Emotional intelligence (EQ) in the un-emotional workplace

by Mona Mortazavi

While technical skills are very important, emotional intelligence (EQ) skills are just as much if not more important in the people-process-oriented world of project management, otherwise known as “soft skills.”

The better you are in managing others, relating, and creating an environment of approachability, the higher the chance you’ll be able to create a stronger team, hold them accountable, and overcome unexpected hurdles during the project.

Here are some ways to practice and enable your emotional intelligence:

Clear communication

Communicate in a way that is frequent, friendly, and fair. 

Frequent – Keeping your team and your stakeholders informed promotes collaboration and fosters early issue awareness. It’s just a better change management practice. 

Friendly – When communicating with others think about, how you would like for someone to speak to you. Try to remember to speak to others in a friendly tone, much like the tone you would prefer them to speak to you in.

Fair – Being fair can be tricky as a project manager, we often have to make requests that if not communicated properly can seem unfair. How you communicate things can make all the difference in how a request is perceived. If your team has to come into the office on a Saturday, let them know during the request that you will be there too – it’s only fair. Maybe even bring in some donuts. 

Relationship management

This is the most important of the soft skills. This is your ability to empathize with others and develop a relationship with them beyond who they are in the office. Chances are, your project is going to involve months, maybe years of planning and executing with a team of stakeholders and project team members. 

Get to know your team and stakeholders outside of the formal 9 – 5-hour workday. That doesn’t necessarily mean an after-hours social. Grab a coffee, take them out to lunch, get to know what interests them outside of work. Getting to know the people you work with beyond who they are in the office and developing personal relationships with them will help the project success, resolve issues quickly, and move past the difficult times. 

Relationship management should not just be an item on a checklist. Building relationships takes time, effort, and patience. The more time and effort you put into your relationships, the stronger those relationships will be. Not everyone may care to engage in a non-work-related conversation – which is perfectly ok as long as you realize that and communicate with them in a respectful manner (another practice of EQ).

With emotional intelligence, there is no one-size-fits-all, and there is no checkbox. EQ is intangible and cannot be measured; however, bringing it to the workplace can be the difference between a successful project and a dreadful one. How do you manage projects and people by practicing and enabling your EQ?


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