Some people have more emotional intelligence than others. This does not mean that they have a mystic ability to read other people’s thoughts. Emotional intelligence is as much to do with understanding yourself as it is to do with understanding someone else’s beliefs and motivations.
Project managers who have a well-developed sense of self-awareness and ability to self regulate, combined with a good dash of empathy and a generous measure of social and communication skills have the recipe for managing successful projects. If your project managers are not all at the Mensa level of Emotional IQ, all is not lost. It is possible to develop and improve someone’s emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient) skills.
Focusing on the emotional intelligence of project managers might at first feel as if it belongs in the realms of a fluffy, feel-good, nice to have. In fact, there are hard business benefits. Organisations can secure their future by nurturing leaders from within, making sure they have a pipeline of talented – and emotionally intelligent – leaders who are up to speed with organisational goals and can innovate and lead change from the front.
The one constant in organisations these days is change and it is not just leaders who have to adapt. The more flexible and open minded the workforce is, the easier it is to identify the need for change and drive it through. You might think managers are particularly good at change, as they regularly jump from one project to the next. Flexibility and adaptability come with the job description. Yet even these project managers, who would pride themselves on their agility, often carry certain preconceptions and restrictive ways of thinking with them from project to project. They often respond unconsciously to events, or hear suggestions that run counter to their fixed ideas as personal criticism.
Project managers will benefit from guidance in developing self-awareness to identify their attitudes and behaviours in order to modify their response to events. Only when they have achieved this state of enlightenment, can they hope to support team members who may need help in taking an objective view of their own mind set.
Attempts to introduce emotional intelligence in any organisation must start from the top. If that rings alarm bells and there is the metaphorical clang of barriers coming down, it is all the more likely that the organisation needs to look at developing emotional intelligence attributes that will support leaders in considering new ideas. Where to start? Traditional skills gaps analysis does not really work here but there are normally clear signs that emotional intelligence needs development in the organisation. Is there a high staff turnover and a negative, blame culture? Is constructive feedback more likely to be taken as criticism? If the answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, there is work to be done to create the kind of emotionally intelligent organisation that will be able to retain the best staff and attract the cream of the project management world.
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