Chapter 3 Meaningfulness and High Performance – Project Management and Leadership Challenges, Volume III

Chapter 3

Meaningfulness and High Performance


Advancement and survival of organizations in increasing business complexity demand project teams not just to perform for a short burst of time but to reach the peak and stay there.

Managing high performance starts from clarity about three things: who the team members are, what they desire, and how they intend to perform and interact with other people; induce energy through meaningfulness, training, and discipline; and focus on desired outcomes.

Internal competition within a team is a silent killer of team mindset and needs to be avoided. The importance of each team member must be realized for the alignment of personal values with that of the organization and for connecting with organizational culture.

Empowering to fail is a policy to enhance creativity and innovation at the workplace for desired results.


What considerations must be kept in mind when inducting a team member for project management approach, which helps result-driven management and to create a work environment to support high performance?

What qualities are required to manage team conflicts and relationship, adapt the right leadership style, and make use of intuitive abilities?

Does a team’s potential peak performance possible without managing people-side risk, maintaining work-life balance, developing a winning mindset, and effectively avoiding internal competition?

Peak performance demands every team member to be well aligned with organizational culture, which comes through connectivity, engagement, and meaningfulness; how to achieve this at the workplace and set the team on continuous improvement?

“Creativity and innovation” is the backbone of continuous improvement; how does project management help empowering teams to fail?

Intuition is a gift from nature and a proven strong sense to take advantage of it in decision-making and how to move on.

The following are discussed for creating support for a high-performing team:

  • People-Side Risks
  • Work–Life Balance and Internal Competition in Team
  • Meaningfulness and Connecting with Organizational Culture
  • Empowering to Fail: Team Creativity and Innovation

High performance is hinged on the connection with organizational culture that follows engagement and meaningfulness. During the induction of a team member, it is critical to check the readiness of the member in order to have a high-performing team and develop a winning mindset.

Advancements on project implementation depend on a winning mindset developed in teams in order to make progress. The supporting elements are as follows:

  • Strategic thinking—prioritizing work in accordance with how to most add value. Avoid getting driven by what is urgent, not what is important: a tendency to keep busy without having a measure of precisely how adding value and driven by pressure that may be seen as busy.
  • Doing versus managing—micro-manage, avoid getting too much into process detail, empower teams by pushing away solutions and drawing solutions out of the team. See how to add real value by working more extensively through team. Mere delegation is not enough.
  • Stifling innovation—do not punish the team for mistakes and proactively cultivate a culture of creative thinking and learning from mistakes.
  • Customer focus—manage contact with external customers, avoid the tendency to fight internal customers, and genuinely seek to understand the needs of stakeholders to help them.
  • Listening skills—in addition to fair passive listening skills, make an effort to ask the sorts of questions (active listening) that create full dialog, leading to real understanding of the other party’s issues, concerns, or views.
  • Time management—prioritize and proactively take advantage of the 80–29 rule. Do not take on too much to create shared ownership, and do not be too reactive.
  • Diplomacy and political skills—communicate in an open, direct manner with sufficient emotional intelligence to see the impact.
  • Flexibility—either find another way of doing things or just have too strong a need to be right.
  • Developing others—giving team members challenging tasks on a sink-or-swim basis with genuine coaching.
  • Influencing skills—using comfortable style of influence; forcefully presenting a logical, factual argument with a win–win mentality. Every effort to ask the sorts of questions that would facilitate genuine dialog and smooth out relation.
  • Conflict resolution—focus on areas of agreement, leading the other party to think their whole viewpoint is being accepted. This escalates the emotional temperature of the debate and helps emphasize agreement for common ground.
  • Learning from mistakes—understand others’ circumstances whenever something goes wrong and learn from own mistakes.
  • Managing change—help human factors and communicate, putting enough emphasis on two-way dialog or genuine involvement of others in planning the way ahead.
  • Relationship building—proactive networking; set aside the time to get close to key stakeholders and influence on an as-needed basis.

Winning Mindset

The following factors help team development for reaching desired outcomes in project/program implementation.

  • Self-leadership
  • Vision
  • Resilience
  • Trust: competent, caring, connected (3Cs)
  • Inspiration: the inner drive constantly provides a special aura, which helps to influence others to strive toward goals
  • Communication: dual ability of impressing viewpoints yet respecting the diverse perspectives of others
  • Role model: people willingly put their faith in someone who practices what they preach, compared to those who only pay lip service
  • Self-discipline: prioritizing, making sacrifices, doing the right thing versus doing things right, and most importantly, learning to say no to the good in order to say yes to the best
  • Regular development: collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved through dedication, practice, and ongoing learning
  • Legacy: requires personal humility and professional skills. Few reach the level because of the paradoxical nature of the two traits, but those who do, leave a legacy for others to aspire to
  • Every member is more productive in a personal capacity or with a team to advance to a defined direction and achieves desired results to progress. Effectiveness is measured by:
  • Results achieved
  • Effectiveness of team developed and morale maintained
  • Contribution to organizational culture
  • Competence enhancement of team and organization

3.1 Managing the People Side of Risk

Project management takes the managing risk quite seriously, to better avoid the kinds of crises that destroy value, ruin reputations, and even bring a company down. Especially in the wake of intense competition and global financial crisis, focus has been placed on thorough risk-related processes and oversight structures in order to detect and correct safety breaches, operational errors, and overleveraging long before they become full-blown disasters.

Measuring People Risk

The team you hire will make or break your business. Fortunately, there is now a tool to help analyze this critical risk on a global scale.

People are the backbone and personality of a business—a showcase of your organization’s talent, education, experience, and success. But people are also a key source of risk. Because risk management is the fundamental driver to sustainable success, understanding the various risks associated with your team strength must be a top priority for business leaders and policymakers.

Access to a systematic and consistent method of assessing people risk would be an invaluable tool in any human resources (HR) strategy and policy planning. But such a tool had not existed until now. The Aon Consulting People Risk Index™ (PRI) is the first and only comprehensive undertaking that analyzes people risk at the global level. Designed to facilitate a quick yet thorough understanding of comparative people risk by location, PRI helps business leaders identify sources of people risk in order to improve their overall risk management strategy.

The Starting Point

The process of assessing people risk begins with a few simple questions: (1) What are the main sources of people risk? (2) What are the levels of people risk at different locations of operation? (3) What can businesses do to mitigate people risk?

It’s important to keep in mind that risk associated with staff occurs at every stage of a team member’s life cycle.


Risks associated with hiring decisions include:

  • Not finding qualified candidates
  • Hiring people who do not fit the organization’s culture
  • Hiring people who do not have relevant experience or capabilities

Risks associated with employing people include:

  • Losing people the company wants to keep
  • Paying too much or too little, or for the wrong things
  • Creating employment rigidities that stifle the business

Risks associated with redeploying or letting people go include:

  • Moving people into new jobs, new organizations, or new locations
  • Layoffs, terminations, or organization restructuring
  • Incurring costs after people are gone

Some risks are created by a company’s policies and practices while others are related to the operating location. The risk of failing to attract qualified candidates, for example, is both an operational and a location risk. An organization’s poor hiring practices may create the risk. Perhaps it does not have an effective means of identifying and selecting candidates. By putting in place effective recruitment policies and procedures, a business can overcome the risk—but only when qualified candidates are available in the location where the organization is operating. The risk persists despite the best hiring policies and practices when qualified candidates simply are unavailable in a given market.

Although understanding risk associated with both operation and location is critical to business success, quantifying and comparing people risk by location must be the first step toward successfully managing the risk. Global corporate HR policies and practices need to take into account the local conditions and risks in each location where an organization operates. While this is wellunderstood by globally experienced HR practitioners, assessing the risks associated with people is often ad hoc, subjective, and non-quantifiable. The result may be a confusion of the underlying and full business risk of operating in a given location.

People Risk

The risk associated with a location affects both the profile of the workforce and the business results of companies operating in that location. Plus, the source of the risk can be either at a macro-level, thus affecting everyone in that location, or at a micro-level and affect specific types of business operations.

  • Environment: Examines risk factors associated with labor supply, economy, and society.
  • Government Support: Analyzes risk factors related to government policies and practice, which can either help or hinder the management of people in that location.
  • Education Levels: Measures risks associated with finding qualified professionals in a specific location.
  • Talent Development: Examines risk factors related to the quality and availability of recruiting and training resources.
  • Employment Practices: Measures risk factors associated with employing people in a given location.

3.2 Work Life Balance and Internal Competition in Team

Do not let challenges in project management consume you completely. Focusing on issues 100 percent of every waking hour may ruin your life and damage relationships, productivity, and capability for innovation.

This is especially true for married professionals. While your family likely depends on your success, they also need to be able to spend quality time with you. The worst position for a professional to be in is things are tough at the office and there is a lack of support at home because the spouse feels detached from your professional life and their concerns remain unappreciated.

When your relationship gets to the point that it feels more like roommates and less like a married couple, you are in trouble. Your home should be a place of safety and support so you can go out and work even harder the next day. There must be a point where you put the smart phone down, spend some time together as a couple, refocus, and re-energize for tomorrow.

How to Maintain Work–Life Balance?

Here are two tips every professional should aim to integrate into their schedules:

Schedule Hours Off

Most professionals do something with their business on a daily basis. Weekdays, weekends, holidays, birthdays, you name it—you are likely to be at least taking a call or answering an email.

That’s fine and necessary for you to grow.

But you have to schedule some quiet alone time with yourself and your family. Even if you can’t have a set period of time every day, try to set aside an hour or two every few days at the same time. It could be as simple as when you come home, you turn your phone off from 5:30 to 7:00pm. The calls and emails can wait while you focus on your family, and you pick up the pace after a quiet dinner.

Schedule Days Off

When you have integrated a set period of hours off for most days, set up your schedule to take a set day off every few weeks. You could take every other Saturday to kick back and relax.

The Key to Work–Life Balance: Start at the Beginning

When your schedule is ingrained into your life to the point that you have habits, it is much more difficult to succeed in transitioning with having a work–life balance. Change is difficult and habits are hard to break.

To counteract this, build your work–life balance into your schedule before you start your next venture. To the budding professional, it seems backward to be taking time off when you’ve got the energy, drive, and interest to keep pushing through on a business issue. But will you have the energy next month? Next quarter? Next year? Don’t trade next year’s energy to push through difficult times for today’s small issues.

Internal Competition in Team

Types of Competition

Competition typically is thought of as a negative term, which leads to hostility, negative attitudes, and a “winner-takes-all” mentality. However, contrary to popular belief, there are two types of competition: positive and negative. Therefore, it is critical for businesses and project managers to recognize the differences between the two types of competition and learn how to foster positive competition while reducing or eliminating negative competition.

Before explaining the differences between positive and negative competition, it is important to understand what competition is.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, competition is the act of competing, or an effort of two or more independent parties to achieve a desired result.

In a project team situation, internal competition can take one of three forms:

  • An individual team member competing against another individual team member
  • An individual team member competing against the entire team
  • An entire team competing against another project team within the same organization

The desirable form of competition is often referred to as positive, healthy, or cooperative competition. As the name suggests, positive competition promotes an “everyone-wins” attitude, where team members work collectively toward a common goal and the reward is communal. In positive competition, individual team members can also compete to improve their own placement within the team, but in a cooperative manner in which there is mutual respect and pleasant interactions that do not jeopardize other team members.

The undesirable form of competition is commonly referred to as negative, unhealthy, or destructive competition. This form of competition is similar to a zero-sum game, in which the success of one independent party depends entirely on the failure of the other involved party. This type of competition seeks to benefit one party while damaging the other, which promotes fear, hostility, anger, and decreased respect and teamwork.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Since there are two distinct forms of competition, it is easy to see how each type leads to either advantages or disadvantages for a project team.

The advantages of encouraging positive competition among team members greatly enhance the likelihood that a project team is successful. These benefits include increased productivity resulting from cooperative teamwork and mutual efforts. Additionally, a team can expect to produce higher quality output because positive competition often results in increased motivation, innovation, and creativity necessary to improve processes and results. Finally, positive competition fosters a sense of respect, care, consideration, and empathy toward all team members, which leads to a team-oriented mindset.

When a project team experiences negative competition, there are many disadvantages that greatly jeopardize a team’s ability to successfully grow and produce desirable results. First, negative competition fosters hostility, anger, and pessimism, which leads to increased instances of stress and physical ailments. Unhealthy competition also negatively influences a team’s morale and team-based spirit, therefore negatively affecting productivity, teamwork, and cooperation. Furthermore, this type of competition fosters feelings of suspicion and lack of trust among members, which leads to the development of rivals, decreased productive energy, and potential violations of ethical standards.

Ways to Encourage Positive Competition

It is evident that positive competition is desired among project teams and within organizations. Therefore, the following guidelines are used to ensure a project team or company encourages positive competition while simultaneously discouraging and possibly eliminating negative competition.

  • Recognize individual achievements and demonstrate how others can benefit from implementing the same actions to achieve similar successes, which benefit overall team success.
  • Implement a mentorship or buddy program that enables team members to learn from peers in a positive and cooperative manner.
  • Try to refer to competition in terms of the big picture and end-project results, rather than solely in terms of individual achievements and successes.
  • Reward team members for team achievements and keep individual rewards compared to others to zero. Organize competitions that encourage individuals to compete with their own past performance and results, rather than trying to surpass other team members’ results.

Avoid Internal Competition

The right place for competition is the marketplace, and the wrong place is the workplace. Put simply, the same behavior that can create value externally can cost a company big time internally. Competition is like ozone. Ozone benefits us by reducing the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays outside Earth’s atmosphere. But inside the atmosphere, ozone wreaks havoc by creating air pollution and damaging our lungs. Similarly, competition damages our businesses when it manifests internally and with business partners. So, when it comes to competition, the trick is to avoid confusing outside with inside.

This means leaders must understand when and how to morph from competitors to collaborators. Bringing to market better, faster, thinner, greener products involves competition. But the second we begin competing with team members and business partners, we lose value. Consider this scenario. Your company’s flagship product is suddenly under siege, because a venture-backed start-up with disruptive technology has just signed deals with two of your largest customers. Sales, marketing, and engineering come together for a whiteboard strategy session.

The immediate objective is to stop the customer defections. Should there be competition in this situation? Absolutely. The company’s survival is at stake! But competition must be externally focused. The blame game—it’s exactly this sort of crisis that breeds internal competition.

Many team members focus on which function, team, or person deserves blame. Some star players struggle to appear like they’ve saved the day. Jostling for position, finger pointing at another function or department, and developing solutions without engaging key stakeholders are manifestations of internal competition. They distract our companies from the business at hand, compromise agility, and reduce value.

The more effective response is to collaboratively develop solutions. Despite the hit to the balance sheet, many companies foster and encourage internal competition in the mistaken belief that all competition is good competition and that the cream rises to the top. For these companies, competing with colleagues is ingrained in organizational culture. Worse yet, competition is often institutionalized in company procedures.

Some companies embrace a star culture in which individuals are recognized and rewarded for achieving more than their colleagues. Some companies compensate and promote managers only for their own accomplishments rather than for developing the abilities of team members.

Still, some “rank and yank” team members and regularly eliminate the bottom-performing 5 percent of the workforce. These practices pit team players against one another and force team members to spend more time, energy, and focus competing with colleagues. What’s lost is the motivation to work collaboratively in innovating processes, retaining and acquiring customers, and developing products and services.

Reducing Internal Competition: Internal competition is a double whammy. First, it compromises value by distracting the workforce and forcing people to focus on the wrong things. To compound that loss of value, internal competition also prevents companies from creating value through collaboration. Perhaps the most significant way that internal competition derails collaboration involves trust. How can you trust one another when you’re competing in a dog-eat-dog culture? Instead of trust, fear prevails. The internal competition short circuits collaboration and involves information hoarding. Achieving results within an internally competitive culture requires an “it’s my stuff” attitude about data and information. This attitude complicates collaboration, because collaboration requires sharing. Figure 3.1 shows how to reduce internal competition.

  • Reward information sharing: Reward team members when they share data and information; clarify there is no competition among team members. They need to know how to collaborate. Educate your workforce to compete in personal habits, skills, attitude, and integrity; tell them that work competition belongs to the marketplace rather than in the workplace.

Sharing data and information internally creates value by harnessing resources across the organization. Sales and marketing teams avoid redundant client contacts, and product development teams avoid duplication of efforts. Therefore, annual salary reviews should include an evaluation of how team members share data and information to create organizational value.

  • Avoid pitting against each other: Some companies create internal competition by giving two or more team members the same assignment and rewarding the person who does the best work. Wrong approach; instead, harness complementary skills by encouraging cross-functional teams to meet challenges.
  • Recognize broad input: Successful collaborative organizations create value by recognizing leaders for gaining broad input into decisions. When leaders make decisions in a vacuum, the organization suffers. Worse yet, some managers make shoot-from-the-hip decisions without analyzing adequate data and information and without input from others. The organization benefits when people participate in decisions regardless of level, role, or region.
  • Change conversation: Language is a powerful component of organizational culture. A leader encourages teams to change the conversation and embrace collaborative language. In a collaborative organization, you hear language like “Let’s get input from sales” or “We make a better decision when we engage finance to run the numbers” or “Let’s connect now with corporate communications to see how different approaches to solving this problem will affect our reputation.”

Mismanagement Impacts

Internal competition may impact collaboration, which is the basis for bringing together the knowledge, experience, and skills of multiple team members to contribute to the development of a new service or product more effectively than an individual team member. It denies involving a commitment to a shared goals and an interdependence that comes from understanding what is accomplished together is greater than what may be accomplished individually.

The Teamwork Impacts

  • Interdependence and trust between members is widely appreciated in all types of organizations throughout the world—with good reason. High-performing work teams have an advantage over the work of individuals because each member may offer new ideas, talent, and viewpoints. In addition, high-performing work teams predictably execute strategy, meet goals, and need little management oversight because they are empowered and responsible for their functional activity and accountable for performance.
  • The use of teams has expanded dramatically in response to competitive challenges and technological changes. Team structures allow for the application of multiple skills, judgments, and experiences that are most appropriate for projects requiring diverse expertise and problem-solving skills. Teams execute more quickly, make better decisions, solve more complex problems, and do more to enhance creativity and build skills than an individual. Their use also increases productivity and morale; well-functioning teams can outperform individuals and even other types of working groups. Two heads are better than one.
  • A team of individuals bring complementary skills and experience that exceed the abilities of any single individual. Teams support real-time problem solving and are more flexible and responsive to changing demands and provide a unique social dimension that enhances the economic and administrative aspects of work.
  • High-performing teams are synergistic social entities that work toward the achievement of a common goal—in the short term and long term. They often exemplify a total commitment to the work and to one another. Team members do better work when their roles are clear: They know how to do their jobs and why they are doing them. Each member must understand and support the meaning and value of the team’s mission and vision. Clarifying the purpose and tying it to each person’s role and responsibilities enhances team potential, as does the inclusion of “stretch” goals that increase the challenge necessary to motivate team members.
  • Conflict is an essential part of becoming a high-performing team. Open communication in such teams means a focus on coaching instead of directing and on an ability to immediately address issues openly and candidly. The key to team performance is open lines of communication at all times to provide motivation, maintain interest, and promote cooperation.
  • Empowered work teams increase ownership, provide an opportunity to develop new skills, boost interest in the project, and facilitate decision-making. Researchers refer to the ideal situation as being “loose-tight,” such that specific decision-making boundaries are constructed with enough room for individuals to make empowered choices.
  • Like rules that govern group behavior, norms can be helpful in improving team development and performance. Norms for high-performing teams include open lines of communication, early resolution of conflict, regular evaluation of both individual and team performance, high levels of respect among members, a cohesive and supportive team environment, a strong work ethic that focuses on results, and shared recognition of team successes. The key is that high-performing teams actually discuss and agree to their operating rules—standards that each team member agrees to uphold and for which they hold one another accountable.

3.3 Meaningfulness and Connecting with Organizational Culture

The “Project Management Approach” helps enhancement of performance by connecting team members with organizational culture to enhance productivity. The level of engagement of a team member on projects depends on finding the clarity of purpose and the level of meaningfulness in works, leading to end results one is made responsible to produce. The engagement level connects with high performance in a team and adds to organizational culture.

Critically, the starting point is to find a good fit of the right person with the right skills for the right job when inducting a team member, which leads to higher level of engagement. The right job is one that matches with the strengths and passion of a person, the right skills are the ones the team member is comfortable with in handling a task, and the right person is one whose values match with the business purpose and values of an organization.

Meaningfulness is essentially something desired by all individuals and organizations, public, private, or government, in work life. The famous psychiatrist Viktor Frank described how the innate human quest for meaning is so strong that even in the direst of circumstances, people seek out their purpose in life. Recently, researchers have shown meaningfulness to be more important to employees than any other aspect of work, including pay and rewards, opportunities for promotion, or working conditions.

Meaningful work is highly motivational, leading to improved performance, commitment, and satisfaction.

Organizational Culture

Project management provides a disciplined structure for advancement of projects with high-performing value-based culture. How often do you find conflicts with your organizational culture and wish it had aligned with your values? Such feelings are seldom discussed in an official forum and mostly remain under the carpet. The mismatch of personal values with that of organizational culture discreetly negatively impacts the engagement, finding meaninglessness, loss of productivity, and pulling down performance.

You effectively understand the organizational culture: “A distinctive culture differentiates the truly great companies from the merely good ones.” Culture is the expression of the firm’s personality, the way “things are done around here.”

That is how culture translates the vision, mission, and values into desired behaviors and inspires team members to perform in order to achieve superior business results. “Recognizing, understanding, and aligning the interdependencies between culture and talent processes are of paramount importance in creating and sustaining a high performing company.”

Generally, no conscientious effort is found in organizations to interrelate culture and talent management, which needs special focus for advancing to a high-performing culture. There appear negative results in cultural waste and impact of performance inefficiency.

Cultural Waste

The loss of effective relationship between talent management and culture for high performance leads to mediocrity and persistent underperformance for no obvious reason. More alarmingly, the attention of business leadership is captured by bigger issues, making them unable to pay heed to the underlying factors for negative emotions holding the professionals to perform at their best.

There is probably no greater waste in industry today than of willing employees prevented by insensitive leadership from applying their energies and ambitions in the interest of the companies for which they work.

Pat Haggarty, president and CEO of Texas Instruments, made the above-noted revolutionary statement in 1964 for that time, which is equally, rather more, applicable today with more focus in the present time.

What Pat said in 1964 was essentially based on his very deep understanding of business leadership and their lack of emotional competence and agility.

The leadership lack of training in emotional competence and agility is a pivotal factor for impacting the meaninglessness of a team member, leading to disengagement from productivity and touching peak in performance. When the team member’s negative emotions are not addressed in relevant point in time and in required manners, it leads to a disengagement and meaninglessness amounting to cultural waste for an organization to pay heavy toll for it in the form of loss of productivity.

How to Connect with Organizational Culture?

Connectivity starts with the induction of a team member, which must be made effective through the following processes:

  1. Check on readiness
  2. Placement with personal strength in focus
  3. Aligning with personal values
  4. Facilitating engagement requirements


    The details of processes are as follows:


Readiness has two dimensions: “ability” and “willingness.” Ability is checked through skills-knowledge-experience and willingness through commitment–confidence–motivation.

A fair combination of the two dimensions matching a fit with the requirements of a task satisfies the readiness of a member.

Personal Strength

Project implementation endeavor requires two prime personal strengths: team achievement and team engagement. Every professional has some distinctive strength in one of the two areas that may be honed further with training, coaching, and mentoring.

Placing the right person in the right role helps in attaining the height of performance, where the work-related preferences are required to go in line with the detail stated at the beginning of this chapter.

Aligning with Personal Values and Passion

You need to find out the personal values important to a team member, ranking high in importance for professionalism.

You need to help a member to unhook from difficult thoughts and emotions, and expand their choices. One may decide to act in a way that aligns with values. You encourage leaders to focus on the concept of workability: Is your response going to serve you and your organization in the long term as well as the short term?

When does it help to steer others in a direction that furthers collective purpose? Help someone take a step toward being the leader one wanted and living the life one most wanted to live. The mind’s thought stream flows endlessly, and emotions change like weather, but values can be called on at any time, in any situation, as listed in Figure 3. 2.

Facilitating Engagement Requirements

The work engagement process is critically important to help create an environment conducive for maintaining a highly engaged and highly productive team member in all circumstances. For the highlights of the areas to check, see Figure 3.3.

  • Motivation to Join: find out the motivating factor that has attracted a team member and how upholding the interest for continuity is possible?
  • Alignment of Personal Value with Company Value: how closely the values are placed; find any conflict and find a solution if possible.
  • Deviation with Culture: learn the difference in values held by the team member and that of the organization or any other cause of disengagement; exploring the root cause for negative emotions will help find a solution to fix it.
  • Development for Fit: addressing the issue, controlling the cause of potential negative emotions, and managing training, coaching, or mentoring for development of a better fit.

Through the above-noted processes, you have developed strong foundations for a team member to perform at their peak potential. Grilling the team members through these processes is worth taking the pain as it will help achieve high performance in even challenging situations. Be watchful of the impediments in connecting with the organizational culture and manage as shown in Figure 3.4.

  • Weak Readiness: a shortcoming should be managed with training, mentoring, and coaching, which may help to advance for creating an effective connection.
  • Unsupportive Work Environment: lookout for help from the top when the prevalent environment is unconducive and does not let a team member to connect.
  • Insensitive Leadership: make sure that leadership has the basic training for leadership skills and self-management when the leadership lacks proper training for emotional sensitivity, particularly to deal with negative emotions.
  • Cultural Life Cycle Problems: what stage of culture of an organization is prevalent will matter. The organizational life cycle is based on a biological metaphor of living organisms, which have a regular pattern of development: birth, growth, maturity, decline, and death. Likewise, the organizational life cycle of businesses has been conceived of as generally having four or five stages of development: start-up, growth, maturity, and decline, with diversification sometimes considered to be an additional stage coming between maturity and decline.

The impact of organizational life cycle may not be ignored when considering connection of a team member under a stage of growth or maturity or decline stage of an organization.

Find Similarities for Connecting with Organizational Culture

Preparing a foundation for more engagement of a team member in connecting with organizational culture takes place with finding avenues of similarities and building relationships.

You don’t approach a person thinking about all the potential ways you could be different; instead, you naturally gravitate to similarities, to finding things you might have in common to form the basis of a relationship. The same technique actually works well across cultures. When you focus on similarities, you’re open to—and, in fact, looking for—a potential connection. Perhaps it’s a challenge you accept in common with a co-team member. You may discover these similarities in conversation, or even by picking up on belonging you notice in personal things.

Building “trust” in a relationship is the foundation and it needs building; it does not just happen. The real truth about trust is that when others trust you, they are truly taking a risk. Whenever one does not let down, it reduces the risk and builds the relationship.

Relationships are never a smooth ride; they are invariably tested in tough times when the question arises as to what is important, situation or relationship. Choosing situation over relationship negatively impacts relationship.

How to Maintain the Connectivity and Add to Organizational Culture?

After having found the right person for the right job at the right time, you need to maintain the connectivity with organizational culture to add to high productivity. It requires a constant check on the following:


A. Satisfying the team members’ service life cycle-related needs

B. Dealing with negative emotions in relevant point-in-time

C. Helping professional meaningfulness in works

D. Cultivate an ecosystem of meaningfulness

E. Encouraging skills for emotional competence and agility


The details are as follows:

A. Satisfying the team member’s service life cycle-related needs: you need to understand the service life cycle and the related general requirements that demand satisfaction found by professionals. Maintaining the vigor of professionals at the workplace particularly in tough times needs development of policies in line with the life cycle of employment to add value (see Figure 3.5).

  • Attract: team building requires attracting the right resource with the right readiness to carry out the task.
  • Acquire: the right resources need to be integrated in the team and facilitated to go through the process of forming, storming, norming and performing.
  • Grow: help and provide skills required for performing at the highest level and grow leadership skills to take larger responsibilities.
  • Retain: a resource trained in an organizational work atmosphere, systems, and established procedures is certainly more valuable than a fresh replacement unless you reach a point that is not workable. Recognize the learning and facilitate returns with the best use of the available talent.
  • Promote: succession planning is very important to make the best use of star performers. It also motivates to seek the potential peak of performance when possibilities for promotion are open.

B. Dealing with negative emotions in relevant point-in-time: generally advancing to positive emotions is the norm in an organization. You just cannot avoid a reason for negative emotions in the workplace—from difference of opinion, to an erosion of the implicit work contract with the boss or seniors, to ever-growing demands to do more with less, to relentless rapid change. It is impossible to block negative emotions from the workplace, provoked by bad decisions, misfortune, or employees’ personal problems; no organization is immune from trouble. See some of the common generators of negative emotions in Figure 3.6.

  • Bad decision: the ones negatively impacted will always have negative emotions.
  • Misfortune: it may lead to negative emotions.
  • Mishap: something unexpected and undesired may lead to negative emotion.
  • Personal problem: something constraining the performance may lead to unhealthy emotions.

Deal with negative emotions upfront before it starts damaging the workplace and pollutes the environment with negative feelings (see Figure 3.7).

  • Tend to signal early: watch for a team member’s different behavior, sarcastic comments, non-participation, and unfriendly attitude.
  • Seek out troubled member: find a troubled team member who is not behaving in a friendly manner.
  • Resist the urge to fix others problems: resist indulging in issues related with matters outside of the workplace, to avoid waste of time and energy.
  • Help find the reason for anger: talk straight to an angry team member to find the facts and deal it to rectify the cause immediately.
  • Help calm down in sadness: just give your attention and listen to ease down one’s feelings.
  • Help to face fear: you can help a team member analyze the fear, the relevance, the probability, and the impact to deal with.
  • Pin-point troubled areas: once you know the problem with no immediate solution, keep a watch and minimize the impacts.

C. Helping professional meaningfulness in works: every professional finds meaningfulness in works based on their own values, passion, direction, and advancement (see Figure 3.8).

  • Meaningfulness: one finds it in work based on values, passion, direction for career, and advancement in profession.
  • Meaninglessness: it is an outcome of treatment one gets from peers and superiors.
  • Leadership: it is the level of sensitivity exhibited by leadership on works to deal with negative emotions and environmental constraints in productivity.

D. Cultivate an ecosystem of meaningfulness

The success lies in creating an ecosystem for organizational meaningfulness (as shown in Figure 3.9).

  • Organizational meaningfulness: highlight the business purpose and values of the organization and align the personal value of each team member with it, while hiring.
  • Job meaningfulness: each team member selected for the job has values aligned with the outcomes of works.
  • Task meaningfulness: each team member selected for the task has values aligned with the advancement of task.
  • Interactional meaningfulness: the team formation is done well, and members are comfortable to work together and in a friendly environment conducive for high productivity.

You should not ignore the acts that may lead to loss of meaningfulness, as noted in Figure 3.10.

  • Disconnect with values: never induct a team member whose values are distinctively different from organizational purpose and the approach of business.
  • Take a member for granted: never take a member for granted that the engagement on work will happen automatically even when a difference in personal values is apparent.
  • Pointless assignment: no assignment to a team member is pointless; it is a matter of how you view it in terms of the bigger picture. Find the contributing value of an assignment while giving it to a member; else get prepared to face loss of meaningfulness and engagement.
  • Unfair treatment: the work environment must support great respect for all team members; absence of respect breeds negative emotions.
  • Override judgment: there must be a reason and logic discussed for every overriding judgment; else face loss of engagement, meaninglessness, and loss of productivity.
  • Disconnect from supportive relationship: when there is a break in relationship with the team for any reason, the meaninglessness will emerge, leading to productivity loss. Facilitate building relationship among team members with coaching and mentoring.
  • Physical or emotional harm: a threat of physical or emotional harm leads to loss of engagement in works and puts meaninglessness in action.

E. Encouraging skills for emotional competence and agility

  • Emotional competence

You understand people and know how to shape your communication to particular audiences so that you are properly heard and understood. You have a good ability to read people and the situation and know how to adapt your communication to meet the needs of the moment.

Since a main aspect of a team member is to know how to influence and motivate peers toward specific goals, you understand what you need to say and how you need to say it to reach and influence team members at any given time, situation, and place.

  • Emotional Agility

The following text is based on the concept named by HBR as the Management Idea of the Year. It has been adapted from Susan David, founder of Harvard/Mclean Institute of Coaching, a faculty at Harvard, and author of Emotional Agility (David 2016).

The prevailing wisdom says that difficult thoughts and feelings have no place at the office: Executives, and particularly leaders, should be either stoic or cheerful; they must project confidence and damp down any negativity bubbling up inside them. But that goes against basic biology. All healthy human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings that include criticism, doubt, and fear. That’s just our minds doing the job they were designed to do: trying to anticipate and solve problems and avoid potential pitfalls.

Effective leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way—developing what we called motional agility. In our complex, fast-changing knowledge economy, this ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to business success. Numerous studies, from the University of London professor Frank Bond and others, show that emotional agility can help people alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance.

Four practices—adapted from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), originally developed by the University of Nevada psychologist Steven C. Hayes—that are designed to help you do the same: Recognize your patterns; label your thoughts and emotions; accept them; and act on your values.

When you unhook yourself from your difficult thoughts and emotions, you expand your choices. You can decide to act in a way that aligns with your values. We encourage leaders to focus on the concept of workability: Is your response going to serve you and your organization in the long term as well as the short term?

Will it help you steer others in a direction that furthers your collective purpose? Are you taking a step toward being the leader you most want to be and living the life you most want to live? The mind’s thought stream flows endlessly, and emotions change like the weather, but values can be called on at any time, in any situation.

3.4 Empowering to Fail: Team Creativity and Innovation

The project management approach extensively supports creativity and innovation to progress on projects—where team members are empowered fearlessly to experiment on processes to find better solutions for continuous improvement. An understanding of failure, in fact, underpins the creativity and innovation for projects to help team members to challenge the status quo and make advancements for improvement. The lack of understanding of failure negatively impacts team productivity, continuous improvement, and changes in processes, essentially resulting in micromanagement of projects, which kills progress and impacts an organization’s competitive edge.

What Is Failure?

Do you feel comfortable with discussing your failures? Generally, not. It is an illusion.

Often, “failure” is taken negatively and considered a weakness when, in fact, it means you are producing, you are growing, and you are gaining insight. You kill creativity and innovation by not allowing yourself and your team to fail. This approach will keep you and the team in a rut with no possible improvement.

Failure is supposed to be a great teacher. But if that’s true, why are so many of us unable to acquire the knowledge that this “great teacher” has to impart? Why do we keep failing?

The problem is that failure might be a great teacher, but it is also a cryptic one. Figuring out its lessons is no easy task, especially when you are still nursing a bruised ego and swimming in frustration, disappointment, and demoralization—not to mention the occasional embarrassment, resentment, and hopelessness.

You need the ability to learn from failures, a way to decode the “teachable moments” hidden within them. You need a method for deducing what exactly those lessons are and how they can improve your chances of growth and future success.

Keep Away Failure-Prone Individuals

Now, it is important to remove those individuals from the equation who are not good fits for the job for any of the following general behaviors:


A. Lethargic

B. Procrastinator

C. Incompetent

D. Not mindful


According to (n.d.), failure is

1. an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: His effort ended in failure. The campaign was a failure.

2. nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear.

3. a subnormal quantity or quality; an in-sufficiency: the failure of crops.

Failure: A Double-Edged Sword

The power of failure may act as a double-edged sword, with different effects:


A. Break the personality: A misfit professional on a project/program under failure may lose confidence, courage, and character, which can negatively impact self-esteem.

B. Build the personality: An engaged professional, when challenged, grows high self-esteem and gathers insights for future direction.


You never plan to fail for the sake of learning—but still, high performers do fail and the power helps them to move to the next level of performance. Let’s see how.

Build the Personality

Professionals can extensively reap the benefits of failure when the following are in order:

  1. Clarity of purpose: Professionals know what and why they are doing whatever their assignments are, meaning the bigger picture is very clear to them.
  2. Alignment of personal values: The personal values of each member of a team are grouped together to find the common ground—and those values are aligned with the organization’s values. The areas of misalignment of values need to be managed effectively.
  3. High engagement: The strong alignment of each team member’s values with those of the organization enhances the engagement that leads to higher commitment, higher motivation, and higher enthusiasm on the job—for higher performance. Further, freedom of work for finding the best approach to reach the desired results—without micromanagement—is practiced.
  4. Growth: The professionals that facilitate self-development to produce impactful performance noted the following important considerations:
    1. Intrapersonal
    2. Interpersonal
    3. Group among other teams
    4. Organization as a whole
    5. Community outside the organizational domain

Failure should be your teacher, not your undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.

Denis Waitley

How Does Failure Lead to Success?

Success takes willpower, intelligence, determination, and grit. But more than anything else, it requires failure—the courage to test an approach and the determination to make it happen.

Use the opportunity to reassess yourself to find the true key to success that so many people fear.

Management has to accept the challenge of building a creative and innovative environment, and a mindset for never penalizing a team member for failing when his or her best efforts were genuinely made. Management’s support is required to find the peak of a team’s or a professional’s potential performance.

Quotable Quotes

The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up the eighth time.

—Paulo Coelho

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

—Paulo Coelho

Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.

—Henry Ford

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

—Henry Ford

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

—Albert Einstein

It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.

—Ellen DeGeneres

There is no failure except in no longer trying.

—Chris Bradford

Failure Is POWER!

Capture the learning from a failure for self-improvement and to make corrective action and gain insights for the future.

Failure Provides Opportunities for Learning

Never miss the opportunity for improvement. You just cannot learn unless you and your team recognize a failure—only then can you start a reassessment. Your assessment, individually and collectively, can help to find the areas of improvement that are needed. These questions can help with the assessment:

  • What brought about the failure?
  • How much of it was in my realm of influence?
  • How can I use my influence to turn failure into success?
  • What steps do I need to go through to improve and try again?
  • What can I do everyday to improve?
  • What skills do I lack?
  • What different approach will suffice?

History tells us that Abraham Lincoln faced failure in life at every turn, but he did not succumb to it; he kept the faith in change and finally made it to the highest office in the United States.

The exceptions are those failures that become stepping stones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

The following text has been extracted from Estrem (2016):

Power of Wisdom

Always remember that the only thing that is permanent in life is change. It is, therefore, better to prepare proactively for betterment on a project/program with a positive attitude. The following considerations should be made:

  1. Prepare for the future—Know your purpose in life, keep the direction, and prepare to grab every possible advancement.
  2. Build it before you need it—Your proactive planning will help you to grab an opportunity when it arises.
  3. Faith in chance—Nature provides an opportunity in every change, have faith to help keep spirits high.
  4. Believe the best is ahead—Every bad or good situation is temporary. The law of attraction can help you to get the best of these situations.
  5. Recognize chances—When you are prepared for a better future and relaxed, you are in a better position to recognize and grab opportunities.
  6. Have the courage to grab the chance—When you are well prepared for the future, your courage will allow you to take an opportunity.
  7. Make the most of the opportunity—Once you are able to grab a chance, make the most of the opportunity to advance in purpose and self-satisfaction.

Webinar on Failure

The lack of understanding of failure and its toll was validated through a live webinar presented by the author on March 23, 2017, on titled “Do You Understand the Power of Failure?” It was attended by 1,321 project management practitioners.

There were two live surveys conducted that noted the following:

A. Survey 1

The participants’ understanding of the value of failure was assessed through the question, “How do you feel discussing your failures?”

  • Only 15.6 percent were very comfortable discussing their failures, meaning that they were conscientiously making efforts for improvement, not only in a personal capacity but also with the whole team. The level of creativity and innovation must be very high at their workplace.
  • A good majority of attendees (47 percent) stated “somewhat comfortable,” meaning they are typically not going to discuss failure for the sake of improvement—and certainly not in a team environment for fear of an uncomfortable situation. No continuous improvement is possible at either a personal level or in team when you are reluctant to discuss it. There tends to be a religious following for the set processes without much creativity and innovation at these organizations. This is self-killing—ignoring potential areas for improvement and dangerous for holding back an organization’s potential growth.

B. Survey 2

The organizational support for letting teams fail was assessed. The results were:

  • Only 17.4 percent stated that their organizations were very supportive of their efforts in creativity and innovation, meaning that the professionals were working in an environment of high performance and growth. Their level of engagement must be very high.
  • A good majority (51.4 percent) said their organizations were somewhat supportive, meaning that they did not always receive good support when addressing failures in the organization. It indicates that they just follow the set processes and do not have a free hand for seeking improvement. There may be a bureaucratic check and balances structure, usually discouraging changes or potential improvement. Such organizations are wasting the potential of their professionals by operating in ignorance—not only damaging the resource, but also limiting their own productivity. Professionals are advised to take up the matter with their bosses in a professional manner and ask for their support in moving to the next level of performance.

The session included the following Q/A for additional learning:

  • Question: How often should you revisit the values with your team? With executive leadership?

Answer: The gathering of values in a team must be carried out at the time of team formation and must be revisited at every change in the team or when noticing an issue coming in the way of performance.

  • Question: How can you conduct a project failure analysis without transmitting a witch hunt feeling to team members?

Answer: With managing the human factor, the team member must be taken into confidence and given an understanding that addressing failure and an assessment will help ensure improvement—not only to member, but also to enhance the performance of the team. There should never be a punishment for a failure when the best effort was put in.

  • Question: What can you do about a micromanaging superior?

Answer: It is a matter of confidence shown in the team by the supervisor. You need to earn it in a progressive way. Contrarily, a supervisor with low confidence needs to be helped with an adapted methodology for the task and plan of work. Further, the supervisor may need to be informed that micromanagement is hurting productivity.

  • Question: Humans do not like to admit, or discuss, their failures as a whole. It is human nature. It does not seem like you have taken this into account. Humans will never be completely comfortable with failure.

Answer: Human factors need to be kept in view and there is no harm in calling failure a “shortcoming” or any other nice word, as long as a member is made to feel comfortable to discuss the failure and make an assessment for improvement. The challenge is to make improvement, not pin down a member.

  • Question: How can you regain confidence among team members after failure?

Answer: By discussing the improvement and finding the areas of lacking. The process itself is helpful for confidence-building when a member feels that the desired outcomes are achievable.

  • Question: Effective managers don’t look at the past failures to work out the organizational strategies for the future. Instead, they look forward to see what needs to be done to improve the organization’s behavior. What is your take on that?

Answer: Failures essentially help managers to pin down the shortcomings and areas of improvement which must be addressed for making progress. You do not progress by looking in a rearview mirror, but by making the right decision from knowing what happened in past.

  • Question: With today’s quality mantra of “Do it right the first time,” how easily can you convince your sponsors to accept your failure?

Answer: Failure helps you to improve your shortcomings and do it right the first time. This can happen only when you have proactively managed competence for an upcoming task.

  • Question: How do you change people’s perceptions of you after failure?

Answer: Failure means growing with improvement and looking upon that growth positively. This can happen when you are able to explain what competences were gained.

  • Question: How does one recognize when one is failing or a team is failing?

Answer: You measure advancement in line with desired outcomes and an incremental deviation will show where you or team is going.

  • Question: How do you feel about failing fast?

Answer: It means experimentation, learning, and creativity. High-growth organizations encourage their teams to fail fast, meaning exploring methodologies for better results.

  • Question: Do you have any tools to create a fearless mindset?

Answer: The tools are provided under “Develop a Power Mindset,” see below.

Learn from your failure and enhance project management competence and strengths for continued success.

Plan to Overcome Adversities

Sometimes life brings hard challenges and extreme adversities (life-threatening failures). In these situations, strength and a belief in change for betterment only help to face and pass through these challenges. The following is a broad-line plan practiced by Zak Khan, founder of 2017):

  1. Look beyond the problem—Shift your focus beyond your present problems. That will help in viewing the situation from a different angle and reducing the pain. The brighter side of the picture is always helpful for keeping your spirits high and maintaining a positive attitude.
  2. Commit to change and experiment—Whatever improvement is necessary in a situation may require a change; commit to it and make advancements with experimentation when required.
  3. Take controlled actions—Your actions in advancement must be well controlled and precisely worked out to feel the improvement. Enjoy even the slightest improvement to help ensure further advancement.

When you are highly engaged on a project/program and aligned with the processes for “building personality” for high performance, you need a “power mindset.”

Conclusion—Develop a “Power Mindset” to Capture the Strengths of Empowerment

  1. Failure is a teacher: There should be no negative feeling with regard to failure; rather, take it as a teacher for your own and your team’s improvement. You will gain stronger insights.
  2. Find potential solutions: In striving for continuous improvement, you must find the next level of performance.
  3. Fearless mindset: A fearless approach only helps with creativity and innovation.
  4. Positive mindset: A positive attitude plays heavily in performance—and slipping may take place discretely. Attitude needs to be guarded and always encouraged to help ensure a positive mindset.
  5. Self-assessment: This is a continuous process and needs to be carried out with the help of peers.
  6. Motivational materials: Self-motivation is a challenging area, only realized with success stories of the industry, knowledge advancement, and the positive support of peers.
  7. Change for improvement: Never delay a plan for improvement and make the best effort for high performance.


High performance is the product of a team developed with each member helped with connectivity, engagement, and meaningfulness. A collective winning mindset is developed for the driving force that makes possible overcoming hurdles and challenges in the way of desired end results.

This chapter provides an understanding for the risks people encounter that may pull down the progress. How to manage the challenges of people’s risk? High performance emerges from well-connected professionals with an organizational culture and personal values aligned with the values of an organization, moving to holistic meaningfulness in its ecosystem.

High performance demands continuous improvement and is managed through fearless creativity and innovation, which is ensured with empowering the team to fail in endeavoring to learn and improve the processes.

This chapter also discusses intuition as a special gift from nature for decision-making and capturing the benefits for taking the right position in an increasing complexity of project implementation.


Baily, C., and A. Madden. 2016. “What Makes Works Meaningful or Meaningless,” MIT Sloan Management Review.

David, S. 2016. Emotional Agility. New York, NY: Avery Publishing Group.

David, S., and C. Congleton. 2013. “Emotional Agility,” Harvard Business Review. n.d. “Failure.”

Estrem, P. August 25, 2016. “Why Failure Is Good for Success,” Success.

Khan, Z. March 16, 2017. “3 Ways to Overcome Adversity and Transform It into Success,”

Mirza, M.A. March 23, 2017. “Webinar: Do You Understand the Power of Failure?”

Molinsky, A., and S. Jang. 2016. “To Connect Across Cultures Find Out What You Have in Common,” Harvard Business Review.

Pearson, C.M. 2017.“The Smart Way to Respond to Negative Emotions at Work,” MIT Sloan Management Review.