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Étiquette : empathy

Insight #107

Egon SCHIELE – Portrait d’Eva Freund, c. 1910 – Aquarelle et crayon noir sur papier, 20.3 x 30.2cm


“On comprend quand on aime, et on devrait toujours aimer quand on comprend.”

“We understand when we love, and we should always love when we understand.”

― Arthur Roessler, Egon Schiele en prison


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What really makes a leader? Emotional intelligence.

emotional intelligence, gunther forg, insight, coaching
Günther FÖRG – Untitled, 1987 – Acrylique et plomb sur panneaux de bois, 40.6 x 25.4 cm chaque panneau

A good introduction to what emotional intelligence is as developed by Harvard Business Review in a 7 minute video slide deck.

What distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones? It isn’t IQ or technical ability. It’s emotional intelligence: the ability to monitor your feelings – and those of others – to guide your thinking and behaviour. Technical skills and smarts do matter of course, but emotional intelligence is twice as important for jobs at all levels. And in the top tier, it accounts for nearly 90% of the difference between average and star performers. Studies also show a strong link between emotional intelligence and bottom-lines results. At one company, divisions whose senior managers scored high in emotional intelligence beat their yearly earning goals by 20%. Divisions without such leaders underperformed by almost as much.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman identified five components of emotional intelligence. The first is self-awareness. This means thoroughly understanding yourself and your effect on others. For example, a self-aware person who struggles with deadlines plans ahead. Self-aware employees welcome feedback. Another sign is a self-deprecating sense of humour: people who admit to failure easily and with a smile. Self-aware people know their abilities and play to their strengths, but they don’t overreach and aren’t afraid to ask for help. Leaders who see themselves clearly also see their companies clearly. But it’s easy to overlook self-awareness when sizing up potential leaders. You might assume that someone who admits to shortcomings isn’t « though enough » to lead, when in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders must constantly judge capabilities – in themselves and in others. Here’s how one manager showed her self-awareness. She was skeptical about a new service at the store where she worked, but realised that her skepticism was fueled by disapointment because she hadn’t been tapped to lead the rollout. Instead of sulking, she explained this to her boss and her team, asking them to bear with her while she processed the feelings. They did so – and she threw her support behind the project.

The second component of emotional intelligence is self-regulation – controlling disruptive impulses, and thinking before acting. For example, a manager whose team has botched a big presentation might want to pound the table with anger. But if he has a gift for self-regulation, he’ll consider the reasons for the failure, share his thoughts with the team, and propose a solution. Leaders who control their feelings create an atmosphere of fairness and trust. This reduces politics and infighting, so productivity is higher. It also draws talented people in, and curbs unethical behaviour.

If there is one trait that virtually all great leaders have, it’s motivation – the third component of emotional intelligence. Motivated people are driven to achieve beyond expectations – not for money or status, but because they’re passionate about their work. Motivated people also want to be « stretched » and are always raising the performance bar. And they’re optimistic – even when the going gets tough. One portfolio manager whose fund took a dive lost three large institutional clients. Some people would have blamed external circumstances; others might have taken it as a personal failure. Instead, this manager saw a chance to prove she could lead a turnaround and that optimism paid off. It’s not hard to see why motivation makes great leadership. Someobe who sets the bar high for himself will do the same for his company and the drive to exceed goals is often contagious.

We’ve all seen th efourth component, empathy, in a sensitive teacher or friend. Empathetic people read between th elines of what’s said, and this makes them especially good at understanding and supporting group dynamics. Empathy doesn’t mean trying to please everybody – that’s impossible. But it does mean considering other people’s feelings when making decisions. Empathy is more crucial now than ever, for three reasons: The prevalence of teams, the rapid pace of globalisation, and the growing need to attract and retain talent. Teams are cauldrons bubbling with emotions, and a leader has to make sense of all of them, if the team is going to collaborate well. Empathy is also paramount in the global economy. Misunderstandings can flare up quickly when people’s basic assumptions differ, and empathy provides and an antidote. Empathetic people have a good feel for cultural differences, and gain understanding from body language and other cues. Empathy is also crucial to retaining talent. Studies show that coaching and mentoring pay off, not just in performance but also in increased satisfaction and decreaesd turnover. Consider what happpened when two brokerage firms mmerged. The manager of one division gave a gloomy speech to his team, fretting thatlots of jobs were sure to be cut. Not surprisingly, many people were demoralised and quit. A more empathetic manager expressed his concerns calmly, and he promised to keep people informed and treat everyone fairly. His division remained productive – and the best people stayed.

The last component of emotional intelligence is social skill. This isn’t simmply friendliness – it’s friendliness with a purpose, and it draws on all of the other four components. Socially skilled people are great at building and leading teams – that’s their empathy at work. They’re also expert persuaders, because their self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy tell them when to make an emotional plea, for instance, and when to appeal to reason. And they’s excellent collaborators: Their passion for the work spreads to others, and their motivation drives them to find solutions. Remember that social skills can be tricky to spot. You might think an employee chatting in the hall is wasting time – maybe he’s talking to someone who isn’t even connected to his job. But socially skilled people don’t arbitrarily limit their relationships. They know they might need help tomorrow from someone they are just meeting today.

You probably know people who are strong in some of the five areas of emotional intelligence, but sadling lacking in others. This raises the question: is emotional intelligence a fixed quality, or can it be learned? Fortunately, although science reveals a strong genetic component, that’s not the whole story. In one case, an executive named Ed was dismayed to realise that his employees were terrified of him – to the point of withholding bad news. So he made a concerted effort to change his behaviour. First, he travelled to a country where he did not speak the language and monitored his openness to people different from him. Back at the office, Ed had a coach shadow him and critique his interactions. He had himself videotaped in meetings and asked employees for feedback about his reponses to others. After several months, Ed’s emotional intelligence was noticeably higher, and this was reflected in his overall performance.

It takes enormous commitment and work to cultivate emotional intelligence, but the benefits of more than repay the effort. For today’s leaders, this quality is not a « nice to have ». It’s a « need to have ».


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Sympathy vs. Empathy, feeling with people

Gustav KLIMT – Seeufer Mit Birken, 1901 – Huile sur toile, 90 x 90 cm


What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering?

In this beautifully short animation created by Gobblynne for the Royal Society for the Arts online lecture series, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

Basically, qualities of empathy are perspective taking, staying out of judgment, recognising emotion in other people, then communicating that. Empathy is feeling WITH people. And keep in mind that rarely can an answer make something better. What makes something better is connection.



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About classical music, leadership and the last words we could ever say

Picasso-violon-feuille-de-musique-insight-coaching-art, leadership
Pablo PICASSO – Violon et feuille de musique, 1912 – Papiers et partition musicale collés sur carton, gouache, 78 x 65 cm


Conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, teacher and speaker, Benjamin Zander gave this energising talk about the transformative power of classical music.

Video in English, sous-titres français.

 Beyond these views, I caught two brilliant quotes that explains what leadership is and also how careful we should use words:

« I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people. And of course, I wanted to know whether I was doing that. How do you find out? You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. »

« I learned this from a woman who survived Auschwitz, one of the rare survivors. She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old. And … And her brother was eight, and the parents were lost. And she told me this, she said, « We were in the train going to Auschwitz, and I looked down and saw my brother’s shoes were missing. I said, ‘Why are you so stupid, can’t you keep your things together for goodness’ sake?' » The way an elder sister might speak to a younger brother. Unfortunately, it was the last thing she ever said to him, because she never saw him again. He did not survive. And so when she came out of Auschwitz, she made a vow. She told me this. She said, « I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, ‘I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.’ Now, can we do that? No. And we’ll make ourselves wrong and others wrong. But it is a possibility to live into. »

By the way, what is the last thing you said?


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