All posts by Ali Jackowski

Automate Excel Without Macros

Automate Excel Without Macros

Many students come to us wanting to learn how to create macros in Excel to automate their spreadsheets.  However, they often don’t realize that formulas can be used to create most of the automation they want.

Although we can use macros to automate steps, there are limits to macros (especially the simplistic ones that are created by recording steps), and we still need to remember to run the macro. Thus, recorded macros are not full automation.

Full automation would mean not needing to click a button, using a shortcut, or adding a quick step to the Quick Access Toolbar. Fully automated macros can be created but require the use of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). VBA is a smaller version of Visual Basic, added to each Microsoft application, and is limited to the application in which it is being used to create the modules or macros. This type of automation is very powerful (and is offered in our 2-day VBA course), but you are now talking about learning code to create these macros.  Also, one character out of place in the code can make a macro inoperable, making it not the most efficient way to automate, in some cases.

Using macros is not the only way to automate Excel.   You can often use functions and formulas to fully automate an Excel workbook. Functions and formulas do not require any shortcuts or buttons to make things happen; they only require data. As soon as data is entered, the functions and formulas go to work.

A Different Approach to Automation

Functions and formulas can be built into a template. This means that the areas where data is to be entered is empty and waiting for input. Then the functions and formulas create the magic after the data is entered. Since all the formatting, reports, and pivot tables can be built into the template as well, you can create a template for a finished workbook that will display robust visuals and calculations after a few pieces of data are entered.  This can turn hours of work into mere minutes.

Microsoft has spent many years making Excel more robust, and has added a ton of functionality that can make full automation a reality. However, if you have not read about all the functionality available or had someone show you, then there is a whole world of possibilities you didn’t even know existed.

Let Mission Critical Training show you what Excel can do for you, including our Function and Formulas class that focuses on full automation.

Why Excel? Two unique scenarios

Why Excel - Wine Inventory

When you think of Microsoft Excel what comes to mind? Accounting spreadsheets? Using formulas to calculate numbers?
Generally, we think of Excel only as a system to manage our numbers, but you might be surprised by some other things that you can do with this program. We are going to look at two uses for Excel that go outside of our assumption of accounting spreadsheets. We will look at a personal use to track a home wine collection and a business use to track marketing campaigns for an ongoing growing contact list.

Learn more about the things Excel can do for you, in both your career and your personal life with a class from Mission Critical Training.

Missing a Mouse? Use ALT – Excel

Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel


If you’ve ever had a mouse go bad in the middle of a project, you probably called IT to bring you a new mouse.  Or if this happened at home, you drove to the store to get a replacement. Regardless of where it happens, it is Murphy’s Law that it will happen at the worst possible moment. You’re desktop computer doesn’t have a finger pad and you just have a couple of things to finish, but you are stuck waiting to finish. Or are you?

Clicking the ALT key allows you to keep going! Follow the steps below to type your way through the commands need to finish your project:

  1. Once you have pressed the ALT key, letters and numbers will appear on the ribbon tabs and on your Quick Access Toolbar.Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Press ALT
  2. If you press the correlating key on your keyboard, you will make that tab active, which will display different options for you to press. For example, if you press N, the Insert tab will become active, and the commands in that tab will have different letters or combinations of letters to press to insert that object. Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Commands
  3. Single letters are easy, but what about commands with combined letters? You do not have to press the combination of letters at the same moment. Press the letters of the combination in order, and the command will execute. For example, pressing the key for letter S, then the key for letter L, will open the Sparkline dialog box. Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Sparkline dialog box

If you need to backup a step, maybe because you pressed the wrong key, press the Esc key to go back one step. Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Press Esc

Pressing Esc a few times will take you out of the functionality.

Mission Critical Training has the Excel classes that fit your specific skill level and project needs.

Keep Decimals Out of the Equation with Data Validations in Excel

Data Validations in Excel

Using Data Validations in Excel can be very helpful, as validations make sure the data is entered correctly, and ensures all the intended functionality works according to plan. One possible validation scenario is the need for all numbers to be displayed as whole numbers. Follow these steps to ensure no decimals are included during data entry:

  1. Once your Excel workbook is open, drag-select the cells in which you want the numbers to be restricted to whole numbers.Data Validations in Excel - Select columns
  2. Click the Data tab on the ribbon, then in the Data Tools group, click the Data Validation command.Data Validations in Excel - Data Tools
  3. When the Data Validation dialog box appears, set the Allow section to Whole Numbers, the Data section to Greater than or Equal to, and the Minimum section to 0.Data Validations in Excel - Select Validation
  4. Once completed, click OK, and those cells will be restricted to whole numbers.
Want to learn more ways to make Excel work harder for you? Take a class from Mission Critical Training, in Denver and Phoenix.

Download MCT’s latest class catalog


Catalog download Want to get the very latest version of Mission Critical Training’s schedule of classes? We are happy to announce our 2019 class catalog is now available to download, for your immediate viewing pleasure.

Get the most up-to-date class calendar, plus details on all of our classes and training programs, now on your desktop.  Follow the link below, fill out the requested information, then view, download, or print the catalog.

Of course, you can still request a printed version of our 2019 catalog at, or contact our sales office for information about our programs, including private group training, at (303) 900-0850 in Colorado, or (602) 955-7787 in Arizona.


Earn Free Training Deal in July

Free training deal - Summer learningIced tea is brewing; suntans are getting darker; barbecue grills heating up. Summer is here! While the kids are heading off to summer camp (or at least the local pool), why not take some time to focus on yourself?  Mission Critical Training is offering a hot summer training deal, to get you inspired and moving ahead in your career.

Summer Savings Deal

For every class you take during the month of July, we will send you a voucher for another class of your choice, of equal duration, gratis! Vouchers are good for classes through the end of the year. This deal doubles you learning power, dollar for dollar. Take a half day class, get a voucher for another half day class; take a full day course, get a full-day voucher. There is no limit on the number of vouchers you can earn: Take more classes in July, get more vouchers for use later in the year.

Here is the fine print:

  • Registrations must be for classes on our public class calendar, scheduled to run in July 2019.
  • Registrations must be at the full retail rate. No additional discounts apply.
  • Cannot use existing vouchers towards July registrations to qualify for the deal.
  • Payment is required at time of registration.
  • If a class is postponed by MCT,  the buyer will still receive their reward voucher(s).
  • Vouchers are valid through December 31, 2019.
  • Vouchers will be sent via email on August 1, 2019.

To receive the offer, you must register by contacting our registration department at Simply list the classes you’d like to register for, as well as your contact information, and our registration team will connect with you to get you set up.

Get the computer skills you need to refresh your passion for your career, or even get the professional development knowledge you need to step into a new position. Summer is a great time to work on yourself, not just your tan lines.

Using Word Templates

Word Templates

When you were in school, you probably had to write according to standards set forth by the your school, such as the APA or MLA stylebooks. In Word, you can preset a template that meets those standards, and not have to remember it again. Every time you open your Word template, the document format is ready to go, waiting for you to start writing.

The nice thing about a template is that it is very hard to overwrite it, as a template will force you to do a Save As, saving your work as a Word document, rather than a template. To overwrite your template, you would need to change the file type, save the new template in the same place as the old template, and name the template you are trying to save wi8th the exact  same name as  the original template. Plus, you would still need to confirm the overwrite. It is just the opposite for a regular document, as a regular document can be overwritten just be clicking save.

To create a template, you need to first create a regular Word document with all the correct formatting. Once you have done this, follow these steps to turn it into a template:

  1. Click the File tab to go to the backstage area. Word Templates - File
  2. Click the Save As section on the left. Word Templates - Save As
  3. Click Browse. Word Templates - Browse
  4. A dialog box will appear that will allow you to name the template ans store it where it is convenient for you.
  5. Click the Save as type drop-down menu and select Word Template. Word Templates - File Type
  6. Choose where you would like to store the document and click Save.
  7. You can close the file and your template is saved.

It can be easy to think you are using a template, when you are actually mistaenky working within a regular document.  There is one sure way to know, which is to check the document icon. If it has a blue stripe across the top, it is a template; if not, it is a regular Word document.

Word Templates - Template Icon
Template Icon
Word Template - Document Icon
Regular Document Icon
Learn all the ways to make Word work harder for you by taking a training class from MCT.

Engaging PowerPoint Presentations – Art of Expansion

Engagibng PowerPoint Presentations

PowerPoint Presentations that Keep Them Listening

Have you sometimes noticed that your audience is not fully engaged with your presentation? Maybe they pay attention for a minute or two, but then they redirect their attention to their phone. Do you notice that fellow employees would prefer talking to each other or taking a nap, instead of following your presentation? How do you make sure you are giving engaging PowerPoint presentations?

One thing to check is your presentation layout. PowerPoint slides are meant to be a placeholder, not a read-a-long. It is very easy to fall into the trap of giving your audience all the relevant information on the slide, leaving no reason to listen to your spoken words. If they know what you are going to say, before you say it, then it is the have no reason to pay attention; they already have gotten everything you have to offer.

Engaging PowerPoint Presentations - Too much text

If you want a presentation that does not put people to sleep, it is important to learn the art of expansion.  When people are not sure what is going to be said, but have an idea of the subject matter, they are more likely to pay attention. Less is more, when it comes to PowerPoint.Engaginbg PowerPoint Presentations - Less is More

The art of expansion is being able to take a word or phrase and expand on the idea for two to ten minutes. For example, if you take the word ball, you can probably think of a story from your childhood that involved a ball, and spend 5 minutes talking about the experience. You could probably make up a story, or use a story from something you witnessed, and no one would be the wiser. It is no different for work-related information, except that you do not want to make stuff up to get your point across.

For example, take the slide below, and notice there are only three words listed.

Engaging PowerPoint Presentations - Few Words

The presenter, of well-prepared, will be ale to discuss each of the topics listed on the slide, giving the presentation substance. This technique allows the audience to understand the general ideas of this portion of the presentation, but demands that they continue to pay attention to get the full picture.

Of course, not everyone can remember two to ten minutes of details on each main concept of their presentation. Such notes can be saved in Presenter’s Mode of PowerPoint, keeping the presenter on track, and not putting their audience to sleep.

Learn all the ways to keep your audience riveted to your PowerPoint presentations, with a class from Mission Critical Training.

Effectively manage remote employees

Manage remote employees

Quickly disappearing are the days of companies where all employees are based in one office.  In our globally shrinking competitive landscape, drivers for this change include: speed to service, less travel cost with clients being spread out, and improved customer service.   This creates challenges in company expectations of remote employees, and in effectively managing a remote workforce.

Managing remote employees can prove rewarding, liberating and fulfilling . . . or you can feel like an empty nest parent whose kids don’t stay in touch.  You can’t manage a team of remotely dispersed employees with all of the same techniques, which used in the past, for supervising a group based in the same office.  There are some specific skills and techniques you need to use as a manager to make sure you have a strong team that doesn’t feel disconnected by the miles.

Get the right skills to manage remote employees

MCT’s online Remote Employee Management course teaches you the techniques you can employee to make sure you have a strong team, including:

  • Keeping Remote Employees on Track – Remote employees are more apt to stray off course, by focusing on what they think is important, rather than what you think is important.  Its not that they are being malicious; they can just become easily disconnected with the overall objectives of the team and company when they are teleworking.  In this module, you will learn how to keep them on the right path, by setting clear visions and expectations, so there is no confusion about how they can be a successful part of the team.
  • Increase and Don’t Delay Communication – With a virtual team, how can you make sure that they are getting the information they need without information overload? How do you insure that you are using the correct communication tools?  What is the appropriate way to communicate with a virtual team?  In this module, we will cover the different communication tools and channels to use, how to make your meetings run efficiently, and how to ensure you are engaged in accurate communication with your team, ensuring that they are getting the info they need to work just as if all in one office.
  • Building Team Strength and Developing Trust – If not managed correctly, remote and teleworking teams are really not teams.  Instead they become a bunch of individuals working alone in silos that happen to report to the same manager.   However, that doesn’t have to be the case.  If managed correctly, remote teams can be strong, closer, and work better together than those based in the same office.  In this module you will learn how to create dynamic and interactive teams that have a closely woven team community, and strong trust, with mutual respect.  You will also learn how you can insure that your communication with them is clear and credible.
  • Creating Accountability – One of the biggest company fears about a teleworking teams is that they will not be working when you can’t see them.  Unfortunately, this fear can lead to a micro-management style that gets you the opposite results of what you want.  So how can you hold your team accountable without becoming an micro-manager?  This module shows you how to empower your employees to manage themselves and how to create an accountability tracking system so YOU don’t have to be that system.
  • Coaching Remote Employees – How can you effectively coach and develop your team of virtual employees when they are not based in the same office with you?
  • Motivating Remote Employees – A team of dispersed working employees need a self-charged motivation technique.  How do you keep them excited and engaged in their work and with the team?  This module will show you techniques to create that self-charged motivation.  Also you will learn how to get your team as excited about work as they are about playing.


Take the online course, or have us come to your location for a private group training for your management team.

Management 101 – The Basics

Management basics

Have you recently stepped into a Management role, or are you planning to in the near future?  Management is both a very rewarding and challenging job all, if it is done right.  You must be a leader, coach, and motivator for your team. Ultimately, you work for your employees.  You are the person who removes obstacles for them, helps them succeed, you are their representative to the company, ensure they get needed company information, get them needed training and feedback, lead them by example, show them how to reach the vision through defining expectations and goals.  Basically, your job is to help them reach the finish line.  Whew!  And all of this has to happen while doing other job tasks for your company.

So how do you know if you are doing all of that successfully?  Here are the 6 keys to successfully managing a team of employees:

  1. Lay a Clear Foundation – No one wants to do a bad job. But employees often fail because they have a misunderstanding of what doing a good job looks like.  It is important as a manager to lay  very clear groundwork for what is expected of employees to be successful.  This will help keep your team on track toward the same purpose and results.
  2. Create Accountability Systems – If you don’t create an accountability system for your employees, then YOU will have to be that system, meaning you will always have to micro-manage all of their tasks to see if they are completing them. Instead, create an accountability system where they report their progress to you, therefore holding themselves accountable and managing themselves at task level.  This will give them the responsibility of meeting their goals, with less headache for you, and generate a more collaborative and engaged work environment.
  3. Engage in Active Listening and Empathy – You have to care about your employees as individuals and you have to let them know you do, if you want to have a high level of respect and trust within your team. Two important ways to do this are to engage in active listening when interacting with them, as well as demonstrating empathy.  It is also important to find ways to foster this practice among team members as well.
  4. Pro-Active, Candid, and Ongoing Coaching – Good coaches coach before, during, and after the game. So make sure you are always finding opportunities to coach your employees, on good as well as not so good behaviors.  The moment we stop developing our employees (even our best of the bunch) is the moment we are telling them we don’t care about them.
  5. Develop a Team Culture – Team cohesion and strength doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes some fostering on your part, as a manager.  You need to find opportunities for your team members to work together on projects, as well as to learn who each of their team mates are as individuals outside of what they just do as a work role.
  6. Ask Questions – Too often as managers, we can fall into the “fix-it” role, where we are always in problem solving mode. Although it is true that we need to be there for our teams to help solve issues, we can be better at it if we learn to stop and ask questions first, before we jump in.  If we jump in to solve issues right away, we become part of the chaos.  Instead, it’s important to always be in analysis mode first, and gather as much information as possible before we offer solutions or opinions.  Better yet, guide your employees down the path of solving issues themselves, by engaging them in discussions around solutions, by asking questions rather than providing answers.
Want to learn how to incorporate each of these keys into your management style?  MCT’s Management 101 class will give you all these tools and more to get you on your way to having a productive and engaged team of employees.