Project Management Institute

"Smart" emotions



A good project manager cultivates both hard skills (plan, organize, control) and soft skills (communicate, listen, motivate, create). Creating the right relationships with team members and other stakeholders is one of the biggest challenges to address.

Project managers' “intelligence” is evaluated by the amount of uncertainties they accommodate. While project managers achieve objectives through their people, they often generate obstacles that don't exist before the project started. For example, project managers can complain about a project's complexity and immediately the excitement or challenge of managing that particular project is destroyed. To get through this crucial moment, project managers must demonstrate passion for the task at hand.

Training in the hard skills often emphasizes the use of the brain's left hemisphere. In his book Applied Intelligence, Dr. Lair Ribeiro explains how that hemisphere focuses on details, mechanics, language, logic and analytic and memory functions. In other words, just using that half of your brain to manage a project blinds you to the emotional, cultural and social aspects. Further, project management training often does not help develop our right-brain features, such as creativity, receptiveness, meditation, adventure and synthetic functions.

Training project managers to use this side of the brain may help many organizations. The foundation of a great project team is the project managers who serve and support their people during the project life cycle. We, as project managers, must take into account the input, feedback and opinions coming from our people.

Considering these different opinions will help us more completely define reality. Project team members have different perceptions of reality, but good project managers play the role of observer, helping to discover the true causes of conflict, delays or other productivity issues.

When managing a complex project, I frequently use a tool called “mind mapping,” a technique invented by Tony Buzan. This involves connecting the left brain and right brain using graphics and colors. The principle of this technique is that people remember an idea, thought or situation better when recording it using graphics, pictures or sounds.

While project managers achieve objectives through their people, they often generate obstacles that don't exist before the project started.

This is a way of thinking systematically while combining creativity and, at the same time, accepting new ideas from team members or other project stakeholders. This technique also helps generate people's commitment because more of their senses are involved in the process. I use this technique for brainstorming and also for generating meeting minutes. It also helps me improve efficiency and increase memory retention.

Must the project manager be an artist? Art is a feature of the right brain. Creativity is needed during projects. Project managers who are spontaneous can tap the reluctant creativity that is present in their team members.

Every organization looks for “excellence” in their projects and in their project managers, too. “Excellence in projects” means freedom and accuracy. Listen to people; different opinions, feedback and input represent freedom. At the same time, get commitment for project deliverables, activities and tasks—that's accuracy.

Remember that authority is a state of mind. Your business card and job title are important, but project managers achieve results because of their integrity, mission, vision and passion. Lack of authority as a project manager is only in your mind. Take advantage of your “brain power.” PM


Alfonso Bucero, PMP, is an independent project management consultant who lives in Madrid, Spain. He is the author of a Spanish book Project Management—a New Vision (Lito-Grapo, S.A de C.V., 2002) and contributor to the book Creating the Project Office (Jossey Bass, 2003).

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