Project Management is a people profession. We don’t primarily deal in numbers or things: we deal with people. Bosses, clients, colleagues, team members, stakeholders… They are who make our projects succeed or fail. And so we need the people skills to build, maintain, and get the best from those many interlocking relationships. And for that, we need Emotional Intelligence.
We’ll answer why it’s important, what it is, and how to apply it to Project Leadership.
And, along the way, we’ll address the needs of any PMP Candidates, wondering what Domain I, Task 14 of your Examination Content Outline is all about.
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Let’s start with a brilliant quote from Dale Carnegie…
When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.Dale Carnegie
When you are dealing with people, logic and reason are not enough. People are instinctive, emotional beings. And Project Managers deal with people all the time. If you cannot deploy emotional intelligence, then your ability to interact with people and to get the best out of them will be severely constrained.
But it’s more fundamental than that. You are an emotional being too. If you cannot interpret your own emotional state and regulate your own responses and motivation, how can you be in control of anything? I would argue that self-regulation is the first skill of any professional.
My favourite definition of Emotional Intelligence is that of Reuve Bar-On:
Emotional-social intelligence is an array of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and behaviors that determine how well we understand and express ourselves, understand others and relate with them, and cope with daily demands, challenges and pressures.Reuven Bar-On
Reuven Bar-On’s model describes Emotional Intelligence as an array of 15 interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills, and behaviors.
Peter Salovey and John Mayer defined four branches of Emotional Intelligence:
Daniel Goleman’s model of Emotional Intelligence is by far the most widely known – especially outside the psychology community. Goleman is one of our Top 12 Psychologists a Project Manager Should Know About.
This is because Goleman’s approach views Emotional Intelligence from the perspective of the emotional and social competencies that contribute to professional, managerial, and leadership performance. That is, of course, what we are interested in.
And this is also the reason why PMI chooses this model for its own PMP training. Its PMP Examination Content Outline (Domain I, Task 14) requires PMP candidates to know how to ‘promote team performance through the application of emotional intelligence’. And if you take training from a PMI Authorised Training Partner (ATP) – as we recommend you should – the they will cover the Goleman model in their training.
It is not hard to map Bar-On’s 15 factors into Goleman’s 5 dimensions of Emotional Intelligence. However, is somewhat different in approach. One might say it is orthogonal to that of Goleman and Bar-On, and entirely complementary.
Daniel Goleman articulated five dimensions of Emotional Intelligence, in his best selling book, Emotional Intelligence.
Self-awareness is vital for anyone building a professional career. It lets you form an accurate assessment of your strengths and weaknesses; likes and dislikes. This is the route to development and we cultivate self-awareness by taking time to reflect on our experiences and how we responded – in our words, our actions, and in our emotional responses.
If you want to step into a leadership role, you will need the next element we’ll look at: self-regulation. But to control your responses, you must first understand the triggers you react to and your feelings about a range of people and circumstances. Your emotions will affect your choices and your consequent performance as a professional.
Self-awareness is also about knowing what drives you: your personal goals, the values that dictate your choices, and the things that motivate and demotivate you. As a result, in his follow-up to Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Goleman dropped Motivation and wrapped it into the first two dimensions.
The last element of Self-awareness is having the confidence to operate effectively. And, in stressful, high-stakes environments, you may also need to exert self-control to ‘act as if’ you have that confidence. This is the confidence to:
With confidence comes the professional poise and gravitas that people look to.
There is a lot more to self-regulation than ‘just’ than self-control. But we’ll start there, with your ability to curb your emotions as they rise-up under stress or external pressure. The ability to remain calm will not just enhance your focus, productivity, problem-solving, and decision-making. It will make you somebody other people will want to follow.
But, day-to-day, self-regulation is as much about diligence, reliability, and resilience. You need to be able to discipline yourself to do things that are hard, unpleasant, or uncomfortable – even tedious.
When you do, people will value your reliability and trust you for it. They will also trust you for your integrity – the willingness to do what is right, treat people fairly, and behave in accordance with your values and statements. Do take a look at our videos on the Trust Equation and How to Build Trust.
I also think that there is something in self-regulation about your ability to hold onto what’s valuable and change to adapt to new circumstances at the same time. It’s a deliberateness in the choices you make.
I prefer Goleman’s earlier formulation with Motivation as a separate dimension of Emotional Intelligence. Because self-motivation encompasses a number of elements:
Empathy is your ability to feel what others are feeling and so, gain an insight into what is motivating them at the time.
Strictly, it’s all about understanding the people around you, but we also extend this to imply a value in caring for them and wanting to help them. As a leader and as a Project Manager, you have a duty to develop the team members who work for you. You need to help them grow their skills and their careers.
We know t hat a diverse team can surpass a homogeneous one in its performance art all levels. It’s empathy that helps you to see both:
of your diverse team – and therefore get the best from them.
There are two other elements that fit nicely into the Empathy dimension:
The last of these is the big one. Projects are filled with people that you will need to interact with constantly:
As a result, you need exemplary social skills.
Let’s just list them – and return to my assessment of the priorities, below.
In short, this are all aspects of leadership.
Project Leadership demands all of these aspects of Emotional Intelligence. The simple ‘technical aspects’ of the Project Management body of knowledge are not enough on their own to do the job well. (Notice I’m not capitalising ‘body of knowledge to imply any one BOK, like those of the PMI or APM)
In this section, I want to select some good examples of aspects of Project Leadership and the Emotional Intelligence skills they require of us.
Before you lead others, you must first be in charge of yourself. This means seizing control of destructive:
Self-control means making choices deliberately – rather than letting your emotions or drives select them for you. Perhaps the best tool to use, to cultivate self-control is mindfulness. This means taking time each day to still your mind and become aware of whatever you choose to become aware of. To best still your mind, choose something simple and external to you – like a scene outside or the aroma and taste of a cup of coffee.
But you also need to learn to quickly inventory the way you are feeling and how your physical responses correlate with your emotions. Is there tension in your body, or an edge to your voice? When you spot these, bring them under control.
The next step is to make the’ right’ choices constantly – even when you’d rather do something else. But never, ever, let this become a rigidity of thinking that prevents you from seeing and doing what’s right as the situation changes. Adaptability is as much a part of emotional intelligence as your diligence.
Ultimately, your goal is to build trust:
As I commented above, this is all about leadership. Let’s focus on the real value of three particular Project Leadership and general professional skills.
Can you drive collaborative behaviors? This is about building a team that trusts one-another. And the best way to understand the route to take is the Tuckman Model of Group Development. The article in the link will give you the detail. For a quick introduction, take a look at this video…
Self-control will reduce the incidents when you are directly involved in conflict. But that still leaves the times when you will decide to intervene in others’ conflict. You may decide to:
We have a lot of resources on what is a tricky topic:
The best basis for developing the skills and performance of a fellow professional is through coaching. This is about doing three things:
Again, we have a detailed article to help you start your journey in coaching colleagues for performance: How Coaching Skills will Make You a Better Project Leader.
A huge part of our jobs as Project managers is engaging with our stakeholders. And there are three skillsets that come straight to my mind…
This is about know to read a political situation and respond accordingly. I’ve done a video, long article, and podcast about this:
People assume listening is easy – and that there is nothing to learn about it – because we think we do it all the time. However, there are four levels of listening:
Good quality listening means turning off the voice in your head and choosing to pay close attention to the other person. use nods and tags phrases to show you are engaged, and respond appropriately when they have stoped speaking.
We have a short course that will help you improve your listening skills.
Check-out our short, low-cost course on how to get The Power of Listening.
There is so much I could say about the importance of influencing to Project Managers. Often, we have little or no formal authority over members of our extended project team – and still less over our stakeholders. Influence is how we get things done.
Do take a look at or video: ‘Leading without Authority: How to Manage and Lead People | Video‘
And, of course, a large part of our agenda as project managers is to lead change. So, our ability to influence people to entertain the potentialities of a change and to explore and maybe accept it are key to that aspect of our role.
The study of influence is one of psychology. And, perhaps, the best-known psychologist studying influence today – Dr Robert Cialdini – features in our recent article, about the ‘Top 12 Psychologists a Project Manager Should Know About‘
It’s also a topic I have written about extensively:
Well, I just covered influence, so let’s look at three related disciplines you’ll need to master.
Personality is a hard topic for anyone who has not made a detailed study of it. But as a project Manager it is well worth understanding the basics. There are many simple models we can use – and some more sophisticated tools that psychologists prefer. I may well take a look at some of them in the coming months:
Some people think of aspects of the Transactional Analysis toolkit as personality models, but they are not. TA tells us a lot about how people communicate with one another, and how we behave. I very much believe that this is one of the most useful sets of thinking tools for Project managers, so we have a detailed article for you, called: ‘9 Transactional Analysis Tools that All Project Managers Must Know‘.
The Goleman Model of Emotional Intelligence includes motivation as one of its five dimensions. But the focus is very much on self-motivation. However, there is a lot of important knowledge that Project Managers need, about motivating the team members and stakeholders around us.
As you’d expect, we have a detailed article: ‘Project Team Motivation [Everything You Need to Know]‘.
But we can do better than that…
As always, I am keen to read your questions, observations, and experiences in the comments below. And I will be sure to respond to every contribution.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
Remote Project Management: Get a Grip on the Path to Success
Project Business Case: How to Create the Perfect Project Proposal
The Only Woman in the Room: Fierce Skills for Women in Project Management
5 Tips for Better Meetings | Video
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.