In our FLOW Core Foundations program we talk early on about the “Be, Do, Have” of a coach…What we do through our coaching process and who and how we are in the world, the state that goes beyond our abilities to ask thought-provoking questions that support our clients in first finding the path and then the energy to create what they want and need in their lives. In my over twenty plus years of coaching one of the “haves” that has been demonstrated to me time and again is having what is called “emotional intelligence.”
There are many definitions of EQ but perhaps one of the most succinct and helpful comes from Daniel Goleman, one of the early pioneers in the field, who with Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee wrote one of the seminal works “Primal Leadership, Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.” They define EQ as “self-awareness, self-management, and relationship effectiveness” and say that the attempt to lead effectively absolutely requires these qualities. I would go so far as to say that this is equally true for effective coaching.
So, what does EQ look like and why does it matter? Well first of all our coaching stance requires us to be completely focused on our coachees…and in order to do this I need to keep myself out of the way. When a client brings to coaching things that because of my own personality preferences or life experience resonate for me personally, I need to be able to recognize when my own “story” starts playing in my head and isolate that from the experience of the client so I don’t “contaminate” their experience with my own. I need as well to manage my own energy so that it doesn’t “infect” my client’s experience. Coaching focus is all about the “other” not about the coach.
Now that’s not to say that my own experience doesn’t have value…of course it does. It is the source of my learning, my whole way of being in the world. But I need to be consistently aware of the ways in which my personal experience can creep in…We talk about the levels of listening in our coach training…and the first level is the place we all know well of being more focused on what we are thinking and feeling and wanting to say or do in a conversation or meeting, rather than on what the other person is actually saying and perhaps needing. Unless I have and continue to work on my own self awareness, what is really mine and not yours, there is a distinct danger of the voice in my head starting to blather about my thoughts, wants, what I want to say etc.
Further we all have our particular patterns, our ways of being in the world. I am someone who tends toward action…and achievement…Nothing wrong with that unless I allow my needs to generate impatience…Emotional Intelligence profiles and practices enable me to more clearly see how these and other patterns weave their way through my life and how I need to be careful not to get frustrated if my client’s pace seems to me to be very slow….Emotional Intelligence profiles have also highlighted for me my own personal need for action over relationship. This is really important learning because we know that any coaching relationship has to begin with trust. As a coach I can do nothing for or with my clients if they don’t trust me. And so, I need to manage my own action orientation carefully to allow for the time and attentiveness to the “other” so crucial for building a sense of trust. Our clients set the pace…lead the dance in that sense and we have to follow.
Personally, I believe that understanding the importance of and the process for creating strong emotional intelligence is one of the most important steps a coach can take in order to enhance their skill set and their effectiveness. Next month I will be back with a case study or two to illustrate my point. In the meantime, let me encourage you to explore the literature in this field….it will be well worth your time and is really interesting. “Primal Leadership” is a really good read!
For now, good coaching…..