What is EQ Coaching?

You might think that EQ executive coaching is simply a method for building EQ skills in leaders. But it goes deeper than that. EQ skills aren’t taught or practiced in a vacuum. EQ Coaching is an integration of EQ skill building into the broader context of executive coaching, which means that we deal with all of the topics that executives deal with. Let’s take a look at two of those topics: 1) influencing and 2) negotiating.

  • Influencing: Leaders must be able to influence their followers if they want them to unite behind a shared vision willingly and enthusiastically. As Ken Blanchard says, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” John (not his real name) needed to get his team to make a dramatic shift away from their comfortable and familiar set of goals to a very different destination. This shift involved a whole new way of thinking and doing. Big changes like this always generate considerable anxiety for followers. Anxiety frequently leads them to resist the change. Sure enough, John’s first efforts ran smack dab into anxiety and resistance. 

As John and I discussed this challenge, I shared with him the fact that one of the most powerful factors in a leader’s ability to influence is not IQ (John is brilliant), nor content expertise (which he has in spades). While both of those factors matter, influence is directly proportional to the quality of the relationship the leader has with followers. Relationships lead to trust, and trust leads to influence.

John had some work to do on his relationship skills, and he needed to apply those skills to his relationships with team members. Those relationships weren’t awful, but they were not strong enough to overcome the anxiety involved in the change John was leading. 

Coaching first focused on looking at issues that made building relationships difficult for John. He had been shy growing up, and came to associate relationships with anxiety. To lower anxiety, he got busy learning other things, and he never worked much at learning how to relate to others. (Fortunately, in spite of that, he did have a couple of positive relationships that he could use as models.) 

Next, I gave John the exercises for building interpersonal relationships from my EQ Leader Program manual, so that he had ways to practice in his real work world. 

Finally, we talked specifically about how to apply his growing relationship skills and insights to the relationships he had with the members of his team. The team appreciated his efforts, even though those efforts were sometimes clumsy. It was the effort that they appreciated and that made them like him more. They came to trust him, and got behind his brilliant plan.

  • Negotiating: Leaders have to negotiate many things – business deals, getting resources from their higher ups, getting cooperation from their peers, etc. Sally (not her real name either), a senior leader in a large company, needed to negotiate with a peer who ran a unit that interacted with Sally’s unit on critical issues. Cooperation between the two units on those issues often went poorly. As Sally described the situation, I helped her see that negotiating a win/win outcome is based on the EQ skills of empathy and assertiveness. Empathy is the skill we use to discover what the “other side” needs to win. Assertiveness is a non-threatening skill we can use to let the “other side” know what we need to win. (Don’t confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness, which would be threatening indeed!) Otherwise, it is all guesswork.

Sally’s previous approach had been to argue the merits of her case and then get frustrated when she felt she wasn’t listened to. Sometimes she gave up (passivity), and sometimes she threatened (aggressiveness). These “strategies” got uniformly poor results. 

I encouraged Sally to use empathy as a first step. In other words, listen and care. Be emotionally invested in her peer’s (not adversary’s) success. Find out what that peer’s unit really needed from Sally’s to be successful. With some exercise-based practice, Sally upped her empathy skills. Then she went to her peer to really listen. She did well. 

Because Sally listened to peer, her peer was now predisposed to hear what Sally needed. (There is a law of behavior that says, “We get what we give.”) Sally, feeling calmer and more encouraged by the progress thus far, was able to explain in non-threatening terms what she needed from her peer’s unit. (As preparation for that step, we had her work on some of the EQ Leader Program assertiveness exercises.) Doing so gave her both confidence and skill. The outcome was that the two units began to cooperate with each other much more, thanks both to a better understanding of what each side really needed and to the good feelings that come with successful collaboration.

Summary: EQ skills are powerful tools that create success for executives. EQ Coaches help their clients apply those skills to real issues that their clients face. Because clients have a chance to practice EQ skills in their real work world, and because doing so gets results, clients retain the progress they make and use those skills in the next set of challenges.

I imagine you’ve had some challenges and successes with your clients along these lines. I’d love it if you shared them with us!


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