Episode 174 – Team Up with Emotional Intelligence and Deliver Successful Projects

Episode #174
Original Air Date: 04.03.2023

37 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Vanessa Druskat

You’ve heard the statement that herding cats is a crazy way to make a living. Well, if you’re wondering how to keep your team in line, join us as internationally recognized expert on leadership and team development Dr. Vanessa Druskat describes how developing your emotional intelligence can improve your team engagement. The need for emotional intelligence is even more pronounced in project management. Vanessa, who is married to a project manager, shares insights from her research on emotional and team intelligence, and advice on how to improve your own EQ.

In this episode, Vanessa explains how we should manage ourselves in order to manage others. Hear how we can use emotion as data to improve our interactions and our decisions, and how social harmony can build a culture of high team performance. She highlights the four sets of emotional competencies: self-awareness, self-management of your emotions, social awareness, and relationship management. She says that if we can get in touch with an emotion, we can manage it, and the more emotionally and self-aware we are, the more we can build emotionally intelligent teams.

Vanessa Druskat advises leaders and teams in some of the world's most respected organizations. Her research program examining the differences between the behavioral strategies of high- and average-performing work teams led her to pioneer the concept of team emotional intelligence. Her popular Harvard Business Review article (with S. Wolff) on emotionally intelligent teams has been reprinted four times in collections of HBR's most valued articles. Vanessa is a multi-award-winning behavioral scientist and member of the board of directors of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. She is an Associate Professor at the University of New Hampshire's Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.

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Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"...the kind of norms that create space for people so that everyone can have the synergy, the kind of habits you create build an emotionally intelligent environment, and are more likely to have harmony and synergy and really produce.  You can produce results without that, but they’re not going to be synergistic.  They’re not going to be as good."

- Vanessa Druskat

"As soon as you’ve got others involved, you need to really think about who they are, their emotional world, how you impact them emotionally, how you’re coming across, because it impacts the way they respond to you."

- Vanessa Druskat

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The podcast by project managers for project managers. The need for optimal emotional intelligence is even more pronounced in project management and Dr. Vanessa Druskat, who is married to a project manager, shares insights on emotional and team intelligence on how to improve your own EQ. If we can get in touch with an emotion, we can manage it, and the more emotionally and self-aware we are the more we can build emotionally intelligent teams.

Table of Contents

02:37 … What is Emotional Intelligence?
05:43 … Developing Your Emotional Intelligence
07:07 … A Work in Progress
08:25 … EQ and Cognitive Intelligence
09:20 … The Need for Emotional Intelligence in Projects
11:03 … EQ Research Study of Project Managers
12:48 … Self-Confidence
15:50 … Kevin and Kyle
16:54 … Emotional Intelligence Starts with Self-Awareness
19:09 … The Brain Science behind Emotional Intelligence
21:03 … The Emotional Brain at the Unconscious Level
23:53 … No Motivation without Emotion
25:59 … Managing Oneself
29:44 … Social Harmony
34:45 … Find Out More
36:42 … Closing

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  And so the kind of norms that create space for people so that everyone can have the synergy, the kind of habits you create build an emotionally intelligent environment, and are more likely to have harmony and synergy and really produce.  You can produce results without that, but they’re not going to be synergistic.  They’re not going to be as good,

WENDY GROUNDS:  You’re listening to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  My name is Wendy Grounds, and with me in the studio is Bill Yates and Danny Brewer.  We love to have you join us twice a month to be motivated and inspired by project stories and leadership lessons and advice from industry experts from around the world.

And just one of those industry experts is Vanessa Druskat.  Vanessa is a multi-award-winning behavioral scientist, and she’s an internationally recognized expert on leadership and team development.  She has a research program examining the differences between the behavioral strategies of high- and average-performing work teams.  And this led her to pioneer the concept of team emotional intelligence.

Vanessa has a popular Harvard Business Review article with S. Wolff on emotionally intelligent teams.  She’s a member of the board of directors of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, and she talks a little bit about that at the end of the podcast.  And she’s also an associate professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.  So you may have gathered we’re talking about emotional intelligence.

BILL YATES:  Yes, we are.  This is such a critical skill for project leaders, for project managers because we all know it.  We can’t do this on our own.  We’ve got to work with a team.  Sometimes that team, each one of the team members brings their own issues to the table.  We’ve got our own issues.  You bring in the issues of our customer, the issues of our contractors, and there’s just a lot to manage.

WENDY GROUNDS:  There’s a lot of issues.

BILL YATES:  There’s a lot of issues.  So we need to be more emotionally intelligent and figure out how to get things done.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hi, Vanessa.  Welcome to Manage This.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Thank you.  It’s wonderful to be here with you, Wendy.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, we’re very happy to have you as our guest, and this is definitely a topic we’ve wanted to talk about again.  And I think you bring such a fresh perspective.  And Bill and I were very excited when we found out your husband was a project manager.


WENDY GROUNDS:  So you definitely speak with some authority on this topic.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Yes, indeed.  I’ve heard plenty of stories from my husband.

BILL YATES:  I’ll bet.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Some difficult times.


What is Emotional Intelligence?

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah.  So to get started, let’s just talk a little bit about what constitutes emotional intelligence.  Could you just describe that for us?

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Sure.  So two things about emotional intelligence that I’ll start off by saying.  In the field of psychology, we never really knew what social skills were.  We didn’t know how to measure them.  We couldn’t define them.  And so early on in the 1950s and ‘60s, the most well-known psychologists said let’s just not deal with social skills.  Let’s focus on what we can measure easily and define, which is, you know, IQ, cognitive intelligence.  And once we started learning more about the brain, we started learning about the importance of emotion in social interaction.  We started to really understand what social skills are all about.

And so essentially emotional intelligence is a great way to define social skills.  We now know that every social interaction involves an exchange of emotion.  And so emotional intelligence really is using emotion as data.  It’s recognizing that emotion, recognizing that this is an exchange of emotion and managing that emotion.  Often it’s really managing yourself in order to help manage the other person.

But let me give you the formal definition that most people agree to.  I’m going to have to read it to you, but I’ll explain it once I read it.  It’s a personal and social intelligence – because it is really about yourself, but it’s also about the way you interact with others – that enables us to monitor our own emotions and the emotions of others, to discriminate among emotions.  So, for example, you can discriminate between anger and anxiety, which is something a lot of people confuse, and then to use that information to guide your thinking and your decision-making, your actions, your interactions.  And so really it is using emotion as data to improve your interactions.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  And your decisions, by the way, because every decision involves emotion, we now know.

BILL YATES:  To me, there are two significant pieces to that.  There’s the self piece, self-awareness, self-management; and then looking at a team or looking at another person and recognizing what’s going on with those other people, and then trying to influence that.  Like you said, you know, there’s cognitive.  There’s, “Okay, how do I do on an IQ test?”  That’s one thing.  But now I’ve got to work with people and get things done.  So let’s look at EQ and see really how effective can I be.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Exactly.  Once you’ve got to start interacting with others – because, you know, we can’t do these things alone, especially project manager.  You’re not supposed to be doing it alone.  As soon as you’ve got others involved, you need to really think about who they are, their emotional world, how you impact them emotionally, how you’re coming across, because it impacts the way they respond to you.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that’s tremendous.

Developing Your Emotional Intelligence

WENDY GROUNDS:  Can a person develop emotional intelligence and these interpersonal skills, if that doesn’t come naturally?

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Yes, absolutely.  That’s been one of the great things about the field of emotional intelligence.  I can tell you there’s been a lot of research in the last 30 years.  First, we spent a decade trying to define it.  Then we spent a decade trying to say, “Well, what’s its link to performance in all different kinds of areas?”  We also look at it in school systems, by the way.  Originally, a lot of the research was focused on kids and their emotional awareness.  But the business world, organizational world just clung onto it and said, “Finally, there’s something that can help define what differentiates really high performers from people who are good, but not really superior in their roles.”

So the last decade has been all about how do we develop it, and in fact we can.  So there’s been a lot of really good research done.  Some of my colleagues at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio have done a lot of that.  They’ve tracked MBA students over time.  They’ve helped develop skills.  And they’ve seen which ones last, you know, how you develop them and which skills actually last for, you know, a five-year period.  So yes, it’s not easy to develop in the sense that it requires practice.


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  So you can’t just read about it.  You have to do it.  And that requires some risk, especially if you’re an introvert.

A Work in Progress

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  This is so important to me, and this is an area where we’ve got some other building blocks that we’ll cover.  But then we’ll get into some practical advice that you can share with us for those who need to grow this ability.  But I just want to hit the pause button and say to the listeners, this is great news, right, for those who struggle with this.  And man, I just have the hardest time connecting with my team, or I have the hardest time getting along with my customer, or my contractors.  There’s hope, right?  There’s a whole body of study behind this, and there are practical steps that you can take.  So we’ll go into that deeper, but that’s just really good news that you shared.  Yes, this can be developed.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Yes, absolutely.  It’s always a work in progress.


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  And I’m, you know, I’ve been working on it myself, so I can tell you some of my own stories.  And my husband, as well.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I think we all take a look back, you know, 20, 30 years ago, look back in our youth, and we think, “Oh, my gosh, the things I did.”  I was so emotionally unintelligent.


WENDY GROUNDS:  Not that I’ve got it all together now; but, man.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Yeah.  And also the good news is, typically, the older we get, the more emotionally intelligent we become because we’ve had more emotional experiences.


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  And so if we draw those out from other people, we can relate to them a little bit better.  And so there is a correlation with age and your emotional intelligence.

EQ and Cognitive Intelligence

WENDY GROUNDS:  And the correlation will be with age, but not with cognitive intelligence.  Is that true?

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Yes, exactly.  Well, we can talk more about that.  It’s not that you don’t use your cognitive intelligence.  One of the ways I like to describe emotional intelligence is that it allows you to create an emotional situation and environment that really does allow you to use your cognitive intelligence.  So without opening up people’s curiosity, without engaging them, without inspiring them, your cognitive intelligence can’t work as well.  You can’t convince, you know, people are never moved.  Motivation and emotion are synonymous.  So if you want to motivate someone to do something, you have to engage them emotionally.  And so once you engage them emotionally, you can use the numbers and the other things in cognitive intelligence to help that motivation.

The Need for Emotional Intelligence in Projects

BILL YATES:  We’ve had a lot of fun with just knowing that Vanessa is married to a project manager.  You and your husband have talked about this in depth.  You’ve written about it, and that just opens up a whole ‘nother level of conversation for us today, which I love.  You truly get it.  You get the world of a project manager.  So let’s talk about the need for emotional intelligence and why it’s even more pronounced in projects and in project management.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Well, it’s a constant flux.  It’s constant change; right?  And so you have to adapt yourself to that.  The reality is constantly changing for you.  You have to help others adapt to that.  You have to be open to change, which most people aren’t.  And you also have to often be sort of the tough person; right?  I mean, you’ve got to hold people to what they say they’re going to do.  So sometimes some people have to manage their empathy, and some people have to manage their anger or their anxiety and come into the situation and really manage other people’s expectations in a way that can work for whoever they are.  You have to adapt to different people based upon who they are and upon who you are.  And since the situation is constantly changing, and there’s a lot of pressure, right, to meet certain deadlines.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.  And projects are different.  It’s like every project is unique.  And for many project managers, they’ve got unique team members that are coming from different departments, maybe different contract companies.  So it’s not like, “Oh, this is my intact team that I work with all the time.  I kind of know them.  We’re connected.  We know each other well.  We work together well.”  Many times project managers are having to figure out the team that they’re working with and they have to lead.  So how do I connect with them?  How do I have empathy with them?


EQ Research Study of Project Managers

WENDY GROUNDS:  Vanessa, there was a research study that you’ve described in the chapter that you wrote, and it’s related to the success of worldwide project managers, I think on 75 projects, in an international petroleum corporation.  Can you just tell us a little bit about the findings that came out of that study?  They were so interesting.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Absolutely.  This is a great study.  It actually was done, it was a doctoral dissertation that was done by a friend of mine.  And we published it in a book.  And so it was a petroleum company, and it was an international company.  A lot of these folks were running international projects.  And there were a couple of parts to the dissertation.  One was getting together – there were 75 project managers – and asking them what they thought would matter most.  Then the other part of the study was separating out those who really were excelling and doing fabulously on the job from those who were just average, right, so were doing well enough, but weren’t really excelling.

And so what they found was that those who were really excelling were demonstrating emotional competencies for everything that we’ve just said already.  So let me be clear here.  It’s not that the cognitive competencies don’t matter.  It’s just that, if you really want to excel, you have to have more than the cognitive competencies.  We like to say that the cognitive competencies get you in the door.  But if you’re really going to influence, you’re going to keep people on time, you’re going to help them adapt to the changing environment constantly, then you need to be able to influence others.  And in fact the ability to influence, which is an emotional competency, was one of the ones that came across in that.


The other one was self-confidence, which lots of people think that you’re just born with self-confidence.  But in fact it’s often something that you have to build; right?  And so you go into the situation, if you can imagine going in and talking with people who are on your team, you need to get them to adapt to changes.  You need to convince them to stay on time.  You can’t come in there with waffling confidence.


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  You have to come in there behaving like a captain who knows where the ship is going.  And there’s a whole science of how you can do that.  But what it really involves is managing your emotion, for those of us who were not necessarily born with that self-confidence gene.  But I actually have a quote, want to read it to you.  And this is a quote that was coded for his influence ability, for his influence and impact ability.  And it says here – I’m just going to read this right to you.

“I decided to include the contractor’s team, about a hundred people, with our company team for team meetings.  To get everyone’s involvement, I scheduled the meeting during lunchtime, and I bought them lunch.  I used that time to inform everyone of what’s going on and to do some team building.  It worked in that it created a sense of belonging and togetherness, which was my intention.”

So you can see there that the leader realized that to have impact and influence, he had to get everyone in the room together, build some cooperation, build relationships, build his relationship.  Buying lunch is no small thing.  This kind of thinking is what enables you.  And again, it is thinking in advance about how you’re going to build that cooperation, build that ownership; right?  Mutual ownership, that works well.

BILL YATES:  That’s such a great example.  And two things jump out at me.  The planning, kind of that realization of if people are face to face in the room together, they’re just going to cooperate better.  They’ll collaborate better.  They’ll make connections.  And then the second thing is people like to eat; right?  When we share coffee together, or we share lunch or dinner or whatever, it’s just natural that things come out about family or interests or what do you do outside of work or what are you up to this weekend?  And you deepen those relationships, and you start to build trust.  So kudos for this guy, and it makes sense that he would have been one of the top performers  because he knew how to bring a team together.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Absolutely.  And, you know, the interesting thing of what you just brought up is about how people are working remotely these days.


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Not necessarily can we be in the room with everyone.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  And so you can do this stuff remotely.  And it is done, but it has to be so much more intentional.  But I agree.  Getting in the room together, breaking bread together has a special quality to it.  And I’ve seen influential managers use that a lot.  The pizza party, which is not necessarily expensive, goes a long way in building trust in that relationship.

Kevin and Kyle

WENDYGROUNDS:Let’s hear from Kevin and Kyle.

KEVIN RONEY: Management consultant Peter Drucker said: “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” As we strive to manage our projects productively, it simply means we are getting more things done in less time.

KYLE CROWE: That’s right! And that’s connected to effectiveness and efficiency. If you combine both of these, that equals productivity. However, in practice this can be quite tricky as project managers have to handle team meetings, stakeholder expectations, resources, and many other responsibilities, to produce great results.

KEVIN RONEY: Even with clear goals, a great plan, and excellent teamwork, the average project loses efficiency due to miscommunication, distractions, lack of clarity around task requirements, as well as uncertain stakeholder expectations.

KYLE CROWE: If your project is being overwhelmed by productivity killers, Velociteach has an InSite course to help. PROJECT PRODUCTIVITY KILLERS by Dave Po-Chedley is a course that offers techniques to help you save a large chunk of time. Learn how to minimize the costs that result from miscommunication and wasted time. You’ll also discover specific techniques that you can start applying so your project team can be significantly more effective.

KEVIN RONEY: Go to Velociteach.com to check it out!

BILL YATES: Thanks for that info Kevin and Kyle.

Emotional Intelligence Starts with Self-Awareness

BILL YATES:  Okay, Vanessa, we’d like to look at some of the work-related emotional competencies.  And a lot of this goes back to, I was showing my book to you just so you could kind of get nerdy with me on “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman.  You know, for people like me – researchers like you, you’d already gotten into it.  But for people like me, it’s like that’s the first real deep exposure I had to this kind of content.  And there’s the model that Goleman went on to elaborate on after that with some others.  There’s some learned capabilities that we can pick up on as project managers and leaders that take emotional intelligence and help us guide a team in outstanding results.

So let’s talk about those a little bit.  I guess the first one we want to look at is self-awareness, that’s kind of where that model begins.  Share with us some of the studies and results that you’ve seen that have influenced some of the content that you’ve written on this topic.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Well, let me define that model first.  So this is – there are a few different models of emotional intelligence.  I prefer this one.  And I know these folks, which is one of the reasons.  I know Goleman.  Goleman and I had the same doctoral dissertation advisors, which is how I know his work so well; and Richard Boyatzis, as well.  But this is also the one that rings, I think, most clearly for developing EI.  And there are four sets of competencies.  Self-awareness is the first one, and it is by far the most, most important.

Let me just also tell you what the others are.  So you’ve got self-awareness, self-management of your emotions.  So first you become aware of it, then you manage yourselves; right?  You manage yourself so that, like I was just talking about confidence, sometimes you have to manage your confidence.  I have to manage my empathy a lot.  You know, I’m a college professor, and I have to manage, I have to give the grade that the student is due.

The other two are social awareness.  So it’s not just awareness of your emotions.  Social awareness is a category.  And then managing others’ emotions.  And we call that “relationship management” or social skills.  So there are really four categories.  They break these competencies into four categories, and there’s been research on all four and how important they are.  And then, you know, once you have the labels, it’s easier to develop; right?

The Brain Science behind Emotional Intelligence

 So let me dive into self-awareness, which is the cornerstone.  So to do that, I want to scan out a little bit and say something about the brain because, for me personally, what’s most interesting about the research on emotional intelligence is the brain science that’s been done in the last few decades.  The 1990s was considered the decade of the brain.  The U.S. government funded billions of dollars on brain research.  And so we’ve learned a lot from neuroscience and social neuroscience.

So what we now know is that the brain can be essentially chunked into two chunks.  It’s not right and left; it’s upper and lower.  The lower part of our brain is what we call System 1.  It’s a heuristic.  System 1 is the emotion part of the brain, and it literally never turns off.  Our brain is constantly scanning information.  The only time we turn it off is when we toggle it off when we’re doing math problems.  And if you can’t turn it off, you can’t do math very well because emotion can get in the way.  So when you’re taking the SAT, and you’re nervous, it’s very difficult to do.

So people who are good at math tend to have an ability to toggle over and turn off their emotion.  But for everything else in life, our emotion system is on all the time.  We look at numbers.  We make a decision about those numbers.  Every decision we make involves emotion.  So I love to talk about Daniel Kahneman’s work.  He received the Nobel Prize in Economics – he’s a psychologist – for showing that we’re not rational, that our emotion gets in the way.  And so the more you know what you’re emotionally feeling, the more you can manage it.

The Emotional Brain at the Unconscious Level

One more thing I want to say about that till I get to your self-awareness of your emotion is that our emotional brain pretty much works at an unconscious level.  So our emotional brain picks up 11 million bits of information per second.  We are aware of 40, 40 bits of that.  Okay?  Now, so how do we know this is happening?  Brain researchers have studied it.  We can flash something in front of your eyes, a hairy spider, an angry face, and you become angry, you become scared.  But it happens so fast you’re not consciously aware of it.  So the idea here is that emotion affects everything.  If we can get in touch with that emotion, we can manage it.  And we can get in touch with a lot of it, and that’s where self-awareness comes in.

And so how do you do that?  Well it helps to have a model of emotion words.  We have sort of go-to emotions.  You can ask anyone, “What are you feeling right now?”  I do this with my students; I do this with audiences.  “What are you feeling right now?”  And they will come up with three or four words.  We don’t have a vocabulary of emotions.  We mix them up.  Like I said earlier, we often mix up anger with anxiety.  And so those emotions are feeding us, and they’re influencing our behavior.  But people can see them on our faces.  People pick up on them.

What happens is that, when I’m interacting with you, your 11 million bits of information include me analyzing your face or your voice tone and assessing it for the emotion that you’re feeling.  And so if you come in, and you say something to me like, “Vanessa, I’m really glad I’m here, and I’d like you to get right to task, but thank you so much for the great work you’ve done,” I’m hearing an inconsistency; right?  I’m not hearing any care for me.

And so what happens is your self-awareness, your own emotion that’s going to impact you, you need to be aware of it.  You need to be aware of how you’re coming across.  How you’re coming across is typically how you’re feeling inside.  So emotional awareness is critical.  The more emotionally aware, the more self-aware you are, the more you can be aware of others’ emotions.  So if I’m only aware of three emotions, I only see three emotions on you.  So the more I start to begin to understand what goes on, what piques someone’s emotion, what grabs someone’s attention, right, the better I can use that, if you will, in my interactions with other people.

No Motivation without Emotion

BILL YATES:  Vanessa, I’ve got to follow up on that.  So I’m thinking back to practical application and probably some of the fun conversations you’ve had with your husband, the project manager.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Yes, indeed.

BILL YATES:  You’ve probably both talked and laughed or cried as you thought about what are some project examples that you’ve had in your past where the project leader had a really low EQ, you know, was not good at this, kind of said, “Screw the emotions, we got work to get done here.”  When you guys talk about that, what are some of the impacts that you see on team members and productivity?

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Great question.  I want to come back to something I said earlier, which is that there is no motivation without emotion.  And so if you come to me, and you point to the date where I said I was going to get something done, with no insight into what’s going on in my world, okay, because we all know everyone’s got a world that’s affecting why they’re missing their due date, then I’m just going to get angry, and I’m going to be resistant.  And so we can’t assume people leave their emotion at the door.  We have to assume that, if we’re going to engage them emotionally and motivate them, that we have to recognize that they’re human beings.

So if I come in there angry or cool or as if I’m not understanding who you are, that you’re a human being, I’m less likely to inspire you.  I’m less likely to influence you.  Perhaps you’ve heard this before:  Influence is about relationships.  When you don’t have power, project managers don’t have the power to give someone always a negative performance review; right?  You don’t always have the power.  You have to influence without the authority.


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  That requires relationship building, and relationship building can help you inspire.  So you can’t come in and say, these are the deadlines.  These are the rules.  You agreed to this.  What’s going on?  I need this now.

Managing Oneself

BILL YATES:  You’re in such a good practical spot right there, Vanessa.  Talk more about that.  So that doesn’t work.  What does work?  What advice for those who are going, all right, I’ve tried that.  It doesn’t work.  I’ve got a new team, a new project.  Now what do I do?

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Okay, great.  What I want to do is read you a quote from Peter Drucker.


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  He’s sort of the grandfather of leadership development, management development.  I think he might even have coined the term.  He in the very last book he wrote said the following:  “I no longer think that learning how to manage other people, especially subordinates, is the most important thing for leaders to learn.  I am teaching above all how to manage oneself.”

So let me turn this into a point that I think listeners will benefit from.  You walk into that room, that person’s office, or you get on the Zoom call with them.  And if you come across as angry, and it’s misplaced – right, we’ll come back to when that might be appropriate – you’re going to turn someone off.  You’re probably feeling anger, anxiety, all kinds of things inside; right?  You’ve got a deadline.  Your career’s on the line here.  I mean, there’s a lot that project managers experience when their career depends on people doing what they say they’re going to do or agreeing to do things.  You know, again, back to this, you have to influence people, but you don’t have authority.  But you need to manage your emotion in order to help them manage their emotion.

So what does that look like?  First of all, you’ve got to know your audience.  I always lead with kindness first.  What’s going on?  Can I be helpful?  What’s going on for you?  You know?  I appreciate what you’re doing.  Let me get to know who you are.  Let me be empathetic with you.  You lead with that.  If you’re in there for the fourth time, and empathy hasn’t worked, maybe you have to manufacture a little anger, even if you don’t feel it; right?  And so in that case it’s managing yourself to produce in the other person the motivation that they need.

So I just want to talk about a study that was done by the Gallup organization where they studied 700 companies, two million employees, and they wanted to know why are these specific leaders so great over and over and over again.  What they discovered is that those leaders treated people differently.  They figured out what some people needed. 

So in one of the stories of an interview that they did with one of these super great leaders that was consistently meeting their goal over and over again, they said, “Well, tell us about your people that you’re working with.  Tell us about your team.”  And he said, “Well, Susan is very sensitive.  If I even look at her the wrong way, she’s going to hop to it.  She gets the feedback.  Whereas John, I’ve had to fire John three times, and he always comes back.  To get John’s attention, I have to be a certain way.”

And so what comes out of this is a decoding, figuring out who that person is, in order to modulate your own behavior to meet them where they’re at.  Does that make sense?


VANESSA DRUSKAT:  And so that is quintessential emotional intelligence.  That is managing your own behavior.  That is tuning into the others, being empathetic for the kind of person they are, their personality.  Are they, you know, anxious and on edge all the time?  Or do they have sort of bravado that requires you to be a little more assertive?  And then relationship management in the sense that you’re giving and taking in that.

Social Harmony

BILL YATES:  Vanessa, one of the books that I’ve referenced with you is the book by Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence.”  On page 183 he’s referring to the single most important element in group intelligence, which to me is, you know, I relate that right to project teams.  And he says that the key to a high group intelligence is social harmony.  Social harmony.  So people getting along, caring for each other, pushing towards a common goal, that type of thing.  I love that.  I love the concept.  But then I need practical steps from that; right?  So how can a project manager build a culture of high team performance, given the importance of things like social harmony?

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  You bet.  That’s a great question.  This is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart because, in fact, my expertise is in applying emotional intelligence to teams.  And I’ll let you know I’m working on a book right now.  And it’s supposed to be done in May, but it takes a year to get out.  So I’ll make sure I send you a copy when it’s done.

So harmony, what is harmony?  Harmony is when everyone’s interactions are producing information that couldn’t have been brought in by any one individual.  And this is the ideal in a group.  So group harmony, another word for that is synergy.  And groups, teams, are composed of individuals who each bring something to the conversation.  Synergy occurs when everybody shares what’s on their mind, and we integrate it.  We hear it, we learn from it, we get all the information on the table, and we produce something that’s better than any one of us could have produced.

It turns out that that is an emotional competency in and of itself.  We’ve looked at IQ, and the IQ of the team members doesn’t have an impact on whether or not that can happen.  One thing that does have an impact on whether or not that can happen is whether or not the people have empathy, can read one another’s emotions.  So, for example, I can look at you and see that you’ve got something to say or that you’re not quite sharing everything on your mind because you can’t get into the conversation.  And so we can invite one another in and out, and we can improve the conversation, if we all have an emotional awareness of one another, social awareness.  There’s been research looking at what makes a team better, and it’s that kind of thing.

But let me get one level deeper into this.  It turns out that you don’t have to have emotionally intelligent people to do that.  But you have to have our emotionally intelligent norms or habits, routines you can call.  So this is what my book is about.  It’s about creating the routines that build an emotionally intelligent environment.  So an emotionally intelligent routine wouldn’t be one where we ensure we’re all heard.  We ensure that people feel comfortable speaking their mind, that they’re not expected to conform to what others are thinking.

But one of the things that’s most important for this as well as just building your own emotional intelligence is getting to know the people in the room.  Knowing that not everyone is just like you is fundamental to not just your ability to manage a project, so it’s about your self-awareness, but it’s your ability to lead a team.  Everyone in the room needs to know that people in that room are different from one another.  What can they offer?  Who are they?  How do they need to be invited in?  Who are the extroverts?  Who are the introverts?  Who’s going to force their way in and need to be told they need to be more quiet to make space for the quieter one?  Right?

One of the differences between introverts and extroverts is that introverts need time to think before they talk.  Extroverts think while they’re talking.  Two very great – you know.  And let me tell you, introverts have great ideas, but sometimes they need some space.  And so the kind of norms that create space for people so that everyone can have the synergy, the kind of habits you create build an emotionally intelligent environment, and are more likely to have harmony and synergy and really produce.  You can produce results without that, but they’re not going to be synergistic.  They’re not going to be as good, and all of the data points to that.  I could go through the studies that have shown that unequivocally.  It’s the environment you create in the team that enables your team to work well.

Find Out More

WENDY GROUNDS:  Vanessa, this has been really, really great information, and we do look forward to having your book come out so we can get a look at it and get our hands on it.  In the meantime, where can our listeners go if they’d like to find out some more about the work you do or if they have some questions about emotional intelligence?

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Sure.  Well, first, thanks for those nice comments.  You can follow me on LinkedIn.  I would encourage, you know, you and your listeners to connect with me on LinkedIn, and that’ll keep you kind of up to date with some of the research on the group emotional intelligence.  The other thing that I think is going to potentially be really helpful for you and your listeners is the consortium.  There’s a consortium of researchers who study emotional intelligence in organizations.  And it’s called – the acronym is CREIO, C-R-E-I-O.  And it’s called the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.  It was started by Daniel Goleman and one of his colleagues, Cary Cherniss, who’s just retired from Rutgers University.

The beauty of that consortium is it’s half people who work in the field and companies, and half academics who study emotional intelligence.  The website has just a ton of information on it.  It’s got, if you’re looking for measures of emotional intelligence, it goes through all the different measures that are out there.  There’s contact numbers for most people on there, and it’s just a wealth of information.  I highly recommend it.

BILL YATES:  Excellent.  And again, thank you so much for sharing this and connecting the dots.  Just to your point there about that group, it’s so important to me to not just see the academics and the studies behind it, but then the practical applications.  So that advice that you’ve given and even some of the projects and project leaders that you’ve cited, that’s really helpful.  Tell your husband he did a great job connecting the dots with you.  This has been tremendous.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  Thank you so much.

BILL YATES:  Thank you.

VANESSA DRUSKAT:  I really appreciate it.


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  We also want to thank each of our listeners who reach out to us and leave comments on our website or on social media.  We love hearing from you.

You’ve also just earned your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com, choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page, click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

The full citation for the book chapter Vanessa and her husband and wrote:

  • Druskat, V. U., & Druskat, P. D. (2006). Applying emotional intelligence in project management.  In S. Pryke and H. Smyth (Eds.) The management of complex projects: A relationship approach (pp.78-96). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

6 responses to “Episode 174 – Team Up with Emotional Intelligence and Deliver Successful Projects”

  1. Tuesday Bryant says:

    Very Insightful

  2. Lisa Lennon says:

    Very timely Podcast for me. I enjoyed it very much. It is challenging keeping a team in sync when emotions are unchecked.

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      Thank you for listening Lisa. Vanessa had excellent insight and advice about team emotional intelligence. I’m so glad you found it helpful. 🙂

  3. Sandeep says:


    Great talk. I am a yoga teacher, and I had to think of an answer for my wife who is a master teacher and converts yoga students to become teachers. For one of her classes she wanted to share the difference between knowledge and wisdom. I thought about it and came up with these words. I think of knowledge as all the information we have stored in our brain and we recall it when we need it just like Google does when we search for things. Wisdom is when we don’t have anything stored in our memory and we have to think. What happens at that time is, we come up with a response within ourselves, and I call that as gut-feeling.

    Also, it was interesting that you called synergy as harmony, quite an interesting way to see it that way. Stephen Covey emphasizes synergy as the sixth habit. To me that is the greatest. Again from a yoga perspective, when you lose your ego, listen and become fully involved, you start to build on others ideas, and others tend to build on your idea, and the cycle continues. I call the sky’s limit. One example I think of is landing on the moon. So many people must have worked on it to think beyond limits.

    Thanks for letting me share these ideas.


  4. Karen Delaney says:

    Interesting podcast regarding emotional intelligence. Getting to know your team and each understanding their role in the team and making sure each has a voice in the team combined with agenda topics helps to keep the team on track and builds synergy as it allows each team member to participate by assigning team members to speak to their agenda topic. This time gives them the time to get their voice heard during the time allotted to them. Leaving an open discussion in the agenda can be for personal or business topics which helps encourage team building and becoming more emotionally intelligent by listening to what each team member has in their mind and wants to share.

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      Thanks for your comment Karen. 🙂 We found Vanessa’s advice on learning how we should manage ourselves in order to manage others very helpful.

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