One of my first experiences with a seasoned project manager left me feeling conflicted.
He was the Terminator in a well-tailored suit. During the project kick off meeting, he recited dates and dependencies like they were imprinted behind his eyes. During project status meetings, he had all 637 tasks within the project plan memorized. He churned out project reports, budget updates and change requests like a machine. Mr. Project Manager was exceptionally organized. He was intelligent, diligent and militant.
And he bullied. And he yelled. And he threatened.
Did we finish the project on time? Yes.
Did we finish with all of our original team members? No.
Do I think the project was a success?
I’m still not sure. Technically, yes. The scope was delivered on schedule, and we finished within budget. But there were casualties along the way. The damaged relationships between team members had a lasting impact on our work environment.
I completed that project without a feeling of accomplishment. I simply felt relief that it was over.
Throughout my career in the technology industry, I’ve witnessed many approaches to managing a project. The experience and training of each project manager I’ve worked with has varied, but what I’ve inevitably noticed is that those with a higher EIQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) seem to effortlessly deliver results.
Emotional Intelligence Quotient can be defined as the ability to understand, recognize and monitor your own emotions and the emotions of others, leveraging that knowledge to guide behavior and generate influence.
The project managers who have cultivated their EIQ have an essential talent for leading people. It’s their characteristic empathy that allows them to understand the motivations and situations of those they work with. They communicate effectively as an approachable, rational human being. They listen to understand, not just to hear. They leverage the strength of their team. They analyze and evaluate. And they forge ahead with the full support of their project team. Yes, they’re also exceptionally organized. They’re planners and executers. They are seemingly clairvoyant, recognizing risks and identifying gaps well ahead of impact. They hold those qualities generally associated with a proficient project manager plus something more.
But why would a higher EIQ increase the probability of success? Why not hire the highly intelligent project manager who will bully and yell to get results?
Here’s my take on it:
Whether you are planning to develop a new custom app, implement an alternate HR system or develop a company-wide training program, all stakeholders and resources need to be pulling in the same direction. Efficiency is greatly reduced when your team is out of sync and not buying in. If you’ve ever played tug-of-war or participated on a rowing team, you’ll understand what I mean. Teamwork is essential, and it’s fostered by establishing a trusting work environment. A common understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses, motivations and situations will solidify that trust. And nothing unifies a group of individuals like an established, agreed-upon goal. Nothing fosters trust like honesty and accountability.
Project managers with a high EIQ listen to comprehend. They ask questions and receive information without judgement or prejudice, even though they’ve likely ‘seen it all.’ They nurture, create a safe environment and lead by example, and in doing so, it’s anticipated that the other team members will embrace their approach. The project manager with the high EIQ acknowledges when something is challenging, frustrating or ridiculous and invites collaboration to solve issues.
They aren’t dictators. They’re facilitators.
They don’t have all the answers. Any project manager worth their salt knows that their strength is in the team, and they leverage it. They celebrate successes, and they objectively analyze failures. When things are murky, they provide clarity. When things are tough, they rally the team.
Listening to learn and understand isn’t reserved for project task details or scheduling. Listening to understand also means considering the motivations of the team. Creating trust, empathy and a genuine rapport between the project manager and team members—but also between the team members themselves—will always be a benefit to the outcome of a project.
You might be a project manager who is reading this and thinking about your ability to genuinely connect and effectively lead. Your practiced approach might not consider your influence as a leader. Know that, like any skill, you can practice and improve your EIQ. There are many resources that can be leveraged to improve self-awareness and self-regulation, two of the foundational pieces of your EIQ.
If you’re launching a project and looking for a permanent or contracted project manager, evaluate their EIQ during the recruiting process. Don’t underestimate the value of EIQ + IQ to greatly increase the success of your projects.