Emotional Intelligence Framework for Project Managers

Mersino (2007) identifies three reasons why the application of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is critical to project managers:

  • Each project is unique. Project managers are assigned to manage projects by project sponsors and then project managers acquire project teams for their projects. In most cases, project managers work with different project teams, different project sponsors and different other stakeholders on different projects. To build relationships, manage communication, develop project team and manage stakeholder engagement, project managers need to know how to apply EI in such changing conditions.
  • Project is temporary with a beginning and an end. Projects always have predetermined start date and end date. Project managers do not have too much time to deeply understand and build good relationship with their teams as well as with other stakeholders. All project managers can do is to take opportunity to apply EI at the beginning stage of projects to increase the chance of success in project management.
  • Project manager has the limited power. Among 4 common types of project organizations (functional organization, matrix organization, projectized organization, and composite organization), only projects working under projectized organization give direct authority and power to project managers on their resources. With other types of project organization, project managers have limited authority and power over resources of their projects. It required strong interpersonal skills to manage project teams and the application of EI becomes essential to get the project work done.

Further, Mersino (2007) identified that the application of EI pays off big and explained that EI can help project managers on 7 common project management tasks:

  • Build good relationships with project team, project sponsor and other stakeholders to increase the chance of success in projects.
  • Anticipate and control negative emotion that may be harmful to relationships with project team, project sponsor and other stakeholders.
  • Keep harmonious in the project team and be better at conflict handling.
  • Be better in decision making by leveraging emotional information.
  • Be effective in communication with project team, project sponsor and other stakeholders.
  • Keep good working morale and high motivation in project environment.
  • Inspire project team and other stakeholders by creating and selling project vision and sharing project objectives effectively.

Starting with the Goleman’s EI competence framework, Mersino drew out the most relevant aspects of the framework as they apply to projects and project managers. Mersino then added other competencies and factors that were important for project managers and introduced his adapted framework for project managers comprising of 14 competencies categorized into 5 domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management and team leadership

1. Self-awareness: this domain is the first building block of EI for project managers and comprises of 5 competencies of emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence. Understanding what we feel is the first step of self-awareness. Basically, we have one or a combination of six basic feelings at a moment: Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, and Tender (SASHET families of emotions in figure 2.3). Accurate self-assessment includes understanding strengths and limits of what we feel before exploring them our own or with others. And self-confidence is the ability to be self-assured in whatever situation we always find ourselves (Mersino, 2007).

2. Self-management: This domain is focused on self-controlling our emotions, keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check, handling changes, striving to meet goals, pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks and being ready to act on opportunities (Mersino, 2007).

3. Social awareness: This domain is focused on the state of being aware of the emotional condition of others and comprises of 4 competencies of empathy, organizational awareness, seeing others clearly, and emotional boundaries. It requires understanding others’ feelings and perspectives, understanding the context of emotions in an organization, recognizing and meeting customers’ needs (Mersino, 2007).

4. Relationship management: the ability of using the awareness of our own emotions and those of others to build strong relationships are competencies of this domain. The stronger in relationship, the better in managing project communication, project team, and stakeholder engagement. This domain comprises of 3 competencies of stakeholder relationships, developing others, and truth telling (Mersino, 2007).

5. Team leadership: this is new domain at the top of Mersino’s EI framework for project managers. It is focused on the emotional skills needed to effectively lead project teams and comprises of 3 competencies of communications, conflict management, and inspirational leadership. Those competencies provide framework for interpersonal skills development (Mersino, 2007).


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