Project Managers & Emotional Intelligence

Instructor: Audrey Brown

Dr. Audrey E Brown’s Mastery in Program/Project Management consists of five certifications, along with 15+ years of experience in the field.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is an essential skill project managers need to have in order to manage today's project successfully. This lesson will define EI and discuss the reason EI is a critical skill for project managers to possess.

Project Managers and Emotional Intelligence

Imagine if you were interviewing for a project manager position and your potential employer administered an emotional intelligence assessment to determine whether to hire you. How do you think you would score? If your results indicate a weak emotional intelligence (EI) score, the hiring manager will not extend an offer for you to join her organization. EI has become extremely popular with human resource leaders; many human resource leaders have incorporated EI assessments into their pre-hiring processes because research has concluded that project managers with people skills are more successful delivering projects.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) grew in popularity during the late ninety's (1998) as a result of Daniel Goleman's book entitled Emotional Intelligence. EI is the ability to control your emotions, to perceive the emotions of others, and to build relationships. Did you know Goleman believed EI is more important than your intelligence quotient (IO)? Goleman found that some people believe a person's education and experience usually is unchanged; however, EI is teachable. This means that if you have a weak EI score, you can enroll in EI courses to improve your EI skills.

Project Managers with Emotional Intelligence Skills

Why is it important for project managers to have strong emotional intelligence (EI) skills? Emotional intelligence is linked to all of Project Management Institute's (PMI) interpersonal skills deemed important skills for project managers to possess. PMI's important interpersonal skills are:

  1. leadership with EI means - solving problems with creative ideas
  2. team building with EI means - building strong teams
  3. motivation with EI means - sensing when your team needs to be motivated
  4. communication with EI means - communicating effectively with your project team
  5. influencing with EI means - getting your team members to follow your requests in matrix environments
  6. decision making with EI means - making decisions void of emotions
  7. cultural awareness with EI means - appreciating and respecting organizational cultural differences
  8. trust building with EI means - building trust with people across the organization
  9. negotiation with EI means - sensing the needs of the other party
  10. conflict resolution with EI means - defusing situations by perceiving others' emotional issues
  11. coaching with EI means - perceiving when your project team or members need guidance

Two particular demands on project managers require EI: managing virtual teams and handling changes. Generally, project managers work in matrix environments, which means they work across organizations. They don't have direct reports or direct contact with the people on their teams. They need to have the ability to perceive team members' true emotions, which is much more challenging with virtual teams; however, video-conferencing is a tool they can use to facilitate their ability to perceive their team members' needs. In such cases, they must also build relationships in order to influence and manage their team members.

The second demand of project management that requires EI skills is the fact that countless changes occur during any project life cycle. Project team members will often observe how project managers react to changes, which is when project managers' EI skills are really on display. They must lead by example, which means they must control their emotions and encourage their team members to follow their lead.

For example, your project team is developing software to monitor stock trading only for U.S customers. In today's meeting, the sponsor decides to monitor China and Japan's stock trading also, which increases the scope, schedule, and cost of the project. Your team members will automatically turn to you in order to observe your emotions. You need to respond appropriately in the presence of the sponsor and behind the scenes. Usually, your project team will mirror your response.

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