Tag Archives: APM

Influencing skills for Project Management – lessons from the military


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th April 2019

Photograph of Emma Dutton MBE by Louise Haywood-Schiefer for “How to win wars and influence people” in Project, Spring 2019 pp.22-27

Project is the APM’s (Association for Project Managment) regular publication for its members.  This spring’s issue carries a fascinating article by Ben Hargreaves, editor of Project, featuring Emma Dutton MBE.  The article describes how she has founded a consultancy, the Applied Influence Group, to apply what she has learnt from gathering intelligence for the British Armed forces in Afghanistan, to the world of Project Management.

Parallels between military influencing and influencing projects

The article highlights some of the points made by Emma Dutton in her talk to the APM’s recent National Conference for Women in Project Management.  The parallels between the two worlds of influence include:

Multiple, complex stakeholder relationships

Shifting loyalties and volatile environments

A [or some] very demanding client[s]

The first and last points are certainly ones that the Project Leaders / Managers in the Life Science companies that we work with at RiverRhee would echo:

  • They often have to work with a range of stakeholders within and outside their companies, with different cultural backgrounds and communication styles, and with high expectations of the project team.
  • Although the loyalties are perhaps more stable, and the environment not as volatile as those which Emma Dutton experienced, there is often a high degree of uncertainty as to the possible outcomes of the scientific work

Emotional intelligence at the heart of good influencing skills

Emma Dutton makes an interesting observation from her experience of working in Afghanistan that is quoted in the article:

Afghanistan is a country built on relationships.  Afghans’ interpersonal skills are much more developed than the average Western person’s.  That’s how they survive.

and:

The mission was to influence hearts and minds as much as it was to collect information.  You had to be genuinely empathetic.  We are all humans, and we know when people are being real.

Emotional intelligence is a strong component of RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for project and operational leaders, managers and team members.  See www.riverrhee.com for details of our various courses, including those on influencing and communication skills.

This, together with what Emma Dutton describes as “emotional management” or regulation of ones emotions, is also described by Daniel Goleman* and others as emotional and social intelligence:

  • being aware of our own emotions, attitudes, behaviours and those of the people we are interacting with
  • making conscious choices about how we express or adapt these emotions, attitudes and behaviours in order to get positive outcomes for all parties

These are the qualities that will enable project managers and leaders to influence the diverse and challenging stakeholders that they interact with.

Emma Dutton’s advice seems very wise indeed:

[do] your work  before you get in the room. Understand the people you are talking to.

As Ben Hargreaves concludes in his article:

Understanding drivers, likes and dislikes, motivations, anxieties, interests, attitudes and beliefs is all-important for the influencer.

Notes

*Daniel Goleman et al are authors of a very helpful series of booklets “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence” that Elisabeth Goodman has reviewed in earlier blogs as listed here:

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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More common factors for managing successful change


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th January 2016

APM events are a great opportunity for developing our professional knowledge

Discussing common factors for managing successful change with delegates at the APM event

Tapping into delegates’ knowledge at the APM event

I led a seminar this week for the Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Branch members, as a member of the committee of the APM Enabling Change SIG and also as an independent change practitioner.

It was apparent from the level of discussion, and from the results of a poll at the end of the event, that many of the delegates had either started their journey in practising change management, or were already well experienced in it. So it was a great opportunity to learn from the knowledge within the room, as well as passing on some of my own, and of my committee colleagues’ knowledge.

We explored all types of change

We were exploring all types of change: organisational, IT, process-related, and others. I shared three of my own case studies, and also captured examples of some of the delegates’ own change programmes.

Examples of change programmes and projects

We identified more common factors for managing successful change

I had a starting list from a previous blog on common factors for managing successful change and adapted from those I use for RiverRhee Managing Change training and consulting activities. I’d added more factors to this list based on suggestions from my committee colleague Martin Taylor and from previous seminars that we have run together.

A starting list of common factors for successful change

The delegates came up with an impressive list of their own suggestions.

Suggestions of common factors from delegates

Some additional insights on behavioural change, and on change agents

Although one of the suggestions for types of change included behavioural / cultural change, delegates recognized that in fact all changes require recognition and attention to behavioural change to be effective. I referenced “Influencer” as a book that focuses on this.

Delegates also highlighted the skills needed for change agents to be effective, and I mentioned that “Creating Contagious Commitment” had some useful insights on this topic.

(The links above are to: Why thinking in terms of burning platforms and tipping points is not enough to drive change – a blog that references both books.)

Closing thoughts

Exploration! A picture in the lobby of Leeds Metropolitan hotel

A picture in the lobby of Leeds Metropolitan hotel

I have no doubt that there are more “common factors for managing successful change” to be identified.

Perhaps you would like to suggest some?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

The Kano model for team building – an alternative application for this Lean Sigma tool


By Elisabeth Goodman, 8th November 2015

The Kano model  is traditionally used as a ‘Voice of the Customer’ Lean Sigma tool

I had the pleasure of co-presenting a seminar with Carl Halford  recently, for the APM (Association for Project Management) Thames Valley Branch, on behalf of the Enabling Change SIG.

The full set of slides and the notes from our event: Process Improvement and Change Management are available on the APM website.

The Kano model is traditionally used in Lean and Six Sigma as a ‘Voice of the Customer’ tool, to understand customer requirements, and to distinguish between the ‘critical’ versus ‘nice to haves’.

Carl used the model for a lively interactive exercise with the delegates, using a dry cleaning business as the basis for the discussion.

The Kano model - illustration by Carl Halford for a Drycleaning model

The Kano model – illustration by Carl Halford for an APM event

Carl’s demonstration was a helpful reminder of how effective the Kano model can be as a tool for stakeholder analysis.

As he said, there can be no debate about the ‘must-haves’, or critical requirements.  If these are not satisfied, then those customers will never come back, and word-of-mouth could be your ruin.

The ‘more is better’ line (which I had learnt about as the ‘it depends’ requirements), are those that may make a difference to customers depending on their circumstances or what else is going on in the store on any particular day.

The ‘delighters’ are the ones that will win your customers’ loyalty, and cause them to recommend you to others.  Of course these ‘delighters’ are also a risk to managing your long-term resources as they may in time become expected ‘must-haves’.

Using the Kano model for team building

What especially peaked my interest was Carl’s suggestion that the Kano model could also be used for team building.

A team might have traditionally used the Kano model as part of a team meeting: to help extract what everyone already knows about their stakeholders, and to agree what other research or conversations might be needed to enhance that understanding.

Using the Kano model for team building works on the premise that each team member is a stakeholder in the team’s success.  Carl mentioned that he tends to use the model for project teams, but it could also be used for an operational team.

Each person is likely to have uniques ‘must haves’, ‘more is better’, and ‘delighter’ expectations.  There will also be some overlaps between what different people want.

I can imagine preparing a wall poster of the Kano model, and issuing each team member with post-it notes to provide the basis for a rich discussion and enhanced understanding of the various perspectives within the team.  If managed well, this might help the team through its ‘storming’ phase of development and pave the way for greater trust and support.

I’m looking forward to giving this alternative application of the Kano model a try, and of course will be curious to hear about anyone else’s experience of this approach.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just under 6 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management).

A celebration of change with One Nucleus and Taylor Vinters


By Elisabeth Goodman, 30th April, 2015

Our host, Patrick Farrant from Taylor Vinters, opened yesterday’s proceedings at the One Nucleus Network Meeting in Cambridge on Managing Change with this quote from Richard Branson:

“A company that stands still will soon be forgotten”

A show of hands from the floor confirmed that those present were almost unanimously either experiencing change, had recently done so, or were anticipating it. So on that evidence alone, they and their organisations are continuously looking for ways to improve and therefore will not be forgotten!

(* I know that I am making at least two potentially erroneous assumptions here but I hope you’ll overlook them for the sake of this blog!)

The afternoon / evening event consisted of three case studies and a panel session, with the participation of Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins from GSK, Madhuri Warren from Pathology Diagnostics introduced by Tony Jones from One Nucleus, John Burt from Abzena and Chris Mayo from the London Stock Exchange, and Edward Hooper from Taylor Vinters. I had the pleasure of introducing the first session with GSK, and chairing the closing panel discussion.

It was a very enjoyable event, with a richness of content and some great discussion. This blog does not attempt to cover all of the content, but rather to explore some of the key themes that emerged in what felt like almost a celebration of change and how to make it a more positive experience.

Our attitude, having access to information and involvement in the change will make the difference between a positive and negative experience of change

I asked the delegates what would make the difference for them between experiencing change as something really positive and constructive, as opposed to something negative and really rather awful. The answers that came back included attitude, knowing what was going on, and being in control – a nice lead-in for my slide on enabling navigators rather than victims of change (a theme that I’ve previously spoken about in my capacity as committee member of the APM Enabling Change SIG).

Enabling navigators of change

I’ve added in the survivor image to illustrate a point made later by Jacqui Alexander about people’s reactions to change programmes involving long roll-out plans where they might just lie low and wait for it to blow over!

Effective change is about leadership attitude

Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins used a four-box model for leadership belief and change, taken from Rowland & Higgs’ book on Sustaining Change that really resonated with the audience and the other speakers.

Change Leadership Approaches

It seemed that whilst the tendency of many leaders of change is to be very directive, it may sometimes be more appropriate to take the masterful approach, and that the most effective may well be the emergent one.

The masterful approach engages the people who are doing the work and so will have the best knowledge as to what will be effective.

The emergent approach is about creating the conditions for creativity and innovation, mixed with a culture of continuous improvement so that change is incremental rather than evolutionary. It also has echoes of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’: when sufficient people have bought into (a) change for it to gain a momentum of its own.

At the same time, there are some situations, as in John Burt’s case study with Abzena’s transition in its corporate mission and to a public company, and Madhuri Warren’s case study on relocating and growing their business, when those leading the change have to be more directive, at least at first. Both speakers recognised, and Madhuri elaborated on the fact, that there comes a point when the masterful and emergent approaches are essential for fully engaging their staff.

A strong management team is essential during periods of significant change

Both Madhuri Warren and John Burt reflected on the qualities of their management teams and how their wealth of experience supported their companies through their periods of significant change.

The ability to articulate and communicate their vision for the change to employees and external stakeholders / shareholders, turn it into a sound business plan, project manage that plan, and minimize the negative impact on day-to-day productivity is a complex mix of challenges for any team.

Pathology Diagnostics’ and Abzena’s ability to do so are a credit to the quality of their management teams.

Both experiences have led them to reflect on their change management strategies, and there was much that GSK shared about their ADP approach (Accelerating Delivery and Performance *) that provided food for thought on this.

(*The link is to Jacqui and Margaret’s previous webinar for the APM which was attended by more than 300 people.  The link includes an audio recording from the event.)

It is important to communicate the right things, to the right people, at the right time

John Burt referenced the challenge of managing the company’s shareholder based when transitioning to a public company, and the changes in communication strategy that this entails. Chris Mayo elaborated on this further.

Managing the internal communications is also an important, as Madhuri reminded us: people want to know the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – how the change will directly impact and benefit them.

In the panel session we discussed how it is in some ways easier to manage that communication in smaller companies. Jacqui’s suggestion for larger companies is to take a cellular approach to change leadership to achieve this communication more effectively than waiting for the more traditional top-down cascade to happen.

Jacqui also suggested tailoring the language for different audiences so for example, in an R&D environment, we might describe a change programme as experimentation!

Focus on skills and motivation and you will get the results you want

Graham Robb’s book ‘Influencer’ suggests that the best way to influence people is through a combination of skills development and motivational factors, and these suggestions also came through from all the speakers.

Robb suggests that effective change depends on identifying the key behaviours that need to change, and then providing the support (skills and motivation) to make that happen.

(You can read more about this in an earlier blog entitled: Why thinking in terms of burning platforms and tipping points is not sufficient to drive change)

Our speakers certainly demonstrated the awareness, and the approaches that will enable their organisations, and hopefully those of the delegates to continuously change for the better and so not be forgotten!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

One of RiverRhee’s areas of expertise and courses for One Nucleus is on Managing Change – which was part of the impetus for yesterday’s event.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the recently renamed Methods and Standards theme for the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

From stoical survivor to natural navigator – strategies for proactive change programme managers.


By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th February 2015

Roles of those associated with change programmes

I’ve just come back from delivering a seminar for the Midlands branch of the APM, with my colleague (and Chair) on the APM Enabling Change SIG, Martin Taylor. The event, “How to keep programmes on track and teams inspired during periods of change”, attracted a lively set of people.  About a third of them were managing change programmes, another third were supporting programmes in some way and a further third were frequently (!) being drawn into change whilst addressing their day to day responsibilities.

This blog reflects some of the points that came up on the theme of proactive management of change programmes.

(By the way, this was our second visit to the Midlands branch of the APM.  I spoke last year on Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects.)

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

The nature of change within change programmes

I was impressed by how some of the people I spoke to were doing what they did because they enjoyed the challenge of change. They were often dealing with continuous change, rather than discrete periods of it, had multiple change programmes on the go, sometimes juggling equal priorities, whilst at the same time coping with change within the programme itself.  These ‘internal’ programme changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Sponsor turnover
  • Shifting objectives
  • Additional constraints on timelines, budgets and resources
  • External impacts – legislation, competitors, politics – the typical components of a PESTEL analysis. (We are now entering the “purdah” period for the forthcoming UK elections which brings additional constraints for those operating in or with the public sector.)

Strategies for keeping change programmes on track

Some of those present mentioned how they would like now and then to have just a few change programmes to deal with at a time.

They’d like to see some joined up thinking between programmes, especially where they are affecting the same stakeholders.

They’d also like the decision makers to remember why individual programmes are happening in the context of the bigger organisational strategy.

All of these and more formed the basis of a check list that Martin and I developed with the delegates for how they could proactively keep programmes on track during periods of change. (The full list, other notes and slides from the event will be posted shortly on the APM Enabling Change SIG microsite.)

Victims, survivors and navigators of change

The above proactive approach to change is also an illustration of how programme managers can effectively be navigators rather than victims or survivors of change (terms defined by Richard McKnight and further described in one of my publications – The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2013).

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Victim, survivor and navigator responses to change

Being a victim of change, as the name implies, is an unproductive ‘us and them’ mindset where we blame others for the situation we find ourselves in and expect them to sort it out. Whilst we may occasionally need to give way to our emotions in this way, as leaders of change we do, at some point, have to shake ourselves up and get on with it.

Stoical survival techniques can also only be temporary. It’s a kind of “in limbo” state where we are only just coping, and it will bring its own stresses.

Navigators on the other hand are people who ’embrace’ change and explore what they can do to make it happen in a constructive way: tackling the issues, anticipating the risks, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

Helping your team to be inspired during change

In the seminar we also discussed how managers can help their teams to be ‘inspired’ during the changes that affect the team: the sorts of changes that we outlined above. These changes can ‘hit’ the team at any stage of its development: whether newly formed, already storming or in full high performance flow.

We discussed how the programme manager can and should adopt the situational leadership approach: being highly directive during periods of uncertainty and ensuring that members of the team have one-to-one time to discuss their concerns and explore their ideas.

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Members of the team, as much as the stakeholders affected by the outcome of the change programme, will benefit from plenty of communication. We all respond best when we have some degree of certainty and control over what happens to us.

Any information, however negative, or preliminary will help towards certainty.

Clear roles and responsibilities, and some level of involvement, will help people to feel more in control.

If, as a programme manager, you can provide this level of direction and support for your team, you will create the conditions where team members can feel more motivated, become navigators themselves and take more of a leadership role within their own domain of responsibility, and ultimately be more creative and inspired!

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

Common factors for managing successful change


Reflections prompted by discussions at APM Presents: Project Management in Practice, October 16th, 2014

By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th October 2014

The same issues arise for managing change, whatever the size of the organisation. There are also some common factors for managing successful change, whether the change involved is IT, organisational or process-based.

Delegates during the break out session of the Enabling Change SIG at APM Presents: Project Management in Practice, October 16th, 2014

Delegates during the break out session of the Enabling Change SIG at APM Presents: Project Management in Practice, October 16th, 2014     (Photograph courtesy of Andrew Gray)

I recently co-led a workshop with Neil White of ChangeVista on behalf of the APM’s Enabling Change SIG (Specific Interest Group). Our brief was to provide an introductory level interactive workshop, with delegates from a variety of backgrounds, in 45 minutes, and to be prepared to repeat it, 3 times!

Neil did a great job at consolidating some key principles and perspectives on enabling change into a ten-minute presentation – no trivial task!

I set the delegates the challenge of making a better job of three not unusual scenarios for IT, organisational and process change, using what they had learned from the presentation and what they could learn from each other’s experiences. They did a very good job of it!

(The slides, handouts on the three scenarios and a link to the outputs from the Enabling Change SIG seminar at APM Presents are now available)

The same issues arise in dealing with change whatever the size of the organisation

Paula Baxter, one of the delegates at the event, in her follow-up feedback said: “Found the session earlier really useful, especially hearing how we all go through the same issues with change no matter how small or large the organisation is!”

Effective management of change is about involving and informing the people affected so that they can be navigators rather than victims of change.  And yet this is the part that is often neglected, either deliberately out of a mistaken desire to protect people from unnecessary worry, as in the organisational change scenario used in the workshop; or, as in the case of our IT scenario, out of an assumption that everyone can learn to use new software quickly, easily and in the same way.

There are common factors in managing every type of change

As another delegate mentioned to me, although we were working with three very different scenarios, the same headlines came up in each one in terms of how to achieve more effective management of change. These are just eight of them:

  1. Involve and inform your stakeholders, especially those most directly affected by the change – and do so sooner rather than later
  2. Two-way communication is key and your sponsors can help with this by being visible and accessible. They can also have a positive influence by role modelling the change
  3. Use stakeholder analysis, and training needs analysis to understand the different perspectives and requirements of your stakeholders and to shape your approaches accordingly
  4. Clearly articulate why the change is being introduced (the benefits), and get your sponsors and change agents or champions aligned on these and other key messages (what, who, when, where, how) to communicate about the change
  5. Consider the context for the change:
    • What the change demands in terms of your stakeholders’ behaviours and time, and how that will relate to what else they are doing in their day jobs
    • What other changes are going on that might affect their receptiveness to this particular change (the bigger picture)
  6. Think carefully about motivators and incentives and target them at the right level – they won’t necessarily be the same for everyone
  7. Involve HR (and external consultants / contractors) as appropriate to support but not to lead the change – the sponsors should come from the business
  8. Consider using pilots, and a gradual transition / evolutionary change as an alternative to revolutionary change to minimise the ‘pain’ for those involved, and to get things right

What are your thoughts on common factors for managing successful change?

All in all it was a very enjoyable and stimulating experience. It was very rewarding to see how many common factors for managing successful change the delegates could extract in an intensive 45-minute session. What else could they have identified?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We using coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she now leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

Empathy – the magical leadership ingredient?


Empathy can make a difference in every situation that we find ourselves in as leaders or managers

I recently read Geoff Crane‘s chapter 55 ‘Empathy in Project Management’ in the ‘Gower Handbook of People in Project Management‘. It’s a very large book, with a wealth of fascinating information, so I’m dipping into it a chapter at a time, and giving myself time to reflect on each one.

I really enjoyed Geoff’s chapter, and believe our ability to be empathetic can make a difference not only in Project Management, but in every leadership or people management role that we may have.

As Geoff explains in his chapter, empathy is different from sympathy in that the ‘listener’ not only acknowledges another person’s (the ‘speaker’s’) emotions but actually connects with them by ‘vicariously experiencing’ their feelings, seeing things through their eyes, or ‘getting into their shoes’.  Empathy requires active listening, picking up things that the other person may not even be saying.

Active listening?

Geoff shares a ‘behavioural change stairway model’ adapted from Vecchi et al.(1)  In it he shows that whilst active listening is a precursor of empathy, empathy in turn leads to rapport and so influence and the ability to effect behavioural change.

So, whilst empathy required us to emotionally connect with the other person, we still need to retain our own sense of self, and this is what enables us, as leaders, to then take some appropriate action to influence the ‘speaker’ to achieve a desired outcome.

This is what I have been reflecting about since I read Geoff’s chapter.

The role of empathy in project and line management

When we are responsible for a project, or for a team, should we be task or people focused?  The answer is both.  But whilst we can delegate aspects of the task management to members of our team, ultimately, the responsibility for the people within the team rests with the manager.  If we don’t recognise and respond to the needs of the individuals within the team, and to the dynamics between them, then we will never achieve a high performing team, or see each individual performing to their full potential.

Some people may think this is ‘too touchy feely’, and that we are all independent grown-ups without the need for ‘molly coddling’, but what is the reality of what happens in teams?  Aren’t the emotions visibly there (or thinly disguised) on a day-to-day basis? So as team leaders, wouldn’t we do better to acknowledge that and work with the emotions rather than ignore them?

(By the way the next chapter I read will probably be number 53, Deanne Earle’s on ‘Emotional Intelligence in Project Management’.  Geoff Crane has put up pictures of all us contributing authors and the themes of our chapters on his website – The Papercut Project Manager.  I also wrote a short blog referencing my chapter on Team Development.)

Empathy in change Management

Our APM Enabling Change SIG committee are currently working on a glossary of terms associated with Change Management.  We’re having a bit of a debate around the definition of ‘resistance’ in Change Management.  Is it a barrier to be overcome, as is commonly described by Change Management practitioners?  Or is it something that, in our role as leaders, we should be helping to surface and understand, so that we can respond to what we learn about the ‘speaker’ and use this not only to influence the ‘speaker’ but also to improve on our Change Management plans?  Isn’t that empathy truly at play?  I take the latter approach in my book ‘The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook’.

A further thought: change agents recognise the importance of communicating the benefits of change, and of doing it in the context of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).  There is surely an emotional context to that which requires change agents to empathise with – hence the value of asking such questions as: “If this change was successful for you, what would that look, feel or sound like?”

Empathy makes for better facilitation too!

A recent client very kindly said that he uses me as a facilitator because I understand his organisation and the people within it.  We know that the most effective facilitators disconnect from the content of workshops and discussions that we facilitate, and focus instead on providing the right tools and guiding the dynamics of what’s happening.  We need to tune into the emotions involved, and judge when and how to intervene to help the participants achieve their overall goals.

Empathy also helps us to be effective trainers, mentors and coaches

A friend of ours recently died from cancer.  For a short while he’d taught my daughter to improve her guitar playing.  At his funeral service another student talked about how special our friend had been in effectively being able to empathise with his students and help them to achieve whatever it was that they needed – and it wasn’t just about learning to play the instrument – it was about wider aspects of their lives.  I recognised what he was saying from how I’d seen and heard him work with my daughter.

Isn’t empathy what distinguishes a skillful trainer, mentor or coach from a mediocre one?  Which of your teachers do you remember best?  Was it empathy that distinguished them from the others?

(I wrote more broadly about the qualities of trainers, mentors and coaches, in my RiverRhee Newsletters on the ‘coaching continuum‘.)

With empathy we as leaders can give the people that we work with some of the most valuable gifts in life: the time, the space, and ultimately the skills, to achieve what will help them to be successful as ’empowered’ individuals and as members of our teams.  Doesn’t that make empathy a magical leadership ingredient?

Notes

  1. Vecchi, G.M., Van Hasselt, V.B. and Romano, S.J. (2005).  ‘Crisis (hostage) negotiation: Current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution’, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 533-51.

Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer,  facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.