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The Project Management Institute's annual events attract some of the most renowned and esteemed experts in the industry. In this blog, Global Conference, EMEA Congress and experienced event presenters past, present and future from the entire PMI event family share their knowledge on a wide range of issues important to project managers.

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Viewing Posts by Barbara Trautlein

Change Intelligent® Strategies to Lead Yourself and Your Team through Change and Crisis

By Barbara A. Trautlein, PhD

 

Last month, I presented at PMXPO held on 25 March. 

This was a great event with 62,000 global attendees and with featured speakers, exhibits, and networking activities.

My presentation focused on “Change Intelligent® Strategies to Lead Yourself and Your Team through Change and Crisis.” As our gut-wrenching experience with the crises of the last year demonstrates and neuroscience validates, unexpected, unwanted, and undeserved change can plunge us into fear/threat mode, causing the good stuff that feeds our brain (oxygen, glucose) to rush past our necks so we can fight/flight/freeze, robbing us of the cognitive capacity to think clearly and creatively. During the stress of change, when our IQ inevitably goes down, building our CQ® (Change Intelligence®), is like putting our oxygen mask on first. We remember to breathe, separate our knee-jerk, fear-based reaction from a more mindful, adaptive response, and remember that we have options – and the more options we have, the more power we have. Options to lead ourselves and others out of crisis to emerge stronger than before, individually and collectively. 

 Every project is a change – so every project manager is a change leader – regardless of tenure, title, or role. Leading through change and crisis is now a mission-critical competency for career success as well as organizational sustainability. By building Change Intelligence®, project managers position themselves to make a meaningful and measurable difference for the people and organizations they serve, simultaneously propelling their professional impact and constructive project outcomes. During the presentation, we learned science- and experience-based actionable insights to help yourself, your team, and your projects leverage CQ® to lead through the A.R.C.s of change – regaining Autonomy, Relationship, and Certainty and emerging more Agile, Resilient, and Capable than before. 

 Neuroscience shows that three factors affect our brain that get threatened during a crisis, but which are also levers you can positively influence as a leader-at-any-level. Taking the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, here’s a sampling of strategies we explored that you can leverage right away:

  • The COVID crisis negatively impacts our sense of Autonomy, because so much is out of our control, and unwanted changes are forced upon us. As a PM, you can “enlighten the Head” by reframing conversations from fear-based to future-focused. People who are more reflective, are more effective. With the radical re-balancing of our work and life from 2020 through the present, it’s a powerful time to reflect and even reinvent our individual brand and our collective mission. Putting on our oxygen mask, we can re-breathe new life into what feeds us, and perhaps re-write the story of our own hero’s journey.     
     
  • How the COVID crisis negatively impacts our sense of Relatedness is obvious, through the need for social distancing and remote working. As a PM, you can “engage the Heart” by fostering social connection and a sense of psychological safety in our new virtual workplace. There are so many ways to do this. For example, begin and end meetings strongly. At the beginning ask each person to share their intention for the meeting, and at the end what they are taking away. This provides focus on the productive work, bookended by the connection between the people on the team.
     
  • Perhaps most threatening is how this crisis negatively impacts our sense of Certainty, because its short-term spread and long-term impacts are fundamentally unknowable and unpredictable. As a PM you can “equip the Hands” by remembering that agility rhymes with stability: in times of crisis, we need both, to adjust our sails, and to adjust our anchors. In fact, our habits and routines can help us cope with change and uncertainty. Stable grounding is the foundation, upon which to build agility. As a PM, you can help your team remember what they can count on, such as our continued commitment to our team members, to excellent customer service, to providing products/services that exceed expectations, etc. 

 

As these examples exemplify, the good news is that there are ways that we can lead through a crisis that can increase our sense of Autonomy, Relatedness, and Certainty. When we lead in this way, fear/threat reactions are reduced, so we can begin to focus less on the danger, and more on the opportunity that may be possible, to step up the second A.R.C. of change – towards greater Agility, Resilience, and Change Capability.

During my presentation, two of my tactics that were most popular with the audience were the Change Intelligent® Analysis and Action Planning Tool and the S.I.F.T. Method, so I thought I’d reinforce both for blog readers as well. 

The Change Intelligent® Analysis and Action Planning Tool: Since any project needs an effective purpose, an efficient process, and engaged people, any PM needs to focus on all three. The benefit of building and leveraging Change Intelligence® is that it helps PMs and project teams do exactly that – enlighten the Head focusing on mission, strategy, and metrics; equip the Hands focusing on processes, plans, and tools; and engage the Heart focusing on people, teams, and culture. This tool, which you can download for free from the Resources page on my website www.ChangeCatalysts.com, provides a structured process to analyze how well you are doing on all three critical components, which then enables you to plan “smarter” actions to increase the probability of success and sustainment. Moreover, it’s a great process to use with your project teams, to help move from the first “A.R.C.” of change to the second! Back to brain science, the tool promotes Autonomy, because it identifies actions on one’s control; it fosters Relatedness when done in a team context; and it increases Certainty because it results in a game plan people can own and predict. Moving toward the second A.R.C., the tool helps build Agility by identifying opportunities to pivot for greater impact, nurtures Resilience by pointing towards progress the team has made and fosters Change Capability in that its output is geared towards leading projects with greater competence and confidence, individually and collectively. 

The S.I.F.T. Method: Another powerful way to “engage the Heart” is to capitalize on the power of positivity. Research by Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, clearly demonstrates positivity is correlated with better performance in every area of our lives, including productivity at work and more satisfying relationships in life. One of the most winning ways his research reveals to adopt a more positive mindset is to refresh one’s frame – as in frame of reference – which is also an opportunity to “enlighten the Head”! How? You know to be mindful of what food you eat and what to put into your body. We also need to watch our diet of the information we ingest – what you eat may be eating you. Limit your exposure – not just to the virus, but to what’s viral. Literally, your immune system goes down under stress, so just as you limit exposure by the physical acts such as social distancing and hand washing, limit your exposure to what can damage your immune system by being a selective consumer of “news.” Leadership guru Seth Godin also advises us to curate our content. He says that “staying ‘up-to-date’ is a scam and a trap - do the work instead” – I agree. The S.I.F.T. Method, developed by Mike Caufield, is a great first step. Make the conscious choice to S.I.F.T.: Stop; Investigate the source; Find better coverage; Test for validity. Doing so also “equips the Hands” by focusing attention on a slim set of vital priorities instead of a caldron of infobesity, greatly increasing the probability of swifter and more aligned action. 

If you found this blog, this sample of tactics, and these two tools useful, I invite you to visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2021 to view my full presentation, which will be on demand through 31 January 2022, to build Agility, Resilience, and Capability to lead through our current massive crises, and beyond. I was honored to be invited to share these important messages during these challenging times, and I would be honored to connect with you and learn how you are putting these ideas into practice, for the benefit of yourself, your team, and your projects!

 

Posted by Barbara Trautlein on: April 13, 2021 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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