PMs see the value of high EQ as they lead teams through projects ranging from IT to manufacturing to accounting.
In a recent survey, we found that emotionally intelligent project managers (PMs) are about 11% more successful at managing processes, engaging stakeholders, avoiding scope creep, and efficiently using resources compared to PMs who lack this skill.
As a PM, emotional intelligence is critical to your position—herding cats is a crazy way to make a living but some social awareness and thoughtful engagement reduces the chaos. Emotional intelligence helps you ease stakeholder tensions and increase the ability to deliver high-value projects with engaged team members.
Read on to find out how emotional intelligence can address common challenges in your workplace and see how your EQ usage stacks up to your peers.
Our definition of emotional intelligence follows the medical industry standard: Emotional intelligence is your ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle your own emotions as well as others’.
Project managers are in the unique position of having to manage the engagement and expectations of all stakeholders in a project. And rarely will every stakeholder have the same motivations and interests for that project. As the PM, you must constantly communicate and negotiate with personality types of all sorts.
The pandemic has exponentially increased stress levels for everyone, which means navigating the social waters within a project team is trickier than ever. In response, most PMs (78%) report having increased their use of their EQ in the past two years in order to continue to lead successful project teams.
Here’s the full breakdown of how our respondents have changed their use of EQ.
We asked project managers about the challenges they’ve experienced over the past 12 months and the top challenge reported by 67% of respondents is dealing with processes that are too restrictive and/or complicated. Budget management came in second (59%), and a lack of stakeholder engagement (46%) rounded out the top three.
Here’s a breakdown of all responses.
The good news here is that this top challenge of too restrictive/complicated processes can be addressed by talking to leadership about the changes you need to see made to your business processes… and EQ is the secret ingredient to making these conversations go your way. Be clear and specific in your ask and use your EQ soft skills to negotiate for what you need.
Next we’ll take a closer look at the differences in challenges experienced by self-reported high-EQ versus low-EQ PMS. Then we’ll get further into how EQ plays into the challenges PMs face.
We asked respondents to rank their own level of emotional intelligence on a scale of one to five (one being the lowest and five being the highest). Only 10% of all survey respondents report having a low EQ level of one or two. But let’s dive a little deeper into the differences seen between this group and the rest.
Here is a breakdown of top challenges experienced in the past 12 months by project managers with low versus high emotional intelligence.
We see here that for four of the top five challenges, the low-EQ PMs struggle more than the high-EQ ones. These four are also the types of challenges where one’s ability to negotiate and be persuasive are keys to improving them. (Budget management isn’t influenced by soft skills as much as the other challenges are.)
In order to understand how and why emotional intelligence is helpful in these challenges, we’ll need to use some examples. We’ll do just that in the next section.
Now let’s get into how to leverage your EQ to address these top challenges. We’ll use the example of an Agile project for an accounting software implementation.
We asked our survey respondents what they’re doing to improve or maintain their emotional intelligence for their role as project managers and found out that companies are offering more support than expected.
The majority (60%) watch and/or listen to speakers and presenters on EQ. Fifty-four percent of respondents say they’re taking formal training on EQ and 40% work with a mentor, both offered by their company.
Since you’re reading this report, you’re in the 47% of PMs who are reading up about emotional intelligence. But is your company offering support, as well? If not, now’s the time to make the request. Use these numbers to show your manager or project management office (PMO) that many companies are already providing professional development for EQ and that you deserve it also.
Here are some other key points we gathered from our survey:
- 62% of respondents report managing budgets averaging $50,000 to $200,000 per project.
- 63% of respondents report managing two projects at a time.
- 80% of respondents have been managing projects for five years or less.
- IT is the department with the highest number of respondents at 37%, accounting is second at 12%, and project/product management is third at 8%.
- “Services: information technology services and software” is the top industry at 21%, followed by “banking/financial services” (14%) and “manufacturing” (10%).
If you’d like to continue learning about project management trends and what your peers are doing, here are a few more articles we recommend. (Spoiler alert, they’re written by me.)
- “The future of project management success belongs to the project managers (PMs) breaking the functional corporate silos as we know them. Successful PMs will be the ones who work with a hybrid approach and mindset.”
- “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that traditional project management is somehow subpar or even uncool now that agile is the new kid on the block. Agile has its place, especially in software development projects. But project managers need to know the classic approach to managing projects.”
- “A DACI (aka, RACI) matrix is your best tool for making quick and effective decisions during any project. We’ll explain why and give you 5 tips for creating one.”
Capterra conducted the Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace Survey in December 2021 of 528 U.S-based professionals who manage projects at their small to midsize business. Respondents were screened for employment status (full-time), size of business (2 – 500 employees), and involvement in project management (extremely involved).