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Emotional Intelligence in Project Management: Why It Matters

Managing Remote Teams: Best Practices for Project Managers

Corinne Passelegue, Consultant at MetaPM, shares Why Emotional Intelligence in Project Management Matters. Originally shared on Corinne's LinkedIn page, August 7, 2023.

 

Driven by a passion for projects with experience in various types of transformations, I was reflecting on how critical emotional intelligence is in achieving project success.

As a consultant at MetaPM, my business acumen and interpersonal skills have allowed me to successfully deliver strategic and operational programs and projects. But my leadership capabilities and practical communication skills enable me to focus on increasing productivity, engaging senior managers and teams, and driving innovation.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what Emotional Intelligence is, how it can affect team performance, and how you can hone those skills.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise and manage your own emotions, as well as understand and navigate the feelings of your team and stakeholders. So how does that help in a project leadership role?

Adapting your style to suit different team members is critical for effective leadership. Leaders with keen emotional intelligence foster a positive and supportive work environment, promote collaboration, learn from mistakes, and engage in open communication.

When project managers possess these skills, they are better equipped to motivate their teams, handle conflicts, and promote effective teamwork.

The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence

I find the five components of emotional intelligence proposed by Daniel Goleman incredibly fascinating and applicable to project management and team dynamics. So I'll delve a little further into each of them.

Self-awareness is vital to understanding our own emotions and strengths. It's something we gain with time and experience. A leader must recognise how one’s emotions can impact decision-making and behaviour.

Self-regulation allows us to manage those emotions and impulses, maintaining self-control even in high-pressure situations. It helps us make rational decisions rather than reacting impulsively. Sounds familiar?

Motivation is a driving force for me as a project manager and my team. It fosters a sense of purpose and enthusiasm, encouraging everyone to strive for excellence.

Empathy is about understanding and sharing the feelings of team members. Actively listening to their concerns and feedback builds trust and collaboration. Considering the emotional impact of decisions and actions creates a supportive environment where learning from mistakes is genuinely encouraged.

Lastly, social skills are essential for building strong interpersonal relationships. Motivating the team and creating an inclusive and respectful work environment is the core of successful project management.

By embracing these five components, we can cultivate a positive team culture and pave the way for project success.

How Emotional Intelligence Affects Team Performance and Project Outcomes

Emotional intelligence has a profound impact on team performance and project outcomes. Effective communication and collaboration become second nature when a team possesses high emotional intelligence. This cohesion allows the team to easily navigate conflicts, as they can regulate their emotions and respect each other's perspectives.

A team with emotional intelligence fosters a strong sense of teamwork by creating a safe and supportive environment. This psychological safety encourages collaboration and risk-taking, as team members feel comfortable learning from their mistakes and working together to find solutions.

As a project manager, my own emotional intelligence enables me to support and motivate my team effectively. I provide guidance tailored to each individual's needs, boosting their engagement and performance.

Additionally, emotional intelligence promotes resilience and adaptability. Setbacks and challenges are an inherent part of projects, and individuals with strong emotional intelligence can handle stress, regulate their emotions, and bounce back from failures.

By nurturing emotional intelligence within the team, we create an environment that empowers individuals to thrive and leads to successful project outcomes.

The Challenges Behind Emotional Intelligence

As project managers, we often face challenges regarding emotional intelligence. For instance, one common challenge is the need to adapt our communication styles to each individual's preferences. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach can lead to disconnected teams. Effective engagement requires understanding and catering to individual communication needs.

It's essential to address conflicts and resistance early on, fostering a culture of trust and open communication. Projects frequently involve tight deadlines, constraints, and roadblocks that can trigger emotional responses from team members. Strong emotional intelligence allows project managers to navigate these transitions effectively. We manage our own stress levels, remain calm under pressure, and make sound decisions without being overwhelmed by emotions, whether it's our own or those of the team.

Furthermore, emotional intelligence is crucial when engaging with executives under high pressure. It is essential to understand their concerns, adapt our style and processes, and ensure informed decisions are made with appropriate checkpoints. This approach prevents the project from going off track due to emotional pressures and wrong decisions made in the heat of the moment. By leveraging emotional intelligence, project managers can navigate challenges and drive successful project outcomes.

Strategies to Improve Emotional Intelligence as a Project Manager

When it comes to improving emotional intelligence, I've learned a few practical tips along the way. Firstly, it's essential to be kind to ourselves and acknowledge our areas for growth. It's a gradual process that requires consistent effort and practice. Seeking feedback from others and gaining insights into our emotional patterns can provide valuable guidance for improvement.

Active listening is a skill I've had to consciously develop over the years. Reading and using nonverbal cues, asking open-ended questions, and truly focusing on what the person is saying without jumping ahead to form a response. This is instrumental in driving engagement and collaboration.

Building genuine relationships with my team has also been vital, connecting with my team members as individuals, and understanding what motivates them, their fears and their strengths. Organising team-building activities and regular catch-ups go beyond work requirements and open up lines of communication on a more personal level. Understanding their interests, hobbies, and challenges helps to foster stronger connections.

Lastly, incorporating physical activity has been incredibly helpful for self-regulation. Whether hiking, swimming, or riding, physical exercise allows me to take some perspective to understand and manage my emotions more effectively.

By continuously practising these techniques and investing in our emotional intelligence, we can create a positive and supportive work environment that brings out the best in our teams.

Conclusion

The role of emotional intelligence is evolving, especially in the virtual world we find ourselves in. As a project consultant, it's crucial to dedicate time for one-on-one conversations with team members and, if possible, have regular physical meetings to foster team bonding.

Creating opportunities for team building suited to your work environment, whether a short weekly challenge or a monthly gathering, allows us to get to know each other on a deeper level. These interactions become even more critical in a remote setting as we lack those spontaneous conversations at the coffee machine or on the way to a meeting.

By nurturing emotional intelligence in our hybrid world, we can enhance team collaboration and camaraderie, better understanding each team member's journey.

MetaPM

MetaPM was founded in 2006 by a group of management experts with a vision to do project consulting in the best way possible. In 2022, they joined MI-GSO | PCUBED, a world-leading PMO & Project Management Consulting group.

Investing in continuous education, MetaPM recognises the need for project managers to build upon their skills. If this gravitates toward your values, connect with MetaPM today.

 

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