Your pre-project planning has been months in the making. You know your objectives, your tasks, your launch date, and your team. Everything’s covered, right?
Why? Because we all know that when it comes to difficulties at work, the #1 problem is not process, but people. And people can be crazy. Even you, if you’re not careful – especially when things go haywire.
That’s why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is so important. Psychology Today defines EQ as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others” (more on the italicized part later).
You can’t control what people think, say or do. You can’t even control their responses to your best possible intentions. The one thing you can control is you. That’s where EQ comes in. Let’s break down how you can apply EQ to the what, when, who, and how of your project.
WHAT You Need to Accomplish.
Remove should and just from your vocabulary.
Your project has clear expectations in the form of tasks and timelines. It’s reasonable to want to achieve them. But if something can go wrong, it probably will. That’s Murphy’s Law, and you need to be ready for it. Nothing will provoke an emotional response faster than an expectation that crumbles. Should and just are key danger words to watch for, in both your thoughts and your words.
Should leave no room for error. We should be done by the end of the week. The developer should have this phase ready tomorrow. We should get our request approved. What happens if you don’t? Irritation, anger, impatience, and lots of other feelings. Think about how you’ve felt anytime someone says, “This should work” and it doesn’t.
Just is another saboteur. I’ll just use this workaround once. If we could just figure out this one bug, we’d be fine. If she would just do what I tell her to. Just implies that the thing you’re doing or don’t want to happen will never happen again. It will.
Stop using should and just, and watch for its use in others. Focus instead on consistently identifying project gaps and threats via your daily standups. And on having realistic expectations.
WHEN You Need to Accomplish It.
Have realistic expectations.
How often are projects completed by the intended launch date? Almost never. The truth is, deadlines are often rooted in unreasonable expectations (try telling your executive sponsor that); expectations that will lead to immediate stress for every member of the team. Although we have great technology like CRM systems, BI tools, and project management tools that use AI to clarify past timelines and better root expectations in the reality of work completed, we don’t always use these to our own advantages. EQ can give you the strength, from the very beginning of the project, to articulate what is reasonable versus what is expected.
EQ can also help you raise the red flag when things are off schedule. People with a strong EQ are generally excellent communicators. They know when to speak up – and when to stay quiet if a problem can be solved internally and without escalation.
WHO You Need Help From
When you assume, you make a you-know-what out of you and me.
We’ve talked about Murphy’s Law, but here’s another principle you may not have heard of: Hanlan’s Razor. It essentially states: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity (or ignorance, carelessness, fatigue, etc.) Translation: Assume positive intent. Yes, there are bona fide saboteurs out there. But is that really what’s behind most delays or mistakes? Probably not. Be prepared for something to go wrong and it won’t trigger emotional reactivity or the blame game when it does. And speaking of emotional reactivity…
HOW You Need to Accomplish It.
The project isn’t just about you.
How you accomplish your project is half the battle. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to EQ. And nothing will help you get there faster than applying EQ principles to other people. The model you want to keep in mind here is called ADKAR: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. ADKAR is at the core of the Prosci change management model. It starts at the individual level but can apply to groups as well. ADKAR’s central question is “What’s in it for me?” When you understand what motivates the people on your project team, you’ll be in a better position to achieve your objectives – and manage your own EQ – more effectively.
To get things done, you certainly don’t need to be devoid of emotion. After all, you’re human! The ability to celebrate successes and feel the mutual pain of setbacks makes you relatable and a good leader or team member. They key is to not react when things go awry. Definitive action – particularly in times of crisis – is effective. A hair-trigger emotional response, particularly with no action or problem-solving behind it, is not.
Laura Beerman is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. Her insights have appeared in RevCycleIntelligence, Becker’s, InformationWeek and other outlets. She has spoken nationally on population health, long-term care, and been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal for her accountable care predictions. She resides in Nashville with her Canadian husband and American kittens. You can find her on LinkedIn.