I learned quickly and hard:   technical expertise and organizational skills alone don’t make for successful project management.   Success was largely determined by my ability to influence and build relationships.   As a degreed engineer, this was particularly tricky as I didn’t learn ‘relationship’ in school.  Influencing people who don’t report to you is an art all unto itself.  This is particularly true when the people on whom you are depending have no direct commitment to your project.

For a young woman engineer in the early 80s this was intimidating.  How was I to gain respect, get the job done, and not be in constant battle?  It was clear to me that my ‘emotional’ intelligence, my ability to not take things so personally and keep my cool when things got hot, was the key to excelling in my profession.  But, how?

I’ve heard the phrase, when the student is ready the teacher appears.  That was certainly true for me.  My teacher continues to be the martial art, aikido.  Aikido vividly teaches that influence and power come from position, not force.  When dealing with an obstacle, you move with it in a spiral motion rather than head on against it.  This dramatically increases your ability to influence your opponent.  This concept is so simple, yet not easy. It requires self discipline particularly on an emotional level.

Spiral ImpactÒ is a phrase I coined to describe this method.  At its core, literally, is a concept I refer to as ‘centering.’  ‘Centering ‘is becoming the calm eye of the storm.  You likely have already experienced the feeling of ‘center.’   Recall a time you felt anything was possible; your senses were heightened, and time disappeared.  Often, this is experienced when engaged in a stimulating project, in nature, meditation, athletics, or in relationships.   This is a state of being you can recreate at your choosing.

When ‘centered’ you witness your emotions without being a slave to them, i.e., you can notice you are angry or fearful but you don’t act on your emotions.   So, those times when you’d just like to do it all yourself and avoid dealing with those difficult people whose priorities are different – centering gives you the courage to make a different choice – spiral in and make a positive impact.

So, how does one bring ‘center’ to his or her work and increase emotional intelligence?  It is a mere investment of your attention.    As, I said earlier, it is simple, not easy.  Can you commit to a discipline of breathing and visualizing daily?  No money or extra time required, just your focus!  The ROI is off the charts!

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