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  • Zeb Carlson

Emotional Intelligence

Friends of mine wrote an awesome book that is a guide to the discipline of project management in web design and development. It’s really good, and you should just buy it no matter your role within your field or area of expertise. Ack, I digress; let’s stay focused!

I bring this up to my teams, leadership, and to other PM’s often: Emotional intelligence. It’s a big deal! It squashes many misunderstandings to what a Project Manager’s role is, what we do well, and what we need to do better.

Let’s think about it this way: In a given project, I usually don’t have a specific deliverable in the same way way members of my team will. I’ll use a schedule and SOW and make sure all of the necessary documents are organized and available, and I might even draft requirements documents. For the most part, these deliverables are focused to my own work and not directly needed for the larger team (i.e., my developer doesn’t care about every specific line item in a 4-month site discovery/design/build, they just cares about the tasks).

My UX lead has wireframes, sitemap and functional requirements. My tech lead may build a prototype and will abide by QA, and not to mention a freakin’ 2500 page website. The designer has to make it look good and somehow not get totally overwhelmed with 43,308 PSD files and V42 of a copy deck.

The project manager’s role is to grease the wheel, to coerce, sometimes manipulate, and most importantly empower the crew. Now, it’s important that we understand how the technology works and be able to troubleshoot with our developers, but I believe understanding what motivates each member of our team, as well as how they want us to communicate, truly separates the great from the good.

We tend to be passionate people with a lot of opinions. And really, our skin can be a little too thin at times. It’s my job to make sure no one feels bad, angry, disenfranchised from the team, and mostly that no one feels like his or her voice isn’t being heard. And always be a sounding board for all the ideas, the bitching, the frustrations, and temper these emotions throughout the project. Without a keen ability to understand what isn’t being said, or what is said through non-verbal cues, I don’t think a PM is worth a hoot.

This is fundamentally different in a marketing/user driven scenario, versus an IT environment. But that’s a whole new blog post, and as you recall, I need to focus on one thing at a time.

So, here’s a few notes from the book Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process (and you should totally buy it here):

Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage and connect with people appropriately and effectively. It means being aware of—and managing—your own emotions, observing and responding to other people’s emotional signals, and recognizing how to adjust to keep the energy focused and the project moving toward the goals at hand.

People with emotional intelligence:

• Understand what others are feeling

• Are attuned to what’s happening around them

• Connect with other people

• Recognize the nuances of language and nonverbal cues

• Facilitate and create productive energy

• Instill trust in the team

• Know how to work with their own strengths and weaknesses and those of others

Emotional intelligence can help make your exchanges with others healthy and productive, and foster healthy and productive exchanges among your entire team.

Good stuff, right?

Take this challenge: In the next meeting with your team, ask a buddy to take notes so you don’t miss anything, and take extra time to watch the room. Watch how people are sitting in their chairs (sitting straight or slouched), watch for eye contact, and work to strip out the words they say from the way they are saying them. Then, compare how you felt leaving the room, gauging the sentiments of the meeting with the words your pal took as notes. How do they compare?

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