Self-Sabotage, Part II: a conversation and nine suggestions.


By Ugo Micoli

I started a discussion in The Project Manager Network – #1 Group for Project Managers on LinkedIn.

I asked:

As a PM and a Leader, how do you manage Self-Sabotage in your Project Team members?

Here is a selection of the comments, keeping the central phrases as in the original messages. I think it can be of some interest for those who read my previous article on this subject. I close the article with nine tips I think may be useful.

Kevin Robinson – …Everybody needs to be their own cheerleader! A little cognitive therapy can have a real impact on performance.

Ugo Micoli – …Self-Sabotage is very common. And VERY dangerous when one is in charge.

Kiron Bondale – One way to identify it is to get to know your team members well enough that they are willing to share their fears and doubts with you. Alternately, active listening to how they respond or participate in team meetings might help you identify these.

Salem Abusaif – … Self-Sabotage, and self dialogue, are the main factors of leading the mankind steps in life, more over it is indications of their lifestyle, and their succeed in life. If the internal dialogue is positive, then you will avoid sabotage, increase challenge towards taking the right decision, to suit the time for the opportunity moment, which change your lifestyle, increases your self confidence.
Internal dialogue, should be based on clarity, trusts, facts, but in the same times encouraging not frustration, increase wise braveness, to achieve legitimate targets.

Ugo Micoli – I think self-sabotage is underestimated by many PMs, regarding themselves and the members of their team. Maybe, because of some soft skills at psychological or communication levels. The basic training the most had for entering the job is involved: certifications for a minority, Masters in tech fields and experience on the ground for many who then run the course of the command chain in p.m. systems (programme, portfolio, PO, p. governance…). Should courses about these matters be mandatory?

Prabhat Kumar Srivastava – I think in this injurious situation, one needs to analyse the facts leading to self-sabotage. A SWOT analysis can be useful to become fully aware of the self and reasons leading to confidence level touching to almost zero sometime in an individual, who is miserably failing in his efforts to achieve a target. Here to revitalise the energy level, one has to rediscover himself and gain fresh confidence so as to swing into action with fresh positive frame of mind and renewed vigour and strategy. Beside this, our learned friends have already given their wise thoughts and suggested many remedies to tackle such a situation.

Ugo Micoli – You are right, Prabhat. Maybe these forums should be a bit more about these kind of things than technicalities or semantics or great pieces of wisdom :) about “leadership” or “soft skills”… in my experience as a coach I’ve seen that people can’t just stop self-sabotage using a simple pattern like [some example that can be read, about self-analysis, inner dialogs and beliefs]… It is too cerebral.
Also if one is convinced by his inner dialogue that something has to be made, it’s not by “talking to himself” that he will start to act.
There must be some emotional trigger.
… The point of self-sabotage is related to the work environment? How can a person even notice it? … As I said these things, strangely, are not in the kit of many leaders.

Stephen Zepf –  Ugo. You ask of what experience helps in overcoming this condition (I call it a condition because it is a state of capitulation). I think we perceive circumstances as being fateful and lose our vitality to assert our will. I don’t know of an emotional trigger but I do believe there is an intellectual one…at least it was for me. I wake up with the sense that nothing really matters…now make it meaningful. Or that the world isn’t very promising but the possibilities are encouraging. It’s all a matter of perspective. If you show me [a device] and say how innovative a product it is – I might remark, what a curious thing for nature to do. I know the intellect that defines us (ingenuity) but I also understand what created it (nature). I guess it’s really how you structure it in your head, to make things interesting, ridiculous or inspiring.

Stephen Zepf –  … China is an interesting place and the social culture that I’ve experience – the norms of expectations and the perceived ability to have some influence in them, are very different than what I know. i.e. the purchaser can not have the supplier deliver the parts on time – the order was made too late. I asked them to call with a special request to expedite the order quickly for a deadline. They responded with the fact that it won’t matter. I told them it will if you tell them the importance of the order and our wish to establish a reliable business relationship will them. They said the supplier doesn’t care. I went on about a number of options we could present to the supplier to encourage a quick delivery – they looked at me like I came from outerspace. I told them try it again, you got nothing to lose. The supplier is a person just like us, he needs someone to engage him not just ask for pieces of metal. Well, it work and they were surprised. I told them to be confidence and don’t fail to know what’s possible. I’ll have to persevere to keep the idea rolling and they have to be persistant to apply it and adapt to a mindset of possibilities.

Ugo Micoli – [The device…] In the metaphor, I don’t think relativism can help, except for marketing.
[“it’s really how you structure it in your head, to make things interesting, ridiculous or inspiring”] I think reality is reality, the color we paint over is the problem…. [“they looked at me like I came from outerspace”] Sometimes it is necessary to make people see themselves from the outside.

Ugo Micoli – … I opened a forum about Single-tasking here
I think it is the natural development of this topic.


As you can see, it is possible to learn something from this conversation.

1 – Every team member has to be his “own cheerleader”, but common identity, mentality and availability to help is of great importance in a team.

2 – You need to take self-sabotage in account seriously, if you are in charge of other people and growing responsibilities especially.

3 – As Kiron Bondale said, “… get to know your team members well enough that they are willing to share their fears and doubts with you. Alternately, active listening to how they respond or participate in team meetings might help you identify these.”

4 – So, first, build an open environment for straightforward communication and run good coaching sessions for the single team members, proportionate to the items, avoiding cheap-talk and subjective opinions. Remember that self-sabotage is not often perceived as such, but as “external” issues. It’s up to you to keep people in front of a mirror.

5 – And, second, be able to see behavioral dynamics in real time in your team. Be honest and, if you need, do not hesitate to look for a good coaching for yourself. You will notice a great improvement in the teamwork you have to lead.

6 – The self-dialogue control is a dangerous path, mainly because you do not have the external perspective on your own situation: you are part of the problem. But if you are well trained, by coaching, to see self-sabotage situations coming, just be practical and never play with the Little Psychologist Box, about yourself especially. Focus on common goals and responsibility taken with other people instead. Feel your value in the name of the team you are in.

7 – This same message has to be delivered to your single team members if theirs is the case. They are there for the squad and victory, not to be lost in individual waste of time and energy.

8 – Stay objective and feet on the ground. The more you are stressed and losing control and autonomy, the more you perceive all things as relative. So your decisions and the same ability to see, interact and help are seriously damaged. Add to this the dominant mainstream idea that truth is subjective. This is not correct if you focus on the single real point. So, to help your players to stay in the reality field, check their stress level always, but push them to hard work anyway, and to a level a bit harder than what they think they can go (and you know they can instead). This will change how they perceive their value and will help them to be objective and practical.

9 – Anyway, you are there for just one single thing: your Team has to win and the Cup will be yours: this must be repeated always and become the last clear thought in difficult times. Do not think about the final goal as a stressing thing for tomorrow morning, focus hard and work harder on every single step instead: one thing at a time. Surrender is not an option. If you lose, you don’t for your choice. So, it will be very difficult you can lose really.

2 Comments on “Self-Sabotage, Part II: a conversation and nine suggestions.”

  1. Dorothy says:

    Do you have branches in Chicago?


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