Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers

Critical skills are those that apply across industries, across roles, and in any size organization; emotional intelligence (“EQ”) is a critical skill. Project Management, a skill that fits within any industry, most roles, and any size organization, has wide professional applications. As such, emotional intelligence as a skill has great significance for any Project Manager who has any interaction with any other human. EQ matters for all Project Managers who enjoy success.

What is EQ and what it is not

Emotional Intelligence is the term used to describe how well someone can understand emotions in the context of collaboration and working with others.

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It is a skill set of such importance that the leading job site, Indeed.com, has an entire section devoted to helping job seekers and employees better understand emotional intelligence. Your understanding of EQ should begin with a review of the four core areas that comprise it.

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From the Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace guide from Indeed.com, there are descriptions of each component.

  • Social skills: Social influence is critical to the relationship-building that is necessary for these aims.
  • Self-awareness: With self-awareness, you want to know your strengths, weaknesses, values and the impressions you have upon others, which are, in essence, an essential part of good intuition.
  • Empathy: With emotional intelligence, an understanding of emotions is critical when making decisions. Empathy has specific applications in business.
  • Self-management: Self-regulation means not allowing emotions to get the best of you. With emotional intelligence, you can reframe your feelings with positivity and align them with your passions.

For anyone, there will be areas of EQ that come more naturally, or areas that are a bigger challenge. It is important to learn about EQ as a project manager to grow your own skills and to better foster collaboration among others.

Why EQ Matters for Project Managers

Depending on the Project Manager’s professional background, there may be a perception of “emotions” as something that can hinder productivity or slow down progress. Others may put understanding their emotions and those of others as something unnecessary or too “touchy-feely.” Ignoring EQ however is bad for your career and bad for business. A failure to factor in emotions is to put all project plans and effort at risk because emotions are part of all work. The Project Management Institute library has many resources on how EQ knowledge helps project managers.

  • Foster Trust Within Teams

Successful project managers know that they need to foster an environment of trust, in which

clients, team members, sponsors and management can communicate with clarity, deal more effectively with challenges and make committed choices to act strategically and swiftly.

  • Make Rational Choices

If you use emotional information from yourself, team members, and stakeholders as part of your analysis, you EQ can combined with your IQ to make rational choices.

  • Become Better Leader

The better use of emotional intelligence, the better a project is managed and, as a result, you become a better leader.

  • Build better business relationships

Internal relationships include those with your peers and team members. Internal relationships can determine the effectiveness of our organizational cultures.

  • Strengthen your Project Management Skills

It has been documented that project managers with strong emotional intelligence understanding handle larger projects successfully with more people better than those with less emotional intelligence knowledge.

Emotional intelligence has far reaching positive impacts for any professional. Understanding why you have the emotions you have when you have them and recognizing that others may have different but just as valid emotional reactions to a business situation, enables project managers to better navigate the relationships and team building within any project.

Studying for the PMP Exam?


EQ is on the PMP test

As if project success and career advancement were not motivators for growing your EQ skills, be aware that emotional intelligence is included in the 2021 Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam. Unlike previous PMP® Exams, in 2021 Project Managers will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of EQ, coaching and the connection to team performance. In this new exam content section, the Project Managers will learn about EQ and how to:

  • understand Emotional Intelligence for self and others
  • understand how to navigate tough conversations
  • know conflict management strategies
  • identify individual motivation
  • analyze personality indicators and adjust to the emotional needs of key project stakeholders

Any Project Manager who has stakeholders, team members, clients, and/or suppliers will benefit from an increased understanding of how emotions are different for each person and how to navigate that to reach project success.

Resources for Growing your EQ

Reading this article already shows that you recognize the importance of EQ for your Project Management professional growth and are ready to learn more. Strong EQ will enhance your decision making and help you be competitive in the job market.

Start with the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. It includes a code to access an EQ test so that you know your strengths and weaknesses now and can adjust your training accordingly. As you continue to learn more about EQ, leverage videos such as TEDx conferences featuring noted speakers.

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The Project Management Academy includes EQ in the PMP prep courses and has an Emotional Intelligence course for Project Managers with ways in which EQ can positively influence project management processes. Research has shown that “Emotional intelligence is the single best predictor of performance in the workplace.” Growing your EQ is a great way to support your project management career.

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Megan Bell
Megan Bell