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Talent coach believes in being emotional at work

Michael F Andrew, a Dubai-based talent and leadership-development specialist, believes good interpersonal skills are more important than intelligence or talent in achieving success

  • Michael has helped create and implement high-profile, strategic leadership initiatives with a number of FortunImage Credit: Grace Paras/ANM
  • Michael, seen here with niece Kiera prior to her dance recital in the US last year, places a high premium on tImage Credit: Supplied picture

One of Michael F Andrew's favourite lines is: "Treat issues coldly and people warmly." It may sound simplistic but "this requires a sense of compassion as well as a sense of passion for people and for the business," says the talent and leadership specialist who is based in Dubai.

"If we do not have passion in what we do at work, we are most likely doomed for mediocrity. For that matter, if we do not have passion for any aspect of life, we are doomed for mediocrity. This is something I will reiterate through the programmes I lead," he adds.

Michael, 57, has helped create and implement high-profile, strategic leadership initiatives with a number of Fortune-100 companies across the world. A sought-after speaker at leadership sessions at global conferences, webinars and international business schools, Michael's clients have included Etisalat, Compaq Computer, Prudential, BP, Shell, Lucent Technologies, Kohler and Hallmark. He is also the authorof a book and several magazine articles dealing with leadership.

His mantra for success is pretty straightforward: "I think we all have the basic intelligence to succeed. We are all brilliant and that is one reason I try to stay away from assigning the term ‘talent' to some people because it tells the rest of the workers that they don't have talent. Well-developed emotional quotient (EQ) - being in touch with your and your team's interpersonal style - is what differentiates successful leaders far more than how smart or how ‘talented' they are," he says. He adds that what is needed is passion and compassion for the work you are doing and for the people you work with.

Michael spoke to Friday about his work, leisure and dreams:


After earning an MBA and then doing post-graduate studies in the field of leadership development, I worked as a consultant with several companies around the world. I have headed the Global Leadership Institute at Rockwell Automation, UK; the Global Leadership Development & Mentoring with Sun Microsystems; and I was former regional head of management and leadership development at Digital Equipment Corporation in the US.

My association with Dubai started in 1996, when I did some consulting work here.I instantly fell in love with the city and keptmy relationships going until I returned in2009 for more consultation work. I have enjoyed the interaction with people from all walksof life, and from so many different countries and cultures, which is an invaluable and rewarding experience.

I think the term ‘human capital' can easily become one of those nebulous, academic, or HR-related terms the rest of the world doesn't understand. Human capital is all about the intangibles - the knowledge and potential every one of us brings to an organisation -which is the driving force for corporate value or market capitalisation. Companies such as Google and facebook are still young companies; yet they have very quickly become valuable companies in the world in terms of market capital. Why? Because they rely on the brilliance of their people to innovate, create value and build products and services before the marketplace can articulate the need. They have strong human capital.

My involvement with organisations has been around developing the relevant and necessary capabilities inside a company, including human, leadership and organisational capability. My efforts are all about developing the human capital and internal capabilities in ways that will help the company grow, be more competitive, achieve its objectives and execute its strategies. I have often been asked what the number-one leadership skill is. Although I don't like to bring it down to one answer, I have always said that listening is a life skill that applies to all aspects, and certainly in our business and personal lives.

I have been able to work through many difficult personal issues, both inside and outside work, by listening more than talkingor explaining.

Understanding and being sensitive to the nuances of different cultures and generations is helpful but is secondary to being sincere and genuine in treating people with dignity.

When working on How to Think Like a CEO and Act Like a Leader (published by Createspace), I set out to write a book that provided the reader with a practical approach to leadership through offering directives that we can all adopt immediately and use in our everyday life. But I also wanted to write a book that provided the reader with a common-sense understanding of business - how to think strategically, understand basic financial principles and execute plans or initiatives.


My father, George, was a podiatrist, while my mother Gertrude had her hands full with her six children. I am the eldest child and owea lot to my parents for their unconditional love, support and encouragement.

Growing up in the US, the most important thing to me was sports. I am very proud of my athletic days in ice hockey and baseball.

Sport taught me many valuable lessons about life and business, such as how to win with grace and lose with dignity, be competitive in a healthy manner and the value of teamwork.

Sports also gave me a certain confidenceI needed as a teenage boy, which I think prepared me for the business world. Like many boys, I aspired to be a professional athlete.

I think my leadership skills took form whenI was elected captain on different teams and was required to step up and demonstrate leadership through action more than words.

Through the years, I have travelled and worked in most of the 50 states in the US, and in nearly 15 countries.

I must confess I am a more work thanplay person! I am pretty boring otherwise,and the weekends would see me walking around the Dubai malls, watching a movieand having a nice meal.

I feel the calmest and most connectedwhen I am facilitating a session in front ofa large group or when my coaching sessions or speaking sessions are going well and helping the organisation. It is very fulfilling.

Waking up early, drinking good coffee and reading the newspaper are the stress-busters I cannot do without.


The best gift I have given is being therefor friends and family during difficult and joyous times. I enjoy being with my niecesand nephews.

I would like to continue being devoted and loyal in my family relationships and with my friends, and generous to those in need.

I would think my ability to remain relaxed, calm, flexible but focused on the goal and the execution of that goal is one of my strengths. It is my hope to leverage this attribute to further my work.

The thing I'm eyeing next is teaching ina business school while consulting and speaking around the world. I also hope to publish another book or two. And I would like to develop a sense of comfort with technology and being more conceptual.

Michael's tips for success in business:

  • Be candid and courageous. Many people in business are afraid to make a tricky phone call or take that difficult decision. Face challenges head-on, be honest and candid.
  • Manage your boss. You cannot control how well your boss manages you, but you can control how well you manage your boss. I had bosses who worked far away. Every Monday I would apprise them of my objectives for the week, and at the end of the week, give them a report. They loved it.
  • Have the confidence and the wisdom to surround yourself with people smarter than you. Take advantage of it!
  • Stay one step ahead and have a fact-based point of view. Stay ahead by continuously developing your skills and enhancing your experiences. Step up and get involved in different projects or assignments.
  • There is no substitute for hard work.Work harder than your colleagues. Builda reputation as someone who consistently delivers. If you treat your job as important, it is most likely to return the favour.