We all know that one project manager (PM)—the one who gets results, but leaves a trail of human upset behind. And, we recognize that few people want to work with that PM again. What’s missing in the PM’s interpersonal skill set? At GBMC, we believe a lack of emotional intelligence (EI) is in play.
In previous newsletters, we’ve defined EI and discussed how it is vital to stakeholder management. It’s also fundamental to project leadership. As PMI® reminds us, the competent PM has skills in the strategic, technical and interpersonal domains.
Here are some tips for building EI skills, that critical dimension of project leadership that engenders extraordinary results by teams.
Train. Project leadership requires different skills and approaches than does functional leadership. A new leader taking over a function, inherits momentum, a vision, strategies and a team trained to execute on the purpose of the function. The PM has to work quickly to put all that in place in order to get the team aligned and moving in the same direction. In addition to the technical toolbox of PM skills, it takes EI skills, the ability to monitor and manage emotions in ourselves and others, to motivate and to build enthusiasm for the work ahead. Invest the time and money and provide the experience for your PMs to learn these critical EI skills.
Coach. Like many interpersonal skills, EI is best developed on the job. However, a huge enabler is a coach who helps the PM assess their current skill level and figure out what the end state should be. The coach provides initial accountability for change in behavior until the PM is ready to “fly solo” and be accountable to self. Don’t confuse mentoring with coaching. A coach encourages the PM’s improvement based on a plan devised by the PM, whereas a mentor has a responsibility to transfer knowledge. Use your skilled PMs as role models and mentors but show your PMs how to identify and leverage a coach to up their game.
Reward. When management learns of behaviors that demonstrate PMs do not have, or are not using EI skills, don’t sweep it under the rug. Confront the issue. On the other hand, when you find excellent EI skills, reward them, and recognize the PM publicly as appropriate. Effective talent management often requires both the carrot and the stick.
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