Project Practitioners > What is Your Interaction Quotient?

What is Your Interaction Quotient?

By Randy Englund

Most all work gets done through interactions with others.  However, people accumulate many habits and practices that stand in the way of successful interactions.  For example, leaders want results but actions speak louder to say they want control.  Is it possible to pursue both control and results—up to the point where the two actually conflict?  Our effectiveness in working with others can improve when we explore a new perspective, frame of reference, tools, and recommendations to achieve better results through the power of strong relationships.

In my experience with professional organizations sponsoring major events, an inordinate amount of discussion goes into pessimistic forecasting, angst around break even points, and tasks.  On occasion I have suffered through these discussions quietly.  At first, I’m operating in my own circle—feeling frustrated, almost paralyzed from acting.  I then compel myself to operate in a different circle—where I connect with others in order to achieve a greater outcome.  That means I speak up and remind the group of the First Law of Money:  money will come when you are doing the right thing.  I refocus the discussion on why we are doing the event, reinforce that its purpose is to contribute to the professional community (not just prevent the organization from losing money), and engage others in clarifying the value the event offers, both to promoters and participants.  If the value is indeed there, we can charge appropriately for the event, and people will come.  We need to be enthusiastic about the project.  It is that enthusiasm, and its source, that will be contagious, bringing others in to participate and making the project successful.

In situations like these, I can use the following questions as a means to gauge my interaction quotient:

  • Do I believe I am successful and have confidence that I’ll continue to be successful?
  • Is it possible that as I become more successful, it is harder to deal with feedback that is inconsistent with the way I see myself?
  • The more I believe in what got me to where I am… am I more likely to ignore, rationalize, or deny the cues I get from others that I could do better?
  • Can I get what I want by operating as usual?

This example highlights two circles—individual and connected—that form a revised way of thinking and a powerful frame of reference.  Using this frame of reference as a personal tool entails only that I become aware of what circle I am operating in at the moment and then asking if that’s the best way to handle the current situation.  I then have options to switch circles and act differently.  A question is not which circle is better.  The point is, I have a full range of options available to me and which is best for this situation.


High-performance cultures require leaders who leverage their self-awareness, understand their leadership style and place value on the power of strong relationships. They are fully aware that sustained effort and achieving project results are a function of interaction and interdependence. They know that developing strong working relationships are one of the keys to sustained success.  However, we as leaders embrace many "enemies" that threaten our relationships, such as excessive controls or too busy to learn.

Since relationships exist in a frame of reference, change the frame of reference, and we can achieve amazing results.  Which values will we emphasize when they are in conflict?  We need a new perspective, frame of reference, tools, and recommendations to work through the myriad of interactions that confront us everyday.


  • Relationships exist in a frame of reference; change the frame of reference, and you can dissolve apparent conflicts.
  • Be aware of multiple frames of reference available to guide behavior in various situations.
  • Develop more self-awareness by observing what habits guide your actions.
  • Notice what frame--individual or connected--is sourcing your current thoughts, actions, and conversations.
  • Decide to use options from both circles to expand range of behaviors.

Randy Englund,

Related Links
Randy Englund and Bob Lauridsen are conducting an interactive, multimedia, exploratory discussion about Powering-Up Your Interaction Quotient on February 5, 2009 at Ultimatein Success in Santa Clara, CA.  They introduce the two circles of separateness versus connectedness and other models affecting interactive behaviors.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

There is a growing realization that to survive and prosper, people like ourselves need more than the traditional analytical tools offered in our schooling and training.
In the words of one of my mentors Fernando Flores, “Our schooling has been focused on the acquisition of knowledge and the application of concepts, but as knowledge becomes a commodity, it is increasingly evident that this is not what we need to cope and thrive in today’s world. Instead, we need new practices that are not trivial — practices that allow us to cope with an increasingly global, constantly changing world, where communication is instant, and our identities are examined and at risk at all times.”

Recognized or not, we have all been greatly impacted by the age of connectivity. As our access to information and networks grows, and our capacity to connect to other people expands, leaders and managers alike are generally finding it more difficult to produce and compete. Some people are beginning to realize that they don’t have the skills necessary to navigate in a constantly changing world, but don’t know what to do about it.

We are picking up that many people live in fear and anxiety about the future, and lack confidence not only in their capacity to cope with the reality at hand, but in some cases, with their leaders’ capacity as well. Working harder is no longer leading to the results it did in the past.

Self-delusion and denial are always helpful anesthetics in these moments of dramatic change. However, there are always those who see what’s happening and are ready to take action. What is needed but often not realized is a new perspective (new frame of reference) and specific tools to cope and thrive in your work in the reality of our world today.

A tired clique goes something to the effect that “What got us to this point won’t sustain us.” In this regard, Einstein wrote, “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

This is all well and good however, my question is “Okay, but what do we do about that?” Authors and consultants exhort us to “think outside the box” but our boxes are not visible, nor can we think outside them on our own, since our present box (our frame of reference) shapes and influences everything we see, think and say. In order to think outside the box we first must know the box we’re in.

We need a way of viewing our present box or frame of reference…literally new eyes! Recognizing our present frame of reference is a first step to seeing what has worked, what will continue to serve us and what needs to be addressed if we are to succeed with today’s complexities and new challenges. Then, together, we can generate a new frame of reference to deal with this world coming at us point blank.

In our work as leaders and managers we are always evolving. There is a natural drift of evolution. The question is, are we evolving fast enough? Or, do we need to accelerate our leadership and managerial evolution by design?

-Robert Lauridsen,

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