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Emotional Intelligence for Next-Gen PMs

What is emotional intelligence?     Before we understand and discuss Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for Project Managers, let's understand what it means when we talk about this. Emotional intelligence, sometimes known as EQ (emotional quotient) is a person’s ability and capability to use and manage his/her emotions towards a positive goal. This will help the person to overcome many challenges, relieve stress, and resolve many conflicts.


Why and How EI can be used by PMs? When it comes to project management, it's more important to use and control the EQ efficiently as it involves other stakeholders associated with the project. In the current market situations, where the project schedule is very tight, the project managers have to understand and apply the principles of EI to maximize the results of the project. As any project requires deep collaboration between all the stakeholders PMs must deal with all the challenges effectively. PMs can consider some of the areas where emotional intelligence can play a vital role. During difficult situations, the PM's actual role comes to the front as it depends on his/her capability to handle the situation. The ability to serve best for the project can make a PM a true leader. It must be understood by the PMs that, people’s behavior, requirements, and tastes are changing day by day which in turn makes a change in the overall requirements.

Few points to be considered are given below:

  • PMs can play a role in finding out and assigning the proper task to the right person.
  • During the conflicts, PMs can join the discussion and raise their points for negotiation. This can be with the team or different stakeholders of the project.
  • PMs can help in building a relationship with team members.
  • PMs can help to create models to make people understand and utilize the same.
  • They can also use this towards a good result of the project.
  • PMs can educate the team about the EQ models which helps team members to overcome tough situations as and when needed.


What models PMs should follow for using EI for project success? A model for EQ is given below for the PMs to follow as well as educate the team. As EQ is related to a person’s emotions, intelligence, the thinking capability it will be necessary for PMs to understand its impact on them. There are five components considered as a model for Emotional Intelligence. These included a self-awareness, self-management, self-motivation, interpersonal management, and quality of leadership.


Self-awareness:  It’s always considered that responsibility comes with awareness. Until a PM is aware of his roles and responsibility he cannot make any change in the system. This sense of self-awareness is a PM's ability to identify and sense the emotion of the surroundings. Having low in EQ makes a PM Low in day to day activities. If the awareness is less there are chances of missing a lot of things. To increase the self-awareness PMs need to increase the degree of emotion. For example, if a PM gets the challenge (after the problem identification) then he will be able to handle it. So a PM has to always try for expressing his/her emotions in the right way. Try to get and accept good suggestions from others. If all the feelings are touched upon, then a PM can take a good and wise decision about any change, tasks, and works.


Self-Management:  Once PMs are aware of the feelings, they can make a good choice and use the EQ to reply to a proper choice instead of reacting towards that. Managing self is using the brain to understand the feelings well. As we are all human beings sometimes, it's very difficult to control the responses. The main reason is we have never backed our responses based on data and circumstances. To increase the ability to self-manage first PMs have to identify the values and prioritize them. They have to take responsibility for accepting them. Making a proper decision is a vital part of self-management. Instead of immediate reaction, pause and think a bit before starting to act. Find the reason behind all the queries coming in and ask for feedback. Every person has some opportunities for improvement so accepting feedback will improve the way of managing yourself.


Self-Motivation: This is the PM's ability to focus on the power of his/her emotions to achieve a specific goal. Project Teams can do something and achieve the project goal. However, there are situations when the team is not completely aware of their ability and they are diverted from this. So this has to be recognized, and the team should be given the courage to self-motivate them. This can also be done by putting some realistic and meaningful goals. The work-life balance also plays a vital role in this. Have time for oneself, and involvement in mental and physical health will increase the motivation in a human being. Always be positive and optimistic about every circumstance. A good attitude towards work will also help get motivated.


Interpersonal Management: This defines a PM's ability to connect with others and understand their emotions to respond to them during the conversations. First of all the PM has to listen to the team with patience and then respond as and when necessary. There are chances when people may react to the PM's words or conversation based on their emotions but he has to tell his decisions as well. A PM should also be opened for all discussions too.


Quality of leadership: Leadership is one of the toughest qualities for a PM. A good leader can create a final vision for the whole team. It's not only asking the team to complete the tasks but also to guide and communicate them about what to do. Emotional Intelligent PMs take care of this and go forward. As the behavior of the PM plays a very vital role, this will increase the respect of PM among the team members and they will try to connect to his points. This is a way to create a long-term relationship with a team that leads to project success, otherwise, people will leave the project in between leading to a huge loss for the project.


Tips for increasing EI in project Management. Start discussing EI in the team and try to make the team understand. Share the EI models with the team and ask the team about their thought process. Prepare plans for one to one meetings to understand their emotions and provide to them some current reference for dealing with the environment. Discuss the roles, responsibilities, and objectives of each person to guide them on the project journey along with their growth plan. Recognize them if they are doing great in the team. This will lead to increase confidence among team members. But the final thought process is to listen carefully to their thoughts, their problems and try to ask meaningful questions to help them resolve.


The other side of EI in project management: Sometimes it’s seen that, if a PM is good at controlling his emotions, he/she can also disguise the true feelings and status for the projects which are not good for long-term benefits. Sometimes PMs can also use their EQ to divert the project stakeholders if they are the least interest in the project. They can manipulate with real data and get some additional benefits in terms of revenue and duration of the project. This will lead to mismanagement of the project and finally, it will make the organization's reputation down in the market. If the PM is not good in emotional intelligence, that will also be a problem for the project. In that case, the PM cannot justify or describe the real and true problems going in the projects, due to which the project may not get the right approvals although it’s a deserving one. This leads to delay in the projects as well as mental and physical stress to the whole team members. Hiding escalation and bad news from the stakeholders is again a problem because it delays the solution to get rid of that problem. It may increase the severity by the time it comes to the limelight.


EI is essential or good to have for PMs: Finally, PMs indeed work in very complex environments. Both technical and analytical skills are required for them to make the project successful. A project manager has to do the projects along with the team members not single-handed. To build good team collaboration PMs should develop a good relationship with the team. Here comes the role of EI for PMs as they have to deal with multiple people. They should have the ability to understand the emotion of others, empathize with that to get a very good result. If they can manage their emotions at the correct time, it will also be sure that the revealed expressions are also true. The decision making in these situations will also come correct. If PMs motivate them as well as the team, it will lead to getting more realistic goals. So emotional intelligence is not only good to have, but it also plays an essential role in PMs day to day activity in a project.

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Dr. Asit Chandra Dash

About author

A professional with 14+ years of experience in areas of in Development, training, recruitment, people management, and project management and Scrum.
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