What are the most underrated attributes common to the best project managers?
This six-part series will look at the most underrated skills that today’s best project managers are using to succeed. There will be a strong focus toward the soft skills that differentiate the good from the great. Over the next six weeks we will explore a new skill that often goes unnoticed but it vital to ensuring projects are completed on time and on budget. These skills include Emotional Intelligence, Flexibility, Creativity, Agility, Strategic Thinking and Collaboration.
Why EQ is the new black for today’s project managers : Skill 1 – Emotional Intelligence
Author: Dan Vucic, Project Manager at IComm
One of the most overlooked aspects of the best project managers is their emotional intelligence and ability to successfully utilise their ‘soft skills’. This can be identifying their own emotions, removing or using emotion to complete tasks or solve problems, and the ability to identify and manage the emotions of others. This is underlined by the fact that project managers spend over half of their time interacting with others, managing conflict and building relations.
Over the last 20 years there has been an increase in the understanding of emotional intelligence in the workplace. The Harvard Business Review has found that in relation to overall performance, a project manager’s emotional intelligence is twice as important as their IQ in predicting successful outcomes. Possessing strong soft skills not only helps deliver better outcomes on a project to project basis, it also has a very strong influence on the success of project managers in leadership roles.
To help improve emotional intelligence, any aspiring project manager should work through a four-step process; self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and then relationship management. Self-awareness is the connection you have with your feelings during the moment and understanding how your current emotional state will impact on your thoughts and actions. To improve self-awareness, it is important to learn how to practice mindfulness meditation. This process, which means to focus all your attention on the present moment in time, aims to increase awareness of the current physical and emotional sensations. This technique removes any preoccupations you might have that are impacting your mental state and allows for a clearer state of mind.
Once you are aware of your own emotions the next step is to manage your emotions. To engage emotional intelligence, you must first be able to use emotional control to make constructive decisions about your behaviour. When tired, stressed or frustrated people tend to lose control of their emotions and make poor decisions that they otherwise would not have made. To improve this skill, people should concentrate on staying emotionally present (avoiding emotional override) when they are confronted with unsettling information.
The first external skill is social awareness, this aspect relies on understanding the nonverbal cues that make up most face to face communication. Again, this skill requires attention and focus on the present. To register the nonverbal cues being displayed you must concentrate on how someone is communicating, and put your own thoughts on hold. An extension of this is being aware of your own nonverbal messaging, this often involves subtle cues that may be broadcast subconsciously.
The final step is relationship management. No project manager can succeed if they cannot successfully maintain and leverage their relationships. To improve in this area, a project manager must recruit all of the previous three skills to be more aware of their own communication, to use humour to lower stress and to see conflict as a chance to find a better collaborative solution rather than competition. Successful conflict resolution can actually improve trust and strengthen business relationships.