Project Team Influencer
Influencer QA


Dear VitalSmarts,

My supervisor often gives me leadership responsibility for projects involving multiple departments. However, my position is not viewed as one of authority. As a result, I struggle to get results from others when I ask them to do something. When I present my lack of progress and ask for assistance, I’m told I need to stop blaming others for my lack of results. Since I have been trained to teach Crucial Conversations, my supervisor assumes I should be able to convince others to shift their priorities. Unfortunately, people outside of my department are not able to make my request their top priority, no matter how many Crucial Conversations skills I employ.

How do I get

my supervisor to see that I need her support, without making her think I am blaming others? I am at the end of my rope!

Without Support

A Dear Without,

You are not alone. When I was teaching at Stanford’s Advanced Project Management Program this was the participants’ most frequent concern. You’re given lots of accountability, but no authority, and you’re expected to use your skills and charm to get it all done.

It doesn’t work that way, does it?

Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability focus on dialogue skills—the skills required to reach shared understanding and commitment. These skills would be all you needed if the lack of cooperation you were experiencing was the exception, not the rule. However, it sounds as if it’s the rule, and that tells me you need to change the rules. You need a structural solution—a solution that involves all Six Sources of Influence.

The situation you describe calls for a project-management system, one that people buy into and have the skills to use. Then it requires holding people accountable to the system—not just to your individual projects.

I will walk through the influence model found in Influencer to help you solve this problem. The process starts with identifying measurable results you want to achieve; next, identify a few key behaviors that, if changed, will bring about those results; and finally, outline strategies to accomplish your vital behaviors using six different sources of influence.

Measurable Results. Your goal is to ensure project schedules, budgets, and specs are met.

It sounds as if your projects have to compete with employees’ other tasks. That’s to be expected. The problem occurs when your projects never get a high enough priority, or when the priority gets bumped. Instead of focusing on your project, focus on the overall project-planning process. Your goal is to get people to commit to a fair process—one that meets their objectives as well as yours. Then your challenge is to help everyone stick to the process. Become a champion for the process, not just your project. This change will create greater Mutual Purpose.

Vital Behaviors. The vital behaviors you’ll want to focus on are:

1. Prioritizing all of your project’s tasks against people’s competing tasks.
2. Establishing that people who complete the tasks have input into the project plan and sign up to deliver on realistic schedules, budgets, and specs.
3. Ensuring that when people have reason to believe they could miss a schedule, budget, or spec, they will immediately update the team on the problem.

The Six Sources of Influence. The sources of influence and specific strategies you’ll need to target are:

Source 1 – Personal Motivation: The people you rely on are feeling a lot of pain. Their plates are too full. They feel as if they have five bosses and they’re constantly being blindsided with new, unexpected demands. Instead of turning up the heat regarding your projects, get their buy-in to a more consistent process—one that has realistic priorities and plans.

Source 2 – Personal Ability: You and your colleagues may have to learn basic project-management principles. Look for resources that are already available within your firm, such as a project-management specialist. Once you have a project-management system in place, you’ll find your Crucial Conversations skills will become more powerful.

Sources 3 & 4 – Social Motivation & Ability: The most important social support you need is from your manager and the managers your resource people report to. They need to fully support a more robust project-management system. Ease their concerns that the priority-setting process may take more time and is less flexible by demonstrating how results are delivered far more reliably.

Source 5 – Structural Motivation: I bet the employees you count on are rewarded for achieving results within their own departments, and not for achieving your goals. Goals that require cross-functional teamwork are often shortchanged. Work with your manager and the resource managers to find ways to reward people for executing on their plans and for keeping to the project-planning process you’ve outlined. Even tiny changes to these reward systems will send a powerful message that managers are serious.

Source 6 – Structural Ability: This entire approach relies on implementing a project-management structure. Check to see if you already have one that’s gone dormant. Check to see if your organization has a Project Management Office that can help you re-invigorate your project structure. Here are some basic structural elements I’d want to see: a priority-setting process that involves the right stakeholders; a project planning process that results in realistic schedules, budgets, and specs; project status meetings that keep the projects on track; a measurement system that provides ongoing feedback on how well people are keeping to their project plans.

Report Back to your Manager. Meet with your manager and frame the larger issue. It isn’t just about executing your projects; it’s about executing any and all projects. Bring in whatever facts you can to back up your case. If you don’t have data on missed deadlines, budget overruns, and failures to meet specs, then bring in examples of the problems. For example: people have unclear priorities, priorities that constantly change, objectives that aren’t realistic, or no clear project plans to follow. Explain that solving this larger problem is the best way to solve your specific problem.

Best of luck in influencing your organization,

About Author:


David Maxfield

David Maxfield is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for organizational change. For thirty years, David has delivered engaging keynotes at prestigious venues including Stanford and Georgetown Universities. David’s work has been translated into 28 languages, is available in 36 countries, and has generated results for 300 of the Fortune 500.




Crucial AccountabilityQI am a middle-aged, part-time worker by choice and work very hard while I am at work. I have a great attendance record, I’m dedicated, meticulous, and take initiative without drawing attention to myself. I try to do everything I can to make my coworkers’ jobs easier. Per my supervisor and coworkers, I am a “great team player.” However, I am still bothered by some comments along the lines of “she’s just a part-timer,” and I don’t get the same treatment as full-time employees regarding things like perks, raises, etc.

What can I do to help my employer and coworkers understand that I am part of the team and contribute just as much as they do without causing hard feelings?

Part-time Worker

AThere are three different levels of crucial conversations that can be addressed. They are: content (a specific problem or issue), pattern (a repeating problem), and relationship (the way we work together, or the way we relate to each other). Issues of respect, like the one you raise, are relationship issues. Instead of solving a single problem, you want to change aspects of your relationship with your coworkers. These are especially difficult conversations that often involve roles, responsibilities, emotions, and perspectives.

The key to your situation seems to be developing a mutual understanding with your coworkers about your role and contribution. I would recommend starting with your supervisor. Begin a conversation with your supervisor by factually describing the things that are happening and being said which you believe show disrespect.

Share your example, then tentatively share your interpretation of the behavior. Finally, ask for your supervisor’s view so you can understand his or her perception. For example, you might begin as follows.

“Yesterday Robert, referring to me, said, ‘She’s just a part-timer.’ He seemed to be implying that I wasn’t really a member of the team. Is that how you see things? I’d really like to understand your view.”

Now is the time to listen. Perhaps your boss agrees with your coworker. This would be important information for you to know. Perhaps your boss is unaware of how you feel and why. Knowing the boss’s perspective is critical to knowing what task awaits you. If the boss is surprised, you may want to share additional examples of disrespect or unequal treatment such as perks and raises. If the boss knows what’s happening and believes that your role is second class or that you are a “quasi” team member, you may want to renegotiate your role. Explain how you have contributed, how you want to contribute, and how you want to be treated. Change usually begins with awareness. As you both become aware of each other’s views and assumptions, misunderstandings can be addressed, attitudes can be changed, and expectations can be negotiated.

Once you and your supervisor are in agreement, you are in a good position to talk to your coworkers and have your supervisor support you. Now, use the same approach to address the issue with your coworkers. This time, compare what’s happening with what you expect or desire to happen. You might say, “Robert, yesterday you said I was just a ‘part-timer’ as if you don’t think I’m really a member of the team. I would prefer to be treated as a team member who adds value and helps the team be successful. How do you see me as a member of the team?”

You now have a chance to understand your coworker’s view and influence it, either through creating mutual understanding and setting new expectations, or by changing perception through consistent performance over time. Never let the way others treat you be an undiscussable. Skillfully and respectfully address the issues in your relationships and create better relationships and better results.

Best wishes,

About Author: –

About The Author:

Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything.

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Are you currently working on a team that is experiencing one or more of the following?

  • “We have great starts, but struggle with finishing strong – on time, on budget.”
  • “We say “yes” to tight project deadlines knowing full well we can’t finish it given the timelines and resources provided”
  • “We delivered the result – but it wasn’t the quality and level of solution we were hoping for.”

If this describes your situation, chances are there are crucial conversations you are either not holding or holding well, that are keeping you from getting the results you really want. The real question is: What is the cost to your organization?

A business’ success depends on flawless execution of key business strategies. What we know is that successful execution of these very strategies lives in the quality of our conversations. Yet, many of us struggle to speak up when we see things that are not creating success. As a result, what we don’t say or don’t say well acts as a barrier to successful execution and ultimately impacts our own and our organization’s results.

The Silence Fails Study

Silence Fails Study
Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution research study, conducted by VitalSmarts and The Concours Group, uncovers five crucial issues—defined in the study as crucial conversations—that have an enormous impact on whether high-stakes business initiatives succeed.

The Silence Fails study demonstrates that when even one of these crucial conversations fails, a silent crisis plays out in a deceptively simple dynamic that results in failure to execute an initiative 85 percent of the time. The visible outcomes include going over budget, missing deadlines, and failing to meet quality and functionality specs. Team morale is inevitably damaged in the process. Over time people become cynical and are resistant to change.

Alternately, when these conversations succeed, the failure rate is reduced by 50 to 70 percent.

The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution: –

The five crucial conversations identified by the study are the most prevalent and most costly barriers to project success. They are:

  1. Fact-Free Planning: – A project is set up to fail when deadlines or resource limits are set with no consideration for reality. Eighty-five percent of participants experienced this problem on nearly 40 percent of their projects.
  2. AWOL Sponsors: – A sponsor doesn’t provide leadership, political clout, time, or energy to see a project through to completion. Sixty-five percent experienced this on one-third of their projects. Fewer than 12 percent of those indicated that they could skillfully address this issue.
  3. Skirting: – People work around the priority-setting process. Just over 50 percent of project leaders attempt to speak up on this issue, and only 16 percent of those solve the problem.
  4. Project Chicken: – Team leaders and members don’t admit when there are problems with a project but instead wait for someone else to speak up first. While 55 percent of study participants experienced this problem, fewer than 14 percent of those skillfully addressed it.free_download silence fails study report
  5. Team Failures: – Team members perpetuate dysfunction when they are unwilling or unable to support the project. Encountered by 80 percent of all project leaders with very few of those feeling able to address this issue, team failures go unaddressed nearly half of the time.

When a Conversation Fails: –

These concerns are more common than most leaders realize; 90 percent of project managers routinely encounter one or more of these five concerns—and nearly one in five projects are plagued by all five. But the problem isn’t that these concerns are common; in fact, they may be an inevitable part of any strategic implementation. The problem is that those who encounter these problems don’t effectively confront and resolve them. This study reveals that only half ever attempt to confront the problems, and when they do, only 17 percent say they are able to get their concerns heard and understood. This study also reveals that many leaders lack the skills to address these issues and instead, often see themselves as the scapegoats and feel they are ignored, blown off, or pressured into submission.

The Good News: –

Although this study shares important findings that can predict and explain failure, the most important implication of the research is the potential that leaders have to influence success. In each of the five crucial conversations, the study found that just speaking up can make a difference and that speaking up skillfully and effectively dramatically improves project success. When these conversations succeed, the impact on the course of the initiative is profound. Those who successfully address one or more of the five issues are 50 percent to 70 percent more likely to fully achieve project objectives—on budget, on schedule, on spec, and with intact team morale.

Next Steps: –

As organizational leaders, we have the ability to predict and prevent the failure of high-stakes business initiatives by creating a culture where the five conversations are held quickly and effectively. Silence Fails provides insights and recommendations on how senior leaders can develop a business case for change, measure behaviors, invest in skills, hold senior management accountable, and make heroes of early adopters.


We invite you to participate in a survey conducted by Leadership Consulting – VitalSmarts India on “Holding Slacking Coworkers Accountable”.

This 8-question survey will take 5 minutes of yours and responses will be kept confidential. To complete the survey online, please go to

To learn more about how you can improve your success rate with your most important strategic initiatives, please contact us at or call us at 1800-102-1345 (Toll Free) or visit us at

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96% of survey respondents have experienced bullying at work, and 54% of workplace bullies have been at it for 5-plus years

Brian regularly emailed his direct reports at all hours of the night. When one didn’t immediately answer, he would hurl a volley of emailed threats and personal insults. Team members felt afraid, vulnerable, and helpless. Many quit. The turnover cost millions of dollars – not to mention the disruption of service to customers. In spite of employees’ attempts to complain, Brian’s behavior continued for years. Here are other real stories:

  • “My former manager would lash out, using foul language, telling the entire staff they were acting like idiots. Then turn silent. For 15 years he was moved from one department to another.”
  • “The assistant to our VP is a control freak. She hangs up on you, micromanages, and ‘owns’ the conference room and the supply closet. Everyone talks behind her back, but no will approach her, because of the boss – with whom she had an affair. I am looking for a new job.”
  • “Our CEO would regularly say, ‘You’re so stupid’ and, ‘You should be cleaning toilets instead of doing proposals.’ He threw things, slammed things, and forced quitting employees to a ‘walk of shame’ around the office. Everyone feared standing up to him, including his own wife, who also worked here.”

According to a new study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, co-authors of New York Times bestsellers Crucial Conversations and Influencer, 96 percent of respondents say they have experienced workplace bullying. Eighty-nine percent of those bullies have been at it for more than a year; 54 percent for more than five years. In some cases, the survey found, bullies have continued in the same job for 30-plus years.

“We were astonished that in so many cases the person most likely to remain in his or her job was the bully,” said Grenny. “Bullying can’t persist unless there is a complete breakdown in all four systems of accountability – personal (the victim himself or herself), peer (others who witness the behavior), supervisory (hierarchical leaders), and formal discipline (HR). So it was shocking to see in how many organizations not just one – but all four of these systems were terribly weak.”

Equally surprising was the widespread effect of bullying. It was rare that the alleged bully picked a single target. In fact, 80 percent of respondents said the bully affected five or more people.

So, how do you stop a bully? The study showed that the most effective deterrent is the skillful verbal intervention of the person being targeted. Next most effective is informal peer accountability. While in high-accountability organizations all four must be strong – personal, peer, boss and formal discipline – the study showed that the first breakdown is the first. When individuals and peers who experience or see bullying say nothing, the bully gets emboldened. And the more who join in the silence, the more evidence the bully has that the behavior is sustainable.

A lack of formal policies similarly enables bullying. Only 51 percent say their company has a policy for dealing with bullies, and only 7 percent know of anyone who has ever used that policy. (Six percent say the policy did work to stop a bully.)

According to the study, workplace bullying takes on a variety of forms. Of those who had seen or experienced bullying:

  • 62% saw sabotaging of others work or reputations
  • 52% saw browbeating, threats, or intimidation
  • 4% saw physical intimidation or assault

Grenny and Maxfield offered specific tips for dealing with a workplace bully:

  • Reverse your thinking. Most of us suffer in silence because all we consider are the risks of speaking up. Those who speak up and hold others accountable tend to do the opposite. They think first about the risks of NOT speaking up. Then they give thought to the risks of speaking up. Changing the order of the risk assessment makes you much more likely to take action.
  • Facts first.Present your information, as if talking to a jury. Stick with the detailed facts. Strip out any judgmental or provocative language and be specific.
  • Validate concerns. Often the bullying behavior was triggered by some legitimate concern. Be sure to validate that need – while demonstrating an unwillingness to tolerate the way it was handled.
  • Share natural consequences. Let them know what the consequences are of this way of handling their concerns – to you, others, customers, work projects, etc.
  • Hold boundaries.Let them know how you expect to be treated in the future. Ask for their commitment. And let them know what your next step will be if there is a recurrence.

“When dealing with a bully, too often we fall victim to thinking ‘this is how they are, and nothing I do will change them or their actions,’” said Maxfield. “Actually, years of research prove that’s not true. A bully can change if someone stands up to him or her and helps them see the consequences of their actions. Otherwise, it will simply continue.”

A final thought: Being bullied is also expensive, according to the study. Twenty percent said dealing with workplace bullies cost them 7-plus hours a week in lost time. That’s $8,800 in lost wages to those workers or their employers every year.

Note to Editor: Grenny and Maxfield are available for interview. For a high-res infographic of the survey, click here.

About VitalSmarts:

An innovator in corporate training and leadership development, VitalSmarts is home to the award-winning Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything Training and New York Times bestselling books of the same titles. When used in combination, these courses enable organizations to achieve new levels of performance by changing employee behavior. VitalSmarts has consulted with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and trained more than one million people worldwide.

Personal Accountability Training is an upcoming concept in India and relatively new within the organizational Training and Development community, this article on personal accountability will clarify the purpose, characteristics and application.

Personal Accountability Training

It is important to note that Personal Accountability-Based training is not intended to replace traditional skill-building, which is used for the enhancement of skills to improve one’s effectiveness on the job. The later has its own importance and need. In fact, participants do develop skills during this implementation approach. There are two purposes that are interconnected for the use of Personal Accountability-Based consulting and training. First, is the application at an individual level.

Employees see organizational change as a negative experience that one has to avoid or survive. Reality is that the organizational change is an opportunity for self-growth and personal transformation in areas of our life that employees may have ignored in the past.

At an individual level, Personal Accountability-Based training is designed to assist an individual in making the transformation that’s necessary to respond to societal and organizational challenges.

Organizations today are also struggling to bring changes that shift its paradigm of operation. This usually implies a culture change with a new and higher level of functioning. Yet while many organizations implement Total Quality and Continuous Improvement efforts, these remain as separate programs, rather than emerging as culture change.

Personal Accountability-Based training deals with dysfunctional operational areas and the environmental conditions that contribute to those areas. Typically, this approach is best used with Total Quality Implementation, implementation of self-directed teams, and redefining the role and functioning of leadership.

Personal accountability training has following features which distinguishes it from skill-building:

1. Quantitative:  Personal Accountability training results to accomplish business outcomes which are measurable by quantitative performance results and by environmental/cultural changes that back these results.

2. Focuses on Systems rather than processes: A system for achieving the desired performance results and culture change is first developed. Then, the skills required to implement the system are recognized and combined together. This ensures that the strategies and techniques are practical.

3. Real-Life/Real-Time Implementation: Rather than class room training technique, all learning is executed through real-life problems, systems and functions of their normal work routine. This way, they will be ensured of the practicality and as well as ensuring a high return on investment.

4. Social involvement: Other people in the system provide two important functions: Accountability and Support. This could be either a manager or a teammate. This is a critical part of  Personal Accountability training since the focus is on recovery, not perfection.

5. Its measurable: Another part of the system is the ongoing measurement of improvement from personal accountability training; it is a function of the continuous improvement and learning that is at the basis of this approach.

If you would like to learn more about how accountable you are or your organization is, I invite you to visit or call us at 1800-102-1345(toll Free).

Related Links:– Crucial Accountability®,   Crucial Conversations®,    Change Anything®,    Influencer

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