Better Project Management Through Emotional Intelligence

While managing a stressful website redesign, staff members at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology applied emotionally intelligent strategies to help get them through the process.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a meeting where you thought someone’s head was going to explode out of frustration?

That became our little mantra: ‘Let it go.’

I have, and it’s pretty uncomfortable for both the frustrated person and everyone else in the meeting, which is why I was interested to learn more about how the IT and web teams at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) implemented a plan for greater emotional intelligence, or EQ, to help them get through a somewhat harrowing website redesign.

Often defined as the ability to regulate one’s own emotions as well as those around them, EQ has garnered a fair amount of attention over the last decade.

In a meta-analysis of emotional intelligence studies, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found hard evidence that emotional intelligence was a strong predictor of better job performance, and in a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 71 percent of employers said they value EQ more than IQ.

At APIC, Artesha Moore, senior director of membership and IT, and Drew Saunders, associate director of IT and Web services, realized the importance of EQ during a nine-month overhaul of the organization’s website—a project that brings chills to even the most fortified project managers.

“It was a complete enterprise overhaul—not just a new homepage, but new functionality, new connectivity with our database, new everything,” Moore said, “and we really needed to focus on the emotional intelligence part of it because there were shifting priorities, shifting focus, and a lot of frustration for the implementation team.”

Moore said the team needed ways to keep their heads level and focus on the end game, so she tried to emphasize the importance of having a sense of humor in meetings and encouraged her staff to laugh at themselves when things got too tense or overheated. After some meetings she and Saunders would go for a walk to blow off steam and let go of any residual tension.

“That became our little mantra,” Moore said. “‘Let it go.’”

Saunders also took up yoga, while Moore tried her hand at belly dancing. “When it was all said and done, it was one of those things to take some of the stress and the pressure off,” she said.

Another tactic Moore applied was knowing when to step back and appoint other staff members to lead meetings or deliver information.

“Sometimes in the meetings, it was better for IT to just shut up,” Moore said. “When it gets really contentious, it doesn’t help to put a whole bunch of data on someone.”

Ultimately, implementing emotionally intelligent strategies helped Moore’s staff focus on and achieve the end game, which was not the actual redesigned website.

“The end game for us was being married to the fluidity of the process,” Moore said. “People get hung up on the homepage or the look and feel of the navigation, and what I really shifted my team in seeing is that we don’t really own any of this because we’re just the internal vendor for our organization. What we really can own is the new technology, the ease of service—so it was shifting them off of the tangible to the intangible.”

How have you benefited from EQ in the workplace?


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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