PM Competency – Emotional Intelligence

A few years back, I had the privilege of attending a conference on the international project management day.  As you can guess from the date that this conference was held, this event was popularly attended by many project managers and related professions.  One session of this conference made a strong impression on me, to the point that I still have a clear memory of the scene and would like to share it with you today.

After hearing many good speakers throughout the event, the MC of the conference presented a slide that showed a list of 25 – 30 skills; he then asked the audience to vote on the top 3 competencies that project managers should have.  This list consisted of a wide array of skills ranging from technical skills on managing projects, interpersonal skills as well as leadership skills.  Project management has a relatively young history in Canada; the PMBOK became a standard with PMI in the year of 1998.  Starting with just 10,000 PMPs in 1998, the total number of certified PMs had exploded to 741,000 by end of 2016 (PMI Today, 2016).  This represents a 7,310% increase in less than 20 years.  So, based on this rapid growth, I would assume that there will be a small handful of key competencies that is required of project managers.  The voting results surprised me!

Out the 1,000 attendees in the room, we managed to equally vote on 20 top competencies that project managers should have.  The surprising result was that all of the interpersonal skills and leadership skills listed on the slide were on the top 20.  The message was clear:  this job would be easy if it wouldn’t for the people!

As I look back and reflect on this experience, it is easy to see how every project is introducing a new change and the key skills in successful project delivery are more than planning, managing and tracking timeline and budgets.  More importantly, project managers must focus on overcoming people-related challenges – factors such as changing mind-sets, motivating employees, creating honest & timely communication, building commitment and navigating corporate culture (Davis, 2011).   All of these required project managers to have a high emotional intelligence in order to deliver projects successfully.

What is Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is defined as the ability to:

  • Recognize, understand and manage our own emotions; and
  • Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others (IHHP, n.d.)

There are a number of models that define EI in more details.  The two models that I found applicable to PMs are the Bradberry & Geraves model (2009) and EISA framework (based on the Reuven Bar-On’s Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) model) (Davey-Winter, n.d.).

The Bradberry & Geraves model

In the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, authors Bradberry & Geraves suggested that emotional intelligence is made up of four core skills:  self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.  Under this model, project managers are required to become skillful in recognizing and managing their emotions so they can communicate effectively with project team members and stakeholders as well as having an adequate view on how others are feeling so they can build relationship, influence and lead the project team in reach the project’s goal(s).

Below is a graphic representation of the Bradberry & Geraves model (2009):



The EISA framework

The EISA framework is based on Reuven Bar-On’s Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) model.  It is a simplified version to understand EI based behaviors, recognizing them in ourselves and others, and building action plans to modify behaviors in the future to obtain different outcomes (Davey-Winter, n.d.).  This is particularly important to project managers because an important part of our job is to get alignment from stakeholders (potentially with opposing opinions) to collaborate and contribute to the overall project success.  Therefore, it is important for project managers to be adaptable to different styles by adjusting our behaviour and building relationships with others that will help shape the success of our projects.

There are a number of practical examples for project managers in Davey-Winter’s article, Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers – Nice to Have or Necessity?  I strongly recommend you to take a look if you are interested in improving your EI and overall effectiveness as a project manager.

Below is a graphical representation of the EISA framework:



How Do You Measure Up?

Since EI/EQ is such an important skill for project managers, do you know how you measure up and which area you need to focus on improving?  Below are a few resources that you might find helpful:

  1. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves – purchaser of this book will have access to a comprehensive online emotional intelligence test. Combining the strategies in the book, you would be able to develop action plans on improving your overall EI/EQ.
  2. If you are looking for a quick (free) online assessment, I would recommend you start by visiting ( This mini-assessment gives you a quick glance on where you stand and quick tips on improving your EI/EQ.
  3. Emotional Intelligence for Project Manager by Anthony Mersino – this book also provides a mini-assessment of emotional intelligence, but more importantly, it explains EI/EQ in the context of project management and written specifically for PMs. I would highly recommend you take a look at this book.

Final Words…

Emotional intelligence is a key competency for all project managers.  PMI also listed EI as an interpersonal skill in PMBOK fifth edition.  As this profession continues to grow in the next 10 – 15 years, the higher your EI/EQ is, the higher level of success you will experience.



Bradberry, T. & Greaves, J., 2009. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. 2nd ed. San Diego: TalentSmart.

Davey-Winter, K., n.d. Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers – Nice to Have or Necessity?. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 26 February 2017].

Davis, S. A., 2011. Investigating the impact of project managers’ emotional intelligence on their interpersonal competence. Project Management Journal, July.

IHHP, n.d. What is Emotional Intelligence. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 26 Febrary 2017].

PMI Today, 2016. Number of PMP credential holders worldwide. PMI Today, December.


Leave a Reply