Self-management is about attitudes, qualities and the way we connect with the outside world. Strong self-management has a direct effect on the ability to bring your and others’ abilities into play and create shared results.
In addition to the fact that good and conscious self-management makes you a better leader, it also helps to create followership, which is very essential if you want to achieve success with your projects.
In our earlier articles in “Tidsskriftet Projektledelse” (04.2015, 01.2016 and 02.2016), we wrote about tools that can be utilized to create followership in projects based on the external part of leadership that is targeted towards stakeholders and project participants. In this article, we’ll look into the project manager role and give a concrete tool for achieving balance in your leadership by creating your own state of being pyramid, which consists of physiology, language and convictions.
By structured use of the pyramid, you strengthen your own state, which makes you a better and more authentic project manager. It is about becoming aware of leading yourself internally, so that you create stronger results with your outward leadership.
The “state of being” pyramid
According to Wikipedia, self-management is defined as: Self-management means that you lead yourself. It is first and foremost a concept within management and organizational theory and describes a management type where the organization, via giving freedom and demonstrating trust to the individual employee, achieves greater access to the employee. This is done with the aim of utilizing the employee as a whole in the organization’s value creation. In return, this kind of management implies that the employee, through increased responsibility, reaches greater impact on the management processes in the organization, but also across the organization.
This definition exactly matches the demands and the needs needed to complete the role as a project manager.
But do you conduct this self-management in practice?
The state of being pyramid that we will take a closer look at now is a concrete tool that can empower project managers to lead inwardly. The tool is developed by American life coach, Tony Robbins.
The equality with the classical project triangle is random and the state of being pyramid and the project triangle work differently.
In English, Tony Robbins calls the tool “the triad” — three basic elements that are connected. “Tilstandspyramiden” is the Danish term, and refers to the individual state that we are in and within which, depending on the context, we evolve.
If one side changes in the state of being pyramid, it doesn’t necessarily signify a change in the other sides. It is instead about continually creating and adjusting your own balance based on the three parameters.
The meaning we ascribe to a certain situation is formed by our own current state and the understanding of the environment we find ourself in. If a project manager finds it problematic to tell the steering committee that the project is on the wrong track or has gone over budget, it can affect the project manager’s personal state, and also how she/he delivers the message and how it is received. A project manager’s preoccupation, such as: “The steering committee blames me”, can induce a negative spiral of inner dialogue. I can’t do the job. My team let me down. I will be cut from the project, and so on. It can lead to a defeated and apologetic body posture and cause the project manager to lose management ground.
By being aware of our own state, we open up the ability to change this, and instead create the condition that we wish to take action from in a given situation. The state of being pyramid consists of three elements: physiology, language and focus/beliefs. The purpose of the tool is to create balance in your own state of being using the questions you see in the graphic.
This is essential, as we infect others with our mood and we let ourselves be affected by others.
- Affects your surplus energy
- Affects your decisions (also the ones you avoid)
- Affects other people
With balance in your own state of being pyramid, it is much easier for the project manager to stand firm in his or her leadership, navigate the chaos that some projects can be, and handle other “skewed pyramids” that come their way.
How you do it
We all experience situations that make us insecure or that we’d rather avoid. Maybe we refrain to act in time, or we act inexpediently and manage to escalate a conflict. This can happen in a meeting with the steering committe, where changes in scope need to be accepted. This can be in a talk with a stakeholder who isn’t getting their needs fulfilled. This can be a vendor, who should be removed from the assignment, or a project member, who doesn’t deliver on time.
On the contrary, there are the situations that we love to handle, that we go to with an open mind and in which we are confident and compelling.
Use the state of being pyramid to learn more about yourself and your own dialogue. It will help to identify your positive and destructive state, and affect your position, mood, and behavior.
Tap into the energy in the situations where you feel confident, and note:
- What convictions do you have?
- What are you saying to yourself?
- How is your position?
Use this to define your state of being pyramid in those situations where you need to empower yourself in, for example, problematic conversations. Describe the desired condition for each side in a given situation and work through your pyramid before the conversation. Assume the desired state before you go into the meeting.
Case – the outcome depends on the state of being pyramid
Case:We have a complex project that is well on the way. On a Saturday, the steering committee chairperson is at a golf tournament with an important stakeholder in the project, and during the tournament, the stakeholder mentions the project’s progress, which he thinks could be sped up. The steering committee chair sees the point, and promises to add two extra people to the project. On Monday, the chair identifies the two people, and then informs the project manager that they have been added to the project because of an agreement with the stakeholder. The chair requests a meeting with the project manager…
Example 1 – the negative spiral
In this situation, the project manager’s personal state can include these elements:
- Language: Am I good enough? I should also have updated the resource overview last week.
- Focus: Maybe I must leave the project. There is no trust in my project management.
- Physiology: Lowered voice and precautious body language.
Moods are infectious. This insecure personal state will probably be reflected when meeting with the chair, and the meeting can end with a confirmation that the project is losing control.
Example 2 – the positive spiral
The same situation can happend completely differently if the project manager prepares and creates a state of being pyramid before the meeting. It could include:
- Language: It’s great that the chair is thinking about the project progress, but they must remember that I am the project manager.
- Focus: Curiousity about what the stakeholder said. We must have clear boundaries for my cooperation with the chairperson
- Physiology: Casual body language, smile, speak clearly. Maintain eye contact when speaking.
This strong condition pyramid will give an impression to the chair that that project leader is still in control. This creates trust and the cooperation going forward becomes stronger as a result of this.
In the introduction, we talked about how trust culture helps to strengthen the project manager and thus the project. The negative spiral – example 1 – predicates on mistrust and has good growth conditions in a mistrust culture. The positive spiral – example 2 – emanates trust and helps to create safety and strength and develop the trust culture in the project.
A famous quote by Henry Ford is, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Recent brain research supports the statement and suggests that a range of physical mechanisms in our brains perform this funtion.
Use the state of being pyramid to turn your brain into a “think-you-can”-mode, and observe what it does for your surroundings. Moods infect, and if you can create an inner atmosphere of peace, drive, empathy – or whatever you need in a given situation – and it will affect you and your surroundings positively.
Apart from project management, the state of being pyramid can be used in many facets of life – from personal development to coaching and dialogue with others. Try it out on a day where you feel like everything is against you, or you need to “work up” to a difficult conversation with the steering committe or an aggressive stakeholder, and work through the pages. It can be outside of the comfort zone for some, but the exercise workds, and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone.
With this article we wish to offer another angle of observation for successes and failures in projects, and would love to hear from you if you have comments or questions or would like to share your own experience with the state of being pyramid with us.