Influence, the Project Motivator’s Best Friend

From the Team building for success - from the Project Manager up! Blog
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Passion for project management combined with a passion for people creates energy, enthusiasm and engagement. Engagement leads to success. It is when we are most engaged that we will "run through walls" for others. This blog focuses on ways to keep our project teams engaged and the way we can keep ourselves engaged and effective. As Lori Wilson (projectmanagement.com) described it "Project management is like tap dancing on a moving floor". Let's LEARN TO DANCE!

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This is the third in a series of posts based on the questions I ask project managers when we explore being a Project Motivator and the concepts of strengths-based project management. I ask these questions of my readers and workshop attendees, but I think it is important to be transparent, so I share my answers too....

How do you influence people? What is your ripple effect?

This is a continuation of the topic we started to explore earlier. Over time, I have come to realize that I influence others with my behaviors and my language. When I am positive and consistent, so is my team, when I am open to new ideas and tolerant of experimentation and mistakes, so is my team. When I focus on strengths, so does the team.

When have you spread positive emotion to the people around you? How did that happen?

When I focus on the strengths of others, the mood is positive. We spend a lot of time focusing on what is wrong rather than what is strong – it is human nature. Taking time to notice what others contribute and then telling them what I see lifts my mood and theirs, and as research shows, positive mood leads to greater innovation and creativity. I have seen teams do amazing – seemingly impossible things – because of our joint focus on the possible and the strengths we have to make the possible real.

How and when have you spread negative emotion?

Earlier in my career, I unwittingly spread negative emotion by complaining. My negative focus encouraged others to become negative too. When one person is being negative – especially someone with responsibility for others – it gives tacit permission for others to dwell on negatives and the mood quickly spirals downward. And as negative mood makes us less creative and more defensive, it is easy to get stuck there!

When have you had an opportunity to try something new and interesting to you and turned it down saying, “That is just not something I am good at”, or “I have never been any good at that type of thing”? What are some steps you could have taken with a growth mindset to learn?

The first time I was asked to speak to a group of people to share my knowledge on a work topic, I said no. I had no experience of presenting and actually did not like to stand up in front of others. I coached someone else to make the presentation and they went onto to exciting opportunities as a result. I could have asked someone to coach me to get ready and just experimented with the experience of presenting to the group. Now, years on, I really love the opportunity to engage with others and to share knowledge – not just mine but theirs too. I learned from that first experience that if we just say no because it is new, we may miss out on a great opportunity and a new path!

Think of a time you faced a challenge head-on, even though initially you felt you were not smart enough or skilled enough to do it. How did you push past your reluctance to try?

When I was asked to take over as project manager on my first project, I did not feel equipped to do the job. I was a technologist, not a project manager! I overcame my reluctance by enlisting the help of others to make the transition easier. I spoke to a couple of people I trusted and shared my reluctance and they counseled and mentored me. That gave me the confidence to put my best foot forward and give the new role a go. I never looked back!

Think of a time you failed at something you tried. What did you learn from that experience?

In my undergraduate degree, I did not achieve the grades I wanted. In my final year though I was asked to help another student make her grades because she had failed one of the core classes. I learned that other people matter. There was more pleasure for me in seeing her pass than there would have been for me getting a better grade than I did. That is when I realized that there are better measures of success than the grades we get!

Strategies for success:

Be hopeful: choose your language and behaviors to build hope in the team by your example.

Being mindful every day of how we show up is a small act that has big benefits for us AND our colleagues.

Be Strong: Think about one strength you can use to help your team.

I choose a different strength to focus on each day depending on what is on the schedule for the day. It might be bravery when there are difficult conversations, or curiosity when there are meetings, or judgment or perspective when there are decisions to be made. Focusing on one strength does not mean ignoring the others – but when one strength is fully engaged, it tends to make us more thoughtful and that strength may “tow” others along with it! Choosing one strength to focus on for a week so that we can get comfortable is a good start.

Be brave: Model positive team behavior, even when it is hard to do or you get pushback from colleagues.

When there is stress in the air, a project is not going well, or team members are tired, it is easy to lose momentum on modeling positive team behavior. Being hopeful – remembering that hope is a combination of mindset AND action – is hard when others are feeling negative or pessimistic. It is at those most difficult times that our positive modeling is most needed and most beneficial. Problem-solving improves when we come with a positive mindset and an appreciative point of view!

 Be curious: Listen to the language you use around team members. What does it convey? Listen for the language of a fixed mindset in others and ask what learning tools are needed to make a change.

When I hear phrases like, “that is just the way it is,” or, “that is how it has always been,” or “I have never been good at,” that is a great opportunity to ask questions to get people thinking! Some questions I like are:

  • What is it about the current way that works?

  • What is one change that will make things even better?

  • What have you tried in order to get better at….?

  • What is one step you can take to improve?

  • How will you advise someone else in your position?

Model the language and behavior you want from others.

Posted on: May 23, 2019 12:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Beautiful. I've been trained in motivational interviewing and it goes along with all you've shared here in this post. Thank you!

Thank you both.
Lori, Motivational Interviewing sounds interesting. Have you written anything about it for the community?

Ruth, this is great! Thank you for sharing this. I like the transparence. And I like the last sentence. We PMs have to be a role model for our teams when it comes to behaviour, and respect.

Hi Ruth, I have not written anything about it, but will definitely consider it. It is so helpful for me as a project manager and I think it would be helpful for others as well. I'll work on putting something together to share. Thanks!

Lori, I am looking forward this.

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