Somatic Balance vs stress
In a previous post I described the concept of somatic balance and at the end of November I had the opportunity to participate as speaker in the International Congress in Project Management held in Trujillo, Piura and Cajamarca and as part of my participation I conducted a survey that suggests reflection on how project managers balance work and other activities related with somatic balance.
Below I share some of the results of the survey in which an average of 250 people participated:
Question 1: Under what stress conditions do you live, work or study?
The results of this question show that 50% of the respondents consider that they work, live or study with high levels of stress and of the entire sample, 20% consider that they have low levels of stress. The survey was not intended to deepen the reasons why these answers are given. However, it is not surprising that project managers work under high levels of stress, which creates the need for professionals to find ways to reduce these stress levels, as well as the responsibility of companies to monitor the stress levels of their collaborators and combine moments of acceleration, with moments of de-acceleration.
Associated with the previous question and given that high levels of stress are usually also manifested with physical disorders, the following question ask the participants about physical :problems.
2) In the last 6 months have you had any of these discomforts?
The most common discomfort in the sample (present in about 64% of the responses) was back or neck pain. These symptoms are commonly associated with excessive physical effort or stress. in second place there are, headache and excessive tiredness. Since mostly the answers come from project managers, it seems logical to assume that most of these discomforts are consistent with the values obtained in the previous question about stress levels.
Proper fitness is a way to comfront stress and is the first component of somatic balance. In that line the following questions searched to investigate a little about the physical state of people.
Question 3: How often do you go for a general medical review?
Performing a general medical review at least once a year helps maintain good health and detect any physical problem in a timely manner. Regarding this, the results show that 37% only go to the doctor while they are sick and 15% only go to the doctor by obligation.. 16% have a general medical review at least once a year. It is worth mentioning that most private insurances offer the possibility of conducting a free annual review and the occupational health and safety law in Peru forces companies to schedule occupational health exams for their employees in periods of one or two years depending of the sector.
Question 4: In general how healthy do you eat?
Question 5: How often do you eat out of time or do not eating?
Eating out of time or not eating creates other physical disorders such as the gastrointestinal discomfort of question 2, hence the 21% who almost always eat after hours or even do not eat is a risk to their health. If we add the 32.6% that do it with some frequency we could affirm that of the respondents more than half usually have eating habits that can affect the physical state and with it, the somatic balance, which allows us to be better facing challenges. These results also appear to be consistent with the 30% who reported having had gastrointestinal problems in the last 6 months in question 2.
Question 6: How many hours a week do you exercise?
All doctors indicate that frequent exercise has many benefits, but in particular when there are professionals whose activity focuses more on mental than physical effort, it is necessary to exercise so that the body is prepared to withstand mental stress levels. Hence the result that 58.6% of respondents do nothing or very little exercise reflects the need to perform a higher level of physical activity in order to keep the body healthy. It is worth highlighting the 22% who do more than 4 hours of weekly exercise.
Finally, question 7: How satisfied am I with my rest time?
This question shows that 50% of respondents feel that rest hours are not enough and 11% consider that they are always tired.
Good nutrition, medical reviews, exercise and rest are elements that help maintain a healthy body and this in turn allows you to better face complex situations and keep stress at manageable levels.
Another component of somatic balance that helps cope with stress is emotion control. The control of emotions is directly related to emotional intelligence, a concept popularized by Daniel Goleman and currently considered one of the main competencies of a good professional. Likewise, the spiritual component helps us prepare and face stress situations.
The spiritual component in religious people can relate to religion, however in a wider context it refers to knowing that we are part of something bigger.
Question 8 shows some of the actions that can be developed and the frequency of use by the participants in the survey.
It should be noted that more than half of the respondents mentioned that contact with nature is something they frequently do. Since this survey was conducted in the north of the country in cities rich in tourism, this is likely to influence this result and that if the same survey was conducted in the capital, maybe the results may differ.
The last component of the somatic balance is the mind, but nowadays, continuing to develop knowledge has ceased to be a competitive advantage and has become a requirement for any professional, regardless of the field. In fact, the mere presence of the participants in the Congresses suggests an interest in continuing to develop this aspect, which provides better tools to face complex situations that generate stress.
In conclusion when analyzing the results of the presentation with the participants, the majority recognized that the somatic balance in a professional helps to achieve better results and that due to multiple reasons many of them neglect one or more of the 4 components
Performing a self-analysis of the level of satisfaction with the elements that form the somatic balance is the first step in developing an action plan and from my own experience I can say that achieving it, allows you to achieve better results. Stress in a role as a project manager, responsible for changes in the organization will always be present and that is not necessarily bad. Certain levels of stress help keep you alert, but too much stress and the absence of somatic balance becomes a time bomb that will eventually cause problems of presentism and absenteeism, which negatively affects the achievement of organizational and personal goals.
Somatic Balance for Project Managers - Change Leaders
A few years ago when I certified as a coach, I was introduced to the concept of somatic balance as the balance between four elements that make the body complete: body, mind, emotion and spirit. Later I found other similar definitions and some different ones.
Tracing the etymological origins of the word somatic we find that the word comes from two terms of the Greek language. The noun "Soma", which means "body" and the suffix "-tico" which is equivalent to "relative to". In other words, somatic is relative to the body.
Psychosomatic disorders on the other hand are those psychic processes that have influence and effects on the somatic. This means that certain somatic symptoms (with physical evidence) may have their origin in emotional processes.
In the current times with the increasing complexity of the projects, project managers, as well as the team members and even the sponsor face situations of stress and conflicts very frequently. Additionally, it is a fact that nobody achieves a significant change without winning some "enemies". Failure to adequately control these situations leads to reduced productivity, absenteeism, among other problems that affect the objectives of the project.
In this context, all professionals, but in particular those with greater responsibilities and challenges, require maintaining a balance between the four elements. A variation in one of them can affect any of the others, reducing the ability to cope with complicated situations.
Let's start with the body. We all need to take care of our health, which should at least include an annual medical check-up and exercise. Many times under the pressure of having many pending things we end up having a sedentary life, which eventually causes us to have less energy and it costs us more to fulfill our tasks. The truth is that I personally never considered myself an athlete, but someone who likes challenges. Some years ago I set myself the challenge of starting to run. At the beginning I could not run a couple of blocks. Now I can run 10 Kilometers and when everyone gets sick at home my immune system resists getting sick. Outside of enjoying better health, exercise is also a good way to control stress.
On the subject of emotions, positive emotions give us strength to continue, while negative emotions reduce our energy and ability. Therefore, it is important to know how to identify and control our emotions. Quoting Daniel Goleman intense negative emotions absorb all the attention of the individual, hindering any attempt to attend to something else. In fact, if you have had the experience of meeting a person who has been seriously ill and recovered, you will probably find that his state of mind had something to do with his chances of recovery. On the contrary, when the body is dominated by negative emotions, the natural defenses stop fighting. It's like an army that lowers its weapons when it sees its leader fall.
In the same way you have probably observed that solving problems in projects is much easier when you are surrounded by positive people and that it is not advisable to make important decisions when you are upset about something. Remember that, if emotions are not controlled properly, "emotion usually overcome reason"
As for the spirit, connect with nature and get away from the maelstrom of work, do meditation, yoga or if you are a religious person give yourself a time to pray, it also helps to keep the other elements in balance. Although this can be done a few minutes a day, vacations are also an important opportunity to find balance.
In summary, the four elements are related to each other and affect our ability to make decisions and fulfill our functions. In that sense neglecting any of the 4 can affect our potential as managers, change leaders or professionals in general and it would be even more important that we know how to identify when one of our employees faces problems due to health issues, knowledge or emotional state. Sometimes it is important that the manager recognizes when a collaborator needs a physical or mental rest.
Categories: project portfolio
One of the main ideas that top management must maintain is that projects must be aligned with business objectives. This is where the concept of a project portfolio and the role of a Project Management Office (PMO) become important.
Let's suppose that a company establishes as a business objective to increase sales by 10% during the current year. Remember also that the objectives must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time limited). In this scenario each area will come with its own projects, which require budget and time. For example, the sales area will present a project to acquire a new sales system through mobile devices. The human resources area will present another project that involves improving the infrastructure in which the staff currently works and the systems area will present a project to improve the technological infrastructure. Somehow, these areas will compete for scarce resources.
Which of the previous projects would have a higher priority?
The truth is that what at first seems to be the most appropriate, may require further analysis. What would be the real impact of acquiring that sales system? How long would the increase in sales allow us to recover our investment? Will there be another alternative solution with lower cost and greater impact? Defining if the projects are viable and which projects generate the greatest impact and which generate the highest ROI (return on investment) is an important task within the organizations to evaluate which projects contribute more significantly to the business objectives.
I am currently conducting a study on portfolio management and one of the first results confirms that several companies accept projects without analyzing if they contribute to their objectives.
On the other hand there are two other levels of alignment of additional objectives
1) Objectives of the team. For example, each area of the company defines its own objectives for the area and the team of people who work in it, will direct their efforts to comply with them. But these team objectives must maintain alignment with the main business objectives.
2) Personal objectives. Each member of a team has their own personal goals that can vary from covering their physiological needs, learn a new technology, lead teams, travel. etc. Probably when reading the latter one of the first words that comes to mind is "personal motivation" and the truth is that a person is more motivated to work, when the project in which he participates allows him to continue advancing in the fulfillment of his personal objectives.
The above applies to business, but if we generalize the same applies for our life in general. If we have an objective in life, we can analyze if the projects we initiate and the activities in which we engage contribute to the fulfillment of these objectives and we may discover that some of these activities in which we are involved do not contribute much and we could stop doing them, with which the time and effort devoted to other projects would bring us closer to the fulfillment of our main objective.
We know that a team is a group of people who are directed towards the same objective and who should establish internal rules to increase their effectiveness and efficiency. Under this definition it is logical to think that team members must collaborate with each other to achieve the goal.
Is this situation occurring in all teams? Are all team members willing to share their knowledge and experiences for the benefit of the project? Can a team be successful without this collaboration among the members? What would be the minimum level of cooperation required to achieve the objective? Is collaboration necessary between teams to achieve a competitive advantage?
I thought about the answer to all those questions and I asked myself an additional question. When we find a problem whose solution we do not know, what is our first reaction?
You probably have to use more than one of the options above to find the solution and do some preliminary tests. This involves time and therefore usually costs. However, after we solve the problem, the dilemma arises. What happens if one of our partners has the same problem? If he is lucky, he could somehow find us and we could help him solve his problem quickly, otherwise he will repeat the whole process that we had to do to find the solution again, meaning time, cost and in some cases unnecessary stress.
Here is one of the reasons why documenting solutions to problems and lessons learned has a critical role. However, under the idea that knowledge is what differentiates us from others. It may be the case to think that if we share our knowledge we are losing a status situation.
I have seen this in both academic and professional projects, but if handled properly, it generates a "WIN-WIN" relationship in which all parties benefit (the one who shares, the one who receives and the organization). A key point here is that those who receive knowledge, in addition to solving their specific problem, should generate FEEDBACK and share their own knowledge and skills for the benefit of the organization. The other point with respect to this topic is "RECOGNITION". Who shares knowledge for the benefit of the organization should be recognized for it. It certainly does not sound good that we do a job and another takes the credit, so the organization should seek to generate a culture in which knowledge sharing is rewarded and those rewards are received by the right people.
In the current era in which the use of technology plays a critical role for organizations in order to remain valid, we started year ago talking about digital transformation processes.
We say process or strategy because the digital transformation should not be seen as a project that has a beginning and end, but seeks that the company, after the first cycle of changes, continue observing new technologies and analyzing their possible use for the business. In this context some companies create digital transformation offices for this purpose.
The creation of the digital transformation office does constitute a project, which includes a change in the organizational structure, implies consumption of resources of the organization and affects the way of working.
In the same way, each new technology implemented is an incremental improvement or it can generate a radical change in the way things are done..
In both cases you might think that technology plays the central role, however the truth is that a digital transformation project should focus on the benefit to the business and how it contributes to achieving the objectives.
Within this context, the main affected by the process of digital transformation are the collaborators and customers.
The employees who had been carrying out their tasks in a certain way are faced with a situation in which they do not know in principle if after the changes will still take place in the company, this can generate uncertainty and even anticipated organizational mourning. State in which, people significantly reduce their productivity and will hardly want the success of the project.
Think for example of the person who is responsible for moving or storing the physical documents. After a process of automation and the establishment of a culture of zero paper, this person in principle would no longer have place in the company. Under this same scenario, several variants may occur:
- The person is young, he entered recently and we could easily help him relocate him to another company.
A different scenario would be that of a specialist person with a lot of knowledge that is currently wasted and who, after the change process, will be able to invest his time in performing more interesting tasks that generate business value instead of repetitive operational functions. Under this scenario, this person may receive the change with pleasure, but only if he is properly informed about what the change is expected to generate. Although it is also possible that the person feels comfortable without having to face new challenges and not receive well the change. The only way to know is to interact with this person.
On the part of clients or users, the perception may go on the side that "before, It was easier", "I prefer to talk with a person", "now everything is more bureaucratic". When carrying out a digital transformation process it is necessary to know who your users are, to what generation they belong and taking into account the first principle of marketing, segment them and develop appropriate strategies for each of the segments.
In all of the above, the definition of purpose, good communication and training in new technologies and business models play a key role and are part of the change management required for success. This in turn implies the allocation of economic resources and the identification of agents of change that act as promoters in their respective units or groups.
A friend of mine Past President of the PMI Lima Perú Chapter used to say that human resource management is the blind spot in project management and other author David Fischman said that when the boss focuses on results, he can forget about people. This is called leadership blindness. Thus, it is necessary to remember that in a process of digital transformation, the human factor must be taken into account. Depending on the size of the company there will be multiple stakeholders that must be considered to participate in the project, be consulted or simply keep them informed. Failure to do so, jeopardizes the success of the project, its sustainability and as such the objectives of the company.
And remember that contrary to what you think, people are not afraid of change, they are afraid of the impact that change has on them.
Under this perspective, a first task must be for people to understand the impact of digital transformation. If this is not done properly, people will begin to invent situations, often far from what is really wanted and that will increase resistance to change.
It would be curious, for example, to think that the greatest saboteur of the digital transformation process is just the information technology area, however this is feasible if they are not involved in the definition of the project, they are not provided with the resources to support the change and in general if the human factor is not managed properly.
Be very careful with potential saboteurs, who must be identified and managed very closely and invest time in monitoring the willingness to change and not rush to go to production when it is not yet ready.