So what separates good project managers from great project managers? The most popular answer is communication, ensuring the team and relevant stakeholders are keep up-to-date with the project. While this isn’t wrong, there is a much deeper and truth-seeking answer beyond this stock response. The answer to this question seems to be “emotional intelligence.” Analyses undertaken by dozens of experts in over 500 corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organisations worldwide conclude that emotional intelligence is the barometer of excellence.
Pmp Certification Does Not in Itself Make a Pm More Capable; It Simply Proves That You Have the Requisite Project Management Experience and Can Pass the Multiple-choice Certification Exam. To Be Truly Effective You Need to Be Able to Implement Projects and Work Well with Your Team. Emotional Intelligence Will Help You Do That.
Anthony Mersino, PMP
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was made popular by Daniel Goleman in 1995 with his book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ.” In his follow-up book in 1998 entitled “Working with Emotional Intelligence” Goleman presents an Emotional Intelligence framework for the workplace. Similarly, Mersino presents an Emotional Intelligence framework specific to project management. The common theme that is consistently mentioned in both frameworks is the topic “empathy” which will will cover in more detail.
Empathy is defined as the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling and is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviours. This is a skill that if practiced and applied can be incredibly powerful if used in a positive solution-based manner. This is also a skill that can be counter-intuitive to the mindset of the project manager as project managers are taught to control expectation, scope, budgets and are measured on how well they do. However, through the use of empathy a project manager can increase his/her ability to communicate in a manner that often guides the team or stakeholder the best solution for the project given project constraints.
Keys to expressing empathy include the following:
1. Ask Open-ended Questions
If you can answer a question with only a “yes” or “no” response, then you are answering a close-ended type of question. Let the other person speak first by asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions invite information instead of a close-ended question that leaves the respondent wondering whether to disagree or agree with the answer contained in the question.
Examples of close-ended questions are:
- Are you feeling better today?
- Will you please do me a favour?
- Is that your final answer?
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
- How will you help the company if you are hired to work for us?
- What do you plan to do immediately following graduation from college?
- In what way do you feel I should present myself?
- Where are you going to find the time to write all those letters?
- Why can’t I come along with you?
From these examples, it is clear that close-ended questions are used to elicit a short, quick response, while open-ended questions are gateways into conversations.
Don’t listen with your mind already made up
After working to understand the perspective and mindset of the other individual, tailor you response to fit the perspective. Instead of launching into a pre-meditated agenda, first understand and acknowledge the other person’s perspective before introducing a differing point of view. Let the story unfold.
Emotions are a vital part of our everyday lives
3. Control Your Emotions
Whether you’re having a good laugh over a text message or feeling frustrated in rush hour traffic, you know that the highs and lows you experience can significantly affect your well-being. Your ability to regulate those emotions, in turn, affects how you’re perceived by the team around you.
In the heat of the moment one can loose control of their emotions and a small issue can be made worst. If the discussion becomes emotionally charged and it is preventing or hindering a solution-based conversation, take a break, cool down and try again later. Calming yourself down when you’re frustrated, of course, may be more easily said than done. If you tend to fly off the handle when aggravated, and express your outrage to everyone within earshot, your emotions could be costing you important relationships, your job, and even your health.
Are you one to make hurried or impulsive decisions about people or situations? If so, then you make snap judgments.
4. Avoid Snap Judgments
Dictionaries specify that the word “judgment” refers to the process of forming an opinion after careful consideration. Judgments have their place in a court of law where, by social agreement, authority is granted to a judge or jury to determine whether or not someone’s behavior is or is not in accordance with the law. However, while no one has granted us the authority to play judge and jury in our personal lives, most of us make snap judgments all the time declaring our approval or disapproval of whatever and whomever we are observing or experiencing.
Form judgments based upon the facts of the situation, not hearsay or other indicators which may be false or only partially true.
Scott Fitzgerald said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
5. Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes
Shoe-shifting, the ability to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes is a fundamental skill and extraordinary power. Work to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. This will create a better understanding of the other person’s perspective as well as create better self-awareness within you. Imagine being the person who feels their idea has been invalidated by a scope-mongering project manager.
This is about as powerful a skill as I’ve ever seen come out of psychology. If you find yourself in a conflict or rift with someone, stop the decision-making for a moment and simply repeat in your own words, the other person’s argument as persuasively as possible. Then ask whether you heard it right. And then wait for an answer.
In applying these elements to your daily interactions with customers, colleagues and project teams your relationships will grow stronger and you will develop and gain greater respect and trust as a project manager. Whether you’re trying to communicate a scope change to a customer or trying to understand why your team is struggling with a specific task of phase of a project, the power of empathic listening will guide your interactions and separate you as a great project manager.