‘The Drugs Don’t Work’

A song that portrays empathy very well, as Richard Ashcroft sings about his father dying in a hospital.  

So aside from today’s rather sombre opening, let me introduce you to the third facet of emotional intelligence (first two being self-awareness and self-regulation) – social awareness. In short, we can be very aware of who we are and manage those well. In a world where only you exist, that would be rather perfect. However, the bad news is that there are others running around and in order for our relationships at work and at play to thrive, we need a large dose of social awareness.


What does that even mean?


‘When I meet people I shake their hands and say hi’ – that’s social awareness isn’t it? Well, that is a good start but there is a whole lot more to it than just mere pleasantries. For example, how often do you actually listen to the answer when you ask ‘How are you?’




The ability to ascertain and connect a vast number of emotional cues – be they through active listening – words, tone, language; visual but unspoken signals. The ability to see others’ perspectives even if not ever experienced, fully understood or even agreed upon.


Being Attuned


It’s about resonating with others and you with them. This can bring about alignment which will help bring about constructive and collaborative change and growth. These are people who are aligned with each other.


Organisational Awareness


No man or even team is an island. One has to be politically and socially conscious of what is happening within and without the team. Knowing the dynamics of people, how they work & interact and where & how the power works and with whom. This may sound Machiavellian but this is more about being astute and aware as opposed to naïve and a pawn.




Healthy and emotionally intelligent leaders recognize the power of a satisfied or dissatisfied employee, colleague or client and your role in keeping them happy, engaged and motivated.


What happens to the Socially Unaware?


Case Study

F is a very successful sales person. He has a team that is also performing well and are well regarded by senior management. Because of this internal and external success, F does not feel any need to particularly engage with his team aside from daily pleasantries and attending team meetings. Even then, the team meetings are at best, barely functional. To date, there has been little effort to get F to change his behaviour or improve the quality of his interactions with his team because they are delivering on their mandate.


The problem here is that as the team is growing and they have more successes under their belt, they are experiencing growing pains. New hires, reduced communication, overlapping duties, unclear objectives for some and risks to the business are increasing for there is little oversight. The mantra to date being, ‘If you sell and hit your targets, that’s all you need to do and you will be rewarded handsomely’.


F doesn’t know his team well and doesn’t care to. If the objective is achieved and achieved well, why does he need to? The problem is that with the growing pains of his team, most feel that aside from monetary recognition, there is no other recognition of their work. They often feel directionless, as if they are working on a factory conveyor with no real reason to be there. They might as well move to a different team or firm which has more perceived potential growth and interaction. The team members want to feel valued. They want to contribute with their own ideas as to how to help the team grow more sustainably and for the long-term. To be dismissed to mere sales target robots is demotivating for the team.


Additionally, the team members don’t know how to collaborate well together and are often competing for the same business due to a lack of clear vision and direction. F has no interest in listening to the people on the team and the signs of strain are showing.


F and I worked really hard on his listening and empathy skills. We had to get him to want to do this in the first place and thereafter to continue to do so, with little judgment and cynicism. Funnily enough, with a little practice, F started really flourishing in this area. He did not have any ill-intent in his reluctance to collaborate. He was just very introverted and thought that his sole objective was to deliver on sales. He did not feel he needed to be a better leader throughout this process if the numbers were being met.


With his hard work, F has now built a more robust, collaborative, healthy communicating team. It has grown substantially but with very grounded values and principles surrounding their growth.


And it all started with a little more self- and social awareness!!!




Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates (including FTSE100 companies) across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. She also advises boards on their dynamics. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk



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