Self-management is about attitudes, qualities and the way we connect with the outside world. The stronger your self-management, the greater your capacity to bring your abilities – and those of others – into play, which ultimately creates results that are greater than the sum of the project’s parts.
In addition to the fact that conscious self-management makes you a better leader, it also helps to create followership, which is essential if you want your projects to be successful.
In our earlier articles for Tidsskriftet Projektledelse (April 2015, January 2016, February 2016), we wrote about external leadership tools that can be utilized to create followership on projects. In other words, tools aimed at stakeholders and project participants. In this article, we’ll look into the project manager’s role and supply you with a functional set of tools for achieving balanced leadership. We start with the state-of-being pyramid, which incorporates physiology, language, and convictions.
With structured use of the pyramid, you’ll strengthen your state of mind, which makes you a better, more authentic project manager. It is about becoming aware of leading yourself internally and through that producing stronger results with your outward leadership.
The state-of-being pyramid
According to Wikipedia, “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 description exactly matches the demands of – or requirements for – a project manager role.
But do you perform this self-management in practice?
The state-of-being pyramid that we will take a closer look at now is a functional tool that can empower project managers to lead inwardly. The tool was developed by the well-known American life coach, Tony Robbins.
The state-of-being pyramid and the classical project triangle work differently. Any similarity to the project triangle is coincidental.
Tony Robbins calls his tool “the triad” – three basic elements that are connected.
If one aspect changes in the state-of-being pyramid, it doesn’t necessarily signify a change in the others. It is instead about continually creating and adjusting your balance between the three elements.
The meaning we ascribe to a certain situation is formed by our own current state and the understanding of the environment we find ourselves 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 with unconstructive thoughts – such as “the steering committee blames me” – can induce a negative spiral of inner dialogue. “I can’t do the job… I will be cut from the project… my team let me down…” This in turn can lead to a defeated, apologetic body posture and cause the project manager to lose management ground.
By being aware of our own emotional state, we create an opportunity to adjust how we are perceived. What’s more, this conscious decision to address our outward appearance often creates the inward condition that we desire in the 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.
A well-balanced state of being is essential as we affect 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 peopleWith a balanced state-of-being pyramid, it is much easier for the project manager to stand firm in his or her leadership, to navigate the chaos that some projects can be, and to handle any lopsided pyramids that may come their way.
How you do it
We all experience situations that make us feel insecure. And we all endure situations that we’d rather avoid. Sometimes we hesitate and fail to act in time, or we react inappropriately and manage to escalate a conflict. This can happen in a meeting with the steering committee, particularly when changes in scope need to be accepted. It can happen during a talk with a stakeholder whose needs aren’t being fulfilled. It can happen when a vendor has to be removed from the assignment, or when a project member doesn’t deliver on time.
On the other side of the coin, 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 internal dialogue during these situations. It will help you to identify your positive and destructive states and to control your posture, 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 posture
Use these notes about your state of being in situations where you need to empower yourself – problematic conversations, for example. Work through your pyramid before the conversation, recalling the desired state for each element. Always assume the desired state before you go into the meeting.
Case study: The outcome depends on the-state-of being pyramid
Background: Company X is in the midst of a complex project when, on a sunny Saturday, the steering committee chairperson participates in a golf tournament with an important stakeholder. During the tournament, the stakeholder starts discussing the project’s progress – he believes it could be sped up. The steering committee chair agrees and promises to add two extra people to the project. On the following 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. Shortly thereafter, the chair requests a meeting with the project manager…
SCENARIO 1 – THE NEGATIVE SPIRAL
In this situation, the project manager’s personal state can include these elements:
- Language: Am I good enough? I should have updated the resource overview last week.
- Focus: I should withdraw from the project. There is no trust in my project management abilities.
- Physiology: Lowered voice and timid or apprehensive body language.
Moods are infectious. This insecure personal state will probably be intuitively picked up on and reflected by the chair, and the meeting could end with a confirmation that the project manager is losing control.
SCENARIO 2 – THE POSITIVE SPIRAL
The same situation could produce a completely different result if the project manager prepares a state-of-being pyramid before the meeting. It could include:
- Language: It’s great that the chair and stakeholder are thinking about the project’s progression, but they must remember that I am the project manager.
- Focus: Curiosity about what the stakeholder said. We must have clear boundaries for my cooperation with the chairperson.
- Physiology: Casual body language, smile, speak clearly. Maintain natural (unforced) eye contact when speaking.
This pyramid will give an impression to the chair that the project leader is still in control, which in turn creates trust and cooperation going forward becomes easier as a result.
In the introduction, we talked about how a culture of trust helps to strengthen the project manager and thus the project. The negative spiral of the first scenario is predicated on mistrust and creates conditions that encourage further growth of a culture of mistrust. The positive spiral described in the second scenario emanates from a position of trust and helps to create the impression of safety and strength – both essential to the development of a culture of trust.
Henry Ford once said: “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 have evolved to support this function.
Use the state-of-being pyramid to turn on your brain’s think-you-can mode, and observe the influence it has on your surroundings. Moods infect, and if you can create an inner atmosphere of peace, drive, empathy – or whatever you need in a given situation – 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 when you feel like everything is against you, or you need to mentally prepare yourself for a difficult conversation with the steering committee or an aggressive stakeholder. It can require you to step beyond your comfort zone, but the exercise works, and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone.
Projects fail or succeed for a great many reasons, but we hope this article has provided you with a new perspective. We would love to hear from you if you have any comments or questions or would like to share your own experience with the state-of-being pyramid with us.
For more related reading, we recommend:
“Conflict Understanding: Turn Resistance Into Followership” Click to read.
“Achieve Win-Win Decisions in Your Projects” Click to read.
“Adding More Value to International Projects” Click to read.