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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author

Emotional Intelligence in Project Management: Recognize Don’t Demonize

Gina Greenlee Project Management Book Cover

The heart of project management is having sufficient common sense, humanity and emotional intelligence to effectively interact with a diverse group of people to achieve a common goal.

To effectively keep your projects on track, try these two proven strategies:

  1. Recognize Don’t Demonize and

  2. Hover and Stalk.

Woman in Museum Looking at Floating Box


  • People have lives with peaks and valleys. You never know who is going through a divorce, who just received a scary health diagnosis, got chewed out by the boss, or didn’t make their numbers for the third consecutive quarter.

  • Even if they aren’t in a deep valley but are habituated to never answer email, attempting to make them feel like a loser won’t help your project.

  • Think about those times you didn’t deliver. And someone called you out. Didn’t feel good, did it? Kind of wanted to avoid that person, didn’t you?

  • Accept people for who they are. Adults aren’t interested in changing their personality or habits for you.

  • Project managers with common sense are pragmatists. Wishin’ and hopin’ and dreamin’ doesn’t get it done. “Work with things as they are, not as they should be,” wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  • Being people-smart is an imperative. You needn’t hold a PhD in psychology; you need to pay attention to patterns. People tell you who they are with their behavior the first few times you encounter them.

  • Don’t beat your head against a wall if you encounter a personality trait that proves challenging. Instead, recognize the person for who they are (not “bad”) and the situation for what it is: you need a work around.

Woman Looks Possessed

Don’t Demonize

  • When folks dodge your calls and emails, overpromise and under deliver, procrastinate and engage in other myriad behaviors that indicate they are human, don’t make them feel bad.

  • That doesn’t serve your project.

  • And it will guarantee you zero help from these same folks on future projects.

Plastic Dinosaurs


Use the Three Pillars of Project Management – Common Sense, Humanity and Emotional Intelligence – to advance your initiatives. While you’re at it, have some fun! Here’s one of my bread-and-butter strategies:

Hover and Stalk

The key to Hover and Stalk is to not let people feel like you’re hovering or stalking.

I use this strategy when someone is not returning my calls or emails. I show up. Usually, not at their office. Because this person, usually, is not in their office.

Rather, I know their work haunts and homies, and where they go to smoke or snack. I make like Casper and materialize. Then engage: “Hey, so-and-so!” I keep it light and frothy while they’re trying not to sweat cuz they know they’ve been dodging me.

Two Women Talking

The trick here is not to call them out. Legitimately check in, human-to-human, with what’s going on in their world. They will be relieved. And more inclined to just get on with giving you what your project needs.

  • After you’ve greased the wheels with humanity, ask for the sale: “So-and-so, I’m in a bind. I could really use that XYZ. Is that something I can get on the way up to your office?”

  • You escort them back there.

  • They might not give it to you then. If not, ask when. “What would work for you?” Let them make the deadline.

  • You’ve waited this long, you can wait another little bit. Don’t add to the pressure.

  • At the same time, don’t leave until you move the needle in the direction of getting what you came for.

Yellow Smiley Face Artwork Between Two Buildings

In other words, be a superbly friendly nuisance.

Number One

5 Ways “Hover and Stalk” Works for You

Most people do not appreciate that “No” is a complete sentence. That’s why people dodge you in the first place; they’re uncomfortable saying, “No.”

Use that to advantage.

By getting in their face (in a friendly way by showing up), any hint of “No” will stick in their throat like taffy. Why do you think salespeople prefer in-person meetings versus pitching by phone or email?

In the 20-plus years I’ve been “Hovering and Stalking,” I’ve never been denied.

Number Two

Often, the deliverable is something they can get done quickly. It just seemed onerous because it was “one more thing to do.” By being in their face, you’ve made it easy for them to focus and prioritize.

Number Three

This is a task they may now cross of their to-do list. You’ve just lightened their burden. We’ve all felt that rush from completion. It’s called The Science of Small Wins. Your presence = they got something DONE!

Number Four

You are now a living metaphor for success. That feels good. And it’s lasting. The expression, “People don’t remember what you said or did but how you made them feel” is spot on.

Number Five

In the future, this person will be less inclined to dodge you in particular. They are likely still a dodger in general (remember, we are not trying to change folks, just get our project completed) but because you made a human connection, (relationship), didn’t lunge at them with “I NEED THIS” (demand) and didn’t make them feel bad about who they are (demonize), you’ve now groomed an ally.

  • “Hover and Stalk” conserves energy.

  • With 21st century digital technology there are more ways for people to duck and run. So: > Recognize that humans will dodge. > Don’t make them feel bad about it; you never know what folks are dealing with in life. Besides, demonizing won’t advance your project. > Ditch the digi-toys; connect face-to-face. > Be a friendly yet consistent presence.

Gina Greenlee Project Management Book

Available on Amazon

December 2019


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