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Episode 379: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership (Free)

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K. Wasson
Kim Wasson and Cornelius Fichtner

At its core project management is all about effectively leading your team. Therefore emotional intelligence for project managers and project leaders can be just as important (if not more) than knowing how to interpret the latest earned value data.

This interview about emotional intelligence for project leaders with Kim Wasson was recorded at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress 2016 in San Diego, California. We discuss her paper and presentation One Unhappy Person Can Ruin Your Beautiful Plan -- Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers. Here is the abstract:

Just one unmotivated person on your team can bring everything crashing down. Unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and lack of motivation are highly contagious; ‘one person’ quickly turns into an unhappy and possibly dysfunctional team.

We're all focused on getting the process right and there’s no doubt that process is important. What many of us don’t take into account is that the success of most projects depends largely on the teams actually doing the work Process is important but it’s not going to build anything on its own – it’s a team of satisfied, competent people working together who will actually deliver a product.

The people side of the project management equation is critical. Managing effectively requires the ability to understand individuals and teams, establish working relationships, manage goals, and motivate team members. Effective tools and techniques discover what makes the team members and the team itself tick, to communicate effectively with many different people both one-on-one and as a group, and to generally balance the process part of the equation with the people part of the equation are critical to project success.


This interview is 24 minutes long. This means that you can "legally" only claim 0.25 PDUs for listening to it. However... if you first listen to the interview and then also read the white paper on which it is based, then you can go ahead and claim 0.50 PMP PDUs!

Click to download the white paper

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner:  Hello everybody and welcome to the 2016 PMI Global Congress here in beautiful and very sunny San Diego. With me is Kim Wasson.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello, Kim.

Kim Wasson:   Good morning, Cornelius.  

Cornelius:  Hi. How are you doing? How’s the Congress so far for you?

Kim:   It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. The keynote was incredible.

Cornelius:   Yeah. I enjoyed it very much as well. We’ve had you on the program before, right?

Kim:   I have been on the program before indeed.

Cornelius:   Glad to meet you in person here.

Kim:   As am I.

Cornelius:   You are a speaker, “One Unhappy Person Can Ruin Your Beautiful Plan” is the title of your presentation and in the abstract, the first sentence you say is, “One, just one unmotivated person on your team can bring everything crashing down.” Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Kim:   I can. Emotional contagiousness is a fairly new concept in Management Psychology but this is what it is. One person is unhappy and it becomes catching.

Cornelius:   Kind of like a virus.

Kim:   It is very much like a virus and it moves really quickly and so it’s very important to catch it at the beginning and try to keep everybody motivated because once one person’s unmotivated, pretty quickly the next person is going to be because they have to work with the unmotivated person, right? It just spreads through your team very quickly.

Cornelius:   I think at the heart of your presentation is the book by Daniel Goldman which he published about twenty years ago called “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More Than IQ”. You’ve re-read it, right?

Kim:   I’ve re-read it. I hadn’t read it for almost twenty years and I had a coaching client who had to read it and said, “I don’t understand how this has anything to do with Project Management so I re-read it and was very pleased to see that all the things that I’ve learned practically have a basis in some really deep research. So this is good stuff. It really is. It’s not just about the process and it’s not just about the rules. It really is about establishing some kind of a relationship with people so that you can understand them and communicate effectively with them.

Cornelius:   Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers that is the soft title of your particular presentation. Can you define Emotional Intelligence for our listeners? Is it possible?

Kim:   [laughs]   Yeah. I don’t—

Cornelius:   You have to read the book.

Kim:   Well the book never defines it. The book is the definition. Wikipedia has a good definition of it and it is the basics for project managers are understandable. It makes people around you tick. Understand what motivates them, understand what their goals are and understand your own and then be able to recognize and label emotions. Labelling is very important in his book but it is always important to have a name so that you can move forward on something and then to communicate effectively with people based on that understanding.

Cornelius:   The main part of your paper and I assume presentation as well talks about building relationships and understanding your team. How does that relate to my success on projects?

Kim:   That’s a very important piece of this. So there’s a balance between projects, between process and people. If there are no people, you don’t have projects. You have that piece of automation. When I started it, I was very focused on the project, on the process side of projects and I spent my days thinking if everybody could just do their job…

Cornelius:   Yeah. If everybody would just follow my Microsoft project schedule.

Kim:   Then we have a great project. [laughs] I shouldn’t have to nag but the fact is, everybody has different priorities and part of our job as project managers is to make our priorities their priorities and you don’t do that by shouting at them. You do that by understanding them and what makes them tick. Your project is not going to move forward if they don’t think that what you’re doing is important and that the pieces are important and so understanding people and having those relationships and seeing when things go wrong because they’re willing to tell you, which is not always the case, especially if you’re working with software engineers are famous for optimism. Right? “I could finish it. They’ll be done tomorrow! No problem!” To get the information that leads you to the understanding that “No, it’s not going to be done tomorrow”, they have to trust you. You have to have a relationship so that people can talk to you and know that they’re going to get some good action and not just get beat up because they’re not part of working on the schedule.

Cornelius:   Alright. You break down the building of relationships and understanding your teams into various areas, goals, learning style, motivation skills-matching and tools and we want to go and look at each of these individually, one by one. Let’s begin with the goals. What is the relationship between goals and Emotional Intelligence? 

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

PDUs: Power Skills, Project Communications Management, Project Manager Soft Skills, PMI Global Congress, PMI Global Congress NA 2016, Emotional Intelligence, Team Leadership

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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