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Emotional Intelligence in Project

Management
Running Head: The Role of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in Project Management
over the
Next Five Years
Matthew D. Gonzalez, Ph.D., PMP
Assistant Professor of Business Administration, University of Incarnate Word, San
Antonio
Email: mdgonzal@uiwtx.edu

Abstract
While the project management industry emphasizes control of cost, schedule and scope
as the barometer of project success or failure, contemporaries argue this is only a
partial valuation. The operating paradigm throughout this study is based on market
conditions over the next five years. This study utilizes a qualitative case study
methodology seeking to answer what skills will be required within the realm of project
management. While credentials and learned capabilities are still at the forefront within a
project managers arsenal, a view through the lenses of EI skills suggests, (a) multiple
variables require further study, and (b) the realization that a project is better served
moving forward through a mixture of technical and humanistic experiences and
valuation models.
Introduction
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is cited as the worlds largest nonprofit
professional organization (Campbell, 2009) boasting a worldwide membership of over
150,000 in 140 countries. PMI has unified and equipped project managers (PMs)
around the globe with best practice standards and methodologies. PMs of the 21st
century command and control project constraints through an arsenal of defined tasks,
hard deliverables, and standard tools and techniques. With over 40 years of research,
community exchange and precision tuning, the hard skills required for effective project

management are demonstratively established. Why is it then that so many projects fail?
If tools and techniques are ubiquitously available and consistently applied, why is it that
a majority projects fail to deliver promises within time, budget, and scope? Ask any
project manager what roadblocks typically impede project progress and nearly every
response will state People! Pressing the issue, they will likely add, Because they
always resist the changes that my project requires (Campbell, 2009). Take a quick
inventory; are you battling the same people challenges? Are your project roadblocks
political, environmental, economical, or social and cultural? What PM skills must be
adopted and sharpened in the next 5 years, or risk receding into the sunset?
Current Study
The operating paradigm of this study is based on market conditions over the next 5
years. A focus will illustrate that EI skills will be required within the realm of project
management. While credentials and learned capabilities are still at the forefront within a
project managers arsenal, a view through the lenses of EI skills suggests a project is
better served moving forward through a mixture of adaptive leadership and practical
experience.
RQ1: What are the critical success factors required for effective project
management over the next 5 years?
Literature Review
Project Management
While the project management industry emphasizes control of Cost, Schedule and
Scope as the barometer of project success or failure, renowned psychologist Daniel
Goleman and other contemporaries argue that this is only a partial valuation (Goleman,
1998). Cabanis-Brewin (1999) assert that the bedrock of project success is a PMs
human competencies or soft skills such as communicating, listening, sensitivity,
influencing, and motivating. Conventional practice in managing resources, empowering,
developing, and analysis can deliver a project within budget, time, and scope, but still
categorically fail. The additional dimensions such as team performance, knowledge
transfer, mobilizing the business case, and influencing stakeholder management are
what really determine success. These dimensions are the fruit of EI and are no less
important than the hard skills of project management. During an interview with PM

Network (1999), Goleman reported that Emotional Intelligence matters twice as much
for success over technical skills. IQ is still the biggest predictor to land a project award,
he admits, but once youre in, its the ability to handle self and others that promotes you
and makes the difference (Cabanis-Brewin, 1999). Which emotional intelligence tool
should you concentrate on?
A Brief History of Emotional Intelligence

1930s Edward Thorndike describes the concept of social intelligence as the

ability to get along with other people.


1940s David Wechsler suggests that affective components of intelligence may

be essential to success in life.


1950s Humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow describe how

people can build emotional strength.


1975 - Howard Gardner publishes The Shattered Mind, which introduces the

concept of multiple intelligences.


1985 - Wayne Payne introduces the term emotional intelligence in his doctoral

dissertation entitled A study of emotion: developing emotional intelligence; selfintegration; relating to fear, pain and desire (theory, structure of reality, problemsolving, contraction/expansion, and tuning in/coming out/letting go).
1987 In an article published in Mensa Magazine, Keith Beasley uses the term

emotional quotient. It has been suggested that this is the first published use of the
term, although Reuven Bar-On claims to have used the term in an unpublished version
of his graduate thesis.
1990 Psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer publish their landmark

article, Emotional Intelligence, in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality.


1995 - The concept of emotional intelligence is popularized after publication of

Daniel Golemans book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
1998 Goleman publishes Working with Emotional Intelligence, in which he
explores EI in the workplace.

Figure 1. Evolution of Emotional Intelligence


Emotional Intelligence What is it and why do you need it?
Emotional Intelligence is the area of cognitive ability involving traits and social skills that
facilitate interpersonal behavior. While intelligence can be broadly defined as the
capacity for goal-oriented adaptive behavior, EI focuses on the aspects of intelligence
that govern self-knowledge and social adaptation. The term first appeared in 1985, in
Wayne Payne's doctoral thesis, A study of emotion: Developing emotional intelligence.
Payne's thesis centered on the idea that society's historical repression of emotion is the
source of wide-scale problems such as addiction, depression, illness, religious conflict,
violence and war. Goleman later popularized the term and developed related concepts
in his influential book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). In Working with Emotional
Intelligence (1998), Goleman explored the function of EI on the job describing
emotional intelligence as the largest single predictor of success in the workplace.
Goleman (1999) describes EI as "managing feelings so that they are expressed
appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their
common goals." According to Goleman, the four major skills that make up emotional

intelligence are:
Self-Awareness
Self-Management
Social Awareness
Relationship Management
EI has become a vital part of how today's leaders meet the significant challenges they
face. EI can further help leaders in a difficult leadership role, one that fewer and fewer

people seem capable of fulfilling, and can provide developing leaders with the
competitive edge they need to succeed. As EI evolved into a finite attribute among
leaders and managers, it has become clear that without EI, projects would continue to
fail at an alarmingly high percentage.
Methodology
This qualitative study utilizes the case study methodology (Yin, 2003) as a method of
understanding (RQ1). The sole research question (RQ1) of this study was asked to 7
seasoned projects managers via face-to-face interviews. The sample interviewees were
selected based on their commonality of having taken and completed a graduate project
management program in the southwest part of Texas. Each member of the sample set
was provided with alternative names to protect their identity. Various industries were
represented amongst the sample set to include military, government, automobile
manufacturing, grocery production, aviation, and mechanical engineering. Notes were
taken within the interviews and synthesized for correlation analysis, hermeneutic
meaning, and understanding. The researcher served as an extension of the instrument
by asking follow up questions based on responses from the interviewees.
As a means of understanding the outlook of the project management industry,
secondary data was reviewed through a meta-analysis of the available research. The
need to further develop knowledge based on the amount of existing research that exists
is necessary as the number of primary research has grown over the past fifty years
(Glass, 1976). Hunter, Jackson, and Schmidt (1982) argue while there are problems
with qualitative meta-analysis, they advocate for this style of research through utilization
of proper methods across studies. A myriad of research journal articles, practitioner
articles, books, websites and most of all interviews with project managers and their
ontological experiences were collected, organized, and categorized based on a
synthesis of the findings.
Empirical Results
The case study revealed the following findings as the top 5 skills necessary for project
managers over the next 5 years, (a) Communicating with Impact, (b) Persuasive
Leadership, (c) Conflict Management, (d) Change Management, and (e) Adaptive

Personality will serve as the most vital EI skills over the next five years for successful
project/program management implementation. While there were other factors that could
equally be argued as vital to project success, a reminder of this studys foci regarding
emotional intelligence is due. The findings are further discussed as follows.
Communicating with Impact
Everyone wants to be significant, important and to make an impact with other people
when they speak. Communicating with impact is conveying your messages to other
people clearly and unmistakably. Communication is also about receiving information that
others are sending to you, with as little distortion as possible. Communication is at the
heart of everything we do. It is impossible not to communicate, and further possible that
we communicate even when we are not actually speaking. Non-verbal communication,
such as body posture, gestures and facial expressions can be more powerful and more
genuine than the spoken word.
Communicating with people in the workplace can be challenge. Maximizing your
communications skills is vital to developing relationships, improving customer service,
increasing productivity, building teams, managing change and increasing the bottom
line. Communicating with impact is what sets you apart from other individuals both in
your personal life as well as your professional career. Communicating with impact is a
must for everyone who hopes to climb the ladder of success.
If communication fails, is it possible to be successful? As discussed, communication is
at the heart of everything we do. While many articles, books, and training seminars on
the topic of effective communication seek to foster growth, the impact has not received
as many accolades. Thus, it is these authors collective view that communication starts
with the leadership itself.
Persuasive Leadership
Persuasive leadership is a leaders ability to move people from their current position to a
position that they dont currently hold. Persuasive leadership requires a leader to not
only make rational arguments, but also frame ideas, approaches and solutions in ways
that appeal to diverse groups of people with basic human emotions. This is further
based on what is considered to be the top 5 EI skills that a project manager must be

able to articulate his/her position while effectively managing the conflict(s) that it may stir
up, while employing practical change management solutions throughout the various
projects life cycles.
According to Krakoff (2010), there are four steps to successful persuasion. First,
establish credibility. Second, understand your audience, identify key decision makers,
stakeholders and the organizations network of influence and pinpoint their interests and
how they view alternatives. Third, reinforce your positions with vivid language and
compelling evidence. Fourth, connect emotionally, the persuasive leader must be able
to connect to their audience and demonstrate both intellectual and emotional
commitment to their position.
Project Managers are constantly faced with the challenge of managing people who dont
report directly to them, assuming a matrixed environment. That means a projects
success often depends upon the PMs ability to influence and persuade team members
and stakeholders at multiple levels. Over the next five years the project management
industry will become more collaborative, extending beyond cross functional teams and
peers, merging into multi-cultural/global business partnerships. The future of project
management will entail project managers becoming more diverse, entailing them to be
more familiar with virtual communications and nanotechnology. The project manager will
become more global centric and requiring them to be better at influencing stakeholders
that are in different parts of the world and not just in their immediate sphere of
influence. As such, it is imperative that the Project Manager develop his/her persuasion
skills to engage those outside of the local business partnerships.
Conflict Management
Conflict is defined as the process which begins when one party perceives that another
has frustrated or is about to frustrate (Thomas, 1992). Conflict Management can be
divided into two positions based on positive and negative emotions (Desivilya, 2005).
First, positive conflict management often exhibits behaviors that are integrating,
compromising, and obliging. Secondly, negative conflict management yields dominating
and avoiding behaviors.

The pace of change confronting organizations today has resulted in calls for more
organizations to work in teams; in turn, many scholars have noted that leadership may
have important consequences for groups, suggesting that a focus on the group level is
important. Lowe, Kroek, and Sivasubramaniam (1996) found that leaders who exhibit
transformational leadership behavior are associated with higher levels of job
satisfaction, involvement, and performance of their subordinates. Organizations such as
General Electric, Motorola, Toyota, Unilever, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman have
employed the use of training in Leadership models for new and future leaders. Some of
the fundamental concepts taught are managing change, ethical leadership, working with
teams, and motivation and inspiration. An unexpected benefit of this training was
discovered with improvement in communications and cooperation among subcontractor
elements had dramatically improved.
Research has indicated that emotional competencies are twice as important as IQ and
expertise in contributing to excellent and effective performance. It seems to be the
consensus between leading authorities that EI generates delegating, open
communication, and proactive behavior, which can bring positive outcomes to an
organization. A study done in Thailand demonstrated that PMs and project engineers
with higher EI scores tend to use more open communication and proactive styles of
leadership than those with lower EI scores. As stated by Charles B. Daniels, the
implications for engineering managers seem clear. As globalization becomes even more
profound on the economy the pressure for companies to achieve continually higher
levels of quality will increase. That being said, it is evident that there is an importance
for a focus on emotional intelligence in the workplace.
Change Management
A project is a unique, temporary endeavor with a definite beginning and end.
Translation? Change is coming! Every project overtly or covertly introduces
organizational changes in order to achieve a desired future state. The myriad resulting
impacts to the project team, end users, direct stakeholders and other project affiliates
are espoused, marginalized, or rejected largely dependent on the project managers
leadership style and comportment throughout the project lifecycle. A project manager is
a change agent and must intricately guide both team and the organization through

change. Succinctly put, a PM must incorporate EI elements into change management


strategy to effect change and produce 360 results.
By the 1980s and 1990s, the school of leadership shifted its focus from situational
leadership to leading an organization through change (Geoghegan & Dulewicz, 2008).
Two types of leadership styles were defined: transactional and transformational.
Transactional leadership emphasizes task completion by rewarding followers for
achieving performance targets. Examples include guiding, directing and managing
constraints. Transformational leadership, alternately, focuses on people development to
achieve performance goals. Examples include providing motivation, intellectual
stimulation, challenging followers, developing vision, engendering trust and pride, etc.
Respect, personality and creativity are all hallmarks of the transformational leader.
Which style contributes more to project success? Studies conducted by Keegan and
den Hartog (Tuner & Muller, 2005) predict that a transformational leadership style is
more appropriate for PMs. However, direct correlations that link a PMs leadership style
and project success are untenable; this is largely due to a lack of relevant studies.
Much research over the years has been published around committing to and
accommodating changes in a project, including how to overcome resistance to change;
how to communicate change in a positive way; how to lead change with great results,
etc. Change Management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams
and organizations from the status quo to a desired future state (Campbell, 2009).
Voluminous studies in leading change attribute project success to the managers
personality and social skills in particular.
Participative management is one such tactic and suggests the importance of getting
team buy-in at the beginning of a change initiative. Or, by tactful pursuit, the PM may
facilitate change by cleverly leading his team into an ah-ha moment where the team
identifies the change requirement and takes credit for the good idea. People are much
more likely to take ownership and commit to change if it was their idea to begin with. A
project managers ability to cooperate and associate with the perceptions of his
followers bears directly on his effectiveness in introducing change. The Center for
Creative Leadership demonstratively concludes that satisfying relationships have a

direct connection on how well peers judge a leaders ability to institute change
(Leadership, 2003).
Almost all changes birthed in a project endeavor filter through four dimensions:
technology, economics, demographics and culture. Most organizations and teams
embrace new change in technology, new economic structures, and new team members,
but cultural changes are viscerally resisted. Culture is essentially the beliefs we have
about the way things ought to be (James, 2006). Examples of cultural barriers include
ineffectual leadership, poor timing, and inadequate behavior management (Council,
2008). Further examples include, but are not limited to the following:

Disagreement between top leaders can produce an inconsistent change vision.

Insular leadership and traditional corporate culture can prevent the recognition of

risks and opportunities.


Minimal involvement by top management can diminish company-wide

enthusiasm for change and slow implementation.


Attempts to complete broad changes simultaneously can prompt a total rejection

of the change program.


Changing the largest or most profitable business units first can preempt warm

up learning opportunities.
Disengaged groups can become islands of resistance, preventing the broad

promotion of change.
Silent resisters can undermine the change vision by promoting personal

agendas.
Poor alignment between rewards and expectations can present an ambiguous
change message and discourage changed behavior.
Adaptive Personality
Due to the infinite similarities to other management skills in todays world, each case
study has provided several concepts of adaptive personality from each of their
ontological experiences, as it relates to other emotional intelligence skills presented in
this research study. Case study #4 suggests a PM can diffuse each of these barriers to
change, but doing so requires tactful, deliberate EI application. The PM must first gauge
his teams motivation and acceptance of the change impact, and subsequently adapt his
leadership style to effectively implement the change. In most cases, the team will not

immediately adopt or be inspired. As a result, the PM must selectively employ adaptive


leadership techniques to effectively lead change. Adaptive leadership is a discerning
and calculated transformation by a PM in order to facilitate cultural dynamics and
simultaneously galvanize team performance. Such traits are required by the PM in order
to survive future requirements and diffuse cultural change barriers in a highly
competitive/evolving project environment (James, 2006).
If you exhibit an adaptive personality trait, case study #3 believes you are most likely
able to tune-in to verbal and nonverbal clues further allowing you to make adjustments
to maintain your effectiveness in ever changing situations. An adaptive personality
allows you to quickly build and maintain positive relationships while motivate and focus
others to achieve success. To ensure future success in project management, leaders of
all facets of business will need to thoroughly understand and practice adaptive
personality. This EI skill may become the most important tool in ones toolbox.
Summary of Findings
While the 5 skills reveal practical skills, a deep-dive into each of the skillsets reveals
hidden variables within the research and findings that present the academic
environment with areas to test further. Figure 2 reveals the skillset and matched variable
that lends itself to further research:
Skillset Variable

Communication with Impact Distortion


Persuasive Leadership Performance
Conflict Management Positive and negative emotion
Change Management Culture
Adaptive Personality Verbal and non-verbal clues
Figure 2. Key Variables
Discussion
It is case study #6s ontological experiences that in order to survive future requirements
in a highly competitive and evolving project environment. To describe what an adaptive
personality is, we must first look at adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior is any behavior
that changes to fit another behavior or situation. Adaptive behavior should be thought of
as a master concept. It covers all types of behavioral compromises and adjustments

(French, Bodgers, Cobb, 1974). In looking at a salesman, one might find that he or she
will change their behavior based on the customers actions and reactions.
The practice of adaptive selling is defined as the altering of sales behaviors during a
customer interaction or across customer interactions based on perceived information
about the nature of the selling situation. (Weitz, Sujan, and Sujan, 1986). Given these
definitions we can see that adaptive behavior is a result of stimuli from an adaptive
personality. This stimulus affects behavior. Case study #6 stated the emotionally
intelligent manager can correctly apply the right stimuli at the right time to achieve
effective / efficient results from team members performance. The manager possesses
an adaptive personality.
Adaptive personalities exhibit a positive conflict management trait resulting in a positive
emotion. This adaptiveness encourages integration, compromising and obliging. EI
allows one to understand what behavior style they might use in conflict. A higher degree
of EI will allow one to select whether a positive or negative approach towards conflict
management will provide the most desirable results. Several personality traits indicate a
persons probability of adaptive or non-adaptive personality (Wrobel, 2007) and outward
behavior. Adaptive vs. non-adaptive personality has been measured on a Schedule for
Non-adaptive and Adaptive Personalities or SNAP scale. The SNAP is comprised, in
part, by 13 diagnostic scales of personality disorder (APA, 1987). The outcomes of a
2007 study by Wrobel (2007) found that high degrees of extraversion tend to lead
toward a positive or adaptive personality, while pessimistic behaviors lead to a more
negative or non-adaptive personality. Thus, this researcher concludes that a portion of
adaptive personality is adaptive leadership.
Case study #7 revealed it would benefit a leader in todays world and in the future to be
adaptive in their leadership styles. S/he should be able to exude self-control, provide
sound judgment, and be culturally aware to be successful in our ever changing fast
paced diversified world. FM 22-100 (US ARMY Leadership Manual) stresses that
leaders must be able to adjust their leadership style to the situation as well as to the
people being led (Army H. D., 1999). Managers should not limit themselves to one
leadership style in a given situation and, with the direction of the work-force today and

tomorrow, being able to adapt appropriate styles will help in influencing employees
success.
Limitations and Directions for Future Research
Naturally, this study contains limitations. Primarily, the use of pure qualitative means as
opposed to quantitative means provides a gap in the study. Furthermore, a temporal
limitation was self-developed based on the notion of skills necessary by a PM over the
next five years. However, the future direction of research on the EI skills of a PM is
bright. It is recommended that research continues on the need to identify educational
curriculum that teaches a mixed-method of technical versus the humanistic approach to
project management. More analysis and data are necessary to correlate leadership
styles and the impact on success, or failure, of a project. Future research should also
focus on the practitioner side of the art and science of managing a project whereby
organizational and individual performance evaluations combine technical and
humanistic project progression. Lastly, the 5 hidden variables that were an outcome of
each of the 5 skillset should be researched collectively using a similar qualitative or
quantitative methodology to identify deeper understanding of (RQ1).
Conclusion
Projects are essentially risky and PMs require a multitude of tools to succeed. Some of
these tools are tangible, measureable, and certifiable. While others are intangible, noncertifiable and noticeably missing when absent. Inarguably, all PMs understand that a

project has 5 Process Groups (PMBOK 4th Edition, 2008):


Initiating
Planning
Executing
Monitoring and Controlling
Closing
In fact PMs can test and certify that they have expert level knowledge of the above
written processes. Even Project Management Professionals (PMP) following proven
processes find their projects not meeting the desired outcomes. As this study has
discussed, the key to successful project management resides in the intangible, vague,
elusive realm of Emotional Intelligence (EI). As stated, EI is not a tangible, certifiable

process. It is however, a teachable, learned skill that involves leading people. During this
study of EI and how it relates to project management, this researcher has defined the 5

most needed EI skills for project management over the next 5 years:
Communication
Persuasive Leadership
Conflict Management
Change Management
Adaptive Personality
Until such a time when people are not needed to manage project management
processes, PMs will need a high level of EI to attain successful project outcomes. By
understanding EI, PMs can use their emotions to build their interpersonal skills and
influence. The better PMs are at developing and sustaining relationships, the more
successful we can expect the end result of projects. EI provides the edge for excelling at
interpersonal skills and building the relationships necessary to succeed within project
and program management.
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