Project managers should show some emotion

Friday, August 16th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

It's often assumed that the best decisions are made dispassionately, by considering the facts without allowing emotions to get in the way. This is certainly true in the business world—but only up to a point. As Harvard Business Review contributor Doug Sundheim writes, sometimes showing too little emotion is worse than showing too much.

"Emotions are critical to everything a leader must do: build trust, strengthen relationships, set a vision, focus energy, get people moving, make tradeoffs, make tough decisions, and learn from failure," Sundheim writes. "Without genuine emotion these things always fall flat and stall. You need emotion on the front end to inform prioritization. You need it on the back end to motivate and inspire."

He provides several examples, including that of Jamie, a CEO at a biotech company. Jamie was not known for beating around the bush when it came to saying exactly what he thought. "He shot straight and went with his gut," Sundheim writes. 

Though some might have found this approach to be off-putting at first, it turned out to be beneficial. Jamie's clearly expressed emotions left no doubt in the minds of his co-workers as to what he thought. His excitement conveyed his genuine enthusiasm, while his disappointment signaled that he expected more. This kind of certainty, Sundheim argued, improved communication within the company, leading to better innovation and performance.

Every project manager has a unique leadership style, and must discover what that is. New Leaf's programs, "Managing Risk & Making Decisions," "Complex Problems, Difficult Decisions," and "Managing the Project's Organizational Context," can help you adapt your style to the current "best practices" in project management. Our QPM™ series of estimating games allow managers to earn affordable and convenient PDUs for PMP® recertification.

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