You might recognize following characters: The Project Manager who overreacts and becomes almost a kind of crazy dictator, the Project Manager who doesn’t react at all and isn’t taken seriously by his Team Members. And then there’s also the Project Manager who gets along with everyone and knows exactly when and how to intervene. Various studies have shown that people having highly developed social skills are meant to be as successful as, if not more, than those who excel academically. So, it looks like Emotional Intelligence will soon be the most desired skill for new Project Managers. Being successful will be all about getting work done through other people. It’s about you and the way you manage your people.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Until recently, it was always assumed that a person’s IQ score is the best indicator of how successfully he/she will perform in a business environment, and that emotions are considered to be an obstacle to a person’s success. But this thinking is evolving as Emotional Intelligence gains more and more importance.  Let me share you some definitions to have a better understanding of what Emotional Intelligence implies.

In 1990 John Mayer and Peter Salovay explored the significance of Emotional Intelligence. Peter Salovay defines Emotional Intelligence as follow:

​A form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.​

Peter Salovay​

A couple of years later Daniel Goleman popularized the term Emotional Intelligence with his book “Emotional Intelligence”. According to Daniel Goleman this term refers to how well we handle ourselves and our relationships. He identifies following competencies: 

Self-Awareness = Knowing your emotions

Before you can understand others, you need to understand your own emotions, values, moods and drives. This is the basis of, for example, good intuition or good decision-making. If you understand your emotions and their impact on others, it will help you make better decisions.

Self-Regulation = Managing your own emotions

It’s about controlling what you say or do and being able to reject the temptation to make rushed decisions for examples. It’s about thinking fast and still be able to act creatively to solve problems.

Self-Motivation = Motivating yourself

Self-motivation is important to reach your goals and it will motivate others to follow your direction.

Empathy = Recognizing and understanding other people’s emotions.

Knowing what someone else is feeling, treating people according to their emotional reactions. It enables us to better react to them and adapt our own emotions to accommodate them more.

Social Skills = Managing relationships

Interpersonal skills are essential for successful communication. People with better social skills will be able to communicate better with others. It’s important to know how to deal with people from different cultures with different values. It is also a helpful skill for influencing people to achieve a desired result, not through manipulation, but because of mutual respect and trust.

So is Emotional Intelligence a nice to have or a necessity?

When talking about project we too often talk about the triple constraint. Of course Project Managers always have identified following constraints: cost, schedule, performance and people. But that last one, the human factor, is often overlooked as a critical part of their projects. Staff a project to get things done is important. But managing that staff to get the best result possible is also important. Most of the time, Project Managers are more qualified to manage the technical progress of the project than to lead the team to deliver a result in the most efficient way. Motivating individuals and teams to work toward a common goal is a job for the Project Manager. So yes, managing relationships within a project is important if you ask me.

In projects, the Project Manager is the most visible person with or without Emotional Intelligence. Project Managers can, and I truly believe they should, improve this competence.  It is an asset that the Project Manager must possess and constantly improve. It’s about using the strengths and improving the weaknesses.  Emotional Intelligence needs to be seen by Project Managers and others as a guide to successful personal conduct and relationships with people.

It is said that Emotional Intelligence is not a born quality, but a learned one that is developed over time. It is acquired by observing things and people, experiencing challenging situations and by being mentored. I truly think, we are all emotionally intelligent. But some people are able to develop this intelligence deeper through the course of their life than others. The challenge today is to start recognizing and accepting more this competence in business and other domains. We should all pay more attention to this and start being more people-oriented. 

Rosanna Cordaro

Rosanna Cordaro
Project Management Consultant

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