How to succeed with Emotional Intelligence in Project Management and Business as Usual Teams

The Relevance of Emotional Intelligence in These Times

The present corona crisis has reinforced the idea that managing of one’s and other’s emotions is key for business continuity and success. Organisations around the world had to quickly adapt to new restrictions and devise new working methods which challenge stakeholders emotionally.

The appeal of Emotional Intelligence (EI) blossomed somehow from an effort to counter a strong emphasis on Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as a reliable indicator of an employee’s potential reasoning and problem-solving capabilities. Since Daniel Goleman’s seminal Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ?, experts started to inquire over its impact on organisational performance.

Goleman says that given the power that emotions have on individuals whether somebody becomes a leader is mainly determined by EI. CEOs may be hired by their technical skills or IQ but are very often fired for their lack of EI. Besides, the emotional and the rational minds operate together, however one of them can take over the other in certain circumstances. Goleman presented a four points framework for thinking about emotional intelligence:

·       Self-Awareness. The ability to be aware of your feeling or mood and thoughts on them.

·       Self-Management. The ability to restrain emotions which does not mean the lack of emotion but attaining emotional balance.

·       Social Awareness. The ability to recognise emotions in others.

·       Relationship Management.The ability to maintain positive relationship

Emotional Intelligence Matrix (Goleman, 1995)

While the transition from a manufacturing economic basis towards an agile and complex knowledge economy continues in advanced countries, skills such as relating to others, leadership and creativity become more relevant. Emotional Intelligence, however, is not yet a standard subject in corporate career development programmes.

Building Emotional Intelligence as a Capability

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Many organisations are waking up to the importance of offering EI training alongside training on specific technical skills. The four skills can be improved through adequate training and practice. Some consultancies specialise in supporting teams in understanding the necessity of being able to navigate emotions and dealing with them in a positive way. In particular, leaders and members of project teams need to be very emotionally intelligent in order to lead and perform well, be it at business as usual or within transformational projects.

Being prepared means being capable of dealing with the inevitable crisis that will test your project, your transformational plan or the steering of your organisation. Having EI trained people shall provide your organisation or project with trouble-shooters, who are able to assess emotions in themselves, team members, the wide organisation and act quickly to remove those obstacles or convert them into individual and organisational fuel.

In the episode on Emotional Intelligence & Organisational Success of the Channel 180 podcast sponsored by Reego Global Solutions(which you can listen to by clicking here), Alejandro Reyes Alpízar, an emotional EQ Trainer and founder of Alreal Consulting clarified that:

“Staff with high EI acknowledge the stress and utilise it in their favour. They are comfortable with not knowing and taking decisions with limited information and under pressure. They are masters in taking feedback and identifying which parts to take in and which to ignore because based on unproductive emotions”.

Building Emotional Intelligence in Project Management Teams

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Project management benefits enormously from a project manager’s high emotional intelligence. While organisational skills are necessary for running a good project, ultimately it is EI that takes your project further. Project members come from different organisational departments and will have their own opinions and react differently to changes. It could be that project members are working together for the first time and the relationship can be short in duration. All of these poses significant challenges.

·       Social Awareness in Projects. Being able to quickly read people and base the working relationships on empathy and not only on project tasks is paramount. Being attuned to their emotions is crucial to ensure project success, especially when the project manager lacks formal authority and counts on project members’ voluntary engagement.

·       Relationship Management in Projects. The project manager shall create relationships with project members and others in the organisation that can be leveraged in the pursuit of project deliverables. For such, trust must be quickly created by providing assurance about members’ abilities, being honest and providing constructive feedback.

·       Leadership in Projects. To lead, a project manager needs to be more than a manager. He must manage conflicts in an unbiased way, communicate clearly and inspire project members towards project goals. The communication style of the project manager will set the tone for the team dynamics. Encouraging open discussions and being available should help diffuse tense situations and deal with negative emotions.

Building Emotional Intelligence in Change Management Teams

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Humans are creatures of habit and every change affects people differently. For a transformational project to generate the long-term benefits expected from the change effort, the business as usual staff must change their habits.

Managing change is something that should occur throughout the project lifecycle. Throughout the change project, attention should be paid to how people in the organisation are being challenged or affected emotionally. The most common model for identifying and managing emotions is the Kubler-Ross Model Curve with the following phases:

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For each emotional state associated with coping with change, some actions can be recommended.

·       Shock. Arrange 1-1 meeting with the affected people should provide a level of relief.

·       Denial. Reinforce that the change decision will be followed through and that staff engagement and support is encouraged and would be productive.

·       Anger. Appeal to the reasons and the benefits associated with the project to bring some level of comfort.

·       Bargaining. Demonstrate that you understand their concerns and leverage their proactiveness in delivering the project.

·       Depression or Confusion. Acknowledge their anxieties and offer support so they can be part of the transformational journey.