Ireland Chapter of PMI

Labeling Emotions – Project Management Lessons Learned from 'In It Together' Group Coaching


Author: Ruth Pearce

At the start of every workshop, webinar and group coaching session, we check in with our emotions. 


Well, as we start one of these sessions, we are always transitioning from whatever we were doing just before to this session now. This moment now. Project managers make these transitions all the time. From meeting to meeting, stakeholder to stakeholder, project to project, task to task.

Maybe we were arguing with our significant other, trying to persuade the kids to tidy up, discussing a challenging project issue with the team or delivering bad – or good – news to our stakeholders. Maybe we were relaxing watching a movie, listening to music, reading or meditating. 

Whatever we were doing, switching our focus to the new activity takes time, energy and focus.

We always start with a few deep breaths and this check in.


Step 1: Settle comfortably and take three deep breaths. Breath in to a count of three and then out to a count of five.

Step 2: take 30-60 seconds to scan Plutchik’s Wheel for emotions that you recognize you are feeling in this moment. Make a note of them.

Step 3: explore for more – these are just a few of the possible emotions. See what else you notice.

Step 4: explore for even more – look out for noticing more than one or two emotions (they usually travel in groups!) and be open to spotting conflicting emotions. For example, I remember feeling tremendous sorry at the loss of a beloved dog a year ago but I could still feel excitement about a fun new project or fascination for some new information. Although the emotions seem mutually exclusive they live side by side. And more, sometimes it is conflicting emotions about the same event (or person). I can feel love for my significant other and annoyance. I am excited to give presentations and I am apprehensive…


As I mentioned we do this at every group coaching session – at the start and the end. The outcome is always remarkable.

Yes, always.

Here are some examples:

Image: Wheel of Emotions – Robert Plutchik (wikicommons)


Emotions Check 1 image on the left is the selection of emotions a group of 16 people identified at the start of a 90 minute group coaching session.

Emotions Checkin 2 image on the right is the selection by the same group at the end of the 90 minute group coaching session. 


The obvious conclusion is that we focused on emotions and worked on changing them. But we didn’t. We worked on seeing our own character strengths and exploring how they can help us in our day-to-day life.

Here is an example with a different group.

This image on the left is a snapshot of the attendees emotions at the outset of the meeting
This image on the right is a snapshot of the attendees emotions 90 minutes later at the end of the same meeting

So, what does this tell us?

  1. Emotions come and go – without us even trying to change them.
  2. Our mood changes when we focus on something.
  3. Nothing lasts forever (not even negative or positive emotions). This too shall pass.
  4. It is possible to change our mood without dwelling on it.
  5. And based on feedback, attendees are often surprised and even relieved to find that something as simple as a group coaching session or a webinar was all it took to change their mood. 


Check in. Select your focus. Check back.

What will you focus on?

Ruth Pearce

With more than 20 years of experience of running large and small programs, as well as leading large and small teams, Ruth Pearce has a wealth of direct experience and lessons she has learned directly from doing. She has been where you are now, acting as part of a team with a larger purpose, or as the compassionate leader of a team driving towards the goal. Whether that team is a collocated team with a short-term deliverable, or an international team spanning multiple continents, time-zones and work styles, Ruth has direct experience of engaging the team to achieve extraordinary results. In addition to her wealth of experience, Ruth’s love of learning supports her passion for helping teams and their managers bring their best selves to work, as she continues to accumulate wisdom and knowledge from as many sources as she is able. Certified in Positive Psychology, an avid user of the VIA Strengths Assessment, as well as a certified Gallup Strengthsfinder coach and in the MHS EQ-I 2.0 and 360 tools, she sees these tools as great starting points for increasing self-awareness and wellbeing. Ruth says if she had to distil the lessons she has learned from her 30 years of working in everything from a stockbroker to State Government, and from a not-for profit professional organization to an investment bank, it would result in one phrase: Be Hopeful: Be Strong: Be Brave: Be Curious




Feature Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash