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Project management is the process by which teams are led to achieve goals within certain constraints. The details of the project goal are called its scope or specification (‘spec’). The main constrains of the project in a work context are time (schedule) and cost (budget). Planning and executing a project in these terms is a matter of cold information and hard skills.

So Where Does Emotional Intelligence Come Into It?

Interpersonal abilities factor into project management when emotive information enters an individual’s perceptual scheme. Since we are human beings rather than robots or Vulcans, working with other human beings, this interpersonal factor plays into every aspect of project management. However, there are three areas of project management in which an emotional component is particularly relevant.

Emotionally Intelligent Negotiation

There is a massive amount of material on the topic of negotiation: types, stages, strategies and styles. In project management, negotiation starts from the earliest planning stages, as the team negotiates between stakeholder and functional requirements. Once the project has started, project managers need to negotiate any scope creep and cost overrun, informing stakeholders about the effect on the project if the project scope is modified.

Emotions play an important role in the process. This might seem obvious, but their effects have only been studied recently.

  • Positive emotions help parties reach settlements faster, with more mutually beneficial gains, acceptable concessions, and honoured agreements.
  • Positive emotions also facilitate the decision make processes during negotiations, in terms of creative problem solving and confident strategy choices.

Emotionally Intelligent Teamwork and Leadership

A typical project is composed of a team of workers operating under the leadership of a project manager with the goal of completing an assignment within certain targets. Teamwork for project management is vital from the earliest project management activities, such as selecting the planning team. Final project management processes include the Post Implementation Review, in which the project team learns from experiences for future projects.

Current leadership models favour those who are emotionally attuned, responsive and able to give empathic guidance to a team.

  • Whether they want to or not, leaders transmit their emotional moods to those in their group. This is called ‘emotional contagion’ and can be triggered in all sorts of ways – implicitly and explicitly, spoken and non-verbal, team and organisational, in group and out to your customers or consultants.
  • But, this is not a negative. Imagine a project manager and team members who used their enthusiam actively to ‘contaminate’ the rest of the team? Imagine one emotionally aware person who made sure others’ emotions were acknowledged, respected and taken into account when planning, allocating work and completing tasks?

Emotionally Intelligent Conflict Management

Conflict can occur in teams due to misunderstanding, differences, and emotional dysfunction. Project managers are often caught in conflicts where they have to make a judgement between concern for results and concern for people. This judgment itself carries an emotional element. Once a decision is made, the way it is communicated and implemented only serve to raise the emotional stakes to an even higher level.

  • Studies have found that project managers with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more likely to use problem-solving rather than forcing or withdrawing in conflict situations.
  • This collaborative technique maximises both a high level of assertiveness and a high degree of cooperation. It creates a win-win situation where both sides seek and find a solution which works for everyone. The focus is not on personalities or blame but on the problem itself.

Emotional Elements Run All the Way Through Projects

From monitoring and mentoring to communicating and controlling, even the basic motivation to work and the empathy to understand what your team members mean is centred on emotion. Emotional intelligence – the learnable skill of understanding and managing your own emotions and those of others – is therefore key to the success of any group project. If you can manage the emotions of yourself and your team, then how much more smoothly will it be when it comes to managing your tasks and goals.

Do you know an emotionally intelligent manager? What attributes do they bring? Share your thoughts in the comments.

And, if you’d like us to design a session for your team that focuses on how emotional intelligence can improve the communication, and therefore the efficiency, of your project team, get in touch.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash