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Qualities of a Great Project Manager

Hey gang! This post is the first of a series related to project management, created in partnership with the Project Management Institute (PMI) Huron Valley Michigan Chapter (HVC) in the Coaching Corner Forum. While the questions submitted often apply to project management specifically, the concepts discussed are applicable to anyone in a management or team leadership role.


Coaching Corner Question: What are the most important qualities of a project manager?

Team of people sitting at table around a laptop, smiling

That's a big question, and I bet that if you asked fifty different people, you'd get fifty different answers. Here's my take.

Project managers (and managers and team leaders), in a nutshell, are tasked with getting work done through others. You're the chicken herder...the organizer...the facilitator...the problem solver...the communicator. But the product or service your project is responsible for is not created by you directly. That can be a challenge because you are responsible for the project but aren't in direct control of outcomes.

Therefore, you need to be most skilled in the arts of influencing, organizing, and communicating with others in a productive, positive way. How do you develop your skills in this area?

Beef up your Social and Emotional Intelligence.

According to the Institute for Social & Emotional Intelligence (ISEI), social and emotional intelligence (S&EI, or sometimes called "EQ") is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and those of others, in the moment, and to use that information to manage ourselves and manage our relationships.

Sounds a little too touchy-feely for a work environment at first, right? But the key is the italicized phrase above. Project management - and all leadership - is dependent upon successful management of relationships, so that you can influence behavior to the benefit of the project, team, and organization.

There are a number of models of social and emotional intelligence, but the most popular has four major competencies, as shown below.

ISEI Four-Quadrant Model of Social and Emotional Intelligence

As you can see, Social and Emotional Intelligence includes awareness and management of your own emotions as well as awareness of others' feelings. The Self Awareness, Self Management, and Other/Social Awareness quadrants are all important, but the application of them within the Relationship Management quadrant is where a project manager can shine.

Relationship Management, defined by ISEI as adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others, includes the following skills: communication, interpersonal effectiveness, influencing , conflict management, inspirational leadership, catalyzing change, building bonds, teamwork & collaboration, coaching & mentoring others, and building trust.

These all seem like skills a project manager should possess, no?

There are some amazing resources out there on social and emotional intelligence, if you're looking for more info. Daniel Goleman has written a number of books on the topic and writes regular articles at Korn Ferry. Harvard Business Review has an entire topic section on emotional intelligence. And there are multiple assessments available that will give you an indication of your current level of S&EI, so you can see where you can take advantage of strengths and improve upon weaknesses.

The best part about S&EI, in my opinion, is that it can be developed and grow even late in life, unlike IQ. With a solid assessment, the right attitude, and perhaps a coach to help you interpret the assessment and experiment with new behaviors, you can always improve your S&EI, and therefore improve your positive influence and impact upon your teams and others around you.

S&EI is one of my all-time favorite concepts, so I'll be writing much more in the future on the individual competencies and ways to develop them. If you're interested in finding out more about your own Social & Emotional Intelligence or would like to investigate coaching around these topics, feel free to contact me or schedule a free sample coaching session!

Questions? Feel free to comment or reply in the Coaching Corner forum entry that posed the original question!


Lisa Ingall is an Executive, Leadership and Empowerment Coach whose passion is supporting great leaders and their teams as they innovate to tackle any challenge. At Couragecopia, she offers personal, team and group coaching services to help people and organizations reach their full potential. She was a global project and program manager at IBM and Siemens in a former life, has been a PMP for what seems like forever, and is a member and former board member of PMI HVC.

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