When anxiety is a good thing on projects


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In this go-go digital age, it seems anxiety about all kinds of things - time, delivery, involvement - is rampant. There are times in projects when a little anxiety can be helpful, but there are also times when it can be harmful. Get some tips for knowing when to leverage it to motivate others and recognizing when it’s counterproductive.

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  • Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/470897
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  • http://www.profitwithibs.com/blog/?tag=benefits-of-anxiety
  • http://thefreerangetechnologist.com/2011/11/5-techniques-for-preventing-deadline-stress-as-a-project-manager/
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  • When anxiety is a good thing on projects

    1. 1. When Anxiety is a Good Thing on Projects Using anxiety as a motivator to get things done Your presenter is: Alison Sigmon, M.Ed., LPC, PMP1
    2. 2. What’s on tap for our time together today…  Cost of failure of projects (revisited)  Anxiety – Positive, negative, & the hooks that guide and influence us  What (or who) creates it  Anxiety as a motivator  Mind the line  Tips, best practices toleverage anxiety so it doesn’t leverage you  Wrap it up! 2
    3. 3. Cost of failure of projects Tons of time, training, and money have been invested in ensuring project management processes are in place and people know how to use them. And yet projects still fail. • A study reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countriesfound only2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects. • A separate study analyzed 1,471 IT projects and found the average overrun was 27%, but 1:6 projects had a costoverrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of 70%. Source: http://gmj.gallup.com/content/152429/cost-bad-project-management.aspx 3
    4. 4. There are a variety of reasons this happens on the functionalside and behavioral side of project management.Today we’ll focus on the behavioral side because if weaddress that then most of the time the functional side will fallinto place. 4
    5. 5. Something to worry about Project management is all about deadlines, deliverables, cost, and happy customers. But with numbers like these it might seem impossible to get ahead. To avoid being the stressed out, anxiety-ridden project manager, it’s important to know how to use anxiety instead of it using you.5
    6. 6. Anxiety… Smooth survivor or sneaky saboteur6
    7. 7. Upside and downside of anxiety… Two types of anxiety…Positive Anxiety and Negative Anxiety Positive anxiety is experienced when real danger is imminent & response is needed. Negative anxietyresponds to fears that live in our imagination. The first one is good because it’s a motivator that helps us get away from danger. The second blocks and preventsus from being effective and productive. Negative anxiety is rooted in past experience, orientation, and unclear requirements.7
    8. 8. Making associations… Hooks guide our behavior When something is important to us, our limbic brain produces an emotional responselong before our rational brain kicks in. Whatever the situation, good or bad, the brain repeats the same response to the same stimulus. A scent, a sound, a touch, an action made by someone can be triggers for anxiety. You can literally live the past all over again because those events get "hooked" to memories that activate every time something makes you remember. Before you know it, you can sound like an former boss or even a parent!8
    9. 9. Anxiety as a powerful motivator Enjoy riding the ragged edge of discomfort •Create new “hooks” with positive experiences •Focus the team • Coach and encourage throughout • Tap energy reserves • Generate passion & connection • More willing to challenge to get the best solution • Courage to speak up • Push through things that create fear • Imagine (and act on) possibilities • Determination to overcome past failures • Manage the frequency you use “push” techniques 9
    10. 10. When it’s not a motivator – becoming undone… If we don’t manage or overcome the fear-based negative anxiety, we risk being unable to live in the present and work effectively with others. We’re either constantly anticipating and projecting into the future or reliving the pastguilt, regret, resentment, etc. Teams can experience this too. What causes it? • Leadership style • Unrelenting pressure • Unrealistic expectations • Never getting a “win” • Poorly defined scope • Underdeveloped skills • Unclear objectives • Lack of understanding of how the project supports the organization • Poor or unrealistic time and productivity expectations • Organizational culture • Wishful thinking 10
    11. 11. Wishful thinking? Yep, even in business In several studies, researchers found that tasks always take longer thanexpected. We basically tend to underestimate in response to a kind of “wishful thinking” approach. When overloaded with work, people tend to feel guilty so they push themselves. This can be positive, but there is a tipping point. 11
    12. 12. Benefits of anxiety Studies have established that anxiety can be beneficial not only for survival but also in business. “Those with anxiety are dependable; they worry enough to accomplish assigned tasks.” There is a clear advantage to having anxiety on projects. Anxiety can create an edge and urgency needed to generate innovation and effective change.Complacency can cause lack of growth or business decline. When used well, project managers need to have just enough anxiety to make good decisions and seek out opportunity. But there’s a catch…
    13. 13. For it to be leveraged, you got to know a few things first Manage yourself to successfully manage others 13
    14. 14. Things to watch… Productive anxiety • Get clear on project priorities • Connect project to business priorities • Understand sponsor needs • Get a handle of skill strengths and weakness • Use “push” behaviors but watch the frequency But here comes the biggie… Style!!! (And you might just have to go a little deep…) 14
    15. 15. Style matters especially when leveraging anxiety Trickle down effect… Emotions leak: Project managers must be self-aware to prevent projecting counterproductive thoughts and actions on the group. Untended emotions can spillover to the team &impact performance. Sources of conflict: Need for and support of significance/contribution, authority, attractio n, intimacy, dependence, autonomy, chang e, power, control, loss. Needs not met create negative anxiety. You have to define what and how. Blind spots revealed: Being aware of your shortcomings can keep you (and the team) safe from rogue waves. 15
    16. 16. Bottom line…Watch what you’re putting out therebecause you’re likely to get it back Studies have shown that your own anxiety is often placed on those you manage which can quickly turn positive anxiety into negative anxiety.16
    17. 17. Short term gain, long term loss An unaware leadership style that uses coercion, intimidation, oppression, bullying, threats, and playground tactics can have short term gains but will experience long term loss. Lack of understanding, alignment, clarity, realistic expectations on projects will create a near constant high state of tension among team members. Eventually this kind of environment will generate confusion, uncertainty, fear, and sense of helplessness that can cripple team performance and productivity. Such conditions provoke defense mechanisms such as intellectualization, denial, finger pointing, passive aggressiveness, or withdrawal. 17
    18. 18. When anxiety is pushed too farAvoid being the Boy Who CriedWolf, Chicken Little, or EeyoreFalse startsNeed everything RIGHT NOW!Doom and gloom18
    19. 19. The hair on fire PM trap What I call “push behaviors” can motivate through positive anxiety. If overused they become ineffective and create negative anxiety. Consider frequency to manage the tipping point. When overused it becomes… • Everything is urgent and has to be done right, right now • Demand status reports before they are due • Yells when the team hasn’t begun the next phase when they are on time with the current phase • Constantly complains that if the project doesn’t flow better the project will fail • Threaten to fire teams or individuals without reason. • Pits team members against each other in an effort to squeeze more productivity out of them even when they are already constrained19
    20. 20. Short term gain, long term loss How can a PM turn this around? Got to learn how to walk before you can run. 20
    21. 21. Hot tips, best practice Focusing anxiety while minding the line21
    22. 22. Okay, we get it soNOW what What are you feeling? Pick the right tool for the right job… 22
    23. 23. Feel lost? Try some risk management Feel all is lost for your project? Take a look at your risk management process. Help yourself and your team by appointing a risk management monitors to deliver, prioritize, and report on the current state at regular intervals.23
    24. 24. Feel tense? Keep them busy doing the right work at theright time Stakeholders feel they are doing meaningful work Don’t just let them passively review work complete Keep the stakeholders focused and actively involved throughout the project Leverage anxiety by reminding them of priorities & don’t let the sand shift so much24
    25. 25. Feeling unsure? Get SMART Get clear on your goal posts for the project Measure for project performance not operational benefit Use structure Example of an Objective… To create a database that captures and tracks to 99.9 percent accuracy all issues and actions taken on behalf of our customers. It will be accessible to anyone with customer contact and will be operational on 30 July 20XX.25
    26. 26. Feel unclear? Give them something to talk about Talk early and often before you “step in it” • Be open • Be clear – roles, responsibilities, expectations, communication method & frequency • Give templates • Set expectations • Talk regularly26
    27. 27. Not feeling confident? Talk to yourself & to someone youtrust Keep a journal Use a coach Connect with peers Take some training Take some time for yourself27
    28. 28. Wrapping it up Projects fail for a variety of reasons but behavioral interventions can help Anxiety can make or break a project Your style heavily influences productivity and performance Scale “push behaviors” to not overuse It starts with you. Manage yourself to effectively manage others Tools and skills are there but you gotta use them Questions???28
    29. 29. Thank you! Alison Sigmon, M.Ed, LPC, PMP asigmon@systemation.com Twitter @alisonsigmon www.slideshare.net/ahsigmon29