Your monthly dose of insightful Project Management articles

Your monthly dose of Project Management articles.

How does Emotional Intelligence serve project managers while managing complex projects?

When working on a project, program, or portfolio, you are dealing with different people and mindsets. Soft skills are highly required to manage such complexity, and what differentiates project managers is how skilful they are in leading the work. Emotional intelligence is a huge asset that a project manager needs to carry to over achieve. We have asked our SMEs this question and there are a lot of insights on it: 


Monique Russell 💬 

Executive Communications Expert | Emotional Intelligence | Teaching Women Leaders How to Gain Clarity & Confidence

Project Managers have an extremely important job of ensuring the business runs smoothly and efficiently in predominantly stressful environments. They are skilled and talented at leading the process, but often struggle to effectively lead the people—and that includes themselves. When leading without Emotional Intelligence, the typical obstacles of having decision making challenges, repetitive requests being met with incomplete or no response at all, lack of engagement and more ends up increasing stress and conflict to critical levels where project managers begin to experience deterioration in health, fulfillment and mental sanity.

Understanding how to leverage the skills of Emotional Intelligence helps project managers maintain relevance by enhancing self-awareness in communication styles, energy levels, triggers and most importantly, people skills. They are able to stretch their personality, request additional support, and/or facilitate difficult conversations. But this doesn’t happen overnight, and it is not something that can be done by yourself. A very smart scientist at NASA, led a highly emotional and difficult project without Emotional Intelligence and it caused him to suffer to the point that no one would look him in the eye. Later, in a management course, he learned there was a better way to lead and to gain consensus rather than approaching it with data and logic alone.  

Mounina Tounkara 💬 

IT engineer, Project Management Consultant and TED Speaker

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya AngelouComplex projects imply uncertainty, ambiguity, and under these conditions, the mastering of emotion becomes the condition sine qua non for successful management. Emotional Intelligence abilities such as self-awareness, adaptability, empathy, and positive outlook are meaningful to the modern work world and increasingly required in complex environments.

Self-awareness to effective decision-making

Human beings are continually experiencing emotions, yet we are unaware of them. The information these emotions give us influences most of the decisions we make. Self-awareness serves Project Managers to be in tune with themselves, which brings them the clarity that spurs effective decision-making.

Empathy and adaptability to better engage stakeholders and teams

Complexity in projects means dealing with Stakeholders with different personalities and cultures. As “you cannot fake caring and trust,” empathy helps you understand why people do what they do regardless of cultural or belief systems differences. When we stop labeling people we can’t relate with as “difficult,” then we start building caring and trust with everyone.

Positivity for Greater Performance

The mood of Project Managers makes the difference whether a positive work climate that arouses cooperation in teams or a negative one in which suspicion and withholding information are the norms.

To sum up, we invite Project Managers to fill in their tool bag with Emotional Intelligence competencies because lacking them in complex environments can lead to disastrous situations. 

Phil Johnson 💬 

C Level Executive Coach

World Economic Forum has identified emotional intelligence as a Top-10 skill in 2020. Connecting with our authenticity and emotional intelligence enables us to embrace change while raising our consciousness. No one can obtain results beyond their current level of consciousness.

The development of an organization’s authentic leadership and emotional intelligence is their key advantage in the marketplace. The trigger for irreversible cultural change has occurred and the world will never be the same.

Historically the market value of a company was often considered to be roughly twice its net asset value. Now the market value of a growing number of companies is, in some cases, forty or fifty times their net asset value. Why the change? It is because the market is beginning to understand and truly value the importance of the human capital within an organization (Harvard Business Review).

Margaret Meloni 💬 

Doctor of Philosophy

Emotional Intelligence prevents unproductive conflict

When you are self-aware (one of the five components of EQ) you understand your moods. Who do you think is more likely to engage in unproductive conflict? A person in a good mood or a person in a bad mood? Of course, you picked the person who is in a bad mood right? To build on that, imagine the person who walks around completely unaware of their emotions. Who knows what is going to set them off, they certainly don’t know.

Emotional Intelligence helps YOU navigate productive conflict

Sometimes disagreements are a good thing. When you lead your team through issue resolution, not every team member will suggest the same solution. From that productive conflict, the best and most creative solution can be designed. But only if YOU and your team can draw upon your self-awareness, self-control, motivation, empathy and social skills (all you guessed it components of EQ) to work together. As you work through the conflict you are drawing upon your awareness of your feelings during the conflict and your self-control to behave professionally. You are motivated to work things out and care about seeing the issue through until the best solution is found. You don’t care if the solution selected is your solution, you care that it is the right solution. You employ active listening (part of empathy) to guide the team through the discussion and you draw upon your social skills to seek participation from all appropriate parties.

Thomas Walenta 💬 

Project Manager

Emotional Intelligence serves anybody to be more happy and a valuable member of communities. Project managers at large deal with stakeholders, sponsor, client, the project team, users, outside interested parties. They not only are a member of the project community, they are the leader (hopefully), they are watched and evaluated and often become a role model, if they like that or not. That is why integrity and consistency are important, people do not like surprises, and if they shall trust you, you have to give them the security of being predictable and fair.

Project managers for complex projects have to navigate a more diverse stakeholder constituency, with more differing interests and targets, maybe members coming in and going out more frequently (I was on a project which took me 1 day per week to acquire new members). In complex projects the diverse interests and influences of stakeholders require the project manager to exert influence and to borrow power from stakeholders.

Influencing others is the final value of Emotional Intelligence. It requires that you know yourself and can control your emotions, which results in more rational behavior and self-confidence.

Self-awareness helps you close any blind spots, to close the gap between your view of yourself and how others perceive you. It mitigates hubris and may lead you to the most important leadership competency: humility. After you worked on yourself by working in your self-awareness and self-control, you can focus on working with others. As with self-awareness, being aware of others helps you understand reality better, and how the feel and what they perceive.

The word is empathy, key skills are active listening, observing facial expressions and body language and asking questions. And controlling your feeling to jump in with information or judgement (self-control and humility). Empathy cannot be faked, you have to change your mindset to really care about others - in that moment you engage. Women are often more empathic than men, both can and should improve themselves.

The last emotional intelligence competency I call influencing. Like with self-control you now want to control the feelings and decisions by others. Wait a moment - isn't this manipulation and a violation of their freedom? It may be and in reality it is quite often. Think for example marketing ads, political statements, car sales, electioneering. But sometimes influence is positive for the recipients: in growing your kids, training your students, forming a project team or convincing users of the benefits of a new system (called change management). So what is the difference? Ethics. Influencing that is done for an ethical reason usually results in results that are perceived by all as positive. Influencing that violates ethical values are seen as ... unethical and detrimental. So what are the ethical values that are good reasons and should not be violated?

Rushworth-Kidder researched in many countries and found a list that is practically seen in every culture he observed as common human values. The top eight he found, and not given in a particular sequence, are honesty, responsibility, respect, humility, fairness, community, freedom, compassion. Think about it: if these values are preserved you do not object to being influenced.


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