I was talking with a friend the other day, about when we are under stress how we begin to express ourselves. During high levels of stress, adrenaline drives us to be task-focused and focused inward on our emotions. It’s harder for us to engage with others with empathy. And so it is harder for us to be patient with others when we are under high levels of stress.
It’s the nature of empathy is that it cannot be summoned urgently. It can be a slow horse, grown in quieter, more reflective moments.
This is where the fight or flight response works against us. Deadlines approach. We become increasingly anxious. Our patience with others around us erodes.
Urgency, and the stress it creates, and the effects of adrenaline, begin to erode valuable relationships around us. Maybe it is time to stop for a moment and take stock of what it is doing, not just to our bodies, but also to those important relationships in our lives.
So, take a moment to reflect upon where that has happened to you. What can you do to prevent this happening again?
Some years ago we conducted some research into high performers in project management, and one of the outstanding differences between them and the control group was a significant behaviour we called Leaning to People. The high performers seemed to get their results because they gave time to the critical relationships around themselves.
This behaviour was an important discovery. We began to practise this ourselves, prioritising our time with others and found we got much better results in our work.
However, this was not emphasised enough – and still isn’t – on most project management curricula, training and bodies of knowledge. This lack of stress on relationships is understandable but is harmful. Project management as a discipline has a heritage in construction and engineering. However, the overarching worldview of these disciplines tends to reduce people to either resources or obstacles. It’s quite dehumanising.
So I wrote Practical People Engagement: Leading Change through the Power of Relationships. That was nearly five years ago, and it is still my best-selling book. Shortly after it was published, APMG-International adopted it as the core reference for their qualification in Stakeholder Engagement.
Again, old project management mindsets can creep in here by referring to people and groups as stakeholders. Worse still, project managers still use the term stakeholder management. Who among us likes to be managed and controlled, especially if that person is not our boss? Often, efforts to influence and achieve positive outcomes can often fail right there.
Developing the skill of Leaning to People, is not primarily an issue of learning a technique, a process, acquiring management tools or models, although these are all useful resources. No, a high-order Leaning to People skill is beyond that. It starts with a mindset. This video illustrates this:
I’ve been working on a new approach to what I have been calling Exploring People Engagement (EPE), an online workshop. This new approach will be an online seminar that I will be launching soon. The new seminar is about leading people through change. In the seminar we explore a superior mindset, and how we work that out in better ways on our own changes, leading people to better outcomes.
What would happen if we all developed this skill? What if we were able to lead people to change more easily and realise better outcomes? What if we were able to develop that Leaning to People skill set to high order in our daily lives? That would begin to shift things for the better, wouldn’t it?
I want to equip people to lead their change better, to become world-changers.
I have a friend, Rachel, who is a world-changer. She does this in small groups of people at a time. She takes broken women, broken through loss, grief, through domestic abuse, and gently leads them to wholeness of self-identity and hope. What she does is truly transformational. She is a world-changer, one group at a time.