Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence in Project Management


May 02, 2023

Often we perceive development as a realm of logic and reason, a space dominated by codes and algorithms. When I began my career as a project manager, I realized that this is only one side of the coin. Emotional intelligence (EI) plays an equally important role in building successful teams.

Let me take you back to a time when I was just starting out as a project manager. I was full of ideas and eager to implement them. But I quickly realized that despite my technical skills, something was missing. My team was having trouble communicating, collaborating, and innovating, and I couldn't figure out why. After all, it seemed simple, work hard, if something wasn't working, then say so. But it turned out not to be as simple as it seemed at first glance.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence, a term coined by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey and popularized by Daniel Goleman, includes five components: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills. Together they form the basis of our ability to understand, use and manage our emotions in a positive way.

Each of these components plays an important role in managing development. For example, self-awareness allows us to understand our emotions and how they affect our work, while empathy helps us understand and relate to the feelings of our team members.

One of the first areas where I noticed the impact of EI was in team communication.

A little history

One day I noticed that one of my team members, let's call him John, was constantly missing deadlines. My initial reaction was disappointment; I even considered replacing him, but decided to approach the situation differently and give it a chance. I talked openly with John and found out that he was dealing with some personal issues. Adding to that was the difference in cultures that were superimposed on personal issues. Recognizing his emotions and empathizing with his situation allowed us to find a solution that suited both the team and John.

It's easy to lose sight of the personal lives of our team members when we're focused on deadlines and results. However, our team is our biggest asset, and their well-being directly affects their work. By demonstrating emotional intelligence, we can create an environment where everyone feels understood and supported, leading to more productive, committed and successful teams.

Talk about conflict

Conflicts can really be a catalyst for growth if we manage them with emotional intelligence (EI). I remember one particular case well. Two members of my team, Sarah and Mark, had a disagreement about which approach we should take on an important project. Sarah, an experienced developer, preferred the tried and true method with which she was familiar, and Mark, our newest team member, suggested an advanced, albeit riskier approach.

It would have been easy for me, as their supervisor, to step in and dictate a decision based on my judgment. However, I decided to use this disagreement as an opportunity to build dialogue and foster mutual understanding. I realized that the conflict was not only about differing opinions, but also about the emotions those opinions evoked. Sarah was concerned about the potential risks of an untested approach, and Mark was eager to prove his worth and demonstrate his innovative ideas.

I called a meeting with both of them, establishing ground rules for an open and respectful discussion. I encouraged them to express not only their opinions, but also their feelings and concerns.

As Sarah and Mark began to share, I noticed a change in the atmosphere. They began to understand each other's points of view and the emotions behind those points of view. Sarah appreciated Mark's enthusiasm and innovation, and Mark understood Sarah's concerns about potential risks. This mutual understanding led them to a compromise-they decided to implement Mark's innovative ideas on a smaller scale to test their viability without risking the entire project.

The decision was a win-win, but the real triumph was the transformation of their relationship. Their mutual respect grew and they began to collaborate more effectively, transforming their once conflicting views into a dynamic, innovative partnership.

Developing emotional intelligence skills

Understanding the value of EI is one thing, but developing those skills is quite another. It requires constant effort and practice. I have found that mindfulness exercises, empathy training, and active listening are particularly useful for increasing EI. As I worked on these skills, I saw changes in myself and my team. Our communication improved, collaboration became seamless, and overall productivity increased dramatically.

As I reflect on my journey, I realize that Emotional Intelligence has played a role in my role as a manager. It has changed the way I manage my team, make decisions, and approach problem solving.

However, the power of emotional intelligence is not limited to me or my team. It is a tool that any leader in any industry can use. In an era of rapid technological progress, the soft power of Emotional Intelligence may seem like a relic of a bygone era. However, as I have seen in my own experience, its importance cannot be overstated.

Remember, the code isn't just the numbers on the screen; it's the people behind them. And understanding the people, at its core, is what matters.

Dmitry Spartak

CEO (Chief Executive Officer)

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