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 utilize our – and other’s – skills effectively and create common results.
In addition to the fact that good and conscious self-management makes you a better leader, it also contributes to creating followership, which is very essential if you want to obtain 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. Specifically, this was in regards to projects on the basis of the external aspect of leadership that is targeted towards stakeholders and project participants. In this article, we will look into the project manager and give a concrete tool for how you can obtain balance in your leadership by creating your own “condition pyramid,” which consists of physiology, language and convictions.
By a structured use of the condition 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 outwardly with your mastery.
The condition pyramid
According to Wikipedia, self-management is defined as such: Self-management means that you lead yourself. It is, above all, a concept within management and organizational theory, and denotes a kind of management where the organization, by giving freedom and showing trust to the individual employee, reaches greater access to the employee to utilize the self 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 to complete the role as a project manager.
But how can you accomplish this self-management in practice?
The condition pyramid that we will now look at more closely is a concrete tool that can enble project managers to lead inwardly. The tool is developed by the American life coach, Tony Robbins.
The equality with the classical project triangle is random and the condition pyramid and the project triangle work differently.
In English, Tony Robbins mentions the tool as “the triad”. Three basic elements that correlate “Tilstandspyramiden” is the Danish term and refers to the individual condition that we each are in, and that – depended on the context – changes individually.
If an edge is changed in the condition pyramid, it does not necessarily imply a change of the other edges. Instead, it is about continuously to create and fit your own balance on basis of the three parameters.
The meaning we give a certain situation is formed by our own current condition and the opinion about the environment we are in. If a project manager finds it problematic to inform the steering committee that the project is on the wrong track or has transcended the budget, it can affect the project manager’s personal condition and in the bottom line also how the message is communicated and received. The project manager’s focus, for example: The steering committee attributes me the fault, can start a negative spiral of inner dialogues. I cannot carry out the job. My team let me down. I will be cut out of the project, and so on. It can lead to a despondent and apologetic posture and cause that the project manager loses management terrain.
By being aware of our own condition, we open up the possibility to change this and instead create the condition we wish to act on the basis of, in a given situation. The condition pyramid consists of three elements: physiology, language and focus/beliefs. The purpose of the tool is, by help from the questions you can see in the figure, to create balance in personal condition.
This is essential because we transmit others with our mood and we let ourselves be affected by others.
- Affects your surplus
- Affects your decisions (also the ones that you avoid)
- Affects other people
With balance in your own condition pyramid, it is much easier for the project manager to stand firm in his or her leadership, navigate in the chaos, which projects can be – and handle other “skew pyramids” in his or her path.
Here is how you do it
We all experience situations that make us insecure or situations that we would rather avoid. Maybe we refrain to act in time, or we act inexpediently and thus manage to escalate a conflict. It can be the meeting in the management group and the need for accept of changes in scope. It can be the tough conversation with a stakeholder, who cannot get his or her needs fulfilled. A supplier, who cannot manage the task, a project member, who does not supply timely etc.
On the contrary, there are situations that we love to handle and which we handle frankly and stand strongly and compelling in.
Use the condition pyramid to learn about yourself and your own dialogue – both on your positive and your destructive condition and to affect your position, mood and behavior.
Use the energy from the situations, where you succeed and chart:
- Which convictions do you have?
- What do you say to yourself?
- How is your position?
Use this to define your condition pyramid in those situations, where you need to strengthen yourself – for example by problematic conversations. Describe the desired condition for each side in a given situation and work through your pyramid before the conversation and take the desired condition before you go to the meeting.
Case – the outcome depends on the condition pyramid
Case:We have a complex project, which is well on the way. On a Saturday, the chairman of the steering committee is at a golf tournament with an important stakeholder in the project, and during the tournament, the stakeholder comes up with a remark about the propulsion in the project, which he thinks could be speeded up. The chairman of the steering committee sees the point and promises to add two extra persons to the project. On Monday, the chairman of the steering committee informs the two persons and thereafter informs the project manager that they access the project after an agreement with the stakeholder. The chairman of the steering committee requests for a meeting with the project manager…
Example 1 – the negative spiral
In this situation the project manager’s personal condition can include for example these elements:
- Language: Am I good enough? I should have updated the resource outline last week.
- Focus: Maybe I must leave the project. There is no trust in my project management.
- Physiology: Low voice and careful body language.
Moods contaminates. And the insecure personal condition will probably be reflected by the chairman of the steering committee and therefore the meeting can end with a mutual confirmation that the control of the project is not good enough.
Example 2 – the positive spiral
Exactly the same situation can happen completely different, if the project manager prepares him or herself and builds a condition pyramid before the meeting. It could for example include:
- Language: Super good that the chairman of the steering committee is considerate about the project, but he must remember that it is me, who is the project manager.
- Focus: Curious about what the stakeholder said. We must have clear limits for my cooperation with the chairman of the steering committee.
- Physiology: Casual body language, smile, speak clearly. Look into the eyes, when we are talking together.
This strong condition pyramid will create a mood for the chairman of the steering committee regarding a project manager, who knows what he or she is doing. This creates trust and the cooperation will forward become strengthened as a result hereof.
In the introduction we talked about how trust culture contributes 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 of trust and contributes to create safety and strength and develop the trust culture in the project.
A famous quote by Henry Ford sounds: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Newer brain research supports the statement and points out that a range of physical mechanisms in our brains concretely provide that this is the case.
Use the condition pyramid to turn your brain to “think-you-can”-mode.
Experience the difference it does for you – and observe what it does for your surroundings. Moods infect and if you can create an inner mood of rest, vigor, empathy – or whatever you need in a given situation – then it will affect you and your surroundings in a positive way.
The condition pyramid can, besides project management, be used in many facets of life – from personal development to coaching of and dialogue with others. Try to look at it on a day, where you feel that everything is against you or need to prepare yourself for a difficult conversation with the steering committee or a brash stakeholder and work through the pages. It might be transnational for some, but the exercise works – and it does not need to be shared with others.
With this article we want to give another angle to consider successes and failures in projects and we would love to hear from you if you have any comments or questions or want to share an experience with the condition pyramid with us.
Charlotte Bæk Risbjerg
Mediator and holder of RisbjergRelation. Teaches organizations to develop interaction and good conflict behavior. Mediates conflicts in impasse and assists projects back on track. Say hello on firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information look at www.risbjergrelation.dk.
Computer scientist, digital entrepreneur and impartial IT management consultant. Assists organizations to create an overview, structure and direction, when changes need to be implemented or new things need to be created. Say hello on email@example.com and more information on www.itadvisory.dk.