Using emotional intelligence to improve project performance
The business climate has changed immeasurably, even more so since Covid and the work-from-home ethos. To optimize project results and maximize the use of available resources, it has become necessary for project managers to understand and apply the principles of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Project managers must create a climate in which clients, team members, sponsors and management can communicate with clarity, deal more effectively with challenges and make committed choices to act strategically and swiftly.
As a project manager, you don't only oversee the project lifecycle, but you also have to lead and motivate your team. These are the people behind the success or the failure of the project. But here's the thing: they all have different personalities and come from very different backgrounds.
You have the shy and introvert business analyst, the extrovert developer, the goal-driven project assistant, the creative designer, the architect, software testers and so on. You also need to deal with the users, clients and stakeholders on a daily basis. That's why it is essential to use emotional intelligence to better assess your team and your stakeholders'/clients' behaviours.
Defining Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, manage and apply the information and power of emotions as your greatest source of energy, motivation, connection and influence. Emotions are not good or bad; they are information. It is how you manage your responses to your emotions that is good or bad. It's about having a genuine sense of self, a raised self-awareness coupled with an innate ability to understand and manage your own emotions. Respond, not react, if you will.
Positioning Emotional Intelligence for Project ManagersWhat can we do as Project Managers to enable ourself to grow and be aware? Let's explore 5 skills for increasing emotional intelligence:
Self-awareness is the ability to sense, identify and understand emotions. In the past many of us were conditioned to leave emotions out of it. It is important to be aware of your feelings however so that you can make decisions and act. Those with high self-awareness are confident, authentic, receptive to feedback, and able to maintain perspective during all project phases.
Self-management is using your understanding of your feelings to reason well. We often react based upon our unique frame of reference rather than choosing our response based upon the current unique circumstances. Those who are good at self-management are thoughtful in making decisions, taking initiative, framing events appropriately, having perspective, and responding swiftly. They are aware of their feelings, understand why they have those feelings and then manage their responses effectively.
Self-motivation is the ability to focus the power of your emotions on a purpose. When project teams have purpose, other 'P's follow: peace, passion, power, perspective and leverage of potential. Effective self-motivators are optimistic and have a positive attitude. They are able to delay gratification and can assert themselves.
4. Interpersonal Management
Interpersonal management is the ability to recognize and respond appropriately to the emotions of others. If you can connect to people and acknowledge their humanness then they will respond openly and common trust can be developed.
An emotionally intelligent project manager inspires, guides, challenges, and supports the team. Leadership is defined as the ability to create and communicate vision and passion in order to assist individuals and organizations in optimizing their potential.
Benefits of Increasing EQ in your project environment
- Use emotions to improve and guide your thinking. Those with high EQ are able to weather storms, avoid taking things personally, network effectively and focus their energy and efforts on identified goals.
- Be able to persuade and influence others. High EQ allows you to discover and express your authenticity. You will be better able to communicate with impact, build relationships, and keep the project team aligned and motivated throughout the project duration.
- Remove barriers to working with others. Those with high EQ increase trust, and leverage the potential of others to create breakthrough strategies for increasing shareholder value.
- Assist your team in producing project success. Research indicates that most Critical Success Factors in projects are directly linked to EQ.
Project managers who truly understand the talents, values and potential of themselves and their project teams, who know how to manage their own emotions and the emotions of others, and who can connect with team members, can create a project environment second to none. The results - the people, skills, tools, and activities of the project are aligned and purposefully directed to a well visioned, desired and agreed upon outcome. Each member has a sense of autonomy, acts intentionally and intelligently, is enthusiastically motivated, is able to network with others to achieve success, and feels a sense of fulfilment.
Every day you are given opportunities to confirm or negate the importance of your project team's work. People must believe that they and their work are important. People will only expend their resources on that which is meaningful to them. Successful project managers engage their team's hearts as well as their minds.
About the Author
Gerhard is a PMP certified project manager with 15 years' experience leading cross-functional business and technical teams, managing multi-year IT programs within the fin-tech industry across the UK, Europe, and US. He manages the EMEA Cleared Derivatives PMO for the ION Group, responsible for project delivery and governance, and ensuring client satisfaction.
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