Manage feelings in your projects well, and you are more likely to deliver your projects successfully

Presentation (Handout), 2007

10 Pages



The management of feelings in projects is important. Project managers who recognise this and act accordingly, are more likely to deliver their projects successfully. Managing emotions in projects is of particular importance due to the nature of projects. They are temporary organisations that often consist of a mixture of people from both inside and outside of the organisation. Project managers often do not exercise direct line management responsibility over these so they need to manage the emotions of people over which they have no control.

This variety of human beings such as contractors, vendors and so on, needs emotionally-aware project managers who are 'strong in interpersonal skills, knowing how to create an environment where people feel valued and motivated to contribute to their maximum potential, and where problems are considered challenges and errors are considered learning experiences (Verma, 1996). It is, therefore, essential that project managers in the Project-oriented society become competent in managing the feelings of people well within their projects.


I once received an E-mail, by accident, from someone who communicated with a colleague at work. They had a difference of opinion. Emotions were ‘flying high’. On closer investigation I found out that they were actually sitting next to each other but only communicating by E-mail. This had been going on for a while.

I knew both so I asked them to share their issue with me. They had a minor misunderstanding but each side was not prepared to give in to move forward. The problem was that of not understanding how the other person felt, accepting these feelings and sharing them with each other. Once I explained to them the importance of sharing feelings with each other, they started to communicate again.

All people have feelings, good or bad. To understand how they feel and why they feel the way they do is important for effective project managers. They have a need to understand and manage the feelings of the team as well as their own to deliver the goals of the project. This can be very challenging at times as it is not easy to manage people.

Honey (1988,1997),Verma (1996) and Goleman (1998) carried out extensive studies on human behaviour during the 1990s. They found that when the emotional side at work is managed well, people feel better about each other and are far more productive.

It is not just this understanding and the application of emotions that could lead to improvements in managing people better. It is also the interrelated association with meeting what others require, building a good personal relationship in a timely manner, talking about and exchanging each other's thoughts, ideas and feelings, and managing emotional conflict well that relate to people’s feelings.

Project managers can develop people competences. I will discuss in this paper how this could be achieved, using some real life experiences from projects I have managed and quoting some of the work carried out by recognised experts in this area to support my views.

1. Emotions in Projects

1.1 Meeting Each Other's Needs

When people have the need for something, they often enter into personal relationships with others so that their needs can be fulfilled. For example, if you want to learn how to snowboard, you develop a relationship with someone who is an expert who will pass on his knowledge to you. Or if you want to know more about collecting stamps, meet a philatelist and ask him questions.

But for this to work, you also need to consider what you can give to these people in return for what they have given you. In order to establish a long-lasting, solid and productive relationship, you need to reciprocate favours. By meeting each other's needs, you are more likely to establish this desired relationship with others


This approach is particularly important in project team environments to gain the trust and support of those over whom you do not necessarily exercise any direct line management control. To identify what the needs of others are and how they feel, you have to communicate with them. You have to understand how others feel about themselves , others and the world around them. You need to communicate with people because the spoken word contains details of how people feel. You must also listen carefully to what they have to say. Put yourself in the other person's place. Try to answer the question 'What does he/she really need?' Empathise with people.

Meeting each other's needs is about understanding the wants and needs of others, without making our own judgements or interpretations, based on what we want and need. Emotions often run high in projects because people do not take the time to listen actively to what others have to say.

I recently managed a project with team members from 18 different countries and cultures. One of the countries wanted to launch a new service like the others but could not because of a different technical set-up. I assumed that their machinery was fully compatible with the rest of the countries. This was not the case. I did not ask them what they needed. I assumed all was well. But it was not. I should have empathised with them and asked relevant questions, to find out what they needed. This would have given them the feeling that I really cared about their needs.

I did not make an effort to see things from their perspective, nor did I ask them how they felt about this situation. Instead of putting my needs first (to get the country launched by a given date), I should have identified their needs first, together with the rest of the team, to find a way forward.

Using emotions intelligently means that people understand each other's needs and the reasons why they have these. They can then start to change their behaviours and thinking in order to achieve better results in their projects by recognising the emotional needs people have.

I made a mistake but I learned from it. Developing interpersonal expertise by being emotionally engaged with others is the first step on the long road to become an emotionally intelligent project manager.

1.2 Relating To Each Other Over Time

Developing personal relationships with project team members is important for project managers. These relationships should outlast the project and continue to go on for much longer and provide a good investment not just for a single project.

Over a period of time you need to develop feelings for each other. It is this interchange of feelings that is so important to your relationship with others. I remember when I first met the new project team members of one of my projects at the kick-off meeting in Duesseldorf, Germany in March 2002. Project Managers from six different countries got together, face to face, to deliver a new global product. Everyone felt nervous and uneasy because we did not know what to expect from each other, nor did we have any idea what the other person would be like as a human being.

I took the time to greet and welcome everyone personally, for a few minutes at a time, prior to the start of the meeting. I told them briefly about myself, my background and my role in this project, and what I was hoping to achieve with their inputs and help. Using an appropriate amount of humour, this also helped to 'break the ice'. I shared some of my feelings for the project and the team members with them in an open, honest and direct manner. Some of the project managers started to do the same. They had listened to me, and probably liked what they saw (or at least they could relate to what I had said).

This gradual exchange of niceties as well as business information had the desired effect. We started to build a rapport that was based on our feelings and emotions. For it to work, these had to be authentic and contain details of what was important to us. We created an environment of attachment and affiliation, forming the basis for trust and mutual respect. By letting genuine emotions become part of our conversation, we exchanged authentic feelings with each other, recognising and accepting what was important to each of us (Kets de Fries, 2001).

Being able to share each other's feelings makes all the difference between just being project team members and accepting each other as equal partners in a new joint venture, for example. Project teams will bond that much quicker. It is a much longer-lasting relationship that will be borne out of this, one that can and will, sometimes , last a very long time.


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Manage feelings in your projects well, and you are more likely to deliver your projects successfully
Project Management Seminar, Ramzova, Czech Republic, September 2007
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Manage, Project, Management, Seminar, Ramzova, Czech, Republic, September
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Dr Eddie Fisher (Author), 2007, Manage feelings in your projects well, and you are more likely to deliver your projects successfully, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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