Emotional Intelligence - a must have for great PMs

Emotional Intelligence - a must have for great PMs

Emotional Intelligence - a must have for great PMs
 Emotional Intelligence - a must have for great PMs


Before we jump into a few quicks tips to boost your Project Management emotional intelligence (EI) or EQ, let’s start off with a short history of where the term came from and how important it is in your professional development as a project manager.Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term in 1990 describing it as "a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action".

Although EI has recently become a trending topic in coaching and leadership development, the concept has actually been around for a while. Looking to ancient history Aristotle made mention to the importance of EI explaining “anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power, and is not easy”

Then in the 1990’s Daniel Goleman published the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence arguing that it was not cognitive intelligence that guaranteed business success but rather emotional intelligence, or simply put “IQ gets you hired, but EQ gets you promoted”. He emphasized that people with high EQ demonstrate the following four characteristics:

These traits can be further divided in personal competence & social competence

Emotional Intelligence in Project Management

As a certified Project Manager, you've probably mastered the processes, themes and techniques of different books of knowledge, which can be understood as Project Management IQ.  Having a high PM IQ, therefore means to be well versed in the technical knowledge of these methodologies, processes and various books of knowledge. However, this alone is no longer enough to deliver successful projects on time, budget and to quality expectations – both EI and IQ are needed for project success!

Nowadays, it is equally (if not arguably more) important for a Project Manager to possess and hone their EI for project success. Not to mention that PMI’s research shows that among the three skill sets within “The Talent Triangle” leadership skills have a direct influence on the success of project managers and projects. This is especially important considering that on average about 90% of the time in a project is spent on communication by the project manager including building rapport with key stakeholders and leading teams in productive behavior.

The impact of EI on your professional success is becoming more and more important. According to TalentSmart 90% of high performers have high EQ and that people with high EQ make 29,000 $ more annually than their low EQ counterparts. Daniel Goleman emphasized that EI accounts for 80 percent of career success!

So now that you see the value of EI, let's jump into my 3 simple steps to jump start your project management EI!

Step 1: Understand the Theory & Fundamentals – The IPMA ICB

I know many of you will be grinning, thinking that EI cannot just be read about and immediately applied but rather must be practiced and learned through experience. I agree that EI is best developed through a "Learning by Doing Approach", nevertheless we can definitely speed up the process with a strong theoretical foundation. So let’s take it one step at a time.

My first recommendation is to understand from a theoretical standpoint the notions of EI, especially how does it apply to Project Management. The first place to look is the International Project Management Association (IPMA). Their literature on "Behavioural Competences or People competences" found in ICB4 is a great place to start (my personal favorite for soft skills knowledge).

In contrast to other PM methodologies, IPMA does a great job focusing their PM theory to behavioral competencies exploring aspects of leaders, self-control, conflict-resolution and many more, which serves as a great starting point and theoretical basis for the critical soft-skills you will need as a project manager. This will enable you to start thinking about EI, from a theoretical stand-point that is about  social skills and aspects of self-management.

The interesting thing about the ICB, is that the team that had drafted this document is composed of a well-versed group of international Project and Programme Managers, who have infused this theoretical knowledge with a wealth of practical experience making it an indispensable tools for your EI development – make use of the breadth of knowledge! Download the ICB4 – Click Here



Step 2: Check Your Personality 

Once you have gained a strong base of theory from the ICB, it’s time for you to check your personality. And by that I don’t mean seing psychologist.

I mean doing a professional personality test such as INSIGHTS or MBTI. These tests are designed in such a way as to help indicate your psychological preferences in how you perceive the world and make decisions. For example, one of the outputs of the INSIGHTS test a 20 page personality profile, which identifies strengths and areas for development. This personalized assessment provides information on your individual strengths and weaknesses, communications style, and your value to a team, all of which in my opinion help to raise your self and social awareness.

 If you recall EI skills depend on the ability to understand one’s own emotions before it is possible interact effectively with others. Goleman said, “The ability to manage yourself – to have self-awareness and self-regulation – is the very basis of managing others, in many ways.” Therefore self and social awareness are the cornerstones of EI, particularly in a project team setting. Since self and social awareness is your ability to accurately perceive yours/others emotions and stay aware of them as they happen – personality tests help you to hone in on what type of personality you are and how you communicate and are perceived by others.

Since these mainstream personality tests can be quite expensive, you could also try some free tests online (but I don’t think they are as extensive and deep as the ones mentioned above):



Step 3: Practice in a Fail-Safe Environment – the Magic School Bus way!

Building EI requires effective communication between the rational and emotional centers of the brain. Since you are now equipped with both a theoretical understanding of soft skills, and your unique personality test, it is time to, as Mr Frizzle taught us in the popular children's cartoon “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

My recommendation here is rather than practicing EI at the client or where messing up could cost you your job. Try to find a fail-safe environment, where you can take on a leadership role and failing or making mistakes won’t cost you your job – why not be a Volunteer Project Manager in a local non-for-project. Although volunteer work does not pay a salary, it enables you to create impact and strengthens your leadership compass and practice your aspects of social skills in a group environment, where you can very quickly take on higher leadership role with more responsibilities than you currently have at work!

Volunteering has been the platform for me to practice project management skills, escape my comfort zone and take the lead on many complex projects (even allowing me to win the IPMA Young PM of the Year Award for one of them). It was a fail-safe environments where I practiced project management skills in a supportive environment, and was not afraid to to take my skills to the limit.

Volunteer project management, doesn't necessarily have to be in a non-for-profit organization, it can also be practiced within your organization. For example, taking on a leading role in organizing an internal conference that isn’t part of the company’s core business or start small and look to organize a social event.

Both of these are valuable volunteer PM experiences! As you move outside of your comfort zone in a volunteer role your brain will start practicing new emotionally intelligent behaviors, which then builds the experience necessary to transform them into new habits. As such you see that you are starting to respond differently to your surroundings with new sense of confidence and emotional intelligence.

While working in a fail-safe environment, try to find a mentor or colleague from who you can get feedback and draw lessons learned - because in trying to improve your self-management skills an external opinion or feedback makes a difference in your learning curve enabling you to:

  • Better recognize your emotions
  • Identify appropriate responses to your emotions
  • Feedback on your emotions, body language and tonality
  • Feedback on your leadership skills


Think how many times you've led a a whiteboard asking your team members "how do you feel" pointing to the green, yellow, or red smiley.

We do that as Project Managers because we understand that importance of emotions in driving performance. It’s a well developed EI that put people at ease, helps them feel appreciated, and enable us to build and maintain solid relationships founded on confidence and trust, which are critical to driving performance and sustaining motivation around project milestones.

The next generation of Project Managers we must be equipped, not only with the technical knowledge and methodologies, but also with a strong sense of leadership and EI - because in a 21st century only having a well developed EI will enable you make the right calls, action the critical feedback from your project team and drive your project ot successful completion  - because it's emotions that drive people, and people drive performance!


[1] Rajkumar, Sivasankari (2010) “Art of communication in project management” | Project Management Institute Accessed December 24, 2015

[2] Project Management Institute (2013) “PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: Navigating Complexity”

[3] Schawbel, D. (2011) Daniel Goleman on Leadership and The Power of Emotional Intelligence. Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/09/15/daniel-goleman-on-leadership-and-the-power-of-emotional-intelligence/  Accessed December 24, 2015.

[4] PMNetwork March 2015 Article: https://www.pmi.org/Learning/PM-Network/2015/breaking-into-project-management.aspx

[5] Travis Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence – EQ, Forbes 2014

The Author : Kamil Mroz

Kamil Mroz

About :
I am an award-winning project leader with director-level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.

I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring and developing talents, while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams.

I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong team work, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management. 

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