Why project managers need to know about emotional regulation

Team of project managers sat at desk in office discussing project progress at laptops with teo standing and discussing project document

Projects and programmes can be highly emotional environments, where everyone is under pressure to deliver. Some team members may not even have experience of working in this way, which means they need extra care, understanding and guidance.

For the project manager, having the ability to control the environment while also ensuring objectives are met, is essential — a skillset known as emotional regulation.

However, just being aware of your team’s behaviour isn’t enough. The key to effective emotional regulation is knowing how to use it to bring out the best in your team, without losing sight of the business objectives.

Key steps to keeping control

Demonstrate empathy: Try to see things from your team’s perspective at all times. Most projects are driven by a level of change that the organization can’t accommodate within business as usual (BAU) and often needs to be delivered quickly. It’s important to recognize that not everyone is comfortable with this amount of pressure, so let your team know that you understand their worries. At the same time, it’s equally crucial that you keep a close eye on the project objectives.

Achieving the right balance is key. Be honest and consistent from the start. Show that you understand their concerns about the challenges ahead. But show leadership; explain the vision, why it’s important to the organization and that you have faith in their ability as a team to get the job done.

Convey information in the right way: How you communicate with your team is just as important as what you are actually telling them. The language used and overall narrative are key. It all needs to be clear, concise, understandable and delivered in a way that gives the team confidence. Opting for “we” rather than “I” will go a long way to building a common purpose. As will the right body language, eye contact and having a bit of warmth rather than distancing yourself.

Be on top of your game: Make sure all your documented information is up-to-date and you know exactly how to access it. There is nothing worse than a project manager struggling to find the right document or disseminating an old version.

Equally, other mistakes — such as double-booking meeting rooms or neglecting to invite key team members — may seem minor, but over time can become major issues for your team. This can undermine any confidence they have in you, making it much harder for you to get it back. You may also find it leads to tension and confusion within the team which then needs managing.

Why emotional regulation matters

Projects can be high value and high risk, which means there’s a lot at stake for the organization. It’s a big deal and a worrying time for stakeholders, so they want a project manager to be calm, in control and confident with both the method and the people involved. Emotional regulation gives the project manager an added ability to deliver.

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