Don’t Rush It

Here is the last of my seven secrets for bringing a successful EQ coaching program to your client organizations: Help decision makers understand what is realistically required so that you can deliver the results they’ve hired you to deliver. Make sure they understand that sustainable behavior change takes time.

  1. Give it time.

Behavior change is hard. Behavior develops over time as the result of experiments we all perform to discover what works. Once we think we’ve nailed it, we hate to give up what we’ve learned.

The behavior of leaders in your client organizations has evolved in the same way that the rest of ours has.

We have all been learning how to relate to the world since the day we were born. We asked for things before we even had the words to do so (maybe by smiling and being charming and adorable, maybe by crying and making a fuss) and we sensed how people responded to us. Did we get what we wanted? If we did, we probably asked in the same way the next time. If not, we changed tactics. Whatever worked became our truth, and it shaped our subsequent behavior accordingly.

Every time we interacted with people and succeeded in getting what we wanted, our belief in this truth intensified. Our behaviors and responses became more and more automatic for us, based on beliefs that, over time, became assumptions, i.e., things that we didn’t even question because they seemed so self-evident. We were certain that “Everybody knows you do it like this!”

Once beliefs become assumptions, they move into the nonverbal part of the brain, making access to them difficult. And there they stay, seemingly cast in stone until something powerful enough happens in our lives that hopefully leads to self-examination.

As adults, none of us lives in the same conditions in which we lived when we learned those early lessons and formed those early assumptions. So those assumptions might not be working as well as they once did, and in fact may be hindering our success. But because assumptions are hard to notice, they may still be guiding our behavior, for better or for worse.

The same is true for your clients.

Think of an assumption as an unseen hand that reaches up inside a sock puppet and controls its behavior. This hand has been trained to do things in a certain way, believing that “everybody knows” that this is the “right” way to act. No thought needed.

But these behavioral assumptions, so crucial to early success, can limit effectiveness and achievement going forward when circumstances change. New circumstances call for new assumptions about how to succeed. Just being charming or petulant might not cut it anymore!

To improve self-mastery, the leaders you coach will need your help to unmask these hidden hands and replace them with a different source of control — new assumptions (guidelines and beliefs) that better fit the world they now inhabit. Doing so can unlock tremendous potential.

I say “unmask,” because these assumptions are not available to our conscious minds. They are buried. We can’t see them. Your job will be to help these leaders surface their long-held assumptions, so they can question them.

Help your client leaders ask themselves questions such as:

“What have I always thought about how to succeed, to solve problems, to get what I wanted? Where did my beliefs come from? What problems did these behaviors solve at one time? Are these the same problems I face today? Are the beliefs I once had accurate? How are my old behaviors, based on my old beliefs, now getting in the way of what I want to achieve? Could I experiment with some new beliefs? If I do, what new behaviors might naturally flow from them? What new reactions might I get from people?”

Next, help your clients envision how they want to be going forward, the way they want to behave that will unlock their next level of potential. Help them visualize the skills that they want to develop, and then create ways for them to practice those skills over and over until they’ve actually rewired the synapses in their brains. Those new behaviors will then become default responses — based on new and better assumptions that guide better behavior and create higher achievement.

Let’s look at an example.

John (pseudonym), a company CIO, was the smartest person in the room, no matter what room he walked into. Yet in spite of his brilliance, he was fired. Apparently, he didn’t treat people very well. John wisely used this distressing experience as a wake-up call.

John and his coach identified the hidden assumptions that had allowed John to behave badly toward people. His is an oft-told tale.

Growing up, John was brilliant, shy, and awkward. He learned that he could make his way in his world by relying on his intellectual gifts. He did not practice social skills because he found them difficult, and his clumsy efforts often led to painful experiences, not rewards. He learned that if you wanted to succeed in life, it was important to be smarter than everyone else, and to avoid social interactions whenever possible.

Once his coach helped him understand where his assumptions had come from, he was able to re-evaluate them. He was able to see that maybe intellect wasn’t the whole story. After all, being the smartest person in the company hadn’t kept him from losing his job. He realized that it was time to take the risk of learning how to relate to people, or at least not turn them off. His coach was able to help him learn some new skills. While even John would agree that he’ll never be named a social star, his skills became good enough. Good enough that co-workers were happy to have him, and his brilliance, accessible to them.

EQ development can pay big dividends. But like anything with a potential major payoff, the right kind of investment is required. Your systematic approach to EQ development, using these seven secrets, will make the difference in whether your client’s investment will bloom or fade.

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