Knowing your job

Knowing your job

Jill Saville Executive Coach, trainer and writer gives insight on leadership development - the importance of knowing your job.

29 June 2018
"Have you ever worked with someone who seems to have no idea what it is like to be you? Who does not see your perspective and worse doesn’t try to?

Or maybe you are a manager or leader and have people in your team who you really don’t understand how they think or why they do what they do. If so, you need to develop your emotional side…

As a new team leader, I floundered for a time. The two people working with me had done the job longer than me, knew more than me and in 1977 being female and only 20 both counted against me.  So how did I survive?  At the time, it felt like a new battle every day but looking back I am grateful; grateful because I had to develop skills beyond the tasks and read emotions beyond mine. I realised that just telling them what to do was not going to work.  I had to try to put myself in their shoes. Try to think and feel how they did.

Today I work with many people who have arrived in a new role and realised that just knowing the job is no longer enough. Being an expert in something that requires us to be task and detail focused does not help us to manage people and the higher we go, the more obvious that becomes. 


You may have heard of the phrase Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and since the 90s, many people have said that EQ is more important that IQ when it comes to success.  This image gives the five elements of EQ in Daniel Goleman’s book.   Three of them concern SELF and two are about OTHERS and ALL of them are issues that leaders bring to coaching.  I recommend an excellent summary of the world of EQ on the free management books website. 

Humans are born to connect and we even have special ‘mirror neurons’ to help us do it – a kind of neural Wi-Fi. Goleman calls it in his later book Social Intelligence.  A memorable quote for me in that book is:

‘In short, self- absorption in all its forms kills empathy …. when we focus on ourselves the world contracts as our problems and pre-occupations loom large. 

But when we focus on others, our world expands.’

I would recommend the books and there are many occasions when developing EQ and Social Intelligence will help you.

1 Looking for work

I was on a train recently and met a man his way to a job interview.  He had a pile of notes in front of him and was trying to cram in a lot of facts. I distracted him for 3 hours and asked questions about what value he could bring to the role: what did he think the organisation needed: what was the perspective of the people on the panel: how would the clients benefit from his appointment: what did they deserve. We moved away from the space where it was all about trying to impress to an objective space with the perspective of others.  And the result was that he did impress and got the job!  We are now working together to prepare for his first 90 days in the new role.

2 Climbing the ladder

The people who I remember the most are the ones who helped me, especially when they had nothing to gain. These people stand out because although they were busy, they gave me their time – sometimes just to listen.  These kind of people naturally draw others to them, enabling them to have influence over them. Think about the most productive members in your team. I imagine they are the ones who are there because they want to be and because you take the time to add value to them. Some will only be there because they have to follow you – you are the boss – and I would guess that these are the people least like you.   To progress, we need to develop empathy with the people who are nothing like us. Without that perspective, we can never influence or lead them.

3 At the top of your game

One definition of leadership is: ‘Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less’   John Maxwell

The higher we go, the more the role relies on influencing people and less about a job title to give us authority.  Maxwell talks about the various steps to the top in his ‘Five Levels of Leadership’ and only the first level is positional; that people follow us because of our title or position. The other levels involve developing people skills so that they follow because they want to.


Developing your EQ will enable you to be your best in any situation.


What’s next for you?"