Emotional Intelligence

If not high-tech competencies, what should project managers be learning along with project management tools and techniques?

High IQ or High EQ?

The information technology industry has put a premium on intelligence, and it is easy to understand why. Technology changes so rapidly that developers and users must have the mental capacity to envision new and better ways of using products even as they develop and manage them. Consequently, the most important characteristic for a new hire is a high intelligence quotient (IQ). At least that is how the industry viewed it in the early years of the information technology explosion. But as surviving IT companies become more stable and organized, they are learning that IQ, although important, is not the most important or best measure of a good project manager or team member. More important is something called emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ).

Emotional quotient is, loosely defined, the ability of a person to manage his emotions as well as to manage the emotions of others. In 1995, Dr. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, published the international best-seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Dr. Goleman brought together years of research to show that EQ matters twice as much as IQ or technical skills in job success. His studies of more than 500 organizations proved that factors such as self-confidence, self-awareness, self-control, commitment, and integrity not only create more successful employees but also more successful companies.

Why Do Emotions Matter?

Cultural wisdom has taught us that the workplace is not the place for emotions. Reason and logic have been our guides most of our lives, and intelligence is what we've honored. But we all know of high school honor student classmates who have never been able to hold a steady job, while the class cut-up became the unlikely success story. That is because IQ is only one measure of performance, and a very limited one at that.

On some level, we have always recognized that the ability to understand, monitor, manage, and capitalize on our emotions can help us make better decisions, cope with stress and project failures, and interact with others more effectively. Now, thanks to research by Dr. Goleman and others, there is hard data to prove it. I have generalized some of the study results below.

  • Research on different jobs in a variety of industries worldwide showed that abilities vital for success were trustworthiness, adaptability, and a talent for collaboration—all emotional competencies.

  • Corporations seeking MBAs report that the three most desired capabilities they seek are communication skills, interpersonal skills, and initiative.

  • The top 10 percent of computer programming performers exceeded average performers in producing effective programs by over 200 percent, and the superstar performers produce even higher percentages. The reason for this astounding performance is that high EQ people are better at teamwork, staying late to finish a project, and mentoring coworkers. In short, they don't compete—they collaborate.

  • People who score highest on EQ measures rise to the top of corporations. Among other things, these top performers possess more interpersonal skills and confidence than the average employee.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is much deeper than having good interpersonal skills. It is being aware of and in control of our own emotions while being empathic enough to perceive and manage the emotions of others. This does not mean controlling others—it means understanding others' emotions well enough to lead them to better performance. The competencies of EQ fall into the five groups shown in Exhibit 5-1. Of the five, self-awareness and self-management are the key groups and the ones that are seldom taught as a part of interpersonal skill training. And unlike IQ, emotional intelligence can be learned. Researchers estimate that EQ training takes about five days. In one day of training, one can gain an awareness of what emotional intelligence is and why it matters. In three days, one can learn specific skills that can be applied right away. But it takes five days to understand one's own emotional makeup, learn the necessary skills, practice the new behaviors, and experience the kind of transformation that impacts the organization.

Exhibit 5-1: Emotional intelligence competencies.

start example


  • Self-confidence

  • Emotional self-awareness

  • Accurate self-assessment


  • Self-control

  • Trustworthiness

  • Conscientiousness

  • Flexibility

  • Goal-oriented


  • Self-starting

  • Commitment to improving

  • Enthusiasm

  • Persistence

Social Awareness

  • Empathy

  • Organizational awareness

  • Service orientation

Social Skills

  • Mentoring

  • Leadership

  • Communication

  • Change agent

  • Conflict management

  • Building bonds

  • Teamwork and collaboration

end example

Organizations are concerned about hiring project managers with high IQs and about providing them with high-quality training, but the more successful project managers will also possess a high EQ. Not too surprisingly, it is also becoming more apparent that many in the project team hierarchy need to possess higher levels of EQ.

Managing Information Technology Projects
Managing Information Technology Projects: Applying Project Management Strategies to Software, Hardware, and Integration Initiatives
ISBN: 0814408117
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 129
Authors: James Taylor

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