Successful Women Apply Emotional Intelligence and Resilience


Posted on: January 18, 2016 by Emma Nash

The 7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards event with DiversityJobs.co.uk hosted in London by Atos coincided with the publication of the book “The 7 Traits of highly successful women on boards” by Dr Yvonne Thompson. The book delves into the thoughts of 22 highly successful women on corporate boards in the UK. From this the author analyses their responses, advice, and tips and deduces that each of the responses can be grouped to align to 1 of 7 traits, which she found prevalent in each of these highly successful women.

The 7 traits identified by the author as being the most predominant to be a highly successful woman on a corporate board are:

  • Leadership – the effectiveness of the individual to lead, inspire, motivate a group of people or an organisation at the same time as delivering their vision
  • Education – the certifications, degrees and honours the individual has achieved, as well as their ongoing personal development
  • Advice – the ability to accept advice and information, and using this as part of the cycle of their success
  • Diversity – the ability to work in groups who have different ways of thinking, and harnessing this for success
  • Emotional Intelligence – the ability to perceive, control and evaluate your emotions (and those of people you come into contact with)
  • Resilience – the ability to recover quickly from setbacks, and be adaptable for change
  • Sidebar – how we work, rest, and play

As discussed in the first blog of this series we know that diversity is crucial to business success, and as discussed in the second blog that there are many strategies to achieve this from stretching yourself to following a career that interests you, however what we don’t know, is what are the most important characteristics and traits a woman needs to succeed?

To answer this question I set about identifying 6 successful women across the globe within Atos who had been there and done it, and would share their view on which of the 7 traits they believe are most important to their success.

When I asked Ursula Morgenstern who was recently promoted from CEO UK and Ireland to Global head of Systems Integration and Business Consulting, to share her view on the most important trait or traits which she felt helped her to gain success, she stated that Leadership, Resilience, and Emotional Intelligence are all very important. In regards to Leadership Ursula stated that in her role at the time of CEO UK and Ireland Leadership is core to the job description, and Leadership is also strongly linked to Emotional Intelligence. Ursula stated:

"In any role Emotional Intelligence is imperative to success, especially in a company such as Atos where we are fundamentally a people business, whether that relates to our employees or our customers. To succeed you need to understand others point of view, what is important to them, and what motivates them."

In regards to Resilience, which Ursula emphasised as the most important trait, she stated that in our business where we have a diverse risk profile things can go wrong and you have to have resilience to deal with escalation issues. Ursula pointed out that the more senior you get the more likely people will be to escalate issues to you, so in the role of CEO for instance there are rarely days which are full of positive news; usually people are drawing her attention to issues and issues escalations, so Resilience is key to continue and succeed.

Lisa Coleman, CEO for Worldline UK&I explained to me how she has built a bit of a brand around Resilience, which she described as the ability to be part of the solution rather than the problem, to keep going when the going gets tough. She said along with Resilience she agreed with Ursula that Leadership and Emotional intelligence are also key to her success:

"Leadership is important as to lead rather than manage to be able to articulate a vision and take people along with you. Emotional intelligence is important, as although it’s ok having the textbook skills, being able to sense for instance your customer’s mood is a skill which when executed it gets the right outcome."

Sophie Houssiaux who recently transferred into Atos as part of the acquisition of the company Bull, and is now Senior Vice President of Research and Development for Big Data and Securities echoed Ursula and Lisa’s opinion on the traits, and said that Emotional intelligence and Resilience are very important traits, but she also felt that Education was important to her success. Sophie told me that:

"It is very important to have Emotional Intelligence as you need to know where you stand and where others stand, from this information you can decide how to handle the situation. It is also very important to have Resilience as it is the capacity to move forward even when you encounter difficulties, when you fall you rise again. For men and women sometimes things at work can be difficult but you need to get back on your feet quickly to succeed. Overall Education is important, not just for women but everyone should have education to help them succeed, whether that is informal or formal."

Nathalie Pousin, Chief Administrative Officer of North America Operations told me that it is a difficult choice to just choose one trait as a key to success, but rather you need a combination. Nathalie felt all the traits help with Leadership, which she felt was the most important:

"With good leadership, you create vision, and mobilise a team around a common goal, and bringing things to a conclusion in a balanced manner. Women have innate characteristics for leadership capability, as the skills women are recognised for allows us to have a 360 degree view of the stakeholders, understanding the current point in the conversation, and bringing all points to a conclusion."

Nathalie also stated that in addition to Leadership it is important for women to have a high level of Resilience throughout their career, as both men and women suffer setbacks, but it is about how you handle it and move on that is important to success.

Similar to Nathalie, Marianne Hewlett, Chief Marketing Officer for Benelux and Nordics agreed it is not about choosing one or two traits, as they all have a role to play in success. The two favourite traits she did pick out however were Emotional Intelligence and Resilience. In relation to Emotional Intelligence Marianne stated:

"As a woman I feel we are innately more perceptive to how people feel, and how they react, by listening beyond what they say and reading their body language. What we see now especially in a collaborative environment is connecting people, to make them feel inclusive, you need emotional intelligence to bring the right people together and connect people. You need to be empathetic, you need to understand and listen, this is particularly important in the ever increasing remote workforce."

In relation to Resilience Marianne said:

"It’s a great strength to have the ability to change and adapt, to not be rigid or set in your ways, you need to be able to change direction. Changes happen a lot just look at Atos – multiple acquisitions, different portfolios, different roles – sometimes things go your way and sometimes you have to reinvent yourself a bit to adapt. When I look at my own career, it makes it more fun to be open for new ideas and new challenges of different ways of working."

The key theme of everything our successful women have stated started to become apparent, and Maria Pernas, Senior Vice President Deputy Group General Counsel who is currently also leading the implementation of the Atos Diversity Program under the Global Wellbeing@work is no exception. She explained the most important trait she could associate to success is Resilience. Maria explained that success in professional life is not something you are given, it requires hard work and is full of difficult moments, which are not always easy to manage. She told me that:

"Resilience is the ability to absorb difficult situations and transform them into learning experiences that make you stronger, and in my view, this is a key trait of highly successful women."

I found it really interesting to see the common theme of the importance of resilience resonating with the successful women in Atos, as the same theme of resilience was prevalent in the discussion with the panellists and audience present at the 7 traits of highly successful women on the boards event held in London.

Although this trait has been identified as important, it is clear that there is no one recipe for success, however there are some key themes and trends, and if women harness these 7 traits throughout their career, whilst remaining resilient in a competitive working environment, then there is nothing to stop them from being just as successful as their male counterparts, as our 6 successful women in Atos are testament to. With employees, customers, and organisations taking note of the importance of diversity, there has never been a better time for women to succeed and share their inspirational stories of success.

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About Emma Nash

Head of TUPE, Transition, & Bid Support
Emma Nash joined Atos in 2010 as a graduate from Kings College London. She currently works as the Lead Recruitment Business Partner for UK&I in the Human Resources team, and has a breadth of experience working in HR specialist teams such as Reward & Recognition, TUPE, Recruitment, Performance Excellence, and Employee Relations. She is an active member of the global Wellbeing@Work council, which is a think tank and provides thought leadership to the Wellbeing@Work program. In addition to this, she is proud alumni member of the Juniors Group Talent Program, an international, cross-functional network of talents participating in a dedicated curriculum and exciting projects that contribute to Atos’ global business performance.

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