Your monthly dose of insightful Project Management articles

Your monthly dose of Project Management articles.

Quantum Leadership: A Story of Next Level Leadership in Project Management (Stage-2)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: In this article, we will be walking you through Stage 2 (Engagement) of The Leadership Model.

A Descent Into Doubt     

For those of you who joined us last month, you met Neo, a project manager at Matrix Corporation. Neo has recently been given a project to manage that involves the largest account that Matrix has received to date. If managed well, it will allow Matrix to expand the impact and influence of their company.

At this point, the project is well underway. Things have been moving along, with Neo and his team making the necessary adjustments to remain on track with the project’s scope and timeline.

The team has had the opportunity to gain some very valuable awareness around how this kind of project works and the management needs of something of this size and capacity.  

This is where Neo begins to realize that there are some differences between the projected expectations and the realities that are unfolding. He begins to observe small and seemingly imperceptible gaps. These areas of misfit are beginning to concern Neo, and he has a sense that things are getting off track. There are discrepancies appearing in individual team members’ perceptions of the project, as well as various ways in which these differences are being communicated. All these confounding factors make it difficult to determine and adequately define a problem. But the transactions start to build and this leads to a felt sense that something is happening.  Neo is not yet able to put his finger on exactly what it is that he is perceiving and how this is affecting the direction of the project.

Neo and his team are entering Stage 2 of The Leadership Model, the Engagement phase. The high levels of perceived confidence experienced in Stage 1 are beginning to wane, as Neo realizes not everything is actually fitting into place the way he planned. Consider the analogy of a bedroom dresser that arrives unassembled. As you follow the diagram or instructions to put the pieces together, you discover that even though item A should fit perfectly into slot B, it may not without some fiddling or applied force. The slightest difference in where the pieces are meant to fit and where they actually come together challenges the ability to execute the assembly process. In some cases, too, the screws are the wrong size altogether or there are damaged or completely missing pieces.

In the assembly of the dresser, even with specifically tailored instructions, there is always an element of trial and error, as the system is translated into your own understanding. From an experiential stand point, expertise arises from what has been done before.

At the Engagement stage, we start to see the true nature of the beast. We begin to experience the actual outline and boundaries of the thing with which we are dealing. As Neo and his team engage with the inevitabilities of the project, the gaps between what was previously projected and what is actual become greater and more pronounced.

As we did in Part I of this story, let’s go over the three quotients that express how we access, process and utilize information. First, we have IQ or Intelligence Quotient which is based on and measures what and how we think.  Next, we have EQ or Emotional Quotient which evaluates what we feel, and finally, we have PQ or Percipience Quotient which assesses what we sense.

The Leadership Quotient comprises all three.  It demonstrates the leader’s ability to tap into, comprehend and utilize what he/she thinks, feels and senses to shepherd things forward successfully.

In this case, even though the numbers are adding up, Neo has a feeling that things are heading in the wrong direction.

He decides to share this with his boss, Morpheus. Neo explains to Morpheus that he has a sense there is an issue, but has no measured “proof” of it.  Morpheus naturally asks, “where are your concerns coming from, then?” Neo struggles to communicate his response because what he senses cannot be adequately expressed or measured, since what Neo is experiencing has not yet been defined.

Neo would like to say to Morpheus, “Just trust me. I know it's coming.” Neo begins to wonder if all of this is just “in his head.” The truth is, the information he is picking up is not coming from his head at all. It’s emerging from his gut instincts, and it’s his head that’s seeking the evidence. Neo is being given the chance to consider that just because he can’t see and measure something does not mean that it doesn't exist. This is often where we begin to doubt our ability to execute, as we cannot see, touch or feel what we are beginning to know.  It is all in the “becoming” stage.

The gut feeling that Neo is experiencing is his PQ. Neo is experientially aware that each project is different. He knows each project has its own characters and players, and that each one requires certain deliverables to be measured. At this point in the project, Neo sees a lot has changed. While the project plan may have the same base lines, there are so many imperceptible differences. It is these variations that matter. They are where the risk and anxiety originates. It is with them, as well, where the opportunities lie. It is through this challenge that Neo’s PQ begins to increase.

At the same time, due to the same challenge, Neo’s IQ is drawn into question. What he is experiencing is unprecedented, and because there isn’t a learned pattern around what is happening, as far as his IQ is concerned, he is flying blind. To Neo’s intellect, it is all new territory.. Neo’s EQ also begins to drop because he is accustomed to identifying his feelings of self-worth with what he knows. In most cases, as IQ descends, it is very easy for the EQ to dip as well, because suddenly what is being relied upon is based on subjective perception and not physical evidence, and this has us feeling uncertain.

Neo begins to worry about what his team and the higher ups may begin to say. Hearing the words,“Neo you don't know what you're doing.” is a real fear because his reliance on historical evidence and what resides in his IQ is dropping. When the IQ and EQ fall and the PQ rises, we will usually experience internal struggle that emerges as a distrust of self. The thought, “I don't have evidence at this point and cannot prove my theory,” has us in a challenging position of needing to build our belief around what we do sense, but cannot yet prove. How many times have we gone to others to validate what we are sensing only to find they don't see and sense things from the same perspective. It is a difficult time for Neo because he is trying to express what he cannot yet measure. Because most of us have not been raised in a world where we place credence on what we sense and cannot prove, it makes it very difficult for ourselves and others to have confidence and trust in what emerges from our PQ.

Due to all of this, something else now begins to appear for Neo, a deepening sense of loss of control. Fear, anger, frustration begin to surface because he can't predict the next step and he can't anticipate what will happen. Many people expect a leader to be omnipotent, the expert with all of the answers. The fact is for this particular project there is no expert.  From the very beginning, the project was an unknown entity for everyone. The Matrix Corporation had never attempted a project of this size and scope before, and therefore, it was impossible to truly know what would emerge and how this would need to be addressed.

A real leader is one who finds the path, defined or not, to a shared reality of an accepted outcome. There is no IQ to be understood, because it has yet to be created. At the core, a leader is the one who coordinates people along a vision by creating clarity of that vision. Neo’s actual job is to constantly re-orient people to what the project vision is and what steps are needed to achieve it. Far too often, people lose confidence because of their lack of IQ. Their inability to demonstrate intellectual mastery. Neo starts to dip into a crisis of confidence as he begins to complete his journey through the Engagement stage and enters “The Abyss.”

Many leaders have doubted their ability to power through this stage. Neo feels as if he has lost his bearings.  The fact is, Neo has the ability to draw from his experience with past projects regardless of the scope and size of this project.  If he were to really look in, he could conclude, “This was expected.”  With less focus on what he doesn’t know and more leaning into curiosity and collaboration with his team, Neo will be able to continue to develop the understanding he needs to make the decisions and take the actions necessary to successfully complete the project. Neo must remember he is not in this alone.  

We all know that numbers represent an answer to a question. When the question is focused on the wrong target, the numbers can “lie,” when it comes to telling the real story.  This is why it is critical to ask the right questions.

A leader, as we have said, is not the one with all the answers, but rather can generate the right questions.  The best way forward is to see this as a combined effort and for Neo to allow the members of his team to bring their perspectives and value forward to help answer necessary questions and make the right decisions.

In Stage 2, Engagement is about asking the right questions and working with what you have - what you think, feel and sense - to determine the way to go. Instead of questioning himself, Neo could begin asking others, “Is anybody else experiencing this?” 

Five basic questions to create and shift perspective to gain clarity:

  1. What am I experiencing?
  2. What might be the reason I am experiencing it?
  3. When is it happening?
  4. Where is it happening?
  5. How is it appearing?

By asking these five questions, Neo and each member of the project team can get a better sense of the true nature of their project through their experiences with it.

As Neo and his team work through the five questions, they are able to glean more insight into some reasons for Neo’s earlier unease. Neo meets with Morpheus to fill him in on their new findings and approach to the project. He shares with his boss, “We are asking better questions now. More people are inspecting and further clarifying what is emerging to better understand what we are working with and how we need to approach it. At this point, we are all working through the questions and watching for the patterns to emerge.”

Like financial investments compound in interest over time, a team that invests in the search for the right questions to ask compounds its value and overall success.

As all of this is occuring, new beliefs are being formed. These beliefs could not have existed before the project started, because the necessary experiences had not been provided. At the beginning, Neo and the team didn’t know what they had not yet experienced. As a result no one had the right set of lenses or perspective to properly project the outcomes or acknowledge and understand the true nature and needs of the project clearly. Now, however, Neo is starting to ask better questions of everybody in project meetings. As more people on the team start to inspect and report back through these inquiries, PQ for all starts to rise and IQ and EQ begin to slow their velocity of descent.

Stay tuned for our next month’s installment to see Neo’s journey from Engagement to Ownership...entering the phase where most leaders begin to have a felt sense of relief and control after the challenging journey through The Abyss.

Exclusive 💬

Traci Philips

About author

Performance & Leadership Strategist | Speaker | Authentic Communications Coach | Transformation Instigator

Traci Philips is an Executive Leadership & Performance Strategist and supports visionary business owners and corporate executives to reach a higher degree of fulfillment, potential and purpose in their careers and lives. She excels at digging in and uncovering a client’s Zone of Genius, as well as identifying what is holding them back, many times in ways they are not aware. She is well practiced at helping clients improve their communications, resolution strategies, decision-making and establishing a sense of balance and unwavering confidence that is essential for leading during times of change and when the stakes are high.

Being one herself, Traci understands how visionaries think and operate. She helps leaders understand and define their unique lane, how to operate and stay in it, and she works with them to build the mental framework, behaviors and communication skills necessary to engage with their partners, teams and clients in meaningful, effective and positively influential ways.

Traci is the co-host of Eavesdrop in the Moment, a bi-weekly podcast that discusses current trends and leadership. Her book, Looking In: Discover, Define and Align the True Value of Your Life, Leadership and Legacy is helping leaders around the globe increase their confidence and self-identity to meet leadership demands and their personal performance potential.

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Vinay Raman

About author

CEO | Business Coach | Podcast Host | Speaker

Support 10,000,000 people to unlock their greatest potential at their place of work. 

Over the last 25 years, Vinay Raman has been a leader in the analytics and leadership space. His professional work has included empowering warfighters, in high and national-security situations to make better and faster decisions when in theater. This work has been applied across various agencies like the Department of Defense and Homeland Security, creating greater effectiveness through data and analytics. 

When coupled with his experience in helping small and large companies grow, there was one key insight to the success of any organization: people’s desire and passion. 

After many years of analysis and experience with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence he came to a realization that capturing people’s hearts and passions is the true unlock to an organization's greatest potential. He is focused on empowering leaders to unlock their greatest potential as well as lifting their people and employees to their greatest heights. His current company, CAARMO, is a platform that allows company leaders to take action by using their existing data effectively to empower all to ultimate effectiveness. He has even been told by some employees he actually practices what he preaches! (NOTE he is curious as to what their motivation was in saying that) 

To date he has personally founded, built or run 6 companies from 15 employees to over 180. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mathematics, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. He currently resides in North Carolina after 22 years in the Washington, DC area with his beautiful (and smarter) wife and three children. 

Hear more of Vinay: The Business Blind Spots Exposed - Podcast

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