Spotlight on Claus Møller

Interview with Claus Møller in the Spotlight column* of Emerald Now about TMI, the concept of Emotional Intelligence and Quality Management today:
*Spotlight is the lead column on the showcase Internet site of MCB University Press.

In this issue of Spotlight, Claus Møller talks to editor Sarah Powell about his company, the concept of emotional intelligence, and the major challenges of quality management today.

Spotlight: What do you see as the particular strengths of TMI?

Claus Møller: I would describe TMI consultants as specialists in common sense. We adopt a non-academic, practical approach. You might consider this somewhat paradoxical given the money we devote to research and university-based work, but the idea is to build on the resulting know-how and we are particularly proud of our success in making complicated concepts easy for everyone to understand and implement.

TMI helps people and organizations achieve better results by managing time, relations and quality. TMI offers three distinct services or product lines: firstly, consulting or advice to organizations, especially within the so-called human or “soft” areas; secondly, training; thirdly, testing or specific tools or products to help organizations implement solutions.
We have specialized in making visible to management the invisible things in an organization, i.e. workforce feelings or emotions. These may relate, for example, to absence of trust between management and staff, or presence of fear. Many employees fear management; as a result they will not admit mistakes; they will also not tell management if they have plans to leave until they have gone so far as to sign a contract with another organization. Sooner or later, such invisible emotions will have a negative impact on the results of the company. Yet, particularly in major companies, management is more interested in short-term, bottom-line results than in fostering a good atmosphere and encouraging commitment
from the staff.

TMI has pioneered a number of concepts such as “Time Manager”, which is a special results-oriented approach to time management, introduced in 1975. We then developed the concept of “Putting People First” – a radical approach to service management at the time – which was successfully launched in the early 1980s in SAS and led to it being nominated Airline of the Year. In the mid-1980s we helped BA adopt a similar concept in a more developed format and this resulted in major successful change and profitability.

The success of these initiatives led to substantial international demand for our services. We were invited to Russia where, with Mr Gorbachev and his government, we were involved in perestroïka. We also worked on a project involving the entire workforce of Japan Air Lines. Our main philosophy in all these initiatives has been that, if management puts staff first, they will put customers first.



It requires emotional intelligence to be successful in both your private and work life.



In the mid-1980s we pioneered the award-winning idea of the “Human Side of Quality”. Whereas engineers focused on quality management for engineers, we launched the concepts of service quality, team quality, leadership quality and personal quality. We also developed a concept entitled “A Complaint is a Gift”, and then the idea of “Employeeship”, which is probably one of the best-selling concepts today. Here we endeavoured to introduce a culture in which everyone – not only management – takes responsibility, displays loyalty and really puts their heart into their work; hence our latest concept which we have dubbed “Heart Work,” which is about inspiring people to give of their best, both for the company and for their own sakes. Employees will have more productive and interesting lives if they are committed than if they are not.

Spotlight: How would you define the “emotional intelligence” of which you write in Heart Work – Emotional Intelligence?

Claus Møller: I would define it as what it takes to be successful both in your private and in your work life, i.e. an array of skills that will help you to deal with all the demands of everyday life.

To comprehend this, we need to consider other kinds of intelligence. We can divide intelligence into two main categories:
cognitive intelligence, i.e. analytical, logical intelligence; and emotional intelligence. The cognitive intelligence is strategic, long-term. If you want to build a bridge, you would use your cognitive intelligence to tackle the necessary steps to do so. Your emotional intelligence, meanwhile, has more to do with your ability to deal with the daily challenges of life. Your cognitive intelligence will help you to judge how much concrete you need to put in the supporting columns for a bridge; your emotional intelligence will help you to deal with the appropriate response to a problem, a workforce strike for example.

There are five areas of emotional intelligence. The first three are self-awareness, self-management/self-control and self-motivation. Being related to the self, they are called “intra-personal” skills. Self-awareness means knowing yourself, recognizing your identity, your strengths and weaknesses, and feeling good about yourself. People with strong self-awareness are normally able to accept criticism, which is one of their success factors. If you are open to criticism from other people then you will be able to develop and learn, and manage your life more easily.

The second area, self-control or self-management, means making your emotions work for you and not against you; this includes your ability to manage stress.

Self-motivation, the third of these five areas, means you can find some satisfaction in what you do, which enables you to progress. A number of surveys indicate that only 20% of the work population is naturally self-motivated. The motivation of the remaining 80% of the population is dependent on how other people treat them. This discovery has led many companies to launch motivation programmes because they concluded, mistakenly, that motivation can be instilled in staff. But motivation comes from within the individual; someone else may be able to inspire you, but they cannot motivate you. Sadly, many managers lack the skills to inspire their workforce.

The final two areas of emotional intelligence are “inter-personal”. The first of these is social awareness, meaning understanding the emotional needs, concerns and wants of other people, which are normally expressed non-verbally.
Thoughts are expressed with words and emotions are expressed with or through body language. We need to listen to other people, and also to interpret their body language to see beyond their words.

The second area is the ability to create a good and productive relationship with other people and maintain that relationship, avoiding too frequent conflicts.

Spotlight: You mentioned that only 20% of people are self-motivated, the motivation of the remaining 80% being dependent on how other people treat them. Are you saying that some people are inherently more likely to be successful than others because of their self-motivation?

Claus Møller: Yes. A number of intelligences such as mathematical intelligence, musical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, spatial intelligence or bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence are inherited, and they can only really be developed in the first eighteen years or so of life. But there are also a number of other, emotional, intelligences that can be developed over the longer term, enhancing potential and improving competence throughout life. This is the argument for organizations to invest in the development of their people in the “soft” area.

Practical intelligence also includes a number of working habits. Some people tackle small things first and tend to postpone major jobs – a very bad habit. You must tackle the most complex, major jobs first. Some people perform much better than others simply because they have different approaches to problem-solving, decision-making and so on.

TMI also recently pioneered the concept of “Organizational Emotional Intelligence” which can help organizations attract and retain the best people, encouraging them to perform to the best of their ability.



Many managers claim their organizations are people-oriented, saying they consider their employees their most important resource. But their actions belie their words – practice does need to catch up with theory.



Spotlight: Your company won a public tender in the late 1980s for a programme to instil job satisfaction and a sense of team identity in some 16,000 people within the EU institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg. What do you see as the particular challenges of quality management in a strongly multinational organization?

Claus Møller: That was a fantastic project. We wanted everyone in the organization to be involved so we adopted a “Management for Everyone” approach. It was, I believe, the first time in the history of a public organization that an across-the-board approach, addressing all levels of staff from cleaners and maintenance personnel to directors in the same seminar room, had ever been adopted.

A substantial amount of work prior to the programme enabled us to identify the main characteristics of the different cultures, such as the way people use humour. We then divided the topics that we were teaching into culture-sensitive and non-culture-sensitive. Factual topics such as work organization, personal planning and project management were not culture-sensitive and posed no problems at all – wherever you are, a goal is a goal, a strategy is a strategy and a result is a result. However, when we addressed issues such as how to inspire staff, or to involve people in decision-making, or to give commands or orders, the situation was very different. In the UK, for example, in large organizations there tends to be an extremely hierarchical management style which is not very open. In Scandinavia, by comparison, everything is open and far more informal. In Spain, there is far more formality, and so on. A significant, and very interesting, aspect of the programme was to build bridges between the different cultures.

We also conducted an internal survey to identify the prevailing organizational culture, and we set out to establish some ideals for how this could be improved. Among issues highlighted was the considerable frustration among EU staff resulting from different approaches to communication, management, and so on. We concluded that a major “bugbear” was inadequate use of people’s competencies, and lack of recognition for work well done. Hierarchy and hierarchical working methods were seen to dominate.

Finally we drew up a “debriefing” document, including recommendations for change, and this was presented to the President of the European Commission and commissioners. The whole project was very well received and there was a general agreement that our recommendations should be followed. Today, most of these are being implemented.

: You have stressed in your work the need for personal development as a prerequisite for organizational development. Have you perceived wider recognition in the business world in recent years of the need to develop what you dub a “people policy” to motivate employees, or has practice still to catch up with theory?

Claus MøllerClaus Møller: When companies are faced with financial problems, many of them seem solely to consider the bottom-line result; hence a tendency to economize on personal development. The major area of training is IT, but many organizations are still reluctant to spend money on general staff development, covering areas such as emotional intelligence, communication skills, team building and so on.

Yet organizations recognize that they face enormous challenges. Companies today need to compete to attract and retain skilled staff. From our surveys we discovered that while employees want decent salaries, they also value recognition, involvement, and genuine dialogue. This is particularly marked among younger employees who want to develop in their jobs. So companies unwilling to spend money on staff development will have problems attracting and retaining good staff.

Many managers claim their organizations are people-oriented, saying they consider their employees their most important resource. But their actions belie their words and, yes, practice does need to catch up with theory.

: From your experience do you consider that the trend towards more frequent job changes complicates staff and organizational development initiatives, or are staff changes in themselves likely to contribute to continuous learning and consequent improvements in organizational effectiveness?

Claus Møller: This is a complex question. On the one hand it is desirable to bring fresh blood and new ideas into a company, so a certain influx is good provided that you are willing to listen to these newcomers. On the other hand too high a staff turnover will complicate training and may erode the corporate culture. There may also be a risk of losing customers. Many customers remain loyal to a company because they like the people in it rather than because they have a notable preference for the products. The main cause of customers changing retail suppliers is poor treatment by staff; indeed, 68% of all people who change from one retail supplier to another say they do it because they don’t like the way they are treated.



Just imagine a football team that didn’t care whether it won or lost? Hence one of the biggest challenges is to inspire people to put their heart into their work. This involves training not in proffesional skills but in emotional intelligence and other “soft” areas.



Spotlight: A Complaint is a Gift – Using Customer Feedback as a Strategic Tool received many accolades and, as part of the Putting People First process conducted, has been credited as instrumental in the turnaround of British Airways. Given the spread of the Internet and consequent easing of “knowledge management”, is such a strategy becoming widespread?

Claus Møller: The concept of using complaints as a strategic tool was one of our most successful ideas. Many companies seem to agree that you must spend money on customer retention because of the bottom-line impact of customer dissatisfaction. A dissatisfied client will, on average, communicate his or her dissatisfaction to 22 other people. Some of these people then communicate what they have heard to what we call the “inner circle” – an average of eight more people apiece. This means a company runs the risk of 176 people hearing about the dissatisfied client’s experience.

In the past many companies spent a fortune on market or customer satisfaction surveys. Yet, by ensuring customer complaints are dealt with effectively, you can transform dissatisfied clients into goodwill ambassadors! The Internet can be a considerable asset to the process. Similarities in complaints enable immediate response by email.

In addition, constructive criticism, whether from customers or staff, is a rich source of ideas and, as companies need to innovate to survive, this source must be tapped. However, where staff feedback is concerned, in many large organizations top managers do not welcome criticism. Many staff members, meanwhile, fear top management and prefer not to criticize in case it reflects badly on them. Such fear is the enemy of creativity and innovation.

: Your book Reaching for the Stars focuses on fostering team interaction and team quality. Are the management skills involved in this different from those needed to encourage personal development of individual staff members?

Claus Møller: When I wrote the book and developed this concept, my starting point was Michelin’s Guide Rouge and Guide Vert. Involvement with Michelin some years ago led me to think that, in the same way as Michelin awards star grades to restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions, it makes sense to adopt a similar star system to grade the various functions within other business organizations. Then there could, for example, be three-star marketing departments or three-star customer service teams. Just as Michelin inspectors assess performance in specific areas of a restaurant or a hotel, within a wider business environment, a call centre, for example, could assess a key service feature such as response times in determining performance standards. However, it is important in any such initiative that staff are involved in determining the desired performance standards. This will ensure they are motivated to strive to achieve them.

There also needs to be a corporate culture that supports and promotes a quality culture. The company needs to move on from focusing on individual behaviour to recognize and reward team behaviour, team performance and team attitudes.
In many companies this does not happen. An individualistic culture sometimes persists which means individuals strive to be noticed and to impress management and some also deliberately undermine the position of others to achieve this.

: What do you consider the major challenge today to companies seeking to enhance their effectiveness?

Claus Møller: I perceive four major challenges, but first some background… TMI has conducted a number of surveys into European culture, questioning more than 150,000 individuals working in all 15 of the EU member states. The surveys revealed that one out of every ten European employees was in the process of finding another job. This was particularly marked among both those who were poorly paid and also those who were highly educated, e.g. in jobs such as cleaning on the one hand or IT on the other. We found that in IT, for example, 50% of employees planned to leave their jobs, but fears of management reaction meant they concealed this. Meanwhile, because of staff turnover, top management was failing to invest in training – which in turn encouraged employees to leave. We also discovered that 40% of employees have no pride in their companies, so they eventually leave, and then denigrate their ex-employers. In addition, 80% of employees are not motivated to do their best at work and have no interest in the company’s success. Just imagine a football team that didn’t care whether it won or lost? Hence one of the biggest challenges is to inspire people to put their heart into their work. This involves training not in IT skills but in emotional intelligence and other “soft” areas.

Another challenge is the traditional one of alignment, i.e. the need to ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction. The problem here is one of a frequent absence of clear goals, vision and strategy. Then there is the challenge of quality. We must ensure that the quality of products and services continues to meet the needs of clients. This means we must maintain a constant dialogue with our clients. Finally, the fourth challenge is that of innovation. This entails a willingness to change, and a flexibility and adaptability which enable continuous response to changing market demands.

Claus Møller is the author of several books, including: Putting People First, Time Manager – the Key to Personal Effectiveness, Employeeship, A Complaint is a Gift, Be a Double Bagger and, most recently, Heart Work – Emotional Intelligence – Improving Personal and Organizational Effectiveness. Putting People First has sold more than two million copies worldwide. A Complaint is a Gift (co-authored with Janelle Barlow) features on the Amazon list of best-selling customer service books.


Claus Møller is the founder and chairman of Time Manager International A/S, the largest provider of “soft” or people skills-related consulting in Europe, with resource centres in 36 countries. TMI was founded in 1975 and today it trains some 250,000 people annually. A graduate of the Copenhagen School of Economics and Business Administration, prior to founding TMI in 1975 Mr Møller worked his way up through the ranks via operations and marketing to a top managerial position with the international service company ISS.Claus Møller’s approach focuses on the quality not only of products and services, but primarily of the people who produce them, which represents a more humane and deeper concept of quality. He has been involved in the turnaround of numerous organizations and his concepts and ideas were initially implemented by SAS and BA. As a result, both airlines received international recognition for exceptional service quality and profitability. Other major clients have included American Express, AT&T, Audi VW, BP, Crédit Suisse, Ford, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Lufthansa, Mars, Merck, Motorola, Shell, Toyota, Unisys and Volvo.