on.

Shift + + or – = Cycle through blending modes.

Shift + Alt + n ( Shift + Option + n ) = Normal

Shift + Alt + i ( Shift + Option + i ) = Dissolve

Shift + Alt + k ( Shift + Option + k ) = Darken

Shift + Alt + g ( Shift + Option + g ) = Lighten

Shift + Alt + m ( Shift + Option + m ) = Multiply

Shift + Alt + o ( Shift + Option + o ) = Overlay

Shift + Alt + u ( Shift + Option + u ) = Hue

Shift + Alt + t ( Shift + Option + t ) = Saturation

Shift + Alt + y ( Shift + Option + y ) = Luminosity

(For even more blending shortcuts, click here.)

Manipulating Layers & Objects

If you want to modify an object or get complex with multiple layers, here are several shortcuts you should know:

Control + a ( Command + ) = Select all objects

Control + d ( Command + d )  = Deselect all objects

Shift + Control + i ( Shift Command + ) = Select the inverse of the selected objects

Control + Alt + a ( Command + Option + a ) = Select all layers

Control + Shift + E ( Command + Shift + e ) = Merge all layers

Alt + . ( Option + . ) = Select top layer

Alt + , ( Option + , ) = Select bottom layer

(Note: In the following three commands, the brackets [ ] are the keystrokes in the command, and the word “or” refers to the word – as in press one bracket OR the other – not the letters “o” and “r.”)

Alt + [ or ] ( Option + [ or ] ) = Select next layer down or up

Control + [ or ] ( Command + [ or ] ) = Move target layer down or up

Control + Shift + [ or ] ( Command + Shift + [ or ] ) = Move layer to the bottom or top

Shift + Control + Shift Command + ) = Create a new layer

Control + g ( Command + g ) = Group selected layers

Control + Shift + g ( Command + Shift + = Ungroup selected layers

Control + e ( Command + ) = Merge and flatten selected layers

Control + Shift + Alt + e ( Command + Shift + Option + ) = Combine all layers into a new layer on top of the other layers

(This means that you’ll have one combined layer and all the elements of that layer in separate layers below, unlike a traditional merge and flatten layers command.)

d = Return the colors in your color picker back to default (black and white)


x = Switch foreground and background colors in the color picker

color-picker-black-and-white.png color-picker-switched-1.png

Control + t ( Command + ) = Transform your object, which includes resizing and rotating

Saving Your Work for Later

So you’ve finished working on your project and now you want to share it with the world. Save time saving your project by using these simple shortcuts:

Control + Shifts ( Command + Shift + = Save your work as

Control + Shift + Alt + s ( Command + Shift + Option + = Save for web and devices

Do you have any Photoshop shortcuts up your sleeve? Share them with the rest of us in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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How Internet Behavior is Changing Around the World [Infographic]


Last year, marketers and businesspeople around the world saw a huge change in the way people use the internet. Most notably, in May 2015, we saw that more people were using their mobile devices to search for things online than on their desktop computers.

But these changes aren’t happening at the same rate everywhere in the world. In Iceland, Monaco, and Ukraine, the majority of internet users are using desktop to surf the web. On the other end of the spectrum, most internet users in many Southeast Asian countries are relying on their mobile devices for internet.

Which devices are folks using to search the internet around the world? What do social sharing behaviors look like by device? What are some notable global social media trends?

To help us understand how internet behavior has been shifting on a global scale in the past year, the folks at AddThis looked at more than one trillion global pageviews from more than two billion internet users around the world. They used that data to create the infographic below. Check it out.


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5 Key Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Manager


When I was just starting out management didn’t seem like a career choice; it seemed like an inevitable. Something that would just sort of happen once I got old enough – like wrinkles, or gray hair, or distinctly unfashionable pants. I figured: You work long enough, you’ll manage someone.

I liked the idea of managing because it felt like progress. I wanted that nebulous trophy of achievement. I wanted it bad. But then something important happened …

I started actually achieving. I was progressing in concrete and measurable ways that had nothing to do with management. And I saw my peers do the same. They were climbing into new and more challenging roles – some involved management, but others advanced them as highly skilled and sought-after individual contributors.

Seeing the diversity of paths that careers can take, I stopped thinking about management as some sort of suit-sporting end-goal. And then I became a manager, and discovered that that realization was only the beginning of what I had to learn.

For starters, the skill set is totally different. In fact, the skills you mastered to become a top performer on your team might challenge you most as a manager. It’s like spending your whole life developing skills as a tuba player, then being handed a baton. You could be a brilliant conductor eventually, but in the beginning you’ll pretty much look like you’re shooing flies longing for the days when you played music more directly.

Management is tricky like that. Unlike some roles, which can be studied in advance, most management skills are best learned on the job. You’re going to make mistakes. Embrace them and learn from them. And if you need a little guidance, check out some of the lessons I learned below.

5 Key Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Manager

1) Don’t aim to be liked. Aim to be transformational.

The first inclination of many managers is to make sure their team likes them. It makes sense – you catch more bees with honey than vinegar, and you must be doing something right if people like you. But managers who focus too much on being liked miss the bigger picture. You do more for your team and for your company if you focus on being instrumental – even when doing so requires an unpopular decision or a bit of radical candor.

I learned this directly from HubSpot’s CEO Brian Halligan. Brian is widely regarded as likable guy, but he’ll trade in that popularity in a second if it stands in the way of a decision he thinks is critical for the company and its customers. He explained this thinking recently in a personal post:

“I think the leadership hierarchy of needs is that managers need to solve for enterprise value first, then solve for their team, and then themselves. Oftentimes when managers on my team have stumbled, it’s because they got that equation wrong. Ironically, in almost all cases where this happened, the manager solved for his team, not for himself first. Inexperienced managers tend to coddle their teams, overspend on their teams, and put their team’s interest over the company’s interest if not properly guided. This coddling works for a while, but ultimately always breaks.”

When you solve for your team, you earn popularity and your team stays comfortable. When you solve for the company, you earn respect and your team grows professionally. That’s the difference between a decent manager and a transformational one.

2) Don’t worry if you team doesn’t always need you.

I wrote this in a similar post a few years ago, but it bears repeating: The scariest realization I had when I started managing was that my team would be perfectly fine without me.

Do you have any idea how terrifying that is?

I remember thinking, “My one job is to manage these people, but they’re managing just fine.” And I felt useless. As it turns out, I was an idiot for feeling useless.

I should have felt elated. I had a strong team. If you’re hiring right, you should be bringing on people who are fully capable at managing themselves. You should, in fact, be bringing on people who are smarter than you. It turns out management has very little to do with managing and almost everything to do with developing. Developing people. Developing opportunities. And developing new uses for raw talent.

Left alone, your team will manage just fine. But here again, just managing shouldn’t be the end goal. The end goal should be excelling.

Managers who are too worried about being needed will spend all their time and energy on the wrong things. They will micromanage. They will put up hoops. They will inadvertently limit the potential of their team just to justify their own role in it. And the honest-to-God truth is: If you have to tell people you’re the authority, you’re likely not.

3) Coaches don’t couch.

I’m nice. I can’t shake it. As a teen, I listened to Rancid and Social Distortion in an effort to toughen up. I learned to curse like a sailor to add edge to my sentences. But the truth is, I’m just nice. It’s never going to leave me. That made this lesson a particularly hard one to master.

Good coaches don’t hold back hard feedback. They don’t couch it to soften the blow or sandwich it between two complements. They just tell it like it is. Couching tends to confuse the people receiving it rather than help them. You’re not doing them any favors. You’re only making yourself feel less mean.


There are two ways people fail at this:

  1. They can’t bring themselves to give the hard feedback.
  2. They give hard feedback without building trust in the relationship first.

You can tell your direct report anything if they trust that you are doing so because you respect them.

Kim Scott, an author who’s previously worked with companies like Twitter, Apple, Google, and Dropbox credits much of her development to having mentors who understood the critical intersection between these two things. In an interview with The Growth Show she recounted the time her mentor Sheryl Sandberg told her that the “ums” Scott had been interjecting while speaking made her sound unintelligent – well, actually not unintelligent, “stupid.”

“It was actually the kindest thing that Sheryl could have done for me. But part of the reason why she was able to do it for me was that she had shown me in a thousand ways – and everybody that worked for her – that she really did care personally about our growth and our development.”

Had Sandberg softened her feedback it may not have resonated so strongly. Had Scott not trusted that Sandberg wanted the best for her, she would never have put her defenses down to truly hear it. The combination of the two made this an important and formative moment for Scott.

4) Meetings really do matter.

When was the last time you left a meeting and thought, “That was exceptional.”?

It’s been awhile, right? For many, it’s been a professional lifetime. While most productivity articles focus on finding ways to shorten meetings and optimize work-time, a better question might be: What would it take to make meetings actually worthwhile? It’s a responsibility that sits largely in the hands of managers.


It may seem like a silly little thing, but the clearest way you can show your team you respect them is to prepare for team meetings. Don’t just show up. Don’t adhere to the same agenda month after month. Make every second of your meeting productive, educational, or interesting. You will inevitably bobble this. You will have some bad meetings, but it’s a skill worth honing.

Treat your meetings like college professors treat their seminars. Set aside time before each major meeting to prepare for it. If a meeting takes your team away from their work for an hour, then you better be sure you put in the prep time to make that hour as productive as possible.

Make your meetings interactive. Research suggests people lose focus in a lecture somewhere between 10 and 18 minutes. At that point both you and your team need a break from hearing the sound of your voice. It’s okay. Build that in. Tap members of your team to present or shift into a brainstorm when you hit that point. Again, make sure everyone presenting does the prep work and respects the time that their teammates have given up to be there.

5) You can’t approach everyone the same way.

The one thing that has helped me the most as a manager, on both good days and bad, has been understanding the people on my team. It sounds obvious, but taking the time to get to know what motivates each team member and what discourages them is a strategic advantage. Having this understanding means that you can play to the strengths of individual team members when assigning projects and adapt feedback to the way each person learns.

There are a number of trainings and personality tests that can help you know your team better. Here at HubSpot, we use something called a DiSC assessment to help classify work styles so new managers have a basic roadmap. The real understanding however comes over time, through conversation, and by paying close attention. It doesn’t hurt to ask directly how each person likes to be recognized for a job well done and what makes them happiest in their role. Use one on one meetings to discover how you can best coach the members of your team and what they’re looking to do next in their roles and their careers.

There is no grand conclusion here. Everything you’ve just read comprises a starting point, a few stumbling blocks of what could be many in the path to managing well. That I suppose is the bonus lesson: Managers are almost never fully cooked. There are always more mistakes to be made and greater lessons to learn. But if you get a few essentials right, including those in this post, you’ll have a good navigational compass for learning the rest.

What do you wish you knew before you became a manager? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Psychology of Teams: 9 Lessons on How Happy, Efficient Teams Really Work


This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

Remember a job you loved? (Hopefully, it’s the one you have now!)

Remember a job you hoped to leave?

When I reflect back on my career journey, I have jobs that fit both categories, and the difference has often been the fit of the team. The happier and hustle-ier the group of coworkers, the more we get done and the more fun we have doing it.

Now imagine having a way to get there, no matter where on that spectrum your team sits now.

I researched a bit into some of the psychology and underpinnings of the most efficient, most happy team setups. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

1) How cohesive is your team?

The three biggest factors: Trust, respect, and affirmation

One of the best places I’ve found to look for tips on the workplace is in recognizing which tips work great for relationships in general. Take this advice from a research roundup done at Lee University:

Research on healthy relationships between adults and young people has consistently identified respect, affirmation, and trust as the most influential factors.

One very interesting and useful study was conducted by Dr. Jim Tunney, who asked teachers to assess the degree to which they cared for and respected their students (90% and 80% respectively chose 8 or higher on a scale of 10). He then asked students to indicate the degree to which they believed their teacher cared for and/or respected them (30% and 25% respectively chose 8 or higher on the same 10-point scale).

The emphasis on respect, affirmation, and trust comes from the results of a family assessment model called FACES, which asks a series of questions about cohesiveness and adaptability of one’s relationships. (Sample questions here.)


I’ve heard this exact idea shared before as the way to build a cohesive family, a cohesive group of friends, and yes, even a cohesive workplace.

Dr. Stephen Glenn, a parenting expert, built this concept into his training courses on developing capable young people. Dr. Glenn, who raised four biological children and 20(!) foster children, ties those talks directly back to the research and results of FACES and more.

2) How task-diverse is your day?

The brain benefits to doing different types of tasks

This should not be confused with multitasking – doing more than one thing at a time, which can be tough.

In Your Brain at Work, David Rock covers the different science behind working smarter on the job. One of the big takeaways: Different types of tasks use up different amounts of energy.

Seems quite obvious, right? Yet, I’m still constantly guilty of getting plugged into the same big task for huge chunks of time.

Let your team members build their days so they have diverse sets of tasks to do, and you might just see better results and happier outcomes. From the book:

  • Lower stress and anxiety: "Bring your dopamine or adrenaline level down by activating other regions of the brain other than the prefrontal cortex.“
  • Avoid blocks of emailing: "A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test.”
  • Get disciplined about a schedule: “Schedule blocks of time for different modes of thinking.”

One of the ways we’ve gone about this last step at Buffer is to structure our days with workstation popcorn:


Image Credit: Buffer

You start your day with a to-do list, then plan your list around different cafes, coffee shops, and workstations, popping from one to the next when you’ve completed a set of tasks.

3) What is the personality mix of your team?

Create a good blend of the big five personality types

In the 1970s, two groups of personality researchers independently came to the conclusion that most personality traits can placed in five broad categories, now known as the Big Five. They are:

  1. Openness: Those who score high for this trait tend to enjoy adventure and are open to new experiences.
  2. Conscientiousness: High scorers for conscientiousness are generally organized and dependable.
  3. Extraversion: Those who are high on this scale draw their energy from being around others, so they tend to be more sociable (not to be confused with outgoing!).
  4. Agreeableness: High scorers for this trait are often trusting, helpful, and compassionate.
  5. Emotional stability: People with high scores for this trait are usually confident and don’t tend to worry often (this may be tested as neuroticism, in which case high scorers would be prone to worrying and anxiety).


Image Credit: Out of Service

(If you’re curious about these, you can try this online test to see how you score.)

The idea is that when it comes to team-building, you should focus on collecting a mix of these Big Five and blending them into the team-at-large and the individual teams within. Here are some specific tips:

  1. Take note of the personality traits you need before hiring
  2. Look for personalities that will fit into and complement your company culture
  3. Pair new employees up with team members who suit their personality type

4) How big is your team?

How to shrink your teams and limit choices

In Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz describes the problem with having too many choices: dissatisfaction, regret, uncertainty. One of his tips: At restaurants, close the menu after you find the dish you like. Simple. Done.

To carry the food analogy further, this concept relates to the way that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos approaches team structure. Bezos defaults to small: If a team can’t be fed with two pizzas, it is too big.

5) How much doing does your leader do?

Bill Walsh’s standard of performance (i.e., lead from the front)

Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh, who won three Super Bowls and popularized a revolutionary new way to play football, wrote a book that is kind of about football but mostly about leadership and life: The Score Will Take Care of Itself.

Pretty metaphorical title!

One of the lessons from the book touches on the concept of leadership, particularly as it relates to those in leadership positions.

Someone will declare, “I am the leader!” and expect everyone to get in line and follow him or her to the gates of heaven or hell. My experience is that it doesn’t happen that way. Unless you’re a guard on a chain gang, others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations.

Part of running an efficient, happy team is placing leadership around it that is action-based. Walsh came up with a system he called “My Standard of Performance,” which guided everything he did. Here are some highlights:

  1. Exhibit a ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement.
  2. Demonstrate respect for each person in the organization and the work he or she does.
  3. Be deeply committed to learning and teaching, which means increasing my own expertise.
  4. Be fair.
  5. Demonstrate character.
  6. Honor the direct connection between details and improvement, and relentlessly seek the latter.
  7. Show self-control, especially where it counts most – under pressure; demonstrate and prize loyalty.
  8. Use positive language and have a positive attitude.
  9. Take pride in my effort as an entity separate from the result of that effort.
  10. Be willing to go the extra distance for the organization.
  11. Deal appropriately with victory and defeat, adulation, and humiliation (don’t get crazy with victory nor dysfunctional with loss).
  12. Promote internal communication that is both open and substantive (especially under stress); seek poise in myself and those I lead.
  13. Put the team’s welfare and priorities ahead of my own.
  14. Maintain an ongoing level of concentration and focus that is abnormally high, and make sacrifice and commitment the organization’s trademark.

Not that those in leadership positions at your place of work need to do all these things, but what might it feel like to work with someone who embodied even some of this stuff?

6) How do your employees experience freedom and responsibility?

The joy of giving decision-making to all

Dennis Bakke’s The Decision Maker is an allegorical story about what it’s like when decisions aren’t solely made by those in leadership.

It’s a fascinating concept. Giving employees responsibility and freedom to make decisions can be transformative, with the thought being that the closer one is to the problem – not the boss in a lot of cases – the better decision can be made.

Here’s a snippet from the book, jumping into a conversation between an employee in HR and the CEO of the company. The CEO says:

“You’ve got the responsibility, but you’ve also got the freedom. Think through these questions. Figure out what you think will work best. Do whatever you need to. If you want to connect with other people who are thinking about this, get advice from other businesses, you let me know. Whatever research you need to do, we’ll make it happen. And then come to me with your decisions about how to handle human resources going forward.”

“So you can sign off on them?” Angela challenged.

Tom shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “So I understand what’s happening in the business.”

7) Why do you have values?

Phew! Values don’t have to equal success

We place great emphasis on the culture and values we hold at Buffer. They define the way we do just about everything: from product to marketing to support to our personal lives. They run deep!

We like to think that part of the great outcome of having these shared values is that we’re excited and motivated to come to work together each and every day.

That being said, values are not a shortcut to results.

Our CEO Joel Gascoigne summed it up really well in this blog post:

This is the approach we have started to take at Buffer with our cultural values such as Happiness and Positivity or Defaulting to Transparency.

I can’t say that creating a company where everyone is happy is something that will make us more successful, and I can’t say that being fully transparent about revenues, user numbers, salaries, and other details helps us grow faster than other companies.

These are simply values we have chosen to live by.

8) Are the right people on your bus?

The delicate art of hiring and firing

If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.

This quote from Jim Collins (from his hugely popular book Good to Great) covers the way we like to think about hiring. We hope to get the right people on the bus, first and foremost. Then we can always swap seats later and figure out together where we’re headed.

Of course, getting the right people on the bus might mean being a bit more disciplined about hiring or taking stock of who’s on the bus already.

Again, Joel has some great thoughts on the perspective of getting the passengers right, even if it means some hard conversations: “I would even go a step further and say that keeping people around who are not a great culture-fit is one of the worst things that could happen to someone. It has almost always been a mutual feeling when I had the conversation to let someone go: They felt some relief. I even have this quote on my wall to remind myself to think in this way:

‘Waiting too long before acting is equally unfair to the people who need to get off the bus. For every minute you allow a person to continue holding a seat when you know that person will not make it in the end, you’re stealing a portion of his life, time that he could spend finding a better place where he could flourish.’ - Jim Collins”

9) How much do you think about an efficient, happy team?

The yin and yang of intrinsic versus extrinsic

Here’s a cool story about cats. (Courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dyer.)

One day this old alley cat crossed paths with a younger cat who was frantically running around, trying to catch its own tail. The older cat watched carefully for awhile. When the young cat stopped for a breather, the older cat asked, “Would you mind telling me what you are doing?”

The young cat said, “Sure thing! I went to Cat Philosophy School and learned that happiness is in our tails. So I am going to keep chasing my tail and someday I will catch it and get a big bite of happiness.”

The older cat responded, “Well, I have never been to Cat Philosophy School, but I agree: Happiness is in our tails. However, I have found that when I just wander around enjoying life, it follows me everywhere I go.”


The same goes for building an efficient, happy team.

In particular on the happiness side, this idea was highlighted in a 2011 study by Yale psychologist June Gruber and colleagues who found that pursuing happiness may lead to increased expectations that, if gone unmet, would actually have the opposite effect of happiness.

So instead of chasing efficiency and happiness to the extremes, we may be better off pursuing it calmly and rationally. Trying new team experiments is a great way to go, so long as you keep expectations in check.

Over to You

What have you found to work best when putting your team together?

I’d love to learn any of your lessons and to brainstorm things together. Let me know what has been successful in your workplace in the comments below.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

We Documented Our Company's Mistakes Every Week for a Year. Here’s What We Learned.


This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

Every Friday, our team comes together for a weekly reflections meeting. It’s our “touchy-feely-kumbaya” moment where everyone has an opportunity to open up and share what’s on their mind.

Primarily, we try to focus on three things: what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what we learned. We then document those lessons, and once-a-year, we review the key themes. It’s surprising– and a bit embarrassing – how often issues we discussed in March are repeated in August and again in November, but it’s all part of the learning process. 

This year, a few interesting themes emerged that I thought would be valuable for others to review. Here are some of the most important lessons we learned in 2015.

1) Outline project unknowns as much as knowns.

It’s very easy to find yourself putting together a beautiful project scope or proposal that painstakingly details every requirement the client has mentioned during your sales calls. The problem is, once the project kicks off, you’re going to find yourself dealing with many, many things the client did not explicitly state. Image purchasing, content implementation, hosting fees, etc., are all aspects of any web project not typically top-of-mind for the client. Be sure your contracts and documentation tackle as many of these project unknowns as possible. Include language that provides a means of factoring in cost/time when these little surprises sneak up, as they always do.

2) Transition from managing a sales pipeline to a relationship pipeline.

The idea of a sales pipeline is to track opportunities across various stages in your sales process, each with their own weighted likelihood of turning into an actual deal. Having a sales pipeline helps you determine where to invest time and energy in opportunities. The problem, however, is that most sales pipelines only look at a 30-to-90-day window. With this narrow of a view, it’s far too easy to cast “slower” opportunities to the side.

We found that focusing on building relationships with companies that could be great clients, even if they’re a year away from that, is far more valuable than ignoring every prospect who doesn’t meet the perfect profile for your sales pipeline. You shouldn’t expel that much energy on these prospects, but you should set reminders to connect periodically, invite them to relevant events, and send them useful content. This can lead to huge returns beyond this month or even quarter. 

3) Help define success for your customer.

The reason most potential customers are speaking with you is because you’ve demonstrated a capacity for solving their problem. Embrace this truth, and control the vision for working with your customers. Focusing on identifying and addressing their needs is critical to a successful sale, but don’t let them dictate all the terms of engagement.

You’ve done this “thing” far more times than they have, and it’s important that you explain what will make a project successful. If timelines are unrealistic or certain content or systems need to be finalized before you can start a project, be sure to communicate this to the client. It’s far better, and far more profitable, to set clear “rules for success” with a potential client and hold them to those boundaries. 

4) Don’t overlook easy money.

If your agency thrives on large project-based deals, it’s tempting to always go after the “whale” and ignore the “fish” along the way. If every new deal is six-figures, why wouldn’t you put your time and energy into those opportunities? However, when you focus 100% of your time on these big wins, you often sacrifice opportunities for “easy money.”

Support retainers, appropriate technology recommendations that have a referral kickback, and one-day workshops are all value-added services you could offer existing clients. These relationships are already established so they don’t require the same effort as a new deal. Sure, the check isn’t as substantial, but if you build in a practice of upselling across all of your clients, you could see an impressive uptick in account size.

5) Focus on solving problems, not just implementing solutions.

It’s not uncommon to find that your team is obsessed with how to implement a specific solution within a project. Whether it stems from client interest or internal interest, once you’re fixated on making something work, it’s hard to take a step back. Taking a step back, however, is often the only way to avoid blowing the budget on a project. This step back should not be focused on re-evaluating the solution, rather re-evaluating the problem. Ask both yourself and the client what the exact problem is that you’re trying to solve and the impact of not solving it. Sometimes the solution is simply doing nothing.

6) Don’t view account management and project management as the same role.

Many larger agencies already have this baked into their operations, but this was a big lesson for us to learn this past year. Although they can sometimes be tackled by the same person, the responsibilities associated with account management are not the same as those associated with project management. Account managers need to focus on defending the client’s needs at all times while project managers need to focus on defending the agency’s needs at all times. This sort of conflict is healthy as it ensures both sides are properly represented in the creative process.

In addition, the very metrics each role should be focused on are considerably different. Account managers are accountable for growing their book-of-business with clients while project managers are accountable for expanding the profitability of the relationship. These are two very different mindsets, and two very different roles.

7) Always be selling.

Once that initial contract is inked, it’s tempting to pop the champagne and call it a day. Closing a deal does not mean that the sales function is over. A client who accepts a contract simply means she believes in your plan for solving her problem; it does not guarantee that she believes in your execution of that plan. Every person involved in the project needs to realize the importance of continuing to sell ideas and solutions to identified problems. Every new deliverable is a new first impression.

8) Realize the difference between makers and managers.

There is a big difference between “makers” and “managers” within an agency. Makers are responsible for creating deliverables and executing the plan for a client. Managers are responsible for setting that plan and ensuring resources are appropriately allocated to enable execution. Many agencies depend on their team members to play both a maker and manager role. Effectiveness as a maker requires long, uninterrupted time where execution can take place. Effectiveness as a manager requires continued communication and performance analysis to ensure the plan is on track. Treat team members differently depending on the role they play and their responsibilities, and respect the differing work needs of each type within the structure of your agency.

9) Work in time blocks.

Most tasks will take as long as you allow them to. And complicating this problem is that in most agencies, we’re inundated with so many tasks from so many different accounts that things are constantly done right before they’re due. Working in a reactive pattern, where tasks are constantly being shuffled around based on the latest fire or ASAP request, only perpetuates inadvertent procrastination. Take control of your workload by carving out distinct blocks of time to tackle projects, and set the end of that block as your hard deadline.

10) Repeat everything. Repeat everything.

Repetition is a key ingredient for success as an agency. This includes repetition in communication, resources, and process. Repetition in communication ensures everyone is on the same page and that expectations are met. Repeat those expectations, and repeat the plan for meeting them. Repetition in resources ensures you have a game plan should someone go on vacation, get sick, or quit a project. Having redundant roles is an important safety net for any project. Finally, repetition in process ensures that you create repeatable results and start building efficiency into your delivery. The more your processes repeat, the more likely they can be automated, leading to tremendous gains in efficiency and profitability. 

11) Manage against scope or timeline, not both.

Bumps come up in a project. Unexpected requests or roadblocks are inevitable. Budget is often that hardest thing to revisit in a project, so consider whether scope or timeline needs to be re-evaluated as problems emerge. If timing is critical, scale back on what needs to be accomplished within a specific timeframe. If completeness is key, push out your launch date. If the client can’t choose between the two, bring up money again.

12) Negotiate constantly, but wisely.

Remember this: You’re negotiating throughout the entire lifespan of a project. You’re negotiating for extra resources, reduced scope, quicker turnarounds, etc. As in any negotiation, the key to success is knowing all of the terms of which you’re negotiating. It’s far easier to get what you need from a client and still make them happy if you give them something they want. When faced with a significant problem in the project, ensure you understand what’s really important to the client and what’s really important to your agency. Oftentimes, negotiating over different terms and bringing awareness to that is all it takes for everyone to walk away happy.

13) Have a process, but know that the process will change.

Technology, experience, resources, and many other factors will lead to evolutions in your processes over time. You’ll add new deliverables, cut out unnecessary steps, and automate some of your workload. But this sort of benefit only works when you have a process that you’re currently using. You can only measure improvement or evaluate efficiency if you have a benchmark. If you have a process for how your projects are delivered and how your agency is run, you can track and improve things going forward.

14) Build in padding for inaccurate project estimates. 

It seems no matter how many times we’ve done a project, something always comes up that affects our original project estimate. Perhaps it’s a desire to continue improving our processes or “one-upping” our last project, but things inevitably take longer than expected. Understand this, embrace this, and add padding to be conservative. Extra time and extra money provides room to over-deliver for your clients and make them even happier with the project’s outcome.

15) Remember that contractors are not employees.

In a world of specialization and the need for ever-changing scale, it’s likely that your agency depends on some sort of contract-based labor force. They provide the natural capacity necessary to take on larger projects or unknown technologies. For this very reason, contractors can be one of your greatest assets.

However, remember that they are not employees and should not be treated as such. Employment and tax regulation aside, professional freelancers and contractors have chosen that profession for many of the benefits that come with it: unlimited vacation, remote working, schedule independence, etc. It’s foolish to expect that contractors will make the same sacrifices or meet the same demands as an employee. As such, it’s critical that you establish clear expectations on the “softer side of your relationship in addition to the scope, time, and budget requirements you’re bound to discuss. Agree on communication schedules, deadline management, and anything else that might cause a problem for a project down-the-line.

16) Show, don’t tell.

As agency folk, we’re participants in the "idea economy.” We’re paid for coming up with and executing ideas that will solve our clients’ problems. Clients are our lifeblood, and they command respect in the creative process. However, we cannot assume that the ideas in our minds are the same as those perceived by our clients. Hypothetical pitches and explanations might get people excited, but it doesn’t lead to consensus around expectations.

Don’t be afraid to introduce working deliverables into your process solely to serve as a means of crystallizing ideas into a form that has boundaries. Even a napkin sketch will give a client a better sense for your vision than flowery language over a bourbon-fueled dinner. If the client is excited about an idea, she should be excited to spend 5% of the total time/money to sketch out the parameters of that idea before committing to it fully.

17) Promote others first.

Imagine going to a party where the guy in the corner is constantly shouting about all of the awesome things he’s done. It won’t take long for you to excuse yourself from the table. The same goes for your marketing efforts. If all of your marketing is focused on promoting how “awesome” your agency is, how long will it take for your audience to leave? Focus your marketing on educating and sharing the success of others before your own. It builds trust and credibility. It also builds community as those you promote will promote your work in turn.

18) Do less marketing to do better marketing.

It’s easy to start the year with a huge list of marketing activities your agency will pursue to expand your footprint: blogging, events, emails, advertisements, podcast, sponsorships, etc. It all sounds great on paper, but such a diffused strategy is more likely to lead to a bunch of smaller failures than one or two major successes. Figure out what channels resonate with your target clients, align these with your voice/skillsets, and determine how you can maximize the impact with the limited resources you have at your disposal. Double-down on those few things, and ignore everything else.

19) Find the source of the stress.

Agency life is fueled by deadlines and tight budgets. No one has ever claimed it’s a stress-free business. But letting this stress affect us leads to poor performance, which leads to more stress. When you find yourself feeling as though every project is going wrong, the problem is unlikely that everything sucks.

Take a step back, and identify what the real source of stress is. Then, create an action plan for dealing with it. Is it personal? Did you lose a deal? Is a client being pushy? Not resolving the major stressor in your life will impact other responsibilities on your plate. Tackle the real source of stress, and everything else might just be a bit easier.

20) Celebrate your accomplishments.

You’ve won awards, generated millions of dollars in value for your clients, and created jobs that give people the opportunity to pursue their creative passions. Running an agency can be overwhelming, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Do not let the challenges of running the business overshadow the successes along the way. Take time to step back and celebrate wins individually and as a team. Reflect on how much has been accomplished during just one year, and use that to fuel your work going forward.

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