More Successful Projects through Emotional Intelligence

Brandi Johnson

Dec 30 2016 5 min read

We all look for ways to increase the chances our projects will succeed. We do our best to plan for every contingency, assemble the best team, and share all of the details to lead to success. Beyond that, baking cookies will only get you so far.

That’s where emotional intelligence comes into the picture. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize your own and other people’s emotions, and then use that information to guide your thinking, adapt and drive success. It’s been a popular term since Daniel Goleman’s book was published in 1995.

So, what does emotional intelligence have to do with project management? A lot, as it turns out. As detailed in Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers by Anthony Mersino, one study found a correlation between high levels of emotional intelligence and project success. (There was no correlation between project success and project manager IQ.)

There are three key ways that emotional intelligence affects project success:
1. Managing your own emotions
2. Understanding the emotions of others
3. Building positive relationships with stakeholders and team members

Managing Your Own Emotions

Unless you understand your own emotions and feelings, it’s easy to react to situations rather than handle them with confidence. Start by identifying your emotions, and your emotional triggers. Most emotions fit into the SASHET framework (Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited or Tender). Beyond knowing your emotions and your triggers, explore your strengths and weaknesses. Between recognizing your emotions, strengths, and weaknesses it provides the foundation for stronger self-confidence, giving you the ability to stay calm, even when emotions are going wild.

Understanding the Emotions of Others

Beyond understanding and managing your own emotions, a good project manager needs to understand the emotions of others and the organization as a whole. When talking to team members, don’t just listen to the words they say. You’ll have to pay special attention to body language and tone. Even how their tone and word choice changes between conversations can give you indications about how they’re feeling. You’ll also need to also clearly assess your team’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can help them develop.

Part of understanding the emotions of others is setting your own emotional boundaries to protect yourself from internalizing those emotions. Understand and respect those emotions, but do not take them as your own.

Building Positive Relationships with Stakeholders and Team Members

Finally, emotional intelligence helps you build positive relationships with stakeholders and team members. Develop communication strategies to create the right emotional atmosphere with both stakeholders and team members. Acknowledge the strengths of your team members, make them aware of their potential, and say “thank you” for the work they do on your project. When dealing with stakeholders, you’ll also often have to handle conflict management. Working from a strong position of emotional intelligence helps you develop compromises that help your project succeed.

For more on project management and emotional intelligence, check out Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers by Anthony Mersino.


Brandi Johnson

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