Obey Nature’s Laws – Part Two

Remember this from our previous post: to achieve success, work with Mother Nature, don’t fight her. She always wins. (That’s us, riding on her shoulders.) This is why we designed our EQ Leader Program 2.0 around the ten principles that psychological science has repeatedly demonstrated are required for sustained impact of training and coaching programs. If you know the principles, you can do the same for your work. 

Our previous post (April 19, 2021) described the first five principles. Today we will share six through ten. 

Principle Six: A good relationship is essential 

Research is clear that the most critical element for creating lasting behavior change is the relationship between the client and the coach. Why? You, the coach, are essentially asking your clients to step off a cliff. You are asking them to give up behaviors that have had at least some utility for them (or they never would have been adopted in the first place) for behaviors that you promise will be better. What would make them believe you? Ahh, you think, “I’ll just explain it to them. My logic will be unassailable.” Logic is essential, but it’s not sufficient. By and large, as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, people make emotional decisions, not logical ones. 

Therefore, you must build a relationship in ways that lead people to trust you and want to believe you emotionally. There are four elements that build such trust: 

  • Genuine interest in your client’s success
  • Warmth
  • Emotional support, i.e., caring without owning
  • Tactful confrontation – the ability to tell people what they don’t want to hear in ways that allow them to accept and use the information

Principle Seven: Grow, don’t fix   

You might be tempted to use a coaching program to save people who are failing in their jobs. That is a well-intended fool’s errand. It almost never works. When it fails, these people still lose their jobs and your reputation takes a major hit, often fatal. People who are seriously failing in their jobs need a different job, one that fits their skills. Frankly, it is a kindness to force the issue. 

An effective coaching program, which requires a meaningful investment of time, money, and effort, should be reserved for the winners in your organization. These are the folks who are already successful in many ways, and who, by their current level of success, have shown you their potential for growth. 

The philosophy of investing in successful leaders has another benefit. It shows them that you care about their success to the point of being willing to make a serious investment in them. It helps overcome a natural worry that high achievers often have about where they “really stand” with the company. If they have the impression that your coaching program is “where they send the bad kids,” they will avoid it at all costs. 

Principle Eight: Focus on thoughts and feelings as well as behavior 

While we’ve defined success as sustainable behavior change, development programs that focus only on behavior fail. We talk about behavior because that’s the part of the person we can see. Don’t be fooled. Thoughts and feelings are essential to behavior change. The behavior you can see is driven both by the way someone thinks and by the emotions they bring to a situation. 

Here’s an example: You could have a course on empathy. In that course, you could teach participants the behaviors associated with empathy, i.e., make eye contact, let people talk, ask how the other person feels, and so forth. But if the emotion the participant brings is disinterest, the behaviors you teach will fall flat. The true feeling of disinterest will show through. If the participant thinks that other people are basically stupid, he or she won’t be able to sustain interest in what they are saying. Therefore, in teaching empathy, it will be essential to understand and work with the emotions and ways of thinking that your participant brings to the situation. 

Principle Nine: Tackle Issues that Are Important to Participants

For you to win genuine engagement from participants, they have to see WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). Otherwise, why would very busy people take the time and effort required by a serious development program? WIIFMs will be different for different people. Many would like to build skills that will make them more promotable. Others might recognize that they need to do a better job leading their team. Still others may need to improve their ability to work through others, i.e., delegation and empowerment. Stronger EQ skills contribute to these and many other issues that are top of mind for executives. A good EQ assessment and interview can help identify which issues matter to which individuals. That information can then be used to tailor coaching to achieve important goals. When participants can see that coaching can help them get what they want, they do the work.

Principle Ten: Remember the Organization 

As much as I like working with EQ, EQ development is a means to an end, never the goal itself. EQ development, or any other tool, is always in service of something the organization needs, and has asked for. For example, if the organization needs to change the fundamental ways that it succeeds (which happens more often than you may think), EQ development coaching might be in service of creating the kind of flexibility in thinking and behavior required for such a massive shift. Or, if the organization needs to prepare people to step into more senior roles, EQ development is in service of succession planning. Each organization will have its own needs.

Your program must serve the organization’s goals and strategies. Otherwise, it is a wasted effort. Worse, you risk taking participants down a wrong road that may torpedo their standing in the company, as well as your own. 

Summary: Follow the ten principles described in this and our previous post, and you simply can’t miss. You will deliver outstanding results. Future posts will bring all of these principles to life. 

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