Our journey through life is colored by people’s reaction to us.  I’ve encountered several situations today where my attitude defined the result of the interaction that I had.  A few weeks ago I bought a cordless phone that was damaged within a week of its use.  I was late in returning it.  I ventured to the store today to exchange it and discovered that I was at least three weeks too late.  The store policy dictated that no returns or exchanges were allowed after seven days.

After explaining my situation to the store manager (with a smile) and requesting that he make an exception, he kindly agreed. He was within his full right according to the policy to reject my request.  I wisely decided not to attack the store policy but explained that I had challenges that prevented me from coming back in time to exchange it.  He was kind enough to ignore the policy and allow the exchange.

This encounter among the others reminded me that in project management we often get into situations that could cause conflict. Resolving them in many instances may not depend on who’s right or what’s right but rather that attitude of the stakeholders. Establishing the proper attitude in the face of challenges is often more productive.

A few years ago I was part of a team that was struggling with some inter personal issues and someone suggested that we consider learning more about Emotional Intelligence.  After a brief presentation, our team members agreed to participate in a 360 survey to learn more about themselves and their interactions with others.  The idea was that if we heightened out self understand and how people perceive us, we would become better at interacting with each other.

According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, Emotional Intelligence (EI):

“describes an ability or capacity to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, and of others.  Our EQ, or Emotional Quotient, is how one measures Emotional Intelligence. Emotions have the potential to get in the way of our most important business and personal relationships.”

According to John Kotter of Harvard Business School:

“Because of the furious pace of change in business today, difficult to manage relationships sabotage more business than anything else – it is not a question of strategy that gets us into trouble; it is a question of emotions.”

The 360 process was very interesting.  In addition to our own self survey, we had to identify a manager, direct reports, peers, key clients, family, and a few others to participate in the survey.  For my 360 survey I found 22 individuals willing to participate and the fascinating output was that people who knew me better, such as family, rated me lower on the various elements than the individuals who interacted with me occasionally.  Additionally, I found that I consistently rated myself higher than others in many areas.  At the time this was very revealing and presented a great area of opportunity in terms of improvement.  The survey, which was also administered by the IHHP, evaluated the following areas:

  • Self Awareness: focuses on our knowledge of ourselves.  Understanding how we view ourselves.
  • Emotional Management: describes how we control our reaction and how we act.  It describes how we are driven.
  • Emotional Connection: details out how we react to and interact with others as well as our ability to empathize.
  • Personal Leadership: outlines the outcome of mastering the three above

As I said the overall process was excellent and what was even more rewarding is the interaction that the team had following the completion of the assessments.  Each of our team members was assigned an executive coach to help us understand our assessments and worked with us to build a personal development plan.  This plan had specific goals that we wanted to attain or challenges we wanted to overcome.

Additionally, the executive coaches produced a group profile that was shared with everyone (note that each of the 360 assessment reports was confidential and only shared with the individual).  The group profile was very important because it highlighted key holes that the group had.  I recall vividly that our group lacked a bit on empathy while it demonstrated a high degree of personal drive and ambition.  that helped us understand how we needed to improve in interacting with each other by exhibiting greater listening skills.  It also helped us identify ways of recruiting new team members who had the skills that we were weak on.

I discovered more recently and the initial studies that were conducted on Emotional Intelligence were done on young children.  In fact, my kids school last year provided a free seminar to educate parents on how to help their kids develop key areas of their EQ.

Certainly within project management EQ is a critical element of what we do.  We have to understand how we react to people and how our stakeholders react to us.  Appointing a project manage who is fluent in the language of EQ can enhance team relationships and position people for greater chances of success.  I encourage others to learn more about EQ and how it can help your organization.