Emotional Intelligence - Part A
(I'll upload the slides when I can find some extra time).
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to GUT, EI, and PM, presented by Marco Cattaneo
Subtitle: Exploring the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and the Project Management Universe
This short presentation aims to give insight into the relationship between Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Project Management (PM), more specifically the role of a Project Manager.
Marco states/claims that EI is the glue that unifies (hence Grand Unifying Theory (GUT)) the Project Manager and his/her surroundings, be it Project Team, Sponsor, or any other type of stakeholder. Furthermore the idea is presented that it is indeed EI that distinguishes a good Project Manager from a bad one.
Charles River: http://www.criver.com/SiteCollectionImages/Images_255x164/rms_rat_white1_0005_lres.jpg
Plato’s phrase “All learning has an emotional base” is purely used to demonstrate the importance of emotions in everything we do as human beings. Even the PMBOK (2008) shows an increased emphasis on taking a lessons learned during a project’s life-cycle. This compared to the PMBOK’s earlier edition (2004). Often as individuals we “feel” there’s a certain amount of knowledge or skills lacking in us, and hence we search for them via training, education, libraries, the Internet, and other sources. Whether we like it or not, we are emotional beings! Trying to separate personal life from business life, is in all reality, easier said than done, and is many cases, impossible.
This presentation is not a presentation on Leadership, but it’s up to the audience to link the concepts of Project Management and Emotional Intelligence to Leadership. Quite a large chunk of academic literature tries to separate the traits of a manager from the traits of a leader. It’s more than likely that a manager needs a fair amount of mature emotional intelligence skills to be able to step into the role of a leader. In Marco’s opinion it is not possible to be an effective leader without a high level of EI skills.
How many of us have send an “angry” email to one of our colleagues only to regret it, or its consequences, afterwards. Being able to manage your emotions, and sleep a night over it, before sending out that nasty email is one of the characteristics of a developed/developing emotional intelligence. Self-awareness (know thyself: strengths and weaknesses) and self-regulation (control your emotional flares) are two of the foundation pillars of emotional intelligence. More about these EI foundation pillars (also known as EI components) on some of the other slides.
If you’ve never heard of the Dilbert Principle or Peter Principle, then it’s recommended to perform a search on Google for them. Too many technically minded project team-member wizards, being highly competent in their technical jobs get promoted into managerial roles (i.e. Project Manager), only to discover they’re completely incompetent in their new role. It’s often the lack of developed and nurtured EI that makes this type of promotion a predictable disaster for so many organisations. However, all hope is not lost! EI can be taught, but it takes time (often a lot of time), full and unconditional commitment, and trust from those trying to increase their EI levels.
Interestingly, there’s only single hit on Dilbert.com when searching for cartoons that are “emotional intelligence” related. Surely, being a topic so close to what we are and who we are, one would expect dozens of hits.
The Dilbert Principle: companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to management (generally middle management), in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing.
The Peter Principle: “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position at which they cannot work competently.
Here the audience is given the opportunity to type in any reason why projects fail.
The responses are collected below:
Lack of defined scope
Insufficient consultation with stakeholders
Lack of interest
Not knowing what you are trying to achieve
Because sponsors have NFI how to get the best from PMs
Projects fail due to poor communication
Poor stakeholder identification
You can con a sucker into agreeing a deadline, but you cannot con him into meeting it
Expectations not met
Lack of governance
People and communication
Incapable of handling politics
Lack of stakeholder support
Poor leadership skills
Lack of stakeholder management and engagement
Bad governance and planning and poor sentiments
Predefinition of outcome prior to the project actually running
Poor sponsor ownership
Projects fail because they haven’t studied properly
Insufficient understanding of the organisation
Lack of executive support
Poorly defined requirements
No relationship between PM and other processes
Lack of buy-in from participants
Conflicting or non-agreed priorities
Trying to achieve too much
Reliance on 3rd party suppliers with their own timeframes
Different project managers with different methods – no governance
No control over the white space between competing projects
No benefits planning
Reliance on internal suppliers with competing priorities
Sponsor/senior stakeholders don’t understand or choose to ignore project management fundamentals
Universe out of alignment
You lose your towel
Resources not available when originally promised
People are afraid of change
Communication imbalance – miscomms and mis management of stakeholders
Wow! That’s quite a list indeed.
Yes, projects fail for many reasons, and all the answers provided by the audience are 100% justifiable and correct. In all reality a project may fail for a whole variety of reasons, and these are mostly situational, hence “it depends”. Each situation asks for its own specific management and leadership style, also known as situational management.
If Marco was asked to write a book on management, then the title would be “IT DEPENDS”, as usually this seems to be very true in management space. This also means that a manager or leader needs to be able to “sense” his/her environment and respond to it appropriately and emphatically. The moment we talk about “sensing” and “empathy” we step into the world of emotional intelligence.
Marco was hoping to see “people” pop-up a number of times as part of the audience’s answers. Indeed this was the case!
Technology does not run projects.
Processes do not run projects.
Partners and suppliers do not run projects.
It’s people that run projects, and people are highly unpredictable emotional “systems”. Understand and get yourself into the minds of ‘your’ people (project-team), and you’ll be able to bring your projects to a successful ending. Ignore your team members and think you know it all and can do it all by yourself, then better prepare yourself for some nasty surprises. In today’s cut-throat competitive and highly interconnected world we must depend on, and trust other people, whether we like it or not, whether we’re used to it or not.
Cogito ergo sum: “I think, therefore I am.”
How you Act affects how you think and feel.
How you Think affects how you act and feel.
How you Feel affects how you act and think.
Although not 100% accurate, for this presentation Behavioural development is linked to what we “do” and the mostly technical skills we demonstrate, as part of our daily job, to the outside world (e.g. accounting, marketing, IT support, etc.).
Cognitive development is linked to our IQ and tells us something how “smart” we are compared to others in the same age-group. Things like logic, reasoning and analytical skills fall within cognitive development. There are many theories about IQ, and all are merely an approximation of the truth captured in some type of model, survey or simulation tool.
Emotional development is the least known and maybe even the least appreciated in “business” world. Surely we’re not meant to be emotional in the workplace. Hold on! We’re emotional beings and can’t just separate emotions from who and what we are. Even better, those that are able to understand and control their own emotions actually perform better (more effective) in the workplace than those that don’t. Also with increased accountability (higher up in the chain-of-command) comes increased importance for the emotional component of who and what we are. Surely, strategic business and portfolio managers need a lot more ‘emotional control’ compared to project team-members who are adding performance data in their project management information system. At operational levels technical skills are a must, but these become less and less relevant at the higher management levels, where they are replaced by something else! Yes, they are… they are replaced/complemented by a whole lot of emotional intelligence.
Marco was hoping to see “communication” pop-up a number of times as part of the audience’s answers. Indeed this was the case!
We’re all born with this fantastic skill to pick up any language and use it to communicate with others. However many of us do not master the skill of “effective communication”. Lots of research shows that the majority of projects fail because of poor communication. Even in Project Management space people sometimes speak different “languages”, such as PMBOK, Prince2, Agile or Scrum. Each introduction of an additional language creates opportunity for confusion, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation.
Our language is our greatest asset, but used wrongly it’s also one of our biggest threats. Wars have started, some not even ended, because people say or misunderstand words! The importance of effective communication cannot and should not be underestimated. Communication is so much more than chucking a new policy, or code-of-conduct on the organisation's Intranet. Communication is a science, art, and process we need to understand, and if at all possible, learn to master ourselves.
Communication is science and art and process
the right message
at the right time
to the right people
in the right language
in the right format
in the right context
using the right media
getting the right feedback
It’s weird as some people seem to have a natural talent to communicate (surely it’s partly genetic) whereas others follow all communication courses and training available and just can’t get it right. According to some research those that can’t get it right are training the wrong parts of their brain (neocortex rather than limbic). Anyway, people are able to improve their communication skills and become effective communicators, but this takes time, energy, and commitment and isn’t learned in any 2-3 day course. Improving your communication skills is a never ending journey, where only you are in charge of the final destination.
So, people and communication are really significant to a project’s success rate.
It’s quite interesting to see that most older project management literature emphasises cost, schedule and performance as main project constraints (also known as the triple constraint).
As the audience and Marco agreed that people and communication are critical success factors (CSFs) for any project, then why aren’t they emphasized a lot more in today’s project management literature? It’s the people buying in to the project’s goals, it’s the people performing the work, it’s the people creating teams. The schedule and dollars are just a means for the people to get the project from start to finish, and that’s all they really are. Without people there is no project!
Fortunately the Project Management literature is catching up compared to earlier publications and more and more emphasis is put on the people side of the equation. Two of the nine knowledge areas that you find in the PMBOK (2008) relate to communications (project communication management) and people (project human resource management), so there’s definitely a pattern that shows a move in the right direction.
Interestingly the PMBOK (2008) does not mention “emotional intelligence” or for where that matters “social intelligence” as yet. Maybe… one day… who knows…
Okay, so what’s needed to run projects?
Basically three things:
Skills, also referred to as Act or Technical capabilities
Brains (IQ), also referred to as Think or Cognitive capabilities
Emotions (EQ), also referred to as Feel or Emotional intelligence
As mentioned before, research is indicating that the higher you move up in your organisation’s hierarchy the more important your emotional intelligence becomes. It’s not that technical skills and cognitive capabilities become unimportant, because you’ll still need those too (otherwise you wouldn’t or shouldn’t even be selected for a managerial role), they just become less important in the new role (hierarchically a step above your current role) you’re getting yourself into. Again, be constantly aware of the Dilbert Principle and the Peter Principle – these principles apply to all of us!
There are heaps of publications that have a title like “Recipe for Success” and so does one of Anthony Robbins. Notice how he mentions “Choose a role model”, that you may or may not want to substitute with “Choose the right mentor or coach”. You can only develop your emotional intelligence by example. In other words: you need other EI aware-and-competent people telling you whether or not your emotional intelligence is developing and improving in the right direction. Please note that being taught new skills by an incompetent mentor may make your skills worse, rather than improving them.
So, what is emotional intelligence?
Well, it’s actually two things. First of it means mastering your own emotions, and secondly it means mastering your relationships with others. Although the literature uses “mastering” you could also just use “managing”, “controlling”, or “real-time monitoring and adjusting”. The idea is that before you are able to manage relationships with others, you need to be able to manage your own emotions. Those that are trying to build/manage relationships with others, and are not yet in control of their own emotions are likely to fail in their efforts (or may come across as creepy, weird, or faking it).
There are heaps of tests online that you can take that will tell you something about your Emotional Intelligence, but realize many of these tests still have to prove their validity, as often they provide different outcomes under different situations. So, use them as an indicator and not as the only truth. Also understand that the results of these tests are only as truthful as the data you enter. As always, the GIGO (Garbage-In-Garbage-Out) principle applies.
This is a Harvard Business Review (HBR) statement that shows that the whole idea of EI (or EQ) created quite some shockwaves in the business world. Whereas previously managers and leaders were often selected on their high IQ, all of a sudden there was a new theory telling everyone that this is not enough, and not even the most significant attribute. Although technical skills and IQ are important to get into a managerial position (so called threshold capabilities), the real challenge starts with EI and it is EI that will differentiate a good manager from a bad one, and a good leader from a bad one.
Many articles exist on the traits of a project manager and when inspected close-up they all show quite a number of characteristics that you also find in Daniel Goleman’s ground-breaking work on emotional intelligence which goes by the same title. Since his publication (1995) the model, which originally included 5 components (as shown on the next couple of slides) has been extended by various authors and academics, and as such the model as shown on the next couple of pages shows one additional component. Again, it’s “merely” a theory trying to explain some of things that we can see happening around us. Time and effort will further enhance the theory.
The first EI component is Self-awareness. “Know Thyself” is a prerequisite for becoming confident of one’s own abilities, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Those managers with high confidence will find it a lot easier to make decisions, but even better, their decisions will come across as more believable to their “subordinates/team” compared to those managers that lack self-esteem and confidence. In the Dutch language there’s a phrase known as “sterk in je schoenen staan”, which can be translated into “standing solid in your shoes”, which has the same meaning as “standing fierce”. People that have a good self-awareness are more likely coming across to their staff as “standing fierce”.
The second EI component is Self-regulation. Everyone has their good and bad days, and everyone would like to have an emotional explosion every once and again (it’s called venting). This is completely human and natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, when emotions run high, people often say or do things they may well regret for the remainder of their mortal lives (and who knows – maybe even in the afterlife). Anyway, effective managers and leaders need to be able to recognize when keeping their emotions under control is necessary for the sake of the team and/or organisation. Self-regulation also means embracing change and innovation and being aware that most people dislike change (and “dislike” is an understatement), as change brings uncertainty. Generally people love certainty and hate uncertainty. Being able to regulate yourself and recognize and confirm the benefits of change is the first step towards making others see these benefits. It’s difficult if not impossible to convince your staff of the benefits of a change, when you are in fear or doubt yourself.
The third EI component is Motivation. Marco believes that Dr. Spock (from the well known Star Trek series) is the ultimate example of someone who is a master in self-awareness and self-regulation, but lacks any forms of observable motivation. People like Steve Ballmer and Anthony Robbins are in Marco’s opinion better examples of people that show zeal, drive, commitment and enthusiasm. Motivation is one of the EI components that is highly contagious, and needed for project managers and leaders alike. Here’s another Dutch phrase: “na regen komt zonneschijn”, which roughly translates into “after rain, there’s always sun”. This has the meaning as “the sun is always shining behind the clouds”. Most projects follow the so called “Kubler Ross” (Google it!) change curve, which means that after some initial high expectations and optimism, things start to go down-hill, as maybe not all expectations are, or can be, met. It’s the project manager’s task to keep the spirits high, and keep pointing to that light at the end of the tunnel. Even when things go really sour, there’s always a lesson to be learned. Remember, there are no such thing as making a mistake, one can only learn and continue one’s journey.
The fourth EI component is Empathy. Whereas the first three components are all about you and your inner self, this component starts the interaction with your environment, the outside world, and the people around you. It’s here where the other three components are starting to pay off and show real value. Empathy is all about being able to put yourself into the shoes of others, and understanding why these others behave the way they do (Act), and say the things they say (Think). This is where the manager/leader sticks out his/her antennas and starts to “feel” and “sense” the environment and other people. It’s making sense of the world around you, getting the facts straight, and responding in an appropriate manner that suits the specific and unique situation. Why has a staff member, that’s normally performing really well, started to underperform? Of course you can start playing the dictator, but what if a close relative has passed away, and your staff member kept this for him/herself all of the time? This is what empathy is all about! It’s reading between the lines, listening between the lines and observing body-language and other signs to make the right decisions, and not those hasty ones. Political awareness is an interesting topic by itself. You may want to read Reframing Organizations by Bolman and Deal, because “yes” it’s a jungle out there!
The fifth EI component is Social skills. By now you should be able to see how the previous EI components all come together (converge) into socialising with others. Your self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and empathy will allow you to communicate with your staff in the most effective way possible. Of course there’s a difference between having a good conversation with someone, and actually starting to build longer term bonds with others. What drives the other person? What goes on in the other person’s life? What’s the person’s background and culture? Well developed social skills will allow you to go to that next level, where a people (your staff, your team) become so much more than “just” another worker-bee; they become unique individuals with their own interests, passions, and stories. You never who you might need in a project you’re running in 10 years time from now. It may be that person you’re meeting today, and that “worker-bee”, who knows, may well be your boss in 5 years from now. Never underestimate the powers of Faith, Destiny and Hope.
The EI component “Group work skills” is not part of David Goleman’s orginal ground breaking work, but should make sense nonetheless. It goes one level above socialising with other people (individuals) and enters the world of teams and groups. As such, this component is definitely applicable to the world of a project manager, as a project is typically performed by a project-team. The project manager must have a “can do” and “will do” attitude working towards shared goals, even if the project has been assigned to him/her. There are still way too many project managers who believe that managing projects is equivalent to creating a project schedule, collecting performance data, and providing performance reports, whilst locking themselves in a small room surrounded by computer screens and flashing lights. Being a project manager (or any type of manager for where that matters) means being there for your team, guiding them, supporting them, resolving conflicts, and every now and then, being that shoulder to cry on. It’s about sharing the highs and lows with your team, and has hardly anything to do with entering data into some type of project management tool – that’s why we invented things like delegation, authority, roles, responsibility and accountability.
So, by now it should be clear that the higher your role in the hierarchy of a project, the more important your emotional intelligence skills are becoming. As a project manager you’re tasked with putting all the pieces together, and this includes those pieces known as “human beings”. Unfortunately those “human beings” aren’t as easy to toss around as trucks or bricks, and they need a more sensitive, emotional approach.
Things get even more interesting when you step outside the world of projects and inside the world of programs, portfolios and business strategy. Without properly developed emotional intelligence skills one can do a lot of harm at these higher organisational levels. Again, people seem to get promoted to a level of incompetence, rather than competence. Marco believes this is partly due to skills, especially the emotional intelligence one, running out of sync with the position being gently “forced” in. A more proactive approach, one that includes EI training, mentoring and coaching, is likely part to a long-term solution.
Individual planets: http://www.skinz.org/zoom.phtml?skinid=4772
Inner planets: http://makkcraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Inner-Planets.png
Outer planets (gas-giants): http://makkcraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Gas_planet_size_comparisons.jpg
Solar system: http://astrobioloblog.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/what-is-a-solar-system/
Milky way: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-E5GmzyiZ-KU/TdJb9qdE__I/AAAAAAAABeY/R_2q3Ntg5wY/s1600/milky-way.jpg
Where quarks hold the Universe together, emotional intelligence is able to hold project management together. The higher your position in the project, program, portfolio, or business, the more energy your EI particles need to keep “things”, “emotions”, “relationships” together.
In other words: emotionally intelligence creates the grand unifying theory for projects, programs, portfolios, businesses and governments alike. It binds and holds all together. It’s the people, their communications and the way they interact that are key in this world.
So, what do you need to develop your EI?
There are hundreds-of-thousands of organisations providing one-to-five days of so called intensive communication and other type of personal development courses. Although they may give you some theory and some principles, they are really only the beginning of your journey. As human beings we didn’t learn to speak in 5 days, and for that same reason, we won’t learn to improve the way we speak in 5 days either.
Reconditioning our emotional intelligence is a life-long journey, which will have lots of bumps and holes along the road. It’s a never-ending journey of continuous improvement, fine-tuning and taking lessons learned. It will take all of your time, effort and commitment to improve, and most importantly your belief that you are able to improve. One of the most important things you’ll be needing is someone that’s setting the good example for you: a mentor, coach or role model (remember the slide with Anthony Robbin’s recipe for success?).
Just like a piano, once our emotional intelligence skills are on the right track, we need to keep fine-tuning them, as many outside factors (e.g. people demonstrating immature emotional intelligence skills) will try putting our EI piano off-tune. So, post training reinforcement is essential! Once you’ve done a course or training session on how to improve one or more of your EI skills, you need a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of practice. And someone out there needs to be telling you whether you’re on track or off track.
An effective way to improve your EI skills is by following this approach:
Know what type of EI capabilities are required for the new role.
Understand your current EI skills. SWOT them!
Take EI test XYZ to measure your EI skills
Understand what’s missing: an EI gap analysis
Map out a strategy on how to get those additional skills
Follow courses, training (on-the-job or off-the-job), otherwise (whatever works best for you)
Seek opportunities to bring your newly learned skills into practice
Use post-training reinforcement or a mentor to ensure you’re on track
Take EI test XYZ to measure your EI skills (they should have improved by now!)
Step into your new role
All of this with the support of a subject matter expert. Someone who really understands the field of EI.
Use the same EI test pre- and pro development, otherwise you’re comparing apples and pears.
Last, but not least: get a list of rules and live by them!
What many people like in the behaviour of their manager or leader is consistency. If you stick to a set of rules, and live by them, then consistency is a logical consequence. And guess what… consistency also relates to certainty, and that’s what all people like: certainty!
A set of rules you’re living by is like running an internal computer program, where the outputs are always the same, or at least predictable within set (or agreed) boundaries. Make sure you take someone into your trust (not a subordinate) who will immediately tell you when you’re breaking your own rules. The reason for getting off track most be clear, justifiable, and if at all possible communicated to staff, and going off track should be exception rather than rule.
So, with all the (new) knowledge you’ve obtained in the this presentation it should be clear that managers with a proper level of emotional intelligence will outperform manager without. Even better, many of the components related to emotional intelligence are also attributable to leadership, and hence project managers with EI skills actually become real project leaders and will be able to advance their career into any direction they choose to.
A list of references as used by Marco to put this presentation together.
Yes, emotional intelligence is an extremely exciting topic and can be linked to any type of role, including the various roles you’ll find in project and service management space. I highly recommend studying one or more subjects in this field.
Live long and prosper, Nanoo… Nanoo, and Isle-Bee-Bach,