Posts Tagged ‘Soul of a project’

The Soul of a Project #30: Dealing With Shame!

by Gary Monti on December 4, 2012

Ever have someone melt down right in front of you for no apparent reason? Or, has someone dug in unrealistically? What about another person feeding the gossip mill in a rather vicious manner working to get people to side with him? On the flip side, there’s the person who shrugs her shoulders blind to the destruction caused by her last decision. These individuals may all have something in common – shame. Shame as used here refers to situations where a lack of self-esteem has been brought to the surface and the person tries behavior that is meant to provide some form of self-protection.

To learn a bit more about it the etymology of shame may help. At the core it means, “to cover.” So, when someone takes on an apparently irrational behavior it may be an unconscious attempt to protect, to cover the sense of being defective. The irrational part puts it in the realm of a coping mechanism, which is an unhealthy response learned or created to try and deal with a problem, real or perceived. The word “irrational” is a tip that the current events have triggered something from the past about which the person experiences an irrationally low sense of self, a sense of shame.

For example, you might be working with an extremely good engineer who gets angry and belligerent when asked to speak in a formal setting with clients. He might say he has plenty of work to do and insists sales should be pulling their weight and earn their commissions instead of relying on the people who do the work and have to reach billable hour goals to also have to sell the project. No matter how much you talk with the engineer, saying how good his work is, this is a chance to shine, etc., it all seems to go nowhere.

In some consulting situations like this I’ve had to dig deeper (working with a therapist) to find out a grade school teacher in front of the class ridiculed the individual. No other adult was sensitive to or helped this future engineer work through the situation in a healthy way. He was left thinking it was his fault and that he was (and still is) defective. Consequently, he covered the problem by avoiding formal speaking situations and, when needed, through belligerence.  For what it is worth, I run into shame-based problems with some regularity. They typically are a main contributor to the difficulties the organization is experiencing. You know what I am talking about, the person who limits their career or gets fired over something they just can’t get beyond.

So what can you do in such a situation? First, offer compassion, acceptance, and empathy. Be honest and state the problem as you see it and the challenge the individual faces. It is being a friend and, in the words of Carl Jung, “If everyone had good friends there’d be no need for therapists.” Keep in mind you aren’t their mother so limits are required. When that limit is reached it is time to escalate, which can be very uncomfortable when a friend is involved. It is the best thing to do. Without honesty in the situation a cost is incurred which has price tags associated with it, ranging from money to stress. It might be good for an outsider to come in and look at the situation and be the “bad guy” who pushes for needed changes.

In any case, simply riding over it and trying to pretend the irrational behavior can be absorbed or ignored will just drive everyone else crazy and provide no help for the person feeling the shame. On the positive side, as difficult as the situation is, when genuine friendship is extended and a healthy confrontation occurs, if the person with the difficulties really wants to do better, he is eventually appreciative. The situation can get better and profitability has a better shot at going up.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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The last blog focused on pushing through the Peter Principle by building interdependence. The power to move the project forward radiates from this interdependence, which includes power being shared by key stakeholders.

That interdependence has a very short half-life. So, the obvious question is, “How is it kept alive and encouraged to grow?” The answer lies within the story. The story is what binds people together to work as a team and move the project forward. There are a few things to consider when generating and disseminating the story.

  • Honesty. This is foremost. The moment the team senses they are being played the project fragments. Honesty requires being open and vulnerable regarding the consequences associated with the project including big payoffs that some might get. Not that they have to have every detail. They just need to be included as to the consequences. If the team is put on a “need-to-know” basis the members can feel diminished and it puts the interdependent bond at risk.
  • Discipline. Emerging from the Peter Principle typically has a lot of positive energy but there also are few rules present that work. New rules need generated or the old ones need modified.  You must be able to deal with the ambiguities of the situation and rely on core principles in pushing through to create a new gestalt as to how the team will work and the project will move forward.
  • Energy. With the old rules sitting in a jumbled mess the team instinctively will look for leadership as to what to do next. Here is where a big challenge is present. You must substitute yourself for the policies and procedures that fell apart in order to hold the team together. This can be sustained only so long. A plan is needed.
  • Delegate.  You can’t do it alone. Having key people willing to pick of some piece of the power and hammer out new rules/guidelines/etc. will go a long way towards re-establishing order, building the plan, and lowering the demands on your personal energy. It’s impossible to stress too much the need for a critical mass of people who can commit to something bigger than themselves. Falling short of this critical mass by even one person can cause the situation to implode.
  • Clean House. This is a corollary to delegation. Those who are creating difficulties need to either turn around or be removed from the team. This may seem a bit harsh. It simply is the reality of the situation. I’ve worked on projects and organizational changes where inability to get rid of a key gossipmonger torpedoed the changes.
  • Know where you are going. All of the above comes together to support your moving towards the end goal. Know what it is and state it clearly.

By doing the above the story will unfold from within you. You’ll find it spontaneously arises and you will instinctively know when to pause and reflect, talk with others, or push forward. This may sounds crazy but you will become the story. Think of El Cid. The myth, the story overtook him to the extent it was bigger than his own death. (Not that you want to have your career die!) What works best is having the aura of the project’s story radiate from you. This sounds corny but it isn’t. You know it is happening when people take your lead, when they listen to you in meetings and suggest ways to achieve goals, when the team looks forward to the meeting, when the milestones begin to be met.

Who knows? Maybe someone will write an epic poem about you, too!

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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We left off on a confusing and possibly negative note with the last blog, i.e., what to do when our weaker mental functions are exactly what is needed to remedy situations. Let’s talk about a solution.

First, there is the challenge present. The project/company needs to keep running while changes are being put in place to remedy the situation. The first, most important thing to do is be humble.

Humility sends out a positive message to the organization. It is an admission of being human. It is a very powerful touchstone that can be used to develop connections with team members and stakeholders.

Humility is simply admitting to what one can and cannot do. There is a vulnerability associated with this. Paradoxically, there is a power present inside that vulnerability.

Being honest about your own strengths and weaknesses gives you the power to confront others on theirs. This starts the process of re-formulating the team and generating new rules for operating. The bonds established working this way are what hold the company together while the old rules fall apart and new ones are being defined.

Take the CEO who is strong in Thinking-extroverted but Feeling-extroverted is needed. By admitting to this and asking the staff “What to do?” the door opens for the management team to look at itself and see how paying attention to employees, team members, outside stakeholders, etc., can benefit everyone. This goes way beyond having the Excel spreadsheets in order.

An example of this is Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. He knew how to make a great hamburger and serve people. He didn’t know how to build and run a large corporation. So, he had the courage to step aside from those functions and let others take charge. He didn’t disappear; he shared power. He ended up coming back in to run the organization when there was a need to get Wendy’s focus back on to the product and serving people.

The short version of all this is:

No one has a corner on all the talents needed to solve complex problems. It takes a team.

There is an added benefit to this approach. We get to work with our weaker functions and strengthen them. So, that Thinking-extroverted executive can learn to become more people-oriented while trusting the team to take care of that function until she gets up to speed with regards to Feeling-extroverted. Will she be as strong in that area as someone who has it as a first function? No. However, she can learn to recognize the signs as to when it is needed, take it as far as she can, and defer to others stronger in this area and take their direction.

This all may sound very touchy-feely and lack any reference to BUSINESS. It is as serious as a heart attack. It is best ways to deal with the Peter Principle when it surfaces and keep the project/company on track for success.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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The Soul of a Project #3: Truth vs. Propaganda

by Gary Monti on February 8, 2012

“Truth is the first casualty of war,” is attributed to Senator Hiram Johnson, R-California, 1918. This can occur on projects as well.  What can really muddy the waters is the confusion between facts and truth. Think of all the political hacks on cable news shows.

Facts vs. Truth

Facts stand alone. If it is 75° F outside that reality is what it is. It is free of dependence on anyone’s frame-of-mind.

Truth on the other hand is different because it is, to some extent, dependent upon one’s frame of mind. In fact, the definitions for “truth” range from “consistency with facts,” to “being true to a set of beliefs.” That latter definition is what muddies the waters. In other words, it gets personal.

Frankly, I’ll support someone who conforms to the facts and has a personal belief system that is disciplined, humble, and compassionate. When that person speaks from the gut I resonate like a tuning fork. I might lead, I might follow. Frankly I don’t care because that person seems trustworthy so I’ll risk they’ll negotiate in good faith.

On the flip side, when propaganda is being used, “run!” is the word that comes to mind. That person’s truth is scary! This is especially true when beliefs I hold to be true are being hijacked and parroted to promote the other person’s agenda potentially at the expense of others, the team, and myself. I can get so caught up in hearing what I want to hear that the ability to see the propagandist is lost.

Truth vs. Propaganda

What makes propaganda so dangerous is its seductiveness. It goes something like this. If we just go along with a bending of the truth we can get something in return. Usually it is relief from a fear or getting something we’ve been after, some possession, recognition, money, sex, the list goes on-and-on. “Tow the company line” sums the situation well. Here’s an example.

Employees can invest highly in consultants brought in to bring about change. The employee believes something like this, “After they listen to me they’ll just HAVE get management to shape up and then my life will be okay.” Those employees will champion the consultant.

This is a form of self-propaganda. How do I know that? By watching employees being left flat when I tell them that for the change to take place they will have to individually, one-by-one, commit to the needed change. The propaganda was this, I would be both the shield and sword that will take on senior managers and get them to follow sound project management principles. Believing this to be true, the employee feels safe.

Now there is truth in this.  Consultants have an obligation to challenge variances from the principles appropriate for a situation regardless of the employee’s position – from Board member to janitor. However, this simply sets the stage by spooling up one frame-of-mind through the organization that fits the project’s needs. There is a second part to this, though. During the one-on-one’s each person must hold their ground in sticking with the planned improvements. THIS can be a very challenging task when the resistant person in the conversation is higher up in the food chain.

Propaganda can set in and emotionally dishonest arguments and judgments surface. Sticking with the example, the employee says, “The truth is, the consultant has failed.”  The unconscious reality (self-serving agenda) is the employee might be afraid for their job and doesn’t want to risk taking a leadership position in the conversation by disagreeing legitimately. Granted, this fear can be very real. However, the bending to the propaganda, whether one’s own or someone else’s, can leave lasting damage.

Socrates said it well. As he was quoted in Plato’s Phaedo:

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.”

Unfortunately, in the end Socrates was asked to drink the hemlock since he wouldn’t drink the Kool-Aid. It can be hard leading a project. Tread carefully.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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