Leesha Nair

Reams have been written on the philosophy of project management and on achieving sound project management practices. A lot has also been written on why projects go wrong. Have you ever wondered about the common thread in such project-end analysis conversations? If you dwell further, you will realize that a common chord is the emotional divestment of the people involved. The reasons for this are varied but remember that emotional quotient plays a pivotal role in project management.


As a project manager, it is essential to understand the pulse of the people involved. This is where I remember Plato’s quote on learning: “All learning has an emotional base.” When we strike an emotion al connection, teams can be inspired to pull out all the stops to make a project happen. Some of us would term this emotional connection as passion or drive. No matter what we call it, the fact remains that there has to be a conscious effort to make an individual connect with the project cause.

To start a new endeavor, there is always a learning curve, but learning without emotion leads to disengagement. Research has proved that emotions like interest, inspiration, and compassion lead to inferences, interpretations, and ideas. In a knowledge economy, these are the traits needed to implement and bring projects to fruition.

I recollect a project where the team was in the phase of forming and norming. There were many changes which the team was undergoing in terms of client expectations, productivity targets, and functioning as a single unit. There were conflicts, one-upmanship, and push-pull across the project team. On realizing this, we made a conscious decision to separate the warring factions, get team members on a single page, and help them understand the need for unity. Of course, this was not a day’s work. It required changing team dynamics, structure, and reporting. In retrospect, things didn’t work out in the beginning because the team members were not emotionally invested in the project and in each other. It took some time to find the right way to work in tandem and remove the barriers. The most important factor that worked for me was to bring in an anchor who steered the course in the right direction by using emotional quotient and being invested in the growth of each team member.


Project management is not just about milestones, metrics, and achievements. To achieve a milestone, project managers must carve out the path using empathy as a key skill. At the end of the day, project managers and leaders need to strike a chord with all team members, and the best way to reach out to a fellow being is by hitting the emotional chord.

Being emotionally invested in a project brings about the pace, passion, and substance required for a project’s success. As project managers, it is prudent to have leaders with high emotional intelligence. The true nature of the human self will flourish when a relationship is built on trust and emotion, and when there is an inherent belief in bringing out the best in others. In such situations, people go out of their way to help, accommodate, and sacrifice for others. Otherwise, it would be a robotic process with no empathy, and machines could as well do the jobs of humans. There would then be no give and take, and zero alignment with the project goal. All that would matter to every member would be individual tasks. No one would view the part as a whole and consider the larger goal.

As the captain of our ship, we must provide enablers to ensure the project moves forward smoothly. When a dose of emotion is added in everyday interaction, speed barriers disappear and the end result is a sense of achievement for the self as well as for everyone involved. It brings in a feeling of team accomplishment and evolved thinking. As Karen McCown puts it, “There is no thinking without feeling and no feeling without thinking.”

(Leesha Nair is a program manager in Capgemini Technologies India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai. She has over 15 years of diverse experience in leading large teams across geographies.)