Project Management Institute

Click with ease

effortlessly connect and create collaboration for change

Rona Puntawe Ptschelinzew

PMI Melbourne Chapter

How do you create a rapport with stakeholders you just met? How do you sustain their attention and influence collaborative outcomes? How do you do it all naturally, with ease? When you click with ease you free yourself from anxiety, exude credibility, and position yourself to influence others positively. This is key to effectively engaging stakeholders, which is critical for successful organizational change. This paper articulates the foundational principles and frameworks behind “Click with Ease,” an interactive introductory workshop about how to effortlessly connect and create collaboration for change.

The first part of this paper discusses the theories behind the practice. “Click with Ease” workshop distills leading research in human behavior—from neuro-economics, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and clean language to high-performance modeling—into very simple, practical tools.

The second part of the paper talks about the practical applications in leading projects and change. You will learn the three key things that give you choice—not just chance—in “clicking” with people. You will find out how, as project managers, you could utilize these to help you engage collaboration and influence transformation.

Theoretical Foundations

The field of behavior economics is relatively new, but its applications and impact have grown rapidly since its inception a decade ago. Principles of psychology have found their way into business psychology, behavior finance, and behavior economics to more effectively shape the way people make decisions and behave. For us project managers and program leaders, nowhere is this more salient than in leading change and transformation, where we often find ourselves in the frontline. While the field of psychology and behavior is very broad, there are specific foundations essential for the success of project managers in engaging stakeholders toward transformation and change.

Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)

NLP is the study of how we know what we know. It is a methodology of replicating models of high performance in various fields of expertise. This means decoding the patterns of behavior, thinking, capabilities, skills, and other qualities that make someone—the model—excel in what he or she does, and then being able to replicate it (Collingwood & Collingwood, 2001).

While behavior economics provides the discourse of the “what” of decision making and behavior, Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) provides the “how.” NLP helps to design the interventions applying concepts of behavior economics and bringing theory to practice. NLP is a tool to create mental models.

Rapport and NLP

Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler developed NLP in the 1970s. They found that rapport is a key element of NLP. Rapport is not about liking or being liked, although that is the natural outcome of rapport. Rapport is about being able to engage another person's attention in order to achieve intended outcomes of a communication. Using NLP, a person can establish rapport with another person effectively, even without the advantage of time or familiarity. Often this is the case for project managers getting deployed with new teams and new stakeholders.

Principles of Human Decision Making: Lessons from Behavior Economics.

Rational thinking and traditional economics presuppose that we all process available information, weigh the costs and benefits to make choices, and look far into the future in considering all information for present and future benefits. Rarely is this the case. Decisions and behavior are typically driven by three principles of thinking: automatic thinking, social thinking, and mental models (World Bank, 2015).

  1. Thinking automatically is prevalent simply because it utilizes less energy and cognitive processing. While this means being efficient, it does not necessarily mean being effective. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman describes automatic thinking or System 1 thinking as fast and effortless relying on heuristics, associations and intuition, as opposed to System 2 thinking: slow, deliberate and statistical (Kahneman, 2011). Automatic thinking can produce erroneous or sub-optimal decisions. Short-term focus and lack of foresight into risks and consequences are examples of automatic thinking. Information, problems, and solutions are processed through narrow frames.
  2. Thinking socially presupposes that humans are inherently social beings and as such our choices and behavior are vulnerable to social influences, social norms, and preferences. We are pulled toward adopting socially dictated or accepted frames of reality, or even simply the mental frames of others that we accept. We are pulled to make decisions based on others’ expectations, and we are affected by what others think, do, and feel, whether imagined or real (World Bank, 2015).
  3. Thinking with mental models is about experiencing and perceiving reality based on cognitive frames. These mental models often are pre-existing, in different domains. There are mental models for managing projects, for driving change, as much as there are mental models for relationships, professionally versus personally. Stereotypes, culture, and beliefs are also examples of mental models (World Bank, 2015).

Mental Models and NLP

NLP is powerful in that it provides one with the skills of decoding, coding, and programming mental models. NLP provides a level of mental flexibility that most people would not normally have without the exposure and training of understanding modalities and sub-modalities that form mental models. Having this level of flexibility allows one to be able to influence other people's mental models, not only by decoding them but also by framing them. Framing mental models is one of the foundational elements of “Click with Ease,” specifically in engaging a mindset for collaboration. With NLP one is also able to effectively influence communication by detecting automatic and social thinking models and utilizing them to drive intended outcomes. This becomes essential in driving vision to action.

Transformational Conversation and Clean Language

Experience of reality differs from person to person depending on the frame in which it is perceived and processed. We represent experience in three ways that also indicate mental models: abstract, sensory, and symbolic. Abstract representation is more conceptual, such as atoms, molecules, space, and time—concepts that we cannot touch, taste, hear, or see. Sensory representation is based on our direct experience of the world based on our five senses; for example, hot or cold feel; salty or sweet taste; pungent or fragrant smell; loud or soft sound; gray, bright, or colorful sight; and so on. Symbolic representations are metaphorical expressions of how we experience the world. The future is bright; being on top of the world; bridging the gap between current and desired state; bringing people on the bus (for change); the project is in flight—are all metaphorical expressions. Changing or modifying the metaphor transforms not just the conversation but also the frame or mental model with which one experiences reality (Lawley & Tompkins, 2000).

By paying attention to the language a person uses to represent his or her experience of the world, we are able to match and lead the conversation. Rapport is established by talking in the same representation. However, for transformational conversation to happen, getting into the symbolic representation of one's world and exploring this with clean language has a psychodynamic effect. This means that change naturally happens by reframing one's representation of the world.

The power of clean language, especially clean questions, is precisely that: being able to reframe one's experience of the world by simply redefining how one represents it. For instance, Eskimos have at least 15 different words for snow, implying finer distinctions of the experience of snow than other populations. By simply asking “clean questions,” one would be able to “model the world” of the Eskimo and thus be able to have a different experience of snow. Snow will never be the same again, not because snow itself has changed but simply because of having developed finer distinctions of representation of snow.

Clean language was developed by David Grove, a psychotherapist, who discovered that there are six questions that have the most transformative effect for individuals, including the thousands with whom he has worked (Lawley & Tompkins, 2000). This is a very powerful tool in organizational transformation and change, which is one of the applications explored in the “Click with Ease” workshop.

Applications in Leading Projects and Change

Participants in the workshop will learn by doing and experience first-hand the applications of NLP, behavior economics, and principles of human decision making to create a useful cycle of communication, engage vision to action, and create a mindset for collaboration.

Tips and Traps: Vicious Versus Virtuous Cycles of Communication

“Click with Ease” allows participants to naturally establish rapport from the get-go. As a participant, you experience what it is like to create a positive cycle of communication with your stakeholders and sustain their attention. You will also become mindful of when the communication enters a vicious cycle and how to shift it to become a virtuous cycle.

Engaging Vision to Action

Bridging the gap between vision and action starts with asking the right questions. You will learn a very simple transformational question that is key to engaging people toward shared vision. This is based on years of research with thousands of case studies, drawn from the field of psychology and personal transformation and tested in the organizational setting. From there, you will then learn a few simple questions to develop well-formed outcomes that increase the chances of success of bringing strategies—and visions—to life!

Creating a Mindset for Collaboration

Experience for yourself the kind of mindset that will naturally encourage collaboration, and learn how you could activate it with others.

Collaboration is a critical success factor in implementing transformational projects, especially those that require cross-functional cooperation. For example, implementing new enterprise software requires input on business requirements from customer-facing frontline staff in sales, marketing, and customer service as well as back-office staff in finance, HR, accounting, procurement, IT, and so forth. Utilizing the output also requires orchestrating the change to minimize disruption and enhance seamless adoption across all functions.

Conclusion

Clicking with individuals, groups, and institutions is not simply about chance; it is also about choice—by influencing how others and we experience and perceive reality, and the behaviors as well as decisions that follow. Essentially “Click with Ease” is about establishing rapport and creating collaborative outcomes by influencing mental models with simple techniques of framing and using transformational questions that draw the mind's attention to direct action toward a desired vision.

Collingwood, J., & Collingwood, C. (2001). The NLP field guide: Part 1: A reference manual of practitioner level patterns. Sydney, Australia: Emergent Publications.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Lawley, J., & Tompkins, P. (2000). Metaphors in mind: Transformation through symbolic modelling. Highgate, London: The Developing Company Press.

World Bank (2015). World development report 2015: Mind, society, and behavior. Washington, DC: World Bank.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2015, Rona Puntawe Ptschelinzew
Originally published as a part of the 2015 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Orlando, Florida, USA

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