In the second installment of Coaching for Emotional Intelligence, Michelle Maldonado, a Faculty member and Meta-Coach for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification, discusses her lifelong meditation practice, what it means to embody authenticity, and more. The first interview in the series, with Meta-Coach Dot Proux, is available here.
Michelle is Founder and CEO of Lucenscia LLC, a human capital development and business strategy firm dedicated to developing leaders and organizations with positive impact in the world. She is a Genos International Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner® and Master Teacher with the Google-inspired Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute® who leverages her more than 35 years of contemplative practice and two plus decades of business and legal experience to create relevant and practical solutions to transform how we “show up” as more compassionate, impactful and resilient leaders.
How did you begin coaching?
I am a teacher and facilitator at heart; one who serves as a seed planter and a gentle “way shower.” So coaching came very naturally to me in my early years of professional work. John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods Market and the Conscious Capitalism movement, once said that, “If you are a leader of an organization, you have a duty to evolve yourself or you are holding the organization back.” I take this to heart. In order for people in organizations to thrive, managers have an obligation to do their self-work and assist others to do the same which very often takes the form of coaching and mentoring their people. I found myself doing this as a young attorney in law firm life and also later as a business professional in the tech and online industries. Today, I consider it a privilege to share in the journey of others and to play a supporting role in helping them discover the wholeness that makes them who they are and aligning the vision and values they have for their work and their lives.
In what ways has your background as a corporate attorney and business leader influenced your work as a coach?
Across both the legal and business arenas, the most salient insights I gained were about people. I learned quite a bit about the quiet suffering that occurs in the workplace, about inspiration and innovation, about the need for people to feel heard, seen and valued, about culture, connection and engagement, and more. My legal and business experience deepened my understanding and appreciation of how people were showing up and their emotional drivers. This, in turn, helped build my capacity for compassion and support of their journey in a way that created psychological safety (regardless of role or title) and paved the way for meaningful conversation, exploration, self-discovery, insight, and change.
What are your thoughts on Emotional Intelligence?
Whether in my own self-work or those with whom I collaborate, I have found that Emotional Intelligence is a foundational skill set that makes the difference between those who truly thrive and are living a life in alignment with their values, passions, and optimized skill sets and those who are not. EI does not just help us with what we do. It helps create an inner and outer connectedness that creates a way of being that informs how we do what we do. This nuanced difference creates ripples of positive impact across diverse stakeholder communities.
EI helps us shift from “me” to “we” thinking. Although people tend to lump it into the category of “soft skills,” this terminology creates a misperception of being easy or less important. The reality is that developing Emotional Intelligence competencies is simple, but not easy. It is simple to understand the steps and components intellectually, but challenging to practice and cultivate because they require the creation of new, sustainable habits and shifting of mindsets. In our instant access, on-demand world, it is important to remember that developing these skills is a lifelong journey where they are honed over time with patience, persistence, and great self-awareness (which brings in its connection to mindfulness meditation).
“I have found that Emotional Intelligence is a foundational skill set that makes the difference between those who truly thrive and are living a life in alignment with their values, passions, and optimized skill sets and those who are not.”
What drew you to the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification?
Like many, I have followed Dan’s research on Emotional Intelligence, and more recently, its intersection with mindfulness, for quite a while. What drew me to the certification was its interconnected framework and the depth of the content coupled with time, spaciousness and support for self-reflection, application, and integration.
The Coaching Certification is experiential in many ways so that it affords the greatest opportunity for participants and coaches to connect on deeper levels and peel back the layers for meaningful transformation. I believe it is a model that will help coaches be more effective at supporting the client as a “whole person” and to facilitating personal revelations and impact across their spheres of influence.
How do you approach the topics of diversity and civility within the framework of your coaching practice? Do you have any advice for leaders who want to become more aware of the ways in which unconscious bias impacts their leadership?
Civil discourse and belonging are so important for our world community.
As a critical element needed to facilitate shifts of hearts and minds, I like to take a step back and first recognize that, perhaps even the language we use may be outdated and may unwittingly leave some people out of the conversation.
Historically, we spoke of “Diversity,” Then we evolved to “Diversity & Inclusion.” However, despite our best intentions we have not achieved a felt sense for all people – from LGBTQ, to women, to people of color, to white men – that they are valued, heard, and seen. While language alone will not fix the human connection gap we are experiencing, it is a start. Instead of looking at diversity and inclusion, I much prefer to call it “Belonging and Unity.” With Belonging and Unity, we naturally weave in civil discourse as a pathway to create the greater felt sense of a common humanity.
Another perspective I take is to understand how critically important it is to create safe space to allow for the difficult conversations and emotions that naturally arise during this type of work. Everyone has biases – some unconscious (or implicit) and some conscious. That, too, is part of the human condition. And, it is important for us to be open to what we see about our biases without beating ourselves up about it; to follow the lines of where the impact of these biases goes at work (who do you hire, give high profile projects to, promote, associate yourself with?) and at play (who do you interact with socially?). After all, we cannot transform what we do not see or will not acknowledge.
The discovery and awareness process is a great first step, but it is not enough. To truly make a sustainable shift, we also are called to move forward into action and impact where we put practices into place that help us see others as ourselves. This is the part that can be most challenging because it makes us step out of our comfort zone and asks us to extend empathy and compassion to others we may feel uncomfortable with or not understand. However, the good news is that we can leverage practices from wisdom traditions to assist us. To help build better connection, diminish the “us” and “them” mentality, I encourage clients to practice Loving Kindness and Just Like Me meditations. Over time, with sustained practice, these enhance self-awareness and cultivate our capacity to extend compassion to a broader spectrum of people and communities, stretching us beyond our biases.
“The Coaching Certification affords the greatest opportunity for participants and coaches to connect on deeper levels and peel back the layers for meaningful transformation.”
What led you to your contemplative practice? How has it evolved over the years?
I was introduced to meditation the summer after first grade. As a child, I was raised in a Roman Catholic family in Cape Cod, MA. However, one summer, I spent several months with my Great Aunt in Wyoming where she introduced me to the cultural traditions of indigenous communities in the area as well as meditation. What was remarkable is that she did not use typical terminology with me. Instead, she simply invited me “to sit” with her as she gently placed her hands on my head saying, “Quiet here,” and then slowly moved her hands down to my heart saying, “so you can be here.” For some reason, at that age, I did not need any more than that. I knew that I felt good – different even – after sitting with her and regularly returned to my practice after my summer visit was over. As the years passed, I found myself sitting frequently feeling the ease of well-being, clarity, and replenishment that it provided. It was not until I was in college that I learned what I was doing was called meditation.
When I think about the inspiration behind my Great Aunt’s introduction of meditation to me, she explained that she did not use all the words associated with her Buddhist philosophy because I was seven years old and she wanted me to find a way to share it with others my age in our own language. I also remember her telling me that it was not enough to have a broader view beyond my own community or even to have a world view. Rather, she often emphasized the need for each of us to have a view of interconnectedness and humanity.
Over time, my contemplative practice evolved and expanded to include different forms of meditation such as walking meditation, gratitude meditation, loving kindness/just like me, retreats, and more. Additionally, my ability to understand the importance of language and how to use language that meets people where they are also was influenced by my early meditation practice and its evolution over time. Ultimately, my practice has shifted the lens through which I view myself and others enabling me to embrace the seeds my Great Aunt planted so long ago and that was so nicely summarized in a speech once given by Salma Hayek where she proudly proclaimed, “The world is my home and humanity is my family.”
Has mindfulness always been a part of your coaching practice? In your experience, what are some of the unique benefits of mindfulness coaching?
Yes, I have found that mindfulness coaching is one of the most effective ways to cultivate self-awareness. As the foundational EI domain, self-awareness is uniquely developed through mental focus training which enables our capacity to construct a solid and sustainable foundation upon which all the remaining Emotional Intelligence domains rest.
Mindfulness also is an important part of coaching because it further develops our empathetic and compassion responses in a way that helps us shift to other perspective taking, understanding of a common humanity, and our shared connection. With this embodied understanding, we are better positioned to evolve our social and leadership skills that influence how we show up with others in our family, our community, and the workplace. When you step back and look at it, you can see how mindfulness enables the EI domains to help us more fully flourish as human beings with positive presence, intention, and impact.
“Mindfulness enables the EI domains to help us more fully flourish as human beings with positive presence, intention, and impact.”
What does authentic leadership mean to you? How do you develop authentic leaders?
Authentic Leadership has been studied, taught and talked about for decades. There is quite a bit of information and opinion out there on this topic. Whether recognized industry experts or an average Joe or Jane, what is believed to make an authentic leader is as varied as the people you ask. For me, similar to mindfulness, authenticity is one of those characteristics that infuses how you do what you do:
You don’t do authenticity, you are authentic.
Just as you don’t do mindfulness, you are mindful.
Authenticity doesn’t mean that you say whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want, however you want. That is merely a way of not exercising self-awareness or self-management and it mistakenly places the responsibility for your words and actions on others around you. Rather, when we embody authenticity, we cultivate positive and healthy relationships and are comfortable being vulnerable in the room. Being vulnerable includes being accountable and moving through interactions with integrity, trustworthiness, awareness, compassion, and more – and if you don’t, immediately owning it and taking corrective action. Authenticity, like compassion and other EI competencies takes courage. When this courage rests on a stable foundation, authenticity nicely flourishes.
What advice do you have for people who would like to become coaches?
For people who wish to become coaches, I would offer that they must be clear on their “why” for this work and be committed to consistently doing their own inner work. Coaching places us in a sacred position of trust by others who share their dreams and deepest desires as well as their frustrations and deeply rooted fears. If we do not continuously do our inner work, when we coach we then risk personal projections on our clients and a potential level of disconnection that depletes us. The same is true if we are not clear on our “why.” Without this clarity of self and intention, we can come from a place of ego that could leave us blind to crucial information that is present for us to see and work with.
Ultimately, we have to remember that while this work can be tactical or functional in nature, like most of the EI and mindfulness work we do, coaching is a journey where we plant many seeds. By simultaneously being heart-centered, humble, and wise, we help people move from head to heart so they can re-align both in a most magnificent way.
“When we embody authenticity, we cultivate positive and healthy relationships and are comfortable being vulnerable in the room.”
Interested in working with Michelle and becoming a certified coach? Apply now for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. This in-depth program, akin to a professional degree, draws upon a range of evidence-based concepts and practices, including the Emotional & Social Intelligence framework. Coaches will gain meaningful new insights to impact their personal and professional lives through online learning, one-on-one guidance from a Meta-Coach, a coaching practicum, and more.