Seven Secrets of an Emotional Intelligence Coach

Ever wonder why some of the smartest kids in your class didn’t turn out to be the most successful later on? It’s because intellect isn’t enough. Many otherwise smart people lack emotional intelligence (EQ), the skill set people need to access their own best performance, and to interact successfully with others.

Leaders can’t do everything themselves. They need others to get things done. In fact, the essential skill of a good leader is the ability to leverage the talents and energies of other people in order to multiply their effectiveness and productivity for the company.

But people who have not developed their EQ skills are often their own worst enemies when it comes to getting things done through others, and are usually baffled by their lack of success. They sometimes feel that there is an invisible barrier between them and their goals that they just can’t seem to understand or break through.

Many of these talented people have attained high positions, due largely to their intelligence and technical business skills. But as talented as they are, they may rub people the wrong way, or bring people down with their lack of optimism. They may be impulsive or inflexible. They may not be able to express clearly what they need from people, or be able to read what people need from them. People may not find them easy to interact with, avoiding them as much as possible. It’s hard to lead people who are running away from you!

Consider the executive team of one of your current or prospective client organizations. Maybe you’ll find a terrific CFO who doesn’t give his direct reports enough information to do their jobs, and who is too stern looking to be approachable; or a vice president of marketing who gets less than she might out of her people because she uses the same approach with everyone, whether it fits or not; or a COO who avoids conflict, and thus allows bad performance to slide until he has to let someone go without warning, opening the company up to a possible lawsuit from the former employee; or perhaps a blunt CIO who doesn’t know how to negotiate win-win solutions when integrating IT solutions into the company infrastructure.

While these people have proven themselves winners in many ways, their current EQ deficits limit what they can contribute. And that’s a real shame, because at their level of achievement and potential for influence, even a small improvement in EQ skills can have a huge impact on their productivity and the productivity of their direct reports, and thus on the company’s bottom line. In fact, the higher up the ladder they are, the greater the potential impact.

While there is little doubt that improving the EQ of top leaders can have a huge effect on the organization, there is plenty of doubt about how to implement an EQ program that actually works. If you are thinking about bringing EQ to a client company, be a little afraid. Not because EQ is a bad idea, or because it doesn’t work; on the contrary, an investment in EQ development for your client’s top leaders can yield huge returns. But the devil is in the details, and it is very easy to make a mistake here. Many coaches who have tried EQ initiatives that failed will attest to that.

Seven secrets, had they been privy to them, would have saved them and made them look like geniuses. Here’s the first one:

  1. Prepare the ground.

Figure out what the organization wants to gain from your involvement. As Stephen Covey said, begin with the end in mind. For example, Bronson Healthcare, a Baldrige Award-winning hospital system in Michigan, had seven high-potential senior leaders it wanted to prepare to be ready to guide the organization into the future, including assuming the high-stakes roles of CEO and COO. The EQ program that would be deemed successful in their eyes would have to produce those results.

Once you know what success will look like, create interest. Talk about the benefits of increased EQ skills. Make sure people know that EQ training will be a perk offered to those whom the organization has an enormous interest in developing, and for whom it sees a great future. The tagline for my company, for example, is “Coaching Winners!” If EQ training is “where they send the bad kids,” no one will be receptive.

Then help participants get a base line of their current EQ development. There are a few excellent assessment instruments out there (among many bad ones) that you can use with executives to help them learn about their EQ strengths and weaknesses. Do your homework to find one that is based on solid scientific research. The instrument should be standardized, normed, and validated. The one I use, because I believe it has the strongest science, is the Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0. But you may prefer something else.

Beware of subpar assessment tools. Several years ago, Capital One wanted its executives to learn more about their own EQ strengths and weaknesses. A poorly constructed EQ test was selected for use in a pilot project. Its choice was based largely on price, because, had it been useful, it would have been given to thousands of employees. The outcome of the pilot was described as “an organ rejection.” The executives rejected their results, not because they couldn’t handle negative feedback, but because the results were just plain wrong. The EQ initiative suffered a near-fatal blow.

Consider two additional assessment elements. One is a combination of a self-assessment with a 360 assessment, which gives a more multidimensional picture. The other is a combination of a self-assessment with an assessment interview designed to identify the leader’s individual goals. The interview allows assessment results to be tied to participant and organizational goals, resulting in intrinsic motivation for EQ development. A well designed and field-tested interview can be found in the EQ Leader Program 2.0 manual.

Take-aways: (A) EQ skills differentiate effective leaders from those who are merely smart. (B) Know what a successful outcome will look like to your client. (C) Be sure EQ training is seen as a reward for winners. (D) A scientifically validated assessment tool will help prevent rejection of your work.

Now stay tuned. Next time we’ll talk about the second secret!

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