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ImageQualifications for the job are a ‘given’. It is now emotional intelligence that will differentiate you and set you apart from the crowd. Author and business guru, Margot Katz, shows you how.
What’s it all about?

I remember once struggling with the process of upgrading my mobile phone when everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong. I was passed from one person to another in the company as I tried in vain to resolve my problem. Every time someone said, ‘I can’t help you in this department’ or ‘Sales should have dealt with this for you,’ or ‘you’ve got it wrong, madam, we never do that,’ my frustration and stress levels went through the roof as my humour and politeness flew out the window.

It only needed one person to ‘get it’, to understand how I was feeling, own the problem and to take action for me to completely capitulate, become charm personified and sing their praises ever after. We all have a hugely strong need to be understood. Most of us think we’re right anyway so it’s only logical that we expect others to see things our way. That’s what sits at the heart of this topic.

Twenty years ago, it was sufficient to build brand trust through quality and consistency. Today brand trust is earned through the emotional relationship the brand has with the consumer.


Emotional Intelligence (often abbreviated to EI or EQ for Intelligence Quota) hit the corporate headlines when the guru of the subject, Daniel Goleman brought out his book, Emotional Intelligence in 1995.

Unlike IQ, which measures our Intelligence Quota, EQ is about our capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions effectively in others and ourselves. Generally speaking, there are two components to EQ: the first is about our self-awareness, self-regulation and self-confidence.

This article is about the second component, which is used in managing relationships. It’s about reading and understanding people and being able to see things from a different perspective, or in other words, about empathy.

Empathy is not Sympathy

“The number one reason that people leave organisations is because of a poor relationship with their boss.”

A dictionary defines empathy as ‘the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.’ It’s all about being able to shift our perspective on things, to understand others by seeing the world through their eyes, to stand in their shoes.

This is not the same as sympathy, which is all about sharing the emotions of another person; understanding is not the same as ‘I feel the same.’ So, it wouldn’t have helped me if the customer services manager at the mobile phone company had said to me, ‘Oh, I feel so angry too, madam.’

Why then is empathy viewed by some as negative? Probably because people wrongly think of it as having to showing concern, having to be nice to people.

Case Study

Albert Ellis, CEO of Harvey Nash, the top tier headhunting firm believes you need emotional intelligence, intellect and ambition to succeed. He encourages the leaders to look after their people because in his experience, those who have focused purely on themselves have always failed.

‘Being a humble servant leader is what makes you valuable.’ For a CEO in what is often perceived as a hard-edged industry, he is unusually open and honest. He is open to feedback and with his executive coach, actively works on his own self-development. For someone in his position, in his sector, he is also refreshingly Emotionally Intelligent. His self-awareness is part of it, but he also has a high level of empathy.

He has learned to put himself in others’ shoes. Not doing so has led to harsh mistakes and he has paid the price in some relationships. ‘We always think we’re right and we see the world a certain way. This can limit our flexibility and effectiveness.’

We’ve all witnessed the personality transplants of those fresh out of a communications skills course, oozing a false niceness that is quite alien to their usual style. Empathy, like everything else, is about being yourself, being straight and authentic, acting in a way that’s consistent with your personality.

It’s not something you do once, get the formula right and that’s that. It’s an organic skill that means fine-tuning your responses and approaches and making adjustments. You may get things wrong, but you can always go back and put things right.

For leaders, here’s a salutary statistic. The number one reason that people leave organisations is because of a poor relationship with their boss. Bosses need to hone their relationship building skills.

You get far more from people when you’re emotionally aware

Here’s the effect a difficult boss had on Sarah Deaves, CEO of Coutts, the Private Bank, early on in her career. ‘The worst boss I ever had was a woman who’d take credit for others’ ideas and had a way of undermining people.’ Her style sapped energy and confidence leaving people in the team feeling debilitated, upset and too preoccupied to be productive.

This experience taught Sarah a formative lesson: never be that kind of boss yourself because you get far more from people when you are emotionally aware.

South African-born Margot Katz has a proven record of achievement, working as a board director, executive coach and business consultant. She has delivered results at organizations including Reuters, AMEX, BT, Coca-Cola, Coutts and Toyota. She is the author of ‘Tarzan and Jane: How to Thrive in the New Corporate Jungle’.

 * The competition closes at midnight GMT on 30th January 2008.

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