Isabelle Roux-Buisson is a senior executive with over 20 years’ experience in management in global IT corporations, sitting on European Executive Committees and managing business units of several billions in revenues. Roux-Buisson is a board member of Harvard Business School Club France (one of her alma maters) as well as ESEO Group engineering school. She previously served several terms on the Telecom Paris Tech (another alma mater) Alumni board.

Denise Dampierre:  You have enjoyed a laudable career.  What has helped you carve your career path? 

Isabelle Roux-Buisson

Isabelle Roux-Buisson:  One of the first principles of management is to never stop growing.  This is even more fundamental now as work is rapidly transformed by technology.  Studies indicate that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet[i].  This implies the needs will be different, and the need for adaptability will be enormous.

As we grow in management, we are responsible to be equipped with the tools required to continue evolving in our environment.  Emotional intelligence has provided me with a toolbox to adapt my skill building for each new leadership step.

Aside: Dr. Daniel Goleman is the author of best-selling Emotional Intelligence.  For twelve years, he wrote for The New York Times, reporting on the brain and behavioral sciences.  He describes emotional intelligence as the way we handle ourselves and our relationships, and identifies four main domains

  • Self-awareness – knowing what we feel and why we are feeling it
  • Self-management – handling our distressing emotions in an effective way and harnessing the power of positive emotions.
  • Social-awareness – connecting with and understanding the people around us
  • Relationship management – putting these emotional intelligence skills to work in relationships inside and outside your team
Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence Skills
Emotional intelligence competencies and their related skills.

Denise Dampierre:  What is the role of emotional intelligence at various stages of one’s career?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson:  As we enter the workforce, we are essentially hired for technical talent. I began in marketing.

Sooner or later, some of us will be invited into leadership.  Foremost, our words and actions express our interest in management.  We also demonstrate sufficient mastery of the technical issues and some degree of empathy, organizational awareness, leadership, and teamwork.  This combination positions us as management potential.

Next as a middle manager, the game changes. “Human“ skills play a critical role. We need to demonstrate the ability to evaluate and work with people and to build and motivate a team.  We also need to navigate our environment:  our manager and colleagues in other departments on whom our success depends.  This is where we often begin to consciously understand and hone our leadership style.

As we grow in management, we are responsible to be equipped with the tools required to continue evolving in our environment.  Emotional intelligence has provided me with a toolbox to adapt my skill building for each new leadership step.

General management could be a next step.  Prerequisites include our own interest in taking on such responsibility and our hierarchy’s conviction that we have the capability to succeed in the role.

  • We are responsible for the strategy and for integrating the complex stakes from multiple players.
  • We have to understand the role of our entity within the larger organization and context.
  • We must be able to align the right team, people and resources within our group to reach a common goal.

Our success depends increasingly on both conceptual and human skills, principally social awareness and relationship management skills.

Throughout this progression, self-awareness and self-management remain the foundational emotional intelligence tools.  They help us to identify our strengths and to garner a team of complementary members, with skills that compensate for areas where we are less strong.

I sought out tools to grow as a person and a leader.  Goleman’s emotional intelligence provided a framework to intentionally choose career options that would help me develop and add value to the company.  It helped me identify the skills to build for my next career moves and the talents to seek out in my team so that together we could cover a wider set of competencies.

Self-awareness and self-control open up the rest of the emotional intelligence toolbox.

Self-awareness and self-control open up the rest of the emotional intelligence toolbox.  Every person operates in a specific corporate context, and we each have a propensity towards some skills more than others.  Therefore, we will all navigate through the emotional intelligence framework and build emotional intelligent skills in our unique manner.

Denise Dampierre:  How did you discover the emotional intelligence paradigm?  Were you trained in this at business school or as a manager?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson: Emotional intelligence skills apply to both the personal and professional realms of life.  I was already sensitized to several through my family upbringing.

They did teach us these leadership skills at Harvard.  My work experience led me to fully appreciated their value.

We embark on this path with our choice of employer.  In my case, Hewlett Packard (HP)’s values and their focus on people development resonated with me.  In our team, I accepted the challenge projects, the undeveloped territories where success was uncertain.  In a few years, when I had applied my technical marketing skills with savvy, my product lines were the top performers in Europe.  These results (achievement orientation) put me on the management radar.

I believed that it was vital in any company to understand the client (self-awareness). I also realized that a passage in sales favored upward mobility at HP (social awareness).  Sales taught me empathy, listening, and solution-finding (and sometimes conflict-management).

Knowing that HP is a matrix organization, I sought an international account coordination position that required collaboration with teams throughout Europe and allowed me to build a network of colleagues in other countries.  I also learned how to influence peers whose performance impacted my results.  One of my accounts was recognized for top growth in Europe.  This further confirmed to my reputation of achievement orientation.

As an individual contributor (an employee without management responsibilities), I already sought out opportunities to build emotional intelligence skills.

Self-awareness and self-management help us identify our strengths and garner a team of complementary members, with skills that compensate for areas where we are less strong.

Next, I sent out signals indicating my interest in becoming a manager and was assigned a team in a flailing district.  What an opportunity to revitalize the business!  My challenge was to ignite team spirit, build positive relationships, co-conceive and execute on a plan we all believed in, and re-instore pride.  I learned to both earn and demand respectful authority (self-management). One year later, we were recognized as Europe’s top performing district.

As manager, we need to evaluate people and their capabilities, to have them work together, and to (re)motivate them. This strengthened my teamwork skills and led me to develop my leadership style.

We also manage our bosses and peers, understand their expectations, context, and working style. That’s organizational awareness!

In my next career step, I again accepted a stretch job: to manage an underperforming team of professionals ten to fifteen years my senior.  To turn the group around, I had to manage my own reactions and create connections (empathy).  I sought counsel from more experienced managers which gave me the experience of being coached and mentored and reinforced my organizational awareness.

When I was ready for a new adventure, I sought out a worldwide headquarters position, in the Silicon Valley. I was convinced that my career development would benefit from the exposure to and the understanding of this “center of command.” My pragmatic knowledge of the European field could contribute to their perspective.

Denise Dampierre:  What advice would you give to young employees?  To first-time managers?

Isabelle Roux-Buisson:  Self-awareness and self-control are the foundations on which to build a vibrant career.

None of us can be excellent in everything.  That’s a good thing in a company where we have teams!

“Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.” – Peter Drucker

Self-awareness and self-control help us realize where we are strong, to lean on those qualities, and to identify where we need to bring in other talent so that our combined strengths make individual weaknesses irrelevant.

And building self-awareness and self-control are a lifetime task.

Thank You

Isabelle Roux-Buisson shared how emotional intelligence provided the guiding thread for her intentional personal development and career progression.

  • To continuously build self-awareness and self-management
  • To move from technical to human to conceptual skills in career growth
  • To ask for promotions which hone new skills
  • To finding your passion, your motor

What is your next career move?  How might these emotional intelligence insights help you present your request in a value-adding manner to your employer?  Let us know in the comments.

Wishing you success!

[i] Institute for the Future:  Emerging Technologies’ Impact on Society & Work in 2030
Cover photo by Bruno Nascimento

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