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The Unified Project Management Dictionary

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People: Emotional Intelligence and Project Success

When Emotional Intelligence was first introduced to the workplace, many people (including me) didn’t think feelings belonged in the workplace. We were experts in our fields and needed to deal with logic and facts – certainly not “FEELINGS”. While working on a global software project, I realized technology was a tool -- it was the people who made success happen. Today, when I speak about Emotional Intelligence, I am not talking about “feelings”. I am focusing on behaviors and choices that people choose when they react to the situations around them. Project managers who initialize, plan, and oversee execution of projects cannot control every possibility that will affect the project. This is where risk management comes into play; and this is where Emotional Intelligence is essential. 

The power that Emotional Intelligence offers project managers is based on five core behavioral composites that address how people: 

  • Perceive themselves 
  • Express themselves 
  • Interact with others 
  • Make decisions 
  • Handle Stress 

People engage in these core behaviors at varying levels throughout the course of business every day. The powerful part of this process is helping project managers learn how to collaboratively leverage the strengths of their team and stakeholders to achieve their shared goals. Emotional Intelligence assessments measure levels of engagement. People may be more engaged with one core composite than another. This is what makes us human. A perfect score is not a possibility. The key word is balance within an individual and among team members. 

Let’s look at one of the Core Behavioral Composites: Stress Tolerance. Some people thrive on the adrenaline that rises within them when they encounter a stressful situation. Other people prefer to work through a stressful situation methodically. Depending on your perspective, an individual’s approach to stress may appear to be a strength or a weakness. Regardless of one’s specific perspective, a strong leader will encourage people with different working styles to combine their efforts to bring out the strengths of each team member—ultimately advancing the team. 

A real-world example of how being aware of how different people handle stress occurred within an office between the president of a company and the administrative assistant. Alex reacted to stress in a very aggressive manner by throwing papers and 

shouting. Sandy remained calm and never seemed to react to the immediate disaster. Alex didn’t think that Sandy understood the enormity of the crisis and was ready to begin termination procedures. Then, Alex attended a workshop that overviewed the concepts of Emotional Intelligence. On returning to the office, Alex watched Sandy’s behavior and realized that Sandy was calmly figuring out which team members could resolve the issues and contacting them to begin working on the problem. Instead of being fired, Sandy received a raise. 

Emotional Intelligence initially may sound like an intangible concept; however, it is an incredibly practical business tool. Successful project managers are able help the people on their teams balance their skills, talents, and energies to realize a shared vision. Be assured attention paid to the people element of a project will reap a strong return on investment. 

Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of Susan Schwartz