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Maiden Post of EQ for Project Managers Blog

Well, I did it.  After mulling it over for about 36 hours I took the advice of my new friend Rajesh Setty and started a blog.  To be fair, Rajesh was the second person to recommend that I blog.  Barbara Brown of BrownWoodFish was the first.  And Deborah Mersino, my sister-in-law and volunteer brand manager, was the third.

Why am I blogging?  Good Question.  The short answer is to provide a forum to discuss the application of Emotional Intelligence to Project Management.

What should you expect to see here?  I don’t know for sure.  Project Management stuff.  Emotional Intelligence APPLIED.  Continuous Improvement.  I think the why statement above provides some boundaries so that you can be sure you aren’t going to see pics from the neighbor’s litter of kittens or musings about why Starbucks charges for WiFi access while Panera is happy to give it away.  Beyond that, I have to admit I am a little new to blogging so we may just have to wait and see.  (I hope there are no unwritten rules about writing really dumb stuff in your first post that is the kiss of death for your blog.)

Who am I?  I am an experienced IT Project Manager, consultant, and teacher.  Soon to be a published author.  I focus on what helps project managers get better so they can be more successful, make more money, take on larger projects, or just be happier and stress-free.  My passion since 2001 has been on applying Emotional Intelligence to life and to projects.  I think there is incredible potential in Emotional Intelligence or EQ based on my own firsthand experience.

What EQ4PM Is Really All About

So what is EQ4PM really all about?  Why do I feel so strongly about addressing this topic and who am I to address it?

This post is about getting this blog off on the right foot.  To do that, there are at least 5 things that we need to establish straight off.  These could be considered foundational principals.

  1. Is Emotional Intelligence important to Project Managers?  The answer is obvious to me but may require some proof before it is evident to other PM’s.  EQ and relationships are both critical to project managers.
  2. Why I am an excellent person to write on this topic.  I don’t claim to be perfect, or even necessarily the best, but I am an excellent person for this topic due to my experience as a project manager and the time I have spent over the last 4 years working on Emotional Intelligence and applying it to small group and project environments.
  3. Do Project Managers know or care about Emotional Intelligence?  There have been a gazillion books on the topic (heck Daniel Goleman claims to have sold over 5 million copies of his book Emotional Intelligence alone).  That doesn’t mean that the average Project Manager read anything, remembers anything, or even that they care about EQ.
  4. Are project managers finding value in the current, published literature on Emotional Intelligence?  As noted above, there are a gazillion books published about EQ.  To get value, PMs have to get the books, read and absorb them, and be able to apply them.  My belief is that few project managers get any value from the books.  They either have not read, or read and have not understood, or read, understood, but failed to apply the lessons.
  5. Can the application of Emotional Intelligence lead to success at larger and more complex projects as well as satisfaction with our lives?

These are some of the big questions we need to tackle over the next few posts before drilling into the specifics of Applied EQ.

How to gain an edge as a Project Manager

Project management is a very competitive field. Project managers are increasingly seeking PMP certification; that has caused an explosion in the growth in project management certification (see chart below). In fact, nearly as many project managers were certified in the first 9 months of 2005 as were certified in the first 10 years of the certification program (1993 to 2002).

 

Pmp_growth2Why are so many project managers getting certified? PMP certification does not in itself make a project manager more capable; it simply proves that you have experience and can pass the certification exam. Further, the certification process can be costly and labor intensive. The main reason that project managers seek certification is that it differentiates them from other project managers. When project managers want to stand apart, they are willing to invest time and money to do that.

PMI recently overhauled the PMP certification process to make it more difficult to get certified.  This may actually dissuade project managers from pursuing certification and slow the growth in PMPs.  These project managers will still be looking for ways to differentiate themselves.  I believe this will lead to increased interest in avenues like applying emotional intelligence.

 

Emotional intelligence and certification are two very different things. However, the pursuit of PMP certification demonstrates that project managers are seeking every advantage they can get. Emotional Intelligence can be just one more way of setting themselves apart.  I believe that this will lead to an increased interest in developing and applying emotional intelligence to project management.

Measuring the Value of EQ to Project Managers

In his book, The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace: How to Select For, Measure, and Improve Emotional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups, and Organizations, Daniel Goleman states that while IQ determines the fields that someone will pursue, EQ determines how successful someone will be in that field. In other words, your IQ provides entry in your job category. However, your success and advancement in the job category you select are largely determined by your emotional intelligence. As applied to Project Management, Goleman would state that IQ determines who will be a project manager and EQ determines who will succeed and excel at project management.

 

Interestingly enough, there is a wide range of compensation levels within the field of project management. Let’s look at some of the data that is readily available about project management compensation. There are broad ranges of success within project management as defined by the range of project management titles and pay grades. The chart below shows the ranges of compensation levels reported by the Project Management Institute. It shows median and maximum annual compensation for US project managers of different experience levels (see Salary Survey, Project Management Institute Website).

Pm_salaries_1

There are a couple of interesting conclusions one can draw from this data:

 

  1. There is a wide range of earning power within each job level. For each job level shown, the maximum compensation is more than 200% of the median compensation.
  2. The GAP in earning power grows as one advances in their PM Career. Looking at the gap from median to maximum, one can see that the variance in earning power within the job level grows as project managers advance to different job levels. In other words, as PM’s grow in their careers, there is a wider variation in earning power from the median level to the maximum level.

 

What does this all mean?  First, I agree with Daniel Goleman that success within a particular job is related to EQ.  For project managers, that means that whatever position they currently hold, they have the potential to be successful and earn more by applying emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

What is emotional intelligence? Great question. So great I wonder why I didn’t attempt to answer it on the very first post of this blog. After reading about 18 books on the topic, I think of emotional intelligence as “knowing and managing our own emotions and those of others for improved performance”. But who asked me? I mean, I did not make up the term so why would I offer a definition?

The term emotional intelligence was actually coined by two psychologists, Peter Salovey, and John Mayer, in 1990. I am a little surprised they didn’t call it the Salomayer Principle or something nutty like that. I bet if they had known that Daniel Goleman would come along in 1995 and use the term for the title of his best selling book they would certainly have called it the Salomayer Principal. In any case, the definition that Salovey and Mayer attached to Emotional Intelligence was something like this:

“The ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”

Most people have heard of that first Goleman book and know that the rest is history.  In one of his recent books, Goleman calls emotional intelligence “the ability to recognize and regulate emotions in ourselves and in others”.

For those project managers who are new to emotional intelligence, I recommend a very simple book by Linda Wasmer Andrews called oddly enough, Emotional Intelligence.

This book could easily be read on an airplane and it provides a helpful overview of emotional intelligence.  It does not tell how to apply it to project management (there are no published books which do).

If you want a simple read, DO NOT purchase one of the numerous Goleman texts.  They are nearly unreadable.  Goleman writes in support of those who are emotionally intelligent vs. the old-fashioned IQ intelligent types.  The irony is that Goleman himself is definitely one of those high IQ types he disparages in his books.  Despite his Harvard doctorate (or perhaps because of it), he has the ability to reduce Starbuck’s junkies like myself to deep and peaceful sleep.

Goleman has provided a lot of food for thought so it is somewhat unfair to skewer him.  I guess as a project manager I tend to be very pragmatic about concepts like emotional intelligence.  I want to understand it so that I can apply it to be more successful as a project manager.  My focus is on emotional intelligence as it applies to the project management arena.

After working on this for the last 4 years, here are 5 ways that I believe emotional intelligence can help project managers:

  1. Provides an ability to use our emotions to better understand what is going on with our team members and how to best motivate them to achieve the project objectives.
  2. Provides us with tools to understand the emotions of our stakeholders to build strong relationships that will provide a fertile environment for a successful project.
  3. Help us to appreciate the importance and timing of courageous truth-telling.
  4. Anticipate and recognize some of the breakdowns that occur with people on the team and how to best avoid or deal with them.
  5. Recognizing the fine line between dealing with project conflict and dealing with bullies or narcissist personalities. There is an excellent book on this topic by Roy Lubit.

Bottom Line:  I think there is something here for project managers.  Stay tuned

Applied EQ4PM #1: Using Self Talk to Break Out of your Comfort Zone

I had a great phone conversation with Kathy Schwalbe today.  Kathy is the author of several books.  Her best-known book is Information Technology Project Management.  This is an excellent textbook and one I used for a class I taught at Northwestern University.

The thing that makes this text unusual is that it is extremely readable.  As you probably know, this is quite uncommon for books on project management.  For some unknown reason, most project management textbooks are simply unbearable which sets a low bar for our profession.  Even the ubiquitous Guide to the PMBOK, which has become MUCH more readable in the 3rd edition, is written for insomniacs.

Kathy has a new book coming out called Introduction to Project Management.  This should do for general project management what her other book did for IT Project Management.

What does my call to Kathy have to do with applied emotional intelligence?  Plenty!  There was a time when I would be too afraid to make contact with someone like Kathy.  After all, she is a well-known author on IT Project Management and a professor at the Augsburg College in Minneapolis.  (I believe) she is very busy and too important for phone discussions with me.  In fact, that is my general belief about most people- they are too busy for me to interrupt or to ask for help.

And so it was no surprise that I was very nervous about calling her.  I was even scared to reach out to her via email to arrange for the call.  And as the time for our call drew near, I found myself stalling and nearly missed the call altogether.

What did I do about being so scared?  Well, it helped to just acknowledge that I was scared.  I recognized that I was scared and even in a bit of a panic.  That ability to see myself in fear, almost as an outsider would see me, helped me to calm myself.

Then I did a bit of self-talk.  “Yes you are scared,” I said to myself.  “Of course you are, you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.  And when you push outside your comfort zone, you get scared.”

That little bit of self-talk and a deep breath was all I needed to calm myself down.  In less than a minute, I was feeling at peace and ready to make the call.  When I did call, I was prepared and confident.

I believe we all have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones.  We have to recognize the things we are afraid of and understand why we fear them.  Then we need to find ways to push through our fear.  As Mark Twain said, “Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain”.

Applying emotional intelligence techniques, like self-talk, is one of the ways to push through our fear.  This is what applied emotional intelligence is all about; being aware of how we are feeling in the moment, using that emotional information, and managing our emotions. Self-talk is just one of the applied emotional intelligence techniques I could have used in this situation.

Do Project Managers Know about EQ?

Do project managers know about Emotional Intelligence?  That was something I wasn’t sure about.  It is hard to imagine that project managers have not heard the term.  But easy to imagine there are project managers who have been too busy to read about or discuss the term.

And so it was a question that I included in the survey of project managers.  The question asked in the survey was:  How would you rate your understanding of the concepts of Emotional Intelligence?

Graph_of_understanding_of_concepts_of_em_3With a total of 69 responses [updated Nov. 23], we can start to get a better understanding of where project managers stand.  The answers to this question are shown on the left.  Of the 68 project managers that responded to this question, 36 were either not familiar or only a little familiar with the concepts of emotional intelligence.

I think the survey shows that there is a large group of project managers out there who really don’t understand emotional intelligence.  Now I need to figure out the best ways to reach this group…

Applied EQ4PM #2 – Integrating New Project Team Members

Adding new members to a team is a frequent occurrence. As projects start up, we staff them up gradually following a predictable staffing curve. And on existing projects, turnover and planned growth will cause the addition of new team members.  We can either do this well, and maximize the benefit of the additional team member, or do this poorly and kill the team’s productivity.

Applying Emotional Intelligence Techniques

Applying emotional intelligence techniques includes assessing the emotions of the new team member and managing those emotions.  It also includes the project manager’s emotional leadership of the team.  We will address the one-on-one relationship issues in this post and save the team leadership for a future post.

 

 

When people arrive on a project, they are generally feeling both excited and scared.  Excited about the opportunity to try something new.  And scared about a whole host of questions including; am I smart enough, was this the right move, will people discover how inadequate I feel most of the time, will I fail, will I be asked to do something I don’t know about, am I going to fit in, will I be able to keep this position and feed my family, and the like.

 

 

New resources may also be angry with themselves for taking the job.  Perhaps they were asking for more salary, wanted a different position, or did not feel that had other choices so resigned themselves to this position.  Left unattended, this anger can cause negative outcomes.

 

 

This combination of excitement, fear, and even anger can be dangerous.  Resources may be on the job physically, but emotionally they are looking for any reason they can find to escape from the project.  If not managed well, the emotions can produce energy that will result in leaving the project.

 

 

The Wrong Approach – Lack of Preparation Maximizes Negative Emotions

Project teams and managers can either improve or worsen this situation by the way that they welcome and integrate new team members.  Some projects treat new members like pledges at a fraternity.  The team either ignores the new team member or just gives them some busy work to keep them out of the way of the real work of the project.  Everyone is too busy working to take the time out to help the new person ramp up.  For many teams, the standard operating procedure is to put them in a corner with a bunch of binders of documentation for a couple of days and see how they do.

 

 

The problem that I frequently see is that the team has not prepared for the new resource to hit the ground running.  It sometimes seems like teams have prepared for exactly the opposite; as if they want to prevent any work from getting done in the first few days.  It is amazing to me that new members show up and find that there are not network sign-ons, PC’s, phones, or any of the other tools IT professionals need to be productive on the first day.  They might also have no one there to welcome them, check on them, or help them feel part of the team.

 

 

A new team member in this type of situation will often respond in undesirable but predictable ways.  They will feel that their worst fears about the project are confirmed and wonder why they even took the position.  With spare time on their hands, they might start surfing for a new job, call a recruiter about another position they had been eyeing, or start instant messaging their buddies from their previous job.  Emotionally, they are checking out of your project.

 

Better Approach – Assess and Manage Emotions

 

You can expect that your new team members will have a mix of emotions about your project including feeling excited, scared, and even angry. You should work to determine as best you can exactly what emotions they are feeling since they probably won’t tell you directly. Capitalize on the excitement they have and use that energy to get some work done. Address the fear head-on by helping them to understand what they are responsible for, who will help them when they run into problems, and by helping them get to know others on the project. Help them to see that joining the project was a good move for them to counter any feelings of anger they may be experiencing.

 

Here are some specific steps to integrate new team members and get them productive quickly:

 

  1. Select Well. With the high cost of integrating new members, it is important to get the best person you can for the job.  Make sure that you do the job right the first time so that you don’t have to go through the process all over again.
  2. Be prepared. Make the new person know that you were expecting them and prepared for them to arrive.  Get all the necessary paperwork completed in advance.  This includes system sign-ons, teleconference numbers, network access codes, building key cards, laptop or desktop, parking pass, project charge codes, shared file locations, bathroom keys, desk, cubicle, shared printer ID’s, and anything else that everyone else has and that they will need.   This is the kind of thing that can be turned into a checklist and turned over to a project administrator.
  3. Meaningful Work. Have meaningful work ready for new members on the day they arrive.  This is the single most important thing that you can do to help team members have a positive emotional association.  People like to be useful and make a contribution.  When they go home feeling they contributed something they will good about themselves and the project.  People who feel underutilized or are idle, will feel sad or angry and get into all kinds of mischief.
  4. First-day lunch. On the first day, make time to take people to lunch.  Don’t make the new members awkwardly ask about lunch options – treat them as a special guest.  It will help to ease the transition and provide an opportunity to get to know people.  If this is impossible for you to do, make sure a senior member of the team does it.  Pick someone who is quite positive about the project.
  5. Big Brother / Big Sister.  On a recent project, I had a “big brother/big sister” program.  I would ask a senior person to look out for new resources and take them under their wing.  This provided a lifeline for the person into the organization.  If the new person had questions, they didn’t have to always come to me to get them answered.  I was busy anyway and new people were reluctant because they didn’t want to appear incompetent and they did not want to bug me.  Having another person on the team as their go-to person also provided me with another communication channel or someone I could go to see how the new person was doing.
  6. Check in on them.  Whether or not you have a big brother or big sister, make it a point to check on your new team members during the first part of their assignment.  Set up checkpoints at the end of day 1, end of week 1, and at the end of 30 days.  This needn’t be a formal meeting; it could be part of the normal rounds that you are making as a project manager.  Ask how things are going.  Ask if there are any issues or if they are having any trouble completing their tasks on time. Find out how well they have integrated and if they are productive.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is to integrate people well by associating warm feelings about the project right from the start.  Help them get over their fear (and even anger) by making them feel welcome and needed.  Channel their excitement into the work you need to get done.  Do this by preparing in advance for their arrival so that they are productive from the start, give them meaningful work, lay out expectations, and then check in with them often.

A Framework for Applying Emotional Intelligence to Project Management

The focus of this weblog is on applying emotional intelligence to project management. Frankly, I feel a little torn about the amount of theory to include here. My preference is to simply jump into the application. However, I believe that some understanding of some relevant theory would be helpful to project managers as they try to apply emotional intelligence. In particular, understanding a framework for Emotional Intelligence will be helpful in applying it to project management.

 

As noted in a previous post, What is Emotional Intelligence, there are two main groups of researchers on Emotional Intelligence. The first camp was Peter Salovey and John Mayer (and later David Caruso) who first coined the term Emotional Intelligence in their published paper of the same title. The second camp was started by Daniel Goleman. This second group now includes 7 other researchers and is called the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.

 

There is considerable controversy between the two camps which surprised me since I thought the research community was above that sort of thing. By comparison, the controversy isn’t nearly as interesting as what you might find on a typical reality TV show. The acrimony, blame, and finger pointing that goes on in the boardroom of The Apprentice is considerably more charged than what you will find here.  Speaking of The Apprentice, how about the vote that Donald Trump received for thought leader on Project Management?  But I digress.

The two camps had different models or frameworks for Emotional Intelligence. The Salovey Mayer Model incorporates the following 4 dimensions which are believed to be in a hierarchy of increasing sophistication:

 

  1. Perception and Expression of Emotion
  2. Assimilating Emotion in Thought
  3. Understanding and Analyzing Emotion
  4. Reflective Regulation of Emotion

The Goleman framework, as refined over the years, is somewhat more straightforward and perhaps that has made it more popular. The most recent version of this framework, from his book Primal Leadership; Realizing the power of Emotional Intelligence, consists of a 2X2 matrix. All consultants love the 2X2 construct and in fact, I think it was Alan Weiss who said if you gave him a 2X2 matrix he could rule the world.  Here is the Goleman Model which organizes 18 “competencies” into the following matrix:

Goleman_framework_05dec01_1

I prefer the Goleman model over that of Salovey and Mayer. I find it more helpful and applicable to project management. I took the model, simplified it, and adapted it to project management:

Framework_05dec01

As you can see, the model builds on Goleman’s 2×2 framework for the various competencies. I have dropped several of the competencies less important to project management like Transparency, Achievement, and Change Catalyst. I also created a separate category for Team Leadership and moved several competencies into that.  This is the model I use for project management and one that will be referenced in this blog.

Applied EQ4PM #3 – Integrating New Project Team Members Part 2

In an earlier post about Team Leadership, I discussed the importance of integrating new team members well.  We looked at the challenge from an emotional intelligence perspective and applied relationship management techniques to make sure that new individuals quickly became part of the team and productive.

As a follow-on to that discussion, consider the activities that a project manager should be doing at the team level to integrate new members.  This fits into the area of Emotional Intelligence that I call team leadership.  Team leadership is where we begin to look at the project environment.  This is about creating and communicating a positive and attractive project environment or “mood” for the project.

How do we create a positive and attractive project environment?  How do we make the environment one which helps to quickly make new members productive?  Here are three specific ways I have used to create that type of project environment.

#1 Tell the Story of the Project – A recent project of mine went through several phases over the 3-year life.  The first year of the project, the team found themselves up against schedules which were impossible and scope surprises that were unimaginable.  It was a deathmatch type of project in that first year.  Based on a line from the movie The Princess Bride, we jokingly began to refer to the achievement of milestones as “Inconceivable”.  Eventually, inconceivable became our theme for the first year.  I would refer to it in emails and meetings.  I used that theme to remind people that what they were doing was inconceivable or nearly impossible.  The team felt good about achieving what seemed so difficult as to be impossible.  In fact, it was inevitable that we would retell the stories about those first-year major milestones like the first production date or the last minute scope changes that were successfully included.

The second year of that same project the theme needed to change to professionalism.  Our end user’s feedback was that we hit our deadlines but quality suffered (which was no surprise).  So, the theme for the second year became professionalism.  To us, this meant achieving the deadlines as well as the quality.

The point of the stories and the themes was that it reinforced what was important.  New members heard those stories and understood what was important to be successful on the project.  They quickly learned the stories and from the stories the themes and values of the project team.

The project manager is the one who selects (or should be) what is important and what will get attention.  This is done through the rewards and recognition and through the stories that the project manager tells.

#2 Mission, Vision and Values – Another way of integrating new members is to explicitly communicate the values of the project to the new team members.  A common framework for this is the statement of Mission, Vision, and Values.  In this context, Mission refers to the overall goal or objective of the team.  Vision is the way that the team expects to achieve that mission.  And Values are the principles by which the team is going to adhere.

We could (and will) spend a whole post on the importance of the Mission, Vision, and Values.  Preparing a Mission, Vision and Values statement for a project team is important, and not something that the project manager should do alone.  The statement should be prepared with the core members of the team at the onset of the project.  A good practice is to do this in offsite meetings during the initiation phase and before the real work of the project begins.

The value of having Mission, Vision, and Values is that new members get a sense of what is important on the project.  As an example, on a recent project we agreed to the following 6 values:

  • Continuous Improvement
  • Teamwork
  • Contribution
  • Succeed or Fail Together
  • Timeliness
  • Fun

Everyone knew that those were the values of the team and that we would measure individual contribution and overall success or failure based on those values.

#3 Improve Communications through Ongoing Introduction Sessions – A technique that I have found critical for large and long projects is to have ongoing introduction sessions.  On a quarterly basis, we would gather everyone on the team together and make sure they knew each other.  When we had 75 members on the team, this was not possible to do at one time so broke them into multiple groups.  But we still had the meetings.

I never cease to be amazed by how often people fail to communicate.  The larger the project, the more possible communication links, and the more opportunities for failure.  I once took 4 team members out for lunch to recognize their contribution to the project.  The 4 members of the same project did not know each other even though 2 of them were in the same functional department.  In a similar way, I have often found that two team members working in cubicles beside each other did not realize they were on the same project and never talked to each other.

While we cannot force people to talk to each other, we increase the chances by making sure they are introduced to everyone when they join the project.  On a recent large project, I made it a point to host ongoing introduction sessions over the life of the program.  The meetings served several different objectives.  On long projects or programs, new team members are going to be added that were not present at the beginning.  These members do not know the Mission, Vision, and Values or the goals of the project.  In fact, new members will often have a very small view of the project which is based around their very small part of it.  It is important that you help them to see the big picture.

The other important benefit is that the new member becomes part of the team.  They get to know the faces and names of their teammates.  They begin to feel at home.

Bottom Line:  Integrating new team members is important.  The better and faster you integrate them, the more productive your team will be.  We need to address integration on two levels.  The first is the one-on-one relationship with the individual.  The second, as described above, is addressing it through team leadership.  And in this context, team leadership is about creating a mood or project environment that is attractive and healthy.