Why Project Managers need Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is about understanding yourself and those around you.

People don’t come with signs!

People don’t come with signs and as project managers we also have a role as project leaders.  By better understanding our own emotions and those around us we can lead our projects to success.

Self Awareness

Self awareness is about understanding your own feelings.  We need to understand what things are natural triggers to our emotions.  Are there certain traits or habits which automatically set us on edge?  Being aware of our own emotions allows us to understand ourselves and how we react to others.  There are many ways that you can discover more about your own emotions and what triggers your emotional responses.

One way is to keep a journal of your emotional responses.  Are you calm, angry, pensive, anxious?  What events, activities, or people elicit which responses?

Self Awareness
  • Take note of your emotions
  • Be aware of your triggers
  • Journal


Empathetic people understand the feelings of those around them and are able to relate to them on a human level.  We have all had bad days.  We have had bad experiences and good experiences, remember how these made you feel apply this to others.  Also, people react differently to stimuli, it is important not to dismiss the feelings of others when you don’t feel the same way.


Your team will perform better when you recognize their emotional needs.

  • Be supportive
  • Be concerned
  • Be authentic

Social Skills

It is important to be able to apply your social skills to your team and your stakeholders.

Social Skills

Your team needs to know who you are and what they can expect from you as a leader.  Getting to know your team can be facilitated through team building activities and individual sessions.

Understand the needs of your project sponsors. Often your project sponsor will be more understanding if your display confidence regarding the project.

Get to know other stakeholders, especially other managers in a matrixed organization.  When you connect socially, other are more likely to be willing to work with you when there is a resource conflict.

  • Build your team
  • Understand your sponsors
  • Know your stakeholders


Your team will pick up your attitude.  If you aren’t excited about the project, they won’t be either.  Find out what motivates the members of your team.  Are they intrinsically motivated by the project itself?  Are they extrinsically motivated by financial rewards like bonuses?


Be an example to your team.  Display the attitude that you want them to have.  Be the example even when you don’t know they are watching.

  • Be Positive
  • Display Optimism
  • Be an example

Self Regulation

Once you understand your own emotions and how emotions impact you, you will be able to control how you respond to situations.

Don’t let your emotions control you.  You may need to take a drink of water or count to ten before responding to a catalyst.  Remember that you set the example to your team and they will emulate your behavior.

Self Regulation
  • Control yourself
  • Count to ten
  • Never lose your temper

Life is a Project!

Combine these five areas of emotional intelligence to reduce conflict on your team, garner support for your project, and increase productivity.

Read more at: The Heart of Change Field Guide: Tools and Tactics for Leading Change in Your Organization


Teaser: Coming soon – identifying key stakeholders.

This video focuses on emotional intelligence for project managers!

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