Managing emotions - your key to success

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Posted by APM on 27th Apr 2011

Ranjit Sidhu presented to the South Wales and West of England branch on the subject of managing emotions on 5th April 2011. This was an evening that inspired debate and attendee discussion.

Ranjit started by noting that the most rigorous set of methods and processes, whilst being an essential part of a project manager’s tool kit, are not going to deliver a successful outcome.

Most project managers have little positional authority so they need to have good communication, influencing and negotiation skills to get things done. And as we know projects introduce change. According to a survey by McKinsey, even for successful projects, change causes a wide range of emotions, with people feeling confused, frustrated and fatigued.  For project managers to be successful in their interactions they need to be comfortable dealing with people and their emotions.

Ranjit went on to describe a change journey which is a rollercoaster on its own, but ever more complex when we consider that for a “change”, different people are at different points on the journey and move through the “performance curve” at different times as the project progresses  – it’s complex and multi dimensional. The phases are:
Denial – where the feeling is that it will not / can’t happen
Anger – where  there is resistance to the change and anger or frustration.   Performance starts to fall
Bargaining – where one tries to find a way of reversing the situation whilst a fall in performance continues to a point of
Depression – where realisation kicks in that things will change. Performance will probably be at rock bottom at this stage
Acceptance of change will usually follow and performance starts to increase
Experimentation – as the opportunities offered by the change are tested – increasing performance and linking to elements of
Discovery –and things don’t seem as bad as they seemed initially with an increase in performance
Integration – where the change finally comes together and becomes normal

This journey will be different for each of us and involves a wide range of emotions that require a focused approach to understanding and communications. The balance between “thought” and “emotions” results in our interpretation of the situation and a range of behaviours in response to the situation.

Ranjit noted that understanding this mechanism within ourselves will help project managers to develop a proactive attitude to communications and help ensure team members and stakeholders are aligned with the project delivery.

Ranjit also quoted Mehrabian’s work about the effect of communication. He noted that 55% of the meaning came from body language, 38% from the tone being used and 7% from the words used. It’s worth keeping this in mind when thinking about establishing rapport, which is an essential element for successful communication. Other factors which can help with developing rapport include mutual respect, really listening and empathy between the individuals.

Ranjit finished by noting that neuro linguistic programming (NLP) is an area of study that more fully addresses the issues noted during the evening for programme and project management.

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