ILLUSTRATION BY KIRSTEN ULVE
PHOTO BY ALVAREZ / E+ / GETTY IMAGES
The Way Forward
PMI President and CEO Sunil Prashara and Caroline Das-Monfrais, chief strategy officer, EMEA, at FTI Consulting, discuss how project leaders can rebuild resilience with analytics.
TESTING THE LIMITS
In the throes of the pandemic, companies had to confront crisis and plan for uncertainty.
Prashara: A lot of organizations are reevaluating where they are. So talk to me a bit about what resilience means for organizations today in the light of the pandemic and in the light of so much disruption and transformation going on in the world.
Das-Monfrais: Our definition of resilience was risk versus preparedness. What we found was that the risks were changing on a daily basis. We found that the traditional linear model of risk assessments and then mitigating actions and things wasn’t working anymore. Our clients sometimes have very little time to make very important decisions.
You can’t really have a resilient organization if you don’t do scenario planning. You really need to have the people, the processes, the culture, the technology in place to be able to revisit those scenarios on a real-life basis. You also need to think about how you’re going to address some of the issues when they come up. It’s not just a case of flagging issues or identifying the risks. What are you going to do about it? How will you educate your stakeholders? How will you think about cause and consequence? And how will you then take action in the context of the world that is imperfect and very volatile?
What we’ve found is that data is at the core of a resilient mindset. You cannot have a resilient organization without data.
Prashara: One of the things that I found that was really important throughout all of this was people and the resilience of people. I’ve been amazed at how the PMI community has responded. How have you seen organizations respond when it comes to the people side?
Das-Monfrais: We need to recognize that leaders making decisions in these uncertain times are under a lot of pressure—and there is a human cost to that. What we find when we look at kind of the resilience piece is that the leaders who fared better than the others are those who have the suite of tools in place to support them—having that personal resilience and having data to make real-time decisions. So when something happens, they are prepared; they’re able to think about the bigger picture. And often there is no right or wrong answer. You just need to do what is best for your business based on what you know, and in those instances, the more you know, the better.
Prashara: At the end of the day, someone has to make a decision, and you really don’t know the unintended consequences and then you have to work through those as well. So I think the whole world found itself in a position—especially organizations and leadership—where there is no prescribed answer at the end of it. Even today, nobody really knows what the outcome is going to be. And whilst we talk about the new norm, when we talk about the new way of working, nobody has really figured it out right now because we’re still in that state of flux.
of G20 leaders believe consumer behavior will be permanently changed by COVID-19.
of companies now place a greater emphasis on unknown risks.
Source: Resilience Barometer, FTI Consulting, 2021
A NEW MODEL
Amid such extreme disruption and volatility, project leaders must build a resilient mindset for themselves—and their teams.
Prashara: If you have a skill set that’s relevant for the future, that will make you resilient. If your mindset is of a certain way, when you’re confronted by a terrible situation, resilience can manifest itself in the fact that you’ve experienced this type of situation before.
Das-Monfrais: A process can only take you so far. Data can only take you so far. AI can only enable decisions to a certain extent. At the end of the day, you need people. Human problem solving is the only thing that can really bring it together in a coherent way. It’s looking at the concept of personal resilience in terms of crisis management, in terms of the ability to work under pressure, the ability to lead teams, the ability to connect and think about the bigger impact—not just for the business, not just for revenues, not just for profits, but for the organization as a whole, its customers and the markets in which we operate.
You can’t really apply past models to predicting future performance. The organization that has that kind of element of resilience does a number of things. The first is creating a space for innovation, creating a space for a different type of thinking. Connecting that to existing functions and processes requires a certain type of leadership. You need the right people at the top to have a mindset like that— otherwise it doesn’t work.
Prashara: The common denominator here is people. Even though an organization may have aspirations on focusing on specific areas where it needs support to be more resilient and emerge out stronger, it’s still relying on people to make those changes happen. And that’s where PMI comes in, in helping turn ideas into reality—enabling individuals, ultimately, and then those individuals being relevant to organizations to make those changes happen.
Das-Monfrais: Project management is at a tipping point. Regardless of the dimensions of resilience, there is a role for project management that goes way beyond the traditional approach. Project management is no longer linear—it’s connected, it’s digital. It touches all the dimensions of resilience. We’re going to see new types of project management, new skills, supporting project management capabilities in organizations. Having this agile project management capability in a business is probably the best thing you can do if you want to have resilience in it.
PHOTO BY ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES
Recipe for Success
José Andrés, chef and founder, World Central Kitchen, on:
“The 21st century requires less planning and more adaptation. … Adaptation has much more face value today.”
“I’m only as good as the people around me. They have to look for their success. That equals my success.”
“Don’t be shy of big, bold ideas. This keeps you going. This keeps you motivated.”
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder, Reddit
“Real life doesn’t have a syllabus. The more a student can exercise the muscles of resilience the better.”
Part of building resilience—on projects and in the classroom—is pushing past failure.
“You’re taught to avoid failure at all costs as a student, to get good grades, but life is full of failures and setbacks. Get comfortable with failure—not because you’re not doing the work, but because struggling and disappointment and learning from it, that’s life.”
It also helps to have a team backing you.
“You can do a lot of it in isolation, but you’ll only get so far—you’ll get a lot further working together.”
MERRYMOONMARY / E+ / GETTY IMAGES
Making Change a Reality
Tanya Elizabeth Ken is no teen slacker. At 10, she wanted to be a cybersecurity architect. And by age 15, she was taking on the stark inequalities in education access by founding Lakshyashala Edutech. Here are some of her tips:
CO IN WITH GOOD INTENTIONS
“I believe that one good deed can start a ripple of change.”
GET IT DONE
“If people see something they feel is a problem and they think they can solve it, it’s important to take time out of your day to work toward solving this problem—irrespective of whether you still have your work to do. It’s important to take action right now, rather than pushing it for another time.”
MAKE IT MISSION CRITICAL
“One of the biggest challenges I faced was recruiting the team and managing the team. While recruiting the team, you need to make sure that the people who are coming forward to help you understand how the mission is going to impact the family. For example, our mission is equality in education, and our vision is to help bring families out of poverty. So we need to bridge the gap between our mission and the reality.”
SHOW THE IMPACT
“We had the opportunity to take the team to the [nongovernmental organizations] and see the problems they were facing firsthand. And I think this was what allowed them to visualize the impact our models can have on them. If the team members can visualize the end customer and how happy they can be, I think that is enough to ensure that they will be able to bridge the gap between the current realities and the projected goals for the company.”
TAKE OFF THE BLINDERS
Rana el Kaliouby, CEO and co-founder, Affectiva
Even in today’s tech-saturated society, project leaders must not ignore the sometimes-sticky ethical issues.
“Every conversation about technologies should consider, ‘Okay, what are the ethical implications? What are the unintended consequences?’”
“My biggest concern is not that robots are going to take over—it’s that we’re accidentally building in bias in unintended ways. It’s really important that as we design these new technologies, we ensure that the data is diverse. And we get there by having a diverse team. Because we each have blind spots.”
Miguel Mejicano, PMP, manager, finance costing methods, transportation and fulfillment processes, Canada Post, says there’s no magic formula for change.
But he says three elements can make or break a change effort:
- Resistance management
- Organizational support
- Strategic alignment
And what if there’s still opposition?
“We need to go deep into understanding resistors’ motives, because we can find from them useful insights that could also help lead change. Managing resistance can be a project by itself.”
CONNECTING THE DOTS
“There’s being stronger. There’s better technique. But as I progressed as a [tennis] coach, the one thing that stood out to help players win more matches was understanding the patterns of play.”
—Craig O’Shannessy, managing director, Brain Game Tennis
SOLSTOCK / E+ / GETTY IMAGES
THE ART OF MANAGING UP
Bruce Gay, PMP, senior program manager at UPMC Enterprises, shares
4 Ways to Win Over Execs During a Presentation
- Flip the Script
Begin with the conclusion and a recommendation. From there you move into the supporting details—analysis, additional data, background and history.
- Focus on the Decision
The presentation is a means to an end. You need to focus the information within your messaging to support the decision that you’re trying to have the executives make.
- Operation Persuade
Persuasion is the goal. It’s important you zero in on conclusions and provide those upfront. Then build up a logical framework that executives can follow, and make sure you can display all the information and data effectively for the executives to make a decision.
- Get to the Point
Executives are time pressured. As you conceive, design and deliver your message, it’s your job to deliver the information as quickly, clearly and flexibly as possible. When executives know you’re prepared, this greatly increases your chances of being able to return and present to them again.
COMPOSURE IN CRISIS
Wanda Curlee, PMP, PgMP, Pf MP, program director, business administration, American Public University System, on how leaders can guide teams through adversity:
In the face of coronavirus, project leaders must step up to manage expectations and guide their teams across finish lines that may be shifting. It’s a tall order—but it’s not impossible.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
As a leader, you must set an example. Setting an example means that you need to acknowledge the situation and demonstrate urgency while maintaining control over deadlines and team morale. Inside you might be overwhelmed—and that is all right. But be careful not to project those uncertainties.
WASAN PRUNGLAMPOO / ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS
Lean on the team to determine what needs to be done. Empowering team members will help them to feel like they have some control. Are there individuals who may need to work remotely before others? Do they have what is required to go remote? You, the leader, need to make sure that your team is taken care of.
THE POWER OF STORYTELLING
“Storytelling is a great way to create engaged and self-driven teams who identify with our response to challenges and change. Storytelling can give your people a clear and relatable understanding of the organization’s goals, benefits and shared vulnerabilities. Like every good story, it has a conflict, an enemy. Your organization needs to know what they are fighting for— and against.”
—Chiwuike Amaechi, PMP, principal subsea intervention engineer, Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Co.
LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
“You can think about a crisis as an unfreezing—an opportunity to reshape things, to create new language, new institutions and new ways of doing things.”
—Martin Reeves, chairman, Boston Consulting Group Henderson Institute
Billy Samuel Mwape, PMP, assistant information and communications technology manager at Development Bank of Zambia and TED@PMI speaker
When his son Lubuto was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Billy Samuel Mwape’s project management instincts took over. To encourage Lubuto’s neuroplasticity before he reached age 5, Mwape went all in on agile. Together with his wife, as well as a speech therapist, occupational therapist and physical therapist, he went on a five-year sprint: With persistent effort and courage, Lubuto has experienced remarkable progress in his independent movement, balance and coordination. Says Mwape: “We’ve been blown away by the amazing results we’ve witnessed as a result of this experimental methodology. And now we proudly call ourselves ‘agile parents.’”
And Mwape says he’s a better leader because of the experience. “My son is my role model for resilience leadership,” he says. “As a leader, I realized that I needed to expose him to the world. He needed to attempt to run. He needed to fail on his own, have some scars on his body and then pick up lessons from there on his own.”
Here are some other leadership tips he’s picked up along the way:
HE’S A FIRM BELIEVER IN THE SELF-MANAGING TEAM
When you micromanage people, what you do is you turn them into robots, and the time you will not be around, your team will never perform because they’re so used to you showing them what to do. And guess what? With AI, routine programming is no longer sensible for all of us. You need to allow people to grow on their own.
DEFINE YOUR REALITY
The first role for every leader is to define reality. And once you define reality, then you can come up with strategies on how you want to move your team forward or to execute the project. Right now, COVID-19 is our reality. It is a storm before us. And it calls for a leader who is decisive, highly adaptive and who’s ready to learn.
FAILURE HAPPENS–AND THAT’S OKAY
Every project leader should realize that failure is a natural part of progress. What’s important is how you pick up from that failure.
There’s usually this feeling of wanting to be correct all the time as a leader, but it’s a false feeling. You’re doomed for failure if you always think like that. You need to know that there are some things that you will not know, especially in uncertainties like this. So you really need to be transparent with your team.
FORGET THE ORG CHART
For us to cultivate the attitude of creativity, every leader should trust the people on their team. Know that leadership is not about titles. It’s about disposition more than the positions that we carry as project managers, project directors, project management office directors. We need to realize that in the synergies is where lies the magic of achieving big successes.
THE ARTOF UNLEARNING
Barry O’Reilly, author
“The leaders that power ahead are constantly cultivating these scenarios where they are getting outside their comfort zone.”
That means not just keeping up on all the latest trends.
“It’s not the ability to learn new things that’s the challenge. It’s actually the inability to unlearn existing mindsets and behaviors that were effective in the past but now maybe are limiting your success.”
How do leaders unlearn?
“It’s a process of letting go or reframing once-useful mindsets and acquired behaviors that were effective in the past but now limit our success. So, it’s not forgetting, removing or discarding your knowledge or experience; it’s the conscious act of letting go of outdated information and actively engaging and taking in new information to inform your decision making and action.”
“Trust provides a sense of safety. And when team members feel safe, they’re more productive—and more comfortable taking appropriate risks.”
—Dan Mircea Suciu, PMI-ACP, mathematics and computer science lecturer, Babes-Bolyai University
CUTTING THROUGH DISTRACTIONS
“I don’t have to tell anyone about information overload, with news about COVID and the thousands of pings and dings that distract us from our responsibilities each day. This means that many of us miss the information we need or want. As leaders, we need to spend some time making sure our message gets across and that we’re delivering it consistently, even if we’re repeating the same message.”
—Dave Wakeman, PMP,
principal, Wakeman Consulting Group
“Transformation efforts must come from within, and they are most powerful and sustainable if the people within the organization are nurtured, empowered and developed. A successful organization sets itself apart by transforming the employees together with the organization.”
—Emil Andersson, project manager, Brightline Initiative
THE GREAT SYNTHESIZERS
“We’re today looking to leaders to become kind of creators of common ground, the ones who synthesize all of these different tensions.”
—Deepa Prahalad, CEO, Anuvaa LLC
MIREXON / ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS
Bringing Out the Best in Remote Teams
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres, PMP, consultant, explains how to build productive and empowered virtual teams.
- Set ground rules and expectations with your team, and establish new ones or modify existing ones as needed.
- Establish a system of responsibility and accountability.
- Show empathy and compassion.
- Establish a virtual standup.
- Check in regularly—ask each of your team members how they’re doing. Let them know that you’re there to help if they need something and schedule one-on-one conversations as appropriate.
ILLUSTRATION BY KIRSTEN ULVE
At a moment of crisis, project leaders can inspire action.
Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America, helped create U.S. Digital Response, an initiative to recruit and pair volunteer tech experts and project managers with public agencies struggling to respond to the pandemic.
Charles Best, founder and CEO of DonorsChoose, led the organization’s pandemic pivot to launch a Keep Kids Learning pilot, helping ensure children in high-poverty areas had access to education materials and supplies—even at home. Here’s how these two leaders helped power meaningful change:
They each started with a clear mission—and then broke down any barrier that got in the way.
Pahlka: [The project is] really simple: It’s people with great skills who want to make government stronger, and people in government who can put those people to work, doing critical things that need doing, because they need to happen at far greater speed and far greater scale than they’ve had to in the past.
Best: It has been a major logistical challenge for us, figuring out how to change our system that has been hard-coded to only ship materials to a verified school address for the last 20 years, and pivot to be able to ship materials directly to a student’s home or a teacher’s home.
They appealed to people’s better angels.
Best: It might be you in need a half a year from now, so better stock up on some good karma while you have a bit to spare.
Pahlka: In times of crisis, a lot of the character of people in this country comes out and they want to help. I mean, 6,000 people saying I’ll work for free— for government? It’s been hard to get tech people to work for government for 10 years, and suddenly everyone wants to do it, and they don’t even want to get paid.
To come in and say, “I’m not here to tell you that you do things badly; I’m not here to say the system doesn’t work the way it should. I’m not here to lecture you. I’m here to do whatever is needed to help out—to hold the flashlight while you go down the well, so to speak.” It’s also the character of how people are showing up. It’s not just that they want to be altruistic. It’s that they’re seeing that we need systemic change.
They created an ecosystem of reality-based changemakers.
Best: The goal is to take all of the projects being funded on our site and channel them into something that could lead to systemic change. One example of that is by opening up all of the data from the classroom projects on our site so policymakers and government officials can listen to and hear what classroom teachers are trying to tell us. … And the dream is to influence billions of [U.S.] dollars of government education spending and enable the system to be more responsive to listen to the people who are closer to the front lines. We do think there’s power in drawing micro solutions from the front-line expertise of teachers who sometimes can be more innovative and creative than top-down solutions from the central office or the ivory tower.
Pahlka: I’ve spent the past 10 years trying to figure out how to get government to change in lots of ways. But I really feel like I’ve come to this learning authentically, and I believe in my bones that top-down is insufficient. When we make plans based on abstract ideas rather than the on-the-ground reality that you get from doing projects—from the insight about how things actually work—we don’t succeed.
REINVENT, REEMERGE—AND RISE UP
“It’s not often you get an opportunity to completely revamp what you do. We cannot ignore the situation we’re in. It would be a disservice to not emerge from this without thinking about better ways of working—of living.”
—Trevor Noah, comedian and host of The Daily Show
“The best organizations are full of people, at all levels, that have the courage to tackle tough topics.”
—Betsy Kauffman, PMI-ACP, PMP, leadership coach, Cross Impact Coaching
“The role of the project manager— or in my language, the facilitator—is to help create a psychological connective tissue. The biggest mistake we make in any type of gathering is we assume the purpose is obvious. Always start by stating the purpose of a meeting. And then connect people to the purpose—and to each other.”
—Priya Parker, author and host of Together Apart
“Never believe that someone is doing better than you. A lot of times we believe that someone else has the secret sauce or that they have the answer. We’re all navigating this space. We all have uncertainty. We all doubt whether or not our project—or the thing that we’ve been pouring our heart and soul into—will pay off; And, yes, seek the counsel, advice and knowledge of others, but never feel that your idea, your vision, your ability to adapt is less than the other persons.”
—Tamron Hall, talk show host
“We now know that things can change in an instant. Procrastination may result in objectives not getting met at all or a delay that may last months or years. The lesson here is to prioritize what’s important—and do it now. Good time-management practices show that handling something (like an email) once and making a decision on it right away is more effective than putting it aside or making a task list to deal with it later.”
—Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, PfMP, vice president/executive consultant, Strategy + PM
Project leaders should recognize they’re going to model what they want their staff to be: “So you better work on your own resilience, you better work on your own self-identity, you better work on your own capture of new knowledge, keeping yourself fresh.”
WESTEND61 / GETTY IMAGES
—Madelyn Blair, PhD, author, executive adviser, faculty at Columbia University’s information and knowledge strategy program
“Many people think an agile coach is more of a sports coach—running everything, telling everyone what to do. But that’s not true. The agile coach is that person who’s doing the teaching—teaching you to ride a bike, teaching you to drive a car. If after three or four years they’re still sitting next to you in your car, they probably were not very effective. The goal of an agile coach is to be able to step away and allow you to be proficient.”
—Mike Palladino, PMP, director, agile center of excellence, Bristol Myers Squibb
CULTIVATING NEXT-GEN LEADERS
Marcel Furmie, CAPM, CEO of Foodeo, on:
FINDING A PURPOSE
“Like a true millennial, I needed to work for purpose, not just a paycheck.”
Roughly 3 in 4 millennials and Gen Zers plan to take action to positively impact their communities, according to a 2020 Deloitte survey.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
“Passion for the cause is the one major thing that makes millennials or Gen Z workers choose your company over the next company. Chances are, if your company saves the puppies and gives the Gen Z worker a stable income, you have them hooked. And just as importantly, they will work harder because of it.”
Sixty percent of millennials and Gen Zers say their employers’ positive responses to the global pandemic make them want to stay with their employers longer, per Deloitte.
PHOTO BY SIMON HOFMANN/GETTY IMAGES FOR LAUREUS
Build a Strong Foundation
Nadia Comaneci was the first gymnast to earn a perfect score of 10.0 in the Olympics. What’s the takeaway for leaders of gymnastic enterprises?
“If you have a very strong and solid base to build on and have a little patience, you will get there the right way at the right time.”
SETTING A VISION
“Transformational leadership begins with a vision to innovate and create change. This is accomplished by setting an example of a strong and ethical organizational culture, with empathy and accountability. Transformational leaders focus on open communication. They engage and inspire positive change. They enable and empower teams by clear values, by outlining clear priorities and by giving them the freedom to interact so that they can deliver solutions. Transformational leaders challenge the process, and they encourage their teams to look at alternate ways of doing things.”
— Shobhna Raghupathy, PMP, president, Proficient Project Consulting
GUALTIERO BOFFI / EYEEM / GETTY IMAGES
A Winning Hand
Maria Konnikova, author and poker champion, on how leaders can conjure up their own straight flush:
- Be open-minded, be willing to admit that you don’t know everything, be willing to admit that you might be wrong, be curious, be willing to learn and to grow and to challenge yourself.
- It’s all about presence and mindfulness, learning to truly be in the moment and absorb all of the information the world is giving you.
- Learn how to take emotions out of the decision process so you can think logically and think rationally.
MAKING TRANSFORMATION PART OF THE DNA
To fuel true change leaders must be committed to creating an environment in which lasting results can take root:
“Rapid transformation doesn’t start at the organization level; it starts with the person within. I had to examine who I am, what I can deliver to other people and how can I drive change when the outcome is unknown.”
—Yvonne Lau, senior vice president, corporate development, Li & Fung Ltd.
“The whole team is more important than any one group. We are a team of equals. We’re in the same boat, and if we row together, we get there faster and more smoothly.”
—Dr. Clifford Wang, chair of the department of medicine, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
“Brand your rapid transformation program, because people will want to be a part of it. You’ll win hearts and minds, and people will want to get behind you. That alignment creates amazing efforts and results. Buy lots of pizza, plan on staying late and getting up early, but prepare to reap those benefits.”
—Vernon Irvin, chief revenue officer, Everbridge
AARON MCCOY / THE IMAGE BANK / GETTY IMAGES
NEW WAYS OF THINKING
Richard Furino, PMP, PgMP, program director, Microsoft, on:
BUILDING A HOLISTIC MINDSET
“Effective project management requires both an inquisitive and an analytical way of thinking, in terms of thinking about both the direct and indirect implications of everything that comes at you. Everything is interrelated—so as we think about the art and science of project management, we need to approach it from that perspective. Because what we’re trying to achieve is not the execution of planned tasks and activities. What we’re trying to achieve is an optimal outcome. And the only way to do that is to think about projects holistically.”
“Think about it from a perspective of embedding risk management into all of our thinking. Risk management is not a discrete activity, but something that needs to permeate every aspect of how we manage projects.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown project timelines and budgets into extreme chaos. Project leaders can communicate more effectively with the global team by planning shorter but more frequent meetings. Tasks and milestone assignments can be reviewed quickly, assigned or reassigned, as well as updated and forecasted to ensure that the entire team is not only in lockstep daily and weekly but is also prepared for the extended lead-time durations, project timeline baselines and changing budgets.”
—Marat Oyvetsky, PMP, service delivery manager, Proofpoint
PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST
“Servant leadership is not fluffy stuff. As a leader you’re removing barriers for your employees, and that way they’re able to better serve customers. You’re putting people first. It doesn’t mean that your employees and your product team members are doing whatever they want to do. In servant leadership, you’re meeting the legitimate needs—and not the wants—of people. There’s accountability and there’s a lot of high standards that are achieved, and there’s also greater customer service. Are you an adder or are you a subtractor? Do you add to people’s lives or are you someone that just always takes away? The only way we can get things done, in our projects or programs, is if you’re adding to people. That’s how servant leadership gets us there.”
—Wale Elegbede, PMP, director of strategy management services, Mayo Clinic
PHOTO BY TESS THOMAS FOR MALALA FUND
Cultivating Women Leaders
Remya Saseendran, senior project manager, DXC Technology, shares how companies can help eliminate long-standing gender inequalities—and get more women to the top of the org chart.
What mistakes are organizations making?
While opportunities do exist, how much is done to attain and retain talent in terms of convenience and flexibility is still a question. We do have organizations that have full-fledged flexibility. But is it happening everywhere? No. There could be client restrictions. There could be infrastructure restrictions. But all in all, we know that supportive environments are needed to have women thrive.
How can that change?
There has to be a culture that promotes gender equality. Many times, culture is what controls the conditions.
Which tangible steps work best?
Organizations should encourage women leaders as flag-bearers of key initiatives—so that more women join us. We need to have that role model, that kind of mentoring, in every organization so that existing women leaders can help other women who have problems and are unable to come up, nurture them and get them up to speed.
Source: McKinsey and Co., 2020
Dare to Dream
Malala Yousafzai, founder, Malala Fund
Activist. Inspiration. Survivor of an assassination attempt by gunmen in her native Pakistan at age 15 for having the audacity to seek an education. Malala Yousafzai could have easily given up the fight. Instead, she founded the Malala Fund from her new home in the U.K. The group’s first project, which sent 40 girls ages 5 to 12 back to school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley region, earned a slot on PMI’s list of the Most Influential Projects of the past 50 years. Now 23, she’s an icon—a bestselling author, the subject of an award-winning documentary and the youngest ever Nobel laureate. What motivates her as a leader?
ACCESS FOR ALL
“My dream is that we have a world where every girl can have access to their education.”
POSITIVE SOCIAL IMPACT
“We are inheriting this world, and we don’t want it the way it is. We want it to be better for all of us. We want it to be equal for all of us. We want it to be peaceful and cleaner for all of us.”
“When you invest in girls, it improves economies, it creates more jobs, it creates more opportunities, and it brings more peace.”
PHOTO BY HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Leadership Modeling Pandemic Style
Vince Molinaro, PhD
Kit Krugman, head of organization and culture design at Co:collective, and Vince Molinaro, PhD, CEO and founder of Leadership Contract, on what we can learn about crisis management from the way New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have handled the pandemic:
Krugman: One of the characteristics and attributes of what we’ve been seeing from women taking on those leadership and authority positions is decisiveness. Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand—obviously, incredibly decisive with a lockdown very early.
Molinaro: There is fierce resolve. There is decisiveness. There’s this determination coupled with the sense of relating to what others are going through—that empathy—that really seems to speak to people at this moment in time.
Krugman: Very human and very empathetic—in terms of really trying to be in the experience with her people, bringing her whole authentic self to that.
Angela Merkel is another example of someone who really was doing some great leadership modeling, saying, “I am taking this seriously and, therefore, you should too—and here’s why.” I think leadership modeling is one of the single most influential and important things that a leader can do in terms of asking others to behave in a certain way.
Molinaro: At a time of crisis, like the time we’re facing now as human beings, we naturally look to our leaders. And so that modeling that you speak of is really, really critical. It’s exciting to see just great leadership—full stop. And the fact that it happens to be a lot of women in political roles or political leaders, running our countries, is no coincidence. It’s great to see that playing out, and there’s lots to learn from what they’re doing. It’s just great to see how they’re managing the complexity of our times.
Katie Sowers, former offensive assistant coach for American football team the San Francisco 49ers—and the first woman and the first openly gay coach to appear in a National Football League Super Bowl—on:
“What gets me up in the morning is knowing that some young girl, like me, will see this as an opportunity. There is a future, and it makes their life more meaningful.”
PUSHING FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
“No matter what we do, if we don’t have a ‘why,’ we’re not going to be the best version of ourselves. … My ‘why’ is breaking those invisible barriers that we set up based on what people look like, the color of their skin, their gender; we put invisible barriers around people that really limit people.”
JOEL SANTOS / BARCROFT MEDIA VIA GETTY IMAGES
Lessons Learned From Mongolian Nomads
After studying abroad in places like Japan, China, Germany and Sweden, TED@PMI speaker Khulan Batkhuyag returned to her native Mongolia at 21 and began to explore the lives of the country’s nomads. It changed her life—and how she approaches managing teams.
CONSIDER THE GREATER GOOD
Before I met them, I assumed that Mongolian nomads were hospitable out of kindness, like anybody else. But then I realized it was more than that. It was about surviving as a community. … This really touched my heart, because I feel like we humans are becoming more and more selfish.
MAKE GENERATIONAL INVESTMENTS
They believe that there’s no point in building anything that destroys nature or in being greedy for materialistic things when your life expectancy is only less than 100 years. Instead, they invest in tradition, heritage, history—and pass it from generation to generation. This ancient nomadic philosophy made me realize that I should think bigger and further than my own convenience and comfort.
HEED A CALL TO ACTION
Every time I came back to the city, I looked for ways to live more minimally. I digitalized all of my company’s paper procedures. … I downsized my apartment, reduced my carbon footprint and picked up a habit to rethink my actions, like purchasing, choosing transportation, and many other lifestyle choices at home and work. And most importantly, I stopped working on fast-moving consumer-goods marketing projects and now work with organizations that promote sustainability.
We have to ask ourselves: Why do we keep on following the same blueprint when we know it causes harm to the world? We’ve all experienced the consequences of our choices over the past eight months. So doing right by Mother Nature and focusing on earth-friendly, zero-waste habits is not an option anymore. And who knows the key ingredients better than our ancestors—the ones who survived without the media or technology but with wisdom alone?
We’re living in a media-driven world where events are exaggerated or under-explained, and there’s a thin line between the truth and how it is being described. So as project leaders—the real doers—it’s our responsibility to be honest with the society. If there are downsides and improvements need to be done, then be open and honest about it. Share it to your community and ask for their opinion. Your honesty will encourage your community’s creative thinking.
UNLOCKING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
“Leadership is built up on the pillars of emotional intelligence. And a lot of people don’t know that emotional intelligence actually has two pillars. The left one is the one that we need to master first. We need to learn to understand ourselves, not just the way we are and the way we react when we are in our happy place, but also how that changes when we go into distress or we’re in conflict, because then suddenly we start acting out of character.
When we have recognized how that happens in ourselves, and we have learned to recognize the early signals, we can then suddenly control ourselves, but it will also help us with the other pillar. And that is working with others, because we will learn to recognize these kinds of symptoms when somebody starts acting under stress or going into conflict and suddenly starts reacting differently. And we can quickly pull them aside and find out what is going on. That’s what emotional intelligence is all about.”
—Stephanie Jaeger, PMP, program manager and process specialist, Synergetic Energy Partners Co. Ltd.
SOCIAL SUPER GLUE
“You are responsible, as someone who is leading or managing a team, for creating a context in which people can be happy. So when we’re talking about culture, we’re looking at this emotional health piece, and really, do your people feel good about coming to work.”
—Kris Boesch, founder and CEO Choose People
UTA NEUMANN / EYEEM / GETTY IMAGES
Christopher DiBella, CEO, Three Sixty Integration, explains how leaders can show they understand—and build a better team in the process.
“We have this instinct as humans to think we can immediately solve everybody’s problems. But that’s not the case with empathy.”
- Being fully present with others.
- Mastering the art of active listening.
- Tuning in to nonverbal communication.
- Asking questions.
Empathy is not:
- Being sorry that somebody else is in pain.
- Simply agreeing with someone.
- Taking on someone else’s burden.
THE BIG 3
- Cognitive empathy. “You’re putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, but you’re only giving them empathy by thought, rather than by feeling.”
- Emotional empathy. “It’s an emotional contagion—feeling another person’s emotions alongside them.”
- Compassionate empathy. “It provides space for mutuality. Dialogue and reciprocation are possible because you want to know what they’re actually going through.”
“Empathy improves collaboration among teams and throughout the entire organization. It creates open dialogue and more cultural awareness. But the biggest benefit of empathy is that it makes you feel good.”
HUMILITY AMID UNCERTAINTY
“We need leaders with a big heart—decision makers who will take risks and … who will be humble, who will accept the advice of others in order to manage the new normal.”
—Fabiola Maisonnier, PMP, change and commercialization manager, Schlumberger
READY, SET, ENGAGE
“When you talk about really engaging, the very most important thing is showing up as a human being.”
—Karin Hurt, CEO, Let’s Grow Leaders
ILLUSTRATION BY KIRSTEN ULVE
Cultivating Your Bull****
Dinae Knox, PMP, author, TED@PMI speaker and manager of program business management at Collins Aerospace
In the first six months of a new job, Dinae Knox had five meetings with HR over workplace conflicts. And when her manager declared, “You have to take some responsibility for your actions,” Knox knew that left her with two options: look for a new job or confront the reality of her behavior. Here’s how Knox—who overcame childhood abuse and neglect to become a first-generation college graduate and then a wife, mother and founder of a non-profit—executed on a mission to confront her ego.
*Editor’s note: Knox doesn’t shy away from mature language.
SHE TOOK TIME TO REFLECT
“The side effects of over 14 years in foster care without any effective therapy had caught up with me right at the crossroads of my ego and career ambitions. The collection of all of those experiences, you might say, depleted my soil. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that depletion did something strange. It actually caused my ego to blow way out of proportion because it enabled an ingrained victimization self-pity mindset.”
SHE SEARCHED FOR RESOLUTION
“I interpreted what my manager said as, ‘Dinae, you need to get all of your shit together and practice some emotional intelligence.’ That’s when I realized that the shit life throws at you, drops on your head, allows you to step in, can be life’s way of preparing you for your best job ever. … Besides, manure can produce all types of dope shit, like mashed potatoes and collard greens, sweet potato pies and cornbread, TED Talks, solutions to third-world countries—and an emotional, healthy, best you. But in order to start fertilizing, I had to shift my mindset: Instead of asking, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I asked, ‘Why is this happening for me?’”
SHE CREATED AN EGO CHECKLIST
“Bring any recent conflict to memory. Take one sheet of paper and list out all of your tendencies. Yes, it’s time to call yourself out. Don’t ask: ‘Is there something wrong with me?’ The answer is yes. For me, I allowed myself to reflect on my responses and the perceptions others had of me. And I got real with myself, like, ‘Dinae, you can be overbearing, arrogant, impatient, argumentative and aggressive.”
SHE ANALYZED INTENT VERSUS PERCEPTION
“When I did this, I was able to acknowledge that I wasn’t always a great collaborator, that sometimes I wore my emotions on my sleeve and I was more transactional in business than relational.”
SHE DEVELOPED A HOLISTIC PLAN FOR CHANGE
“I checked my ego, became desperate to turn things around at work, incorporated my spiritual network, retained a therapist and executed. Two weeks later, I had a different meeting with my manager that did not include HR and ended with, ‘I liked this Dinae.’ Was I an overnight success? Absolutely not. Was I cultivating my bullshit? Absolutely. I was publicly apologetic and determined to become my #BestDinaeEver”
PHOTO BY THOMAS IMO/PHOTOTHEK VIA GETTY IMAGES
Mim cashew processing company in Mim, Ghana
EMPOWERING EMERGING ENTREPRENEURS
Sangu Delle, CEO, Africa Health Holdings Ltd.
“The Africa I know is one of extraordinary creativity, incredible innovation. Yes, there are some struggles in certain places with poverty and with development and with infrastructure, but there are also lots of incredible opportunities going on. We need to empower entrepreneurs to go out there and create the businesses of the future that will create jobs.”
WHAT’S THE SECRET?
“Some of the most successful entrepreneurs I met were able to do extraordinary things because they had a very keen understanding of humans, and they had an ability to connect to people. Making futures is not just the making of entrepreneurs but also the making of entrepreneurial Africa. You cant speak about entrepreneurship in Africa without speaking about African women. Who lives in your head? The characters who live in our heads are often men. The way we cover and talk about entrepreneurs, there’s almost an embedded genderedness to it.”
SURRENDER, THEN STIMULATE
“You are not in control. Get used to it. What you need to do as a leader is not try and control people but engage them.”
—Penny Pullan, PMP, founder, Making Projects Work Ltd.
LET OTHERS HAVE THE FUN
“Leadership is a lot to do with stepping back, and leadership has a lot to do with doing the less fun things, frankly. It’s strange to say that, but setting an ambition and letting people then fill in that space, having trust in that—that to me is more leadership.”
—Mac Glovinsky, global program manager, UNICEF
“Personally, what kept me going on the hardest days was my support system. Everyone should have a support system in whatever they are doing—to lean on when you are facing the unexpected or having a hard day. Whether it is your family, colleagues, friends, etc., I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
—Laurie Hernandez, Olympic gymnast