EQ in Four Questions

David Caruso, Ph.D., one of the founding fathers of research and practice with regard to Emotional Intelligence, once commented about the plethora of EQ models and assessment tools: “Emotional intelligence is sort of a Rorschach, it means whatever you want it to mean.”  Got a favorite theory? Call it EQ and make sales, because EQ is hot!

But those of us who want to help clients achieve sustainable behavior change know that our methods need to have a strong scientific foundation for our work. Otherwise, our efforts become pretty much trial and error. Clients shouldn’t have to pay for expertise without foundation.

There are three models of EQ which, in my opinion, have made serious efforts to build adequate theory, which has then been tested by rigorous and extensive research. I usually write about the model measured by the Emotional Quotient Inventory 2.0, which defines EQ as a set of learnable skills. A second model is, of course, Daniel Goleman’s model. And the third is the model which David Caruso et al developed.

Caruso, working with Peter Salovey, Ph.D., and Jack Mayer, Ph.D., approach EQ from a different perspective, as a largely inborn set of abilities. The assessment tool they developed is the Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). Jack Mayer once explained it to me this way: “The MSCEIT is like an IQ test, measuring one’s capacity to learn EQ skills. The EQ-i 2.0 is like the SAT, measuring how much one has learned.”

Their model basically asks four questions, ones that I have found very useful in coaching sessions. Maybe you will, too. Let me tell you a story:

Several years ago, I had a client (let’s call him Sam) who was a rapidly rising executive in a Fortune 500 company. (He’s been promoted several times since we worked together.) He planned a day long All Hands meeting on a Friday, for the two hundred people who reported up to him. He planned his part for the last part of the day. As you may already be intuiting, he hadn’t thought through how people were going to be feeling by then. I could see him on the verge of having a complete fiasco. To help him avert this self-imposed failure, I walked him through the four questions.

Question #1 (which focuses on identifying the relevant emotion in a situation):

Dana: “Sam, how do you think your people are going to be feeling at 3:30 PM on a Friday?”

His response: “I don’t know. I’d never thought about it. I guess they will be tired, and maybe impatient.”

Question #2: (Emotions direct our thoughts. We always pay attention to the most emotionally relevant issue at the moment.)

Dana: “I believe you are right. They are going to be tired and eager to get home just at the time you are going to try to inspire them with your message. What do you imagine they will be thinking about while you are talking?”

Sam: “Probably anything but what I want them to be thinking about. Mostly they are likely to be wondering when I’m going to shut up and sit down.”

Question #3: This is called the Insight Question.

Dana: “How come your audience is likely to be feeling this way?” (While the answer in this case is pretty evident, it helps to actually get your client to think it through with you out loud.)

Sam: “The plan I have will put them through a long day, on a Friday. I didn’t even intend to be there with them until my part of the program. When I show up eager to give them my message, they are likely to resent my asking them to concentrate on a complex message at the end of a tough week and tough day. I don’t think I’m going to get the outcome I want.”

Question #4: This is the Payoff Question, the one that gets your client headed in the right direction.

Dana: “What do you want them to feel, and how can you influence them to feel that way?”

Sam: “Wow! Again, I’d never thought of it. I want them to be energized by my new vision for our department. I guess asking them to be energized at a low energy time is, well, dumb.”

Dana: “Yep.” (No need to sugar coat it.) “What might be a better way to get them excited?”

Sam: “Maybe I should re-organize the day. I could speak first, setting the tone and laying out the vision. Then the other presenters can build on what I’ve shared. And maybe I should stick around for the whole day to let them know that I’m invested in them and this new approach.”

Sam followed his own advice. The meeting had the positive impact he had hoped for. And I had the coaching outcome I’d hoped for.

This was a situation in which we were focused on the part of EQ involved with influencing others’ emotions. But coaches can use the four questions to help clients manage their own feelings as well. In that case, the questions might go something like this:

  • Question #1: How are you feeling right now?
  • Question #2: What thoughts are you having associated with that feeling?
  • Question #3: What is leading you to feel this way at this time?
  • Question #4: What do you want to be feeling instead, and how can you get yourself there?

These four questions are another tool in the EQ Tool Kit. I hope you find them useful.

Leadership coaching is a complex task, because people are highly complicated, and because leaders must function effectively in complex situations. If you would like a consult around a difficult coaching situation, feel free to reach out to me at dana.ackley@eqleader.net

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