Amid the unparalleled disruption of the past two years, project leaders need every power skill they can summon to keep teams engaged—and ensure that testing the limits of resilience doesn’t induce burnout.
Talent retention increases when employees have leaders who exhibit higher levels of emotional and social competencies, according to a 2021 Korn Ferry global survey
. These traits include adaptability, a positive outlook, organizational awareness and empathy. For instance, 42 percent of employees plan to stick around for at least five years if their leaders show up to three such competencies, but that number jumps to 69 percent if leaders show at least eight of those strengths.
Emotional intelligence is at the heart of forging these connections. Now more than ever, project professionals must understand how they’re best positioned to impact performance through communication, showing true support and active listening. By demonstrating emotional intelligence, project leaders empower their teams to embrace innovation and confront change—all with an authentic, people-centric mindset.
“It’s about understanding the human interaction and the human consequences of the work we’re doing,” says Dev Ramcharan, PMP, program director, TD, Toronto. He has created training programs for project professionals “so we can leverage our own complex emotional beings to connect with other people to get the best results.”
Ramcharan explains five things you need to know about emotional intelligence:
1. It’s not something we’re born with.
Emotional intelligence is a skill set that project managers can develop—which means everyone has the potential to improve, no matter their starting point.
2. Have you developed it?
There are four dimensions to emotional intelligence: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management. Conduct a self-audit to determine whether each of those are strengths or weaknesses for you.
3. Make it a priority to know each team member as an individual.
Demonstrating empathy and connecting project outcomes to each person’s values are hallmarks of inspirational leadership. Carve out time in your schedule to learn what makes each team member deliver their best.
4. It’s servant leadership in action.
Working alongside your team and asking how you can help them get the knowledge resources they need will motivate them more than focusing solely on deadlines.
5. There’s power in being vulnerable.
Teams will struggle, so show them how to navigate the tough times. Sharing the gaps in your knowledge and asking for help can encourage your team to be open about problems they encounter.