Author: George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, PMP, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.

Project Karma: What You Think, Say and Do Matters

Projects are the vehicles for making things different. It is natural to want things to be different than they are.

Things can be better. Progress and improvement arise out of this desire. So may pain and suffering. Choosing the right projects and performing them well make the difference.

Projects are actions to effect change – to make more money; improve people’s lives. They deliver new and modified products, architectural wonders, events, and processes which impact both the environment the project work takes place in and the environment that receives the results. Within those environments people’s lives, the way they think, their values and how they relate with others are changed.

The Law of Cause and Effect -Karma

Every action, whether to make things better or not, creates a ripple effect. The effect may be short lived or last for years, if not lifetimes. It may be felt near or far. Knowing that there is this ripple effect motivates one to be careful about what one does, what one says, and even what one thinks.

This is the Law of Karma or the Law of Cause and Effect. Every action has an effect. Everything is caused by something. Sometimes the effect is very subtle and minor; sometimes near and sometimes far. This is the foundation for process thinking and quality management.

Consider the project of planning a wedding. The way the planning and preparation are carried out influences the relationships among the stakeholders. The over controlling parent can turn-off the bride and groom and the other parents. An over controlling or over emotional bride can change the feelings of the groom and/or her friends and relatives. Even the decision of who gets to sit at which table can reverberate for years to come. One conversation can make or break a relationship.

A project to implement a new process for an operational group can disrupt the organization positively or negatively. It can cause ongoing conflict between management and labor, and either make for better ongoing performance or degrade performance depending on how well the project is executed and how the new process performed and maintained overtime.

A project to lay a pipeline across virgin territory can contribute to the pollution of the environment because of the immediate disruption of the construction project or a decade later when a leak spews oil into the land and water. The project can also result in profits, lower energy costs, and conflict among promoters, resisters, and supporters. There are any number of unforeseeable possibilities.

Decisions and Actions

A decision to ignore or dismiss testing results or concerns raised by project staff can lead to a disaster, as it did in the Challenger explosion, killing the crew, costing millions of dollars and destroying the reputations of NASA management because of their faulty statistical reasoning.

Intentions, biases, values, and beliefs are the drivers of decisions. Decisions drive behavior. The way decisions are made influences relationships and outcomes. For example, being overly aggressive or using underhanded methods to get one’s way can cause distrust and anger that clouds relationships going forward to other negotiations.


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Working with Karma

There are a number of strategies to apply this concept of cause and effect to promote optimal performance.

Some people ignore the Law of Karma entirely. They act as if there were no consequences and then are surprised by the results of their behavior. Some of these do, in fact, know about the Law of Karma, others are ignorant of it. Either way, there are consequences.

Some others fall into analysis paralysis. They spend so much time analyzing and worrying about what might happen that they miss the opportunity to act.

Others take a middle path that considers the question from multiple perspectives. They balance their analysis with intuition. They consider the time factor, uncertainty. They realize that there may not be a “perfect” solution.

Take a Beat

This last strategy is one to aspire to. When faced with a decision take a beat.

Relax, pause, breathe and think about what you are going to do. Just reactively diving-in, risks unforeseen consequences. So take a beat. Respond after the due diligence of assessing from multiple perspectives the pros and cons, risks and rewards, ripple effects, alternatives, etc.

Make the duration of the pause and the nature of the decision process right for the situation. Do you have an hour, a day, a month or does the response have to be in the moment. In project work, immediate response is not usually required.

The way a soldier or police officer reacts in a life-threatening situation requires a well-trained reaction. Yet, even in those situations, it is easy to get lost in emotional reactivity. Reactivity does not allow for a step back to think about one’s actions and their consequences. We have seen many instances of inappropriate reactivity leading to unnecessary deaths and ruined lives.

Most project managers have at least a moment to step back and consider the ripple effect of what they do or say. It is only lack of mindful awareness that keeps some from realizing it.

Responsiveness

With training in the cultivation of mindful self-awareness there is the possibility of a natural process of letting things unfold. Not in a sloppy, lazy way, but by being in flow so as to allow one’s skills, intelligence, analysis and intuition to emerge in perfect alignment with the needs of the situation.

Short of that, objectively observe what is going on internally and externally to create the platform for what to do next.

In any case, living requires decisions and actions. Actions include the actions of not acting, and of expressing oneself by speaking, writing, or with body language.

Responsiveness means making conscious decisions. Discerning whether they are unbiased or are really justifications or rationalizations after the action has been carried out. When reacting there is no conscious decision making, only the outburst or withdrawal.

No matter whether action stems from a well thought out decision or not, there is the ripple effect.

Picture dropping a stone in a still pond – the effect is ripples radiating out in all directions. Now imagine the stone falling into an already rippling pond into which many stones of different sizes are being continuously dropped in different places. That is more like our world. Complexity and volatility leading to uncertainty.

Sometimes in that kind of pond, the ripples from your stone, your action, are barely visible, sometimes they are operating under the surface to take effect later. Sometimes they don’t much matter. In any case, be mindful enough to remember the Law of Cause and Effect and responsive enough to choose what you do, say and think wisely.

Social and Governance Factors in Projects

This next article in the series on the relevance (materiality, in the terms of the investment community) of environmental, social and governance (ESG)

factors in projects addresses social and governance issues and how they influence successful project performance.

As we face pandemic and protests, the importance of healthy social and governance concerns is highlighted. It is no longer sufficient to meet objectives unless those objectives include long term impacts on the environment, social fabric and the way we govern ourselves, our projects and organizations.

Projects are microcosms of the overall organization. Organizations are microcosms of society at large. The way we behave and perform in our projects reflects the way we behave in the relationships in families and communities.

Social Concerns

In the context of ESG, social concerns address diversity, human rights, animal rights and consumer protection.

From a practical perspective, there is the value of the “power of difference.” Diversity is valuable because it promotes agility and innovation, it enables getting the right people for the job. At the project level, we value the diversity of ideas because the confrontation among diverse perspectives can result in better solutions, designs and plans.

The benefit of the power of difference is only achievable if the decision-making process is healthy and there is open-mindedness among the stakeholders. There can be no real change without a commitment from the highest levels of organizations, and the willingness on all levels, to confront racism and bias, and to acknowledge the value of diversity.

Racism and Bias

However, there is another dimension to diversity. The Black Lives Matter awakening addresses the effects of racism on individual lives and society. Racism and other biases (ageism, sexism, etc.) make open-mindedness impossible.

To remediate bias there first must be the recognition that it exists. In several of the diversity and bias training sessions I have attended several white participants were in denial of their socially ingrained, systemic, racism and privilege. That seems to be changing, though it takes some real introspection to accept the reality of privilege and how it effects one’s judgment of others, particularly people of color and members of LBGTQ communities.

This operates at the project level when people’s ideas are discounted because of the color of their skin, their gender preference, height, weight, or other attributes. Or when ideas are in contradiction to the norms and beliefs of the group.

When bias gets in the way, there is the loss of potentially valuable insights or options. This in turn, promotes less than optimal decisions, plans and designs.

Further, microaggressions – subtle, often unconscious and unintended, behaviors inflict pain on others and destroy relationships.

Human rights

Closely related to diversity concerns, human rights concerns include consideration of the impact of decisions, products and services on local communities and the health and welfare of employees. These considerations do not stop at the project or organizational boundaries. The entire supply chain is subject to scrutiny.

To address human rights concerns the selection criteria for contracted services and products must include relevant criteria. For example, a project that on the surface may seem benign, may support suppliers that pollute the environment at the expense of people who may have no recourse but to live with impure water and foul air. Suppliers may exploit workers or support oppressive governments. With human rights as part of the selection criteria along with cost and performance it becomes increasingly possible to achieve long term benefits for more people.

The valuing of human rights is controversial. There is evidence that many influential people are more concerned with financial gain and the acquisition of power than they are with human rights. There are differences of opinions about the difference between rights and privileges. For example, is health care a right or a privilege? Should government regulate business or is it an organization’s right to dump toxic waste into local water sources and hire whoever they want for whatever reason?

It is a continuous challenge to increasingly stand up for human rights by speaking out and standing up for values by refusing to make or support decisions that are contrary to one’s values.

When does the security of one’s job become secondary to one’s values? When does one say NO, or, at least, speak out?


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Consumer Protection

Over the years there has been an increasing recognition of the responsibility of organizations to protect the lives and wellbeing of consumers. Litigation to hold tobacco, pharmaceutical and other companies accountable has been successful in highlighting the financial damages that are at risk when consumers are hurt as they use toxic or faulty products.

At the project level we have seen instances in which hitting deadlines or keeping costs down have resulted in damages to consumers because project managers and their leadership have ignored quality control and assurance concerns raised by project performers.

When does one refuse to go along with shortsighted decisions? When does one blow the whistle?

Animal welfare

While animal welfare as a social consideration is controversial, investors are increasingly seeking information regarding the practices of companies and communities that abuse animals in the pursuit of profits. At the project level this concern can influence supplier decisions, the design of research projects, and the treatment of animals in farming and food processing.

There are no universally accepted standards though we see increasing restrictions on inhumane treatment of animals and greater consumer choices for products that result from humane treatment. For example, preferences for cage free eggs.

Governance

Governance influences the ability of organizations and projects in particular to value and promote healthy environmental and social policies and practices.

Effective governance considers the long term and accepts the reality of uncertainty.

There is a long history of companies focusing on the short term – annual profits as opposed to long term investment. These organizations make decisions that impact the degree to which they perform leading to environmental damage and to harm to consumers and workers.

On the project level, risk management and the degree to which it is performed remains a controversial activity. Some stakeholders become certain of a desired outcome and dismiss the reality of adverse conditions and alternative outcomes. Without effective and open-minded risk management, projects and organizations suffer avoidable costly and damaging consequences.

Employee relations and the norms of workday duration, working conditions and compensation disparity influence productivity. As an example, a recent report highlighted that executives in some health care companies have taken multi-million-dollar compensation while laying off and/or reducing compensation for workers. How might this effect morale and the perception of investors who value ethical behavior?

In projects, when does the 24-7 work ethic become a significant burden borne by performers? When does the result of process improvement projects negatively effect operational employees? How does the use of contractors as opposed to employees impact workers’ lives?

The Future

While the future is uncertain, there is evidence that awareness of ESG concerns and their positive effects on profits as investment criteria will lead to a future that is increasingly livable.

Filtering down to the project level, ESG awareness can lead to more effective decisions and more successful projects.

Consider the Project Environment

Executives, project managers, and people in every walk of life are on the front lines of creating a livable environment.

Pay attention to the health of the physical, social and governance factors in and around your projects. Together these factors combine to form an environment which significantly influences the ability to sustain optimal performance.

This article follows up on the article, Materiality – Environmental, Social, and Governmental Factors https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/materiality-environmental-social-and-governmental-factors.html with a focus on how to bring ESG awareness to tactical and practical matters that are current and actionable. While remembering that environmental, social and governance are intertwined in a complex system, here we will address the physical environment and leave social and governance issue to future articles in this series.

Context: ESG and Project Portfolio Management

Projects are the actions that deliver results in the form of products, services and improved processes. Each project is an investment and every investment funds projects. While a given project is finite, there is a continuous flow of multiple projects.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) emerging in the corporate financial analysis realm as serious factors in strategic decisions on what to fund. However, ESG awareness is not limited to the strategic level.

Environment is a practical concern for individual projects and for portfolios of multiple projects. The work environment, like the broader environment, has physical, social and governance components. On the physical level there are air quality, temperature, lighting, convenience, aesthetics, cleanliness, convenience, sound, furniture and equipment, and more.

The social component addresses interpersonal relationships, expectations, happiness, personal fulfillment and emotions. Governance impacts both physical and social levels.

Consider Short- and Long-Term Impacts

It makes good business sense to consider both immediate and long-term impacts when deciding to initiate a project and when making the project’s many planning and execution decisions.

Within organizations, the ultimate measure of project success is whether people will use the new product, service or system to be more effective. Will anyone ‘buy’ the product?
Achieving project success requires an effective process and an effective process requires a sound environmental, social and governance foundation.

Looking across multiple projects, clever executives and managers consider how current work will be a platform for future efforts. Will the organization learn valuable lessons, and will they be carried forward into improved performance? Will the staff learn and be ready for the next project? Will investments in tools and facilities be shared across multiple projects? Will governance be refined to maximize effectiveness? Will relationships be healthy? Will the environment support and sustain elevated levels of effectiveness?


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The Physical Environment

In the remainder of this article we will focus on the physical environment.

When planning the project, consider where the team will be located and how their location will affect their work. Whether in offices, warehouses, factories, or at home, physical conditions matter.

Will people be able to focus on individual tasks without interruptions, excessive noise and other distractions? Will they be able to collaborate effectively? Are tools, procedures, furniture, and technical support adequate? Is the work environment comfortable and easily accessed? Does it support healthy life and work?

While it is possible to overcome poor physical conditions, it is best to plan well to relieve the team of the need to do so. How much will it cost to provide a comfortable work environment? How much will it cost not to? What is the return on that investment in terms of productivity, effectiveness and morale? How is the cost amortized across multiple projects into the future?

Examples

In my days as a principal in a technology consulting company I managed a software project to convert hundreds of programs from one language and platform to another. There was a team of ten consultants working in a conference room. We had a large and lovely table but no desks. Chairs and lighting were meant for hour-long meetings as opposed to a full day’s work at a computer. Tight quarters, which, today, would significantly violate social distancing guidelines, made any sort of privacy or personal space impossible.

We did well, mostly because seasoned and well-paid consultants used to being “abused’ in client environments made up the team. We were productive and effective. Though, we could have been far more so had we had desks and a sense that the client cared about our well-being.

In another organization, as recent as last year, internal staff were forced to work in stifling heat in summer and winter alike because air conditioning was insufficient, heating was uncontrolled and windows could not be opened without freezing out those sitting near them. Physical space within cubicles was minimal. Conference space was limited and poorly designed. Workers spent unnecessary time and effort on getting comfortable, taking breaks, scheduling meetings, and grumbling about the conditions. The impact on productivity and effectiveness went unmeasured.

On a positive note, in another project, six subject matter experts, writers and editors collaborated virtually on the development of a project management methodology. Each team member worked from home or from their own small individual offices. We planned to minimize interruptions to individual efforts, cut down ambient noise and to minimize other distractions that would impact our team meetings and work sessions.

We made sure that each team member had the equipment, connectivity, support, and training they needed. Because we were physically apart our sense of privacy, neatness, comfort and ambiance was not an issue. Had we shared the same physical space, those issues would have had to be addressed, as they are in many well managed organizations whose leadership recognizes the connection between physical environment and social relationships and the capacity to work and perform optimally.

Beyond the Physical

Often when we think of environment we think of the physical. The physical environment is an important aspect of getting work done effectively. However, it is only a third of the ESG equation, and the least complex. The system created by the interaction among physical, social and governance must be engineered to support optimal performance.

In the next article in this series on the importance (materiality, in the terms of the investment community) of environmental, social and governance factors, we will address social and governance issues and how they influence the successful performance of projects.

In the meantime, take a look around to see whether some adjustments to the physical environment can make you and your team more effective.

Materiality – Environmental, Social and Governmental Factors

Materiality refers to the degree that the presence or absence of a factor influences the viability of an action or decision.

“ESG (environmental, social and governance) is a generic term used in capital markets and used by investors to evaluate corporate behavior and to determine the future financial performance of companies.” http://markets.ft.com/research/Lexicon/Term?term=ESG

In portfolio management critical factors are used to evaluate opportunities and decide whether a company, product or project is likely to be a good investment. Traditionally, these material factors have been limited to financial return and risk. More recently, social consciousness has increased, increasing the importance (materiality) of environmental, social and governance criteria, once considered to be immaterial, to evaluate the viability of an investment.

Projects are Investments

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns have become increasingly important aspects of investment analysis. Since projects are investments, it is appropriate to include ESG issues as criteria for deciding upon which projects to prioritize and as factors in planning.

Environmental issues show up as criteria for deciding whether to take on and on how to execute projects. For example, the project to lay a pipeline or to construct a housing development, or even a single house, must consider the impact of the project on the environment. Will the project destroy wetlands, pollute rivers and streams, injure the health of people in the community, etc.? How will any of those things effect the organization’s image and sales? How will the community be affected over time?

Social factors address the relationships among stakeholders – clients, project team members, and others who will be influenced by or take part in the project. As an example, a project to automate and modernize the operation of school food services, was initiated with a principle driving force behind the decision being the ability to shield students receiving free meals from having to publicly expose their status. Implementing an automated cashless point of sale system enabled students to simply enter their Id and move on. While there were financial issues involved, they were secondary to the primary social issue. A project to automate or eliminate a project must consider the impact on the people who are to be required to change their way of operating or lose their jobs.

Governance refers to the way the project will be led and managed as well as the regulations, policies and procedures that will dictate how the project will unfold, how costs will be accounted for and what processes will be followed.


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ESG Factors in Project Planning

Most project managers are not involved in portfolio level decision making. They are involved in, and expected to lead, the planning process. Environmental, social and governance factors are material to the planning process.

Regarding governance, in one project, failure to consider the impact of regulatory requirements on the project schedule led to delays and excess costs. The project had to be approved by a governmental agency before any work could begin. The planners expected the approval to be a brief process. They brought on contractors earlier than they were needed, spending unnecessary time and materials costs for the two months that it took to finally obtain the approval. Another project manager insisted that

Environmental issues impacted a process improvement project that required a building renovation to enable cabling and wiring. The project was initially planned without considering the removal of asbestos. Contractors were scheduled to start work at a point in time. When the need for the asbestos issue was raised at the last minute, the testing and remediation work took an additional three weeks. This required that the scheduled start date for the contractors had to be moved. This created a ripple effect that delayed the project for two months more. The project team had to be re-positioned in the contractor’s schedule because other previously committed work at different clients.

Will cutting costs and increasing short term profits win out over concern for the environment and sustainable people centered processes?

Social concerns are perhaps the ones most likely to be overlooked in projects. Here we must consider the impact that the project will have on employees, clients and others. Role and responsibility changes raise training issues as well as union contractual issues. As roles and responsibilities change there may be significant anxiety on the part of employees who must adapt to new and uncertain conditions. How will social relationships change? How will that impact morale and productivity?

Will customers experience service disruption? If so, how, by whom and when will they be prepared for it? How will expectations be managed?

Will employees be expected to work extended hours? How will they be compensated for it? Will they agree to do it? What impact will it have on their families and social lives? Will it demotivate?

How will a new process and organization structure effect diversity?

Social Consciousness

As an increasingly large number of people become conscious of the need for sustainability, environmental protection, social responsibility, environmental, social and governance factors will play an increasingly important role in project portfolio management and project planning.

This will not stop organizations from utilizing technology to eliminate or radically change jobs. Automation, applied artificial intelligence, and robotics are here to stay and will increasingly make for a new normal. People will lose their jobs. How society will respond is an open question that depends on the value given to social responsibility. At the project level, those involved in process automation and digital transformation projects will continue their work, hopefully, with understanding and compassion for those who will be disrupted.

Greed coupled with a lack of consciousness or caring about the long-term impact of actions like the dispensing of opioids or the attempt to bypass emission controls, will continue to be a driver of decisions that can result in harmful actions. This will be exacerbated by the loosening of governmental controls, should that continue.

However, it seems as if a enough people, especially young people, will vote with their Dollars, Pounds, Renminbi or Euros to motivate political and business leaders to consider the environmental and social impacts of their actions and be held accountable.

But, what about project managers and performers? We are left with personal, value-based decisions. At what point does one say no, I won’t work on that project because it will cause harm? At what point does one become a whistle blower? Tough questions that call for courage and valuing truth, environmental protection and social responsibility.

Managing Fear and Anger in Projects

Fear, including anxiety, and anger are realities. They are normal. They appear in all situations, including projects.

There is a challenge – to not suppress or ignore these emotions AND to not to act out in emotionally driven behavior. Finding the place between suppression and acting out takes wisdom and skillful effort.

What are the causes of fear and anger? How can we minimize the causes? What are the side effects of being driven by them? How can the power of these emotions be channeled for productive use?

The answers to those questions require mindful introspection. It requires a process among the people involved to explore and resolve, or at least understand, the dynamics of people working together. Emotional and social intelligences along the willingness to forgive and work on oneself are used to avoid the lashing out, withdrawal, blaming, irrational expectations and the other side effects of reacting to emotions.

Causes: Uncertainty and Lack of Control

A predominant cause of fear in projects is lack of control. Uncertainty makes people feel that because they cannot predict the future they are at risk. For example, not knowing if one is safe blossoms into worry about negative outcomes. Thinking that one might not get one’s way creates anxiety that can transform itself into overly aggressive behavior.

Uncertainty and the lack of control it elicits leave many people feeling uneasy and helpless. Uneasiness and helplessness are experienced physically as unpleasant sensations in the belly, chest or throat. Thoughts and worries run rampant. We label the sensations and thoughts as the emotion fear. Similarly, we label the burning in our chest or gut and accompanying thoughts as anger.

Relationship Between Fear and Anger

Fear and anger are closely related to one another. They are both unpleasant and, may range from subtle anxiety and annoyance to terror and rage. Fear and anger occur during stressful or otherwise challenging events. People who evoke fear or anger are seen as hostile. Hostility elicits anger and conflict.

Anger can be a symptom of fear. Fear is perceived as weakness, anger as strength. When one is feeling fearful and weak, anger comes up to create a sense of strength. It is the fight part of the fight or flight response to threats. Fear is transformed into anger and directed at the someone (including oneself) or something perceived as the cause. Anger becomes a means for regaining control and a mask for the “weakness” of fear. For example, when in conflict, say, over a design alternative or a plan, the other party becomes the target of anger because there is uncertainty and the fear of a negative outcome.

Anger can be directed at an inanimate object, like a computer. This happens because one cannot control the device’s operation. Frustration arises. There is worry about not being able to get required work done on time.

A project manager might become angry at an administrative department or vendor responsible for a delay. The anger arises out of the lack of control over that department’s response or the vendor’s delivery. There is the fear that the delay will result in schedule slippage and the slippage will be blamed on the project manager.

It doesn’t matter that neither the department head nor the vendor has control. It doesn’t matter that they would like to avoid angering their client or that they have no control themselves. Nor does it matter that they are as fearful as the project manager. Fear and anger are emotions and emotions are not rational. When rationality is brought into play, the emotions can be managed effectively, without suppressing them.

What’s Wrong with Fear or Anger?

There is nothing wrong with anger or fear. Fear is a signal that triggers heightened awareness. Anger brings up lots of energy and clears the way for action. However, being driven by either of them is counterproductive.

Freezing in fear or avoiding conflict is unproductive.

In the moment, acting out in anger, might feel better than experiencing fear. However, reactively acting out in anger is unproductive and destructive. It does not lead to a positive outcome. Breaking the computer or yelling at the department head is not likely to put one in control or make things more certain. In fact, it is likely that acting out in anger will make things worse. Uncertainty increases because it is impossible to know how the other party will react to being the target of anger. A punched-out computer screen will not improve productivity. Not only that, it will only feel good for a moment. Then, there will be embarrassment, guilt and remorse followed by an expense to replace the computer.


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Neither Suppression nor Acting Out

Suppressing fear or anger is as unskillful as reactively acting out. The middle ground between acting out and suppression is recognition, acceptance and transformation.

Recognize

First, recognize the “afflictive” emotion (fear or anger afflicts one as unpleasant, painful sensations and often lead to behavior that afflicts others) as soon as possible.

This is an aspect of emotional intelligence – awareness of one’s own emotions early in the emotion’s life. Emotions grab hold in tenths of a second and then increase in intensity, taking over the mind with the need to somehow relieve the pain, or, if the emotion is a pleasant one, to keep it going. The earlier one recognizes the symptoms of an emotion the easier it is to moderate behavior.

Part of the recognition is to be aware that the emotion is not you. Saying “I am angry” or “I am afraid” sends the wrong message. It is more effective to say, “I am feeling anger.” That reinforces the reality that the emotion is a feeling and that, like all feelings, it is a temporary complex of thoughts and physical sensations.

Step back from the feeling, observe it and do not be identified with it.

Acceptance and Transformation

Once the emotion is recognized, it can be accepted. One accepts that there is anger instead of denying or suppressing it. Acceptance enables transformation.

Let’s be clear, acceptance a situation does not mean perpetuating it. No one can change existing conditions. However, one can, to a degree, influence the future. Acceptance creates the solid platform needed for effective behavior. It enables transformation.

Transformation takes the emotion’s energy and uses it to fuel skillful behavior. The emotion represents energy. Energy is neither good nor bad, it is just energy. How it is used is critical.

For example, let’s look at the situation of the vendor that realizes that there will be a delay in its delivery of a necessary product. The delay will have a ripple effect in the project. The vendor rep experiences anxiety. She fears that the project manager, who has a history of volatile behavior, will freak out. She recognizes her anxiety and can let it cause her to hold back on the truth or use it as a signal that she’d better be careful to craft a communication that while it gives the PM the truth earlier rather than later, also helps to avoid an outburst.

As for the project manager. If he recognizes and is motivated, he can catch his anger before he starts yelling at the vendor rep and instead channels his energy into assessing the impact and changing the plan to minimize disruption. He must recognize his anxiety and be candid with his stakeholders. If he is emotionally intelligent and empathetic, he will realize that the vendor rep is anxious.

The bottom line is that it is skillful to manage fear and anger without suppressing them. Doing so requires the cultivation of mindful awareness to enable recognition, acceptance and transformation.