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Coaching for Emotional Intelligence: Matthew Taylor on Transforming Education

In the sixth installment of Coaching for Emotional Intelligence, Matthew Taylor, a Faculty member and Meta-Coach for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification, discusses the potential of coaching to improve safety in schools, the ability to switch between coaching, teaching, and consulting, and more. Previous installments of this series include interviews with Meta-Coaches Dot Proux, Kully Jaswal, Wagner Denuzzo, and Kathy Bollinger as well as Faculty member Michelle Maldonado. 

 

Matt has been developing school leaders for 13 years and teaching and leading in the K-12 education sector for 25. Matt currently designs and facilitates Achievement First’s adaptive leadership coaching and professional development model grounded in Emotional Intelligent Leadership theory. This work includes coach training for regional superintendents and senior leaders, direct coaching of senior leaders and principals, and adaptive professional development sessions for cohorts across the leadership pipeline. He received his executive coaching training from the Teleos Leadership Institute.

 

 

What led you to begin coaching?

“Coaching” was part of what I thought I did as a school principal. What made sense to me was that, at a basic emotional level, I was teaching adults just like I had taught my middle school students before becoming a school leader. It wasn’t until I received my coaching training at the Teleos Leadership Institute that I realized most of what I was doing as a principal was direct teaching of instructional skills. I did some consulting with my assistant principals, but I did very little actual coaching.

I was running a principal development program focused on change leadership when I got my training. It opened my eyes to an entirely different level of development that I could engage my leaders in. Their internal obstacles that had previously seemed like fixed traits to me suddenly seemed movable. I shifted my focus from teaching skills to building self-awareness and managing triggers, emotions, and beliefs that were leading to self-limiting behaviors. Suddenly I was helping people to not only grow in their biggest leadership obstacles, but also their biggest obstacles as human beings. It felt like the most important work that I had ever done.

My training in an EI-based coaching methodology shifted my leadership development philosophy and changed the trajectory of my 25-year career as an educator. Five years later, I am on a new path to spread this EI leadership development approach across the charter school sector and beyond.

 

 

In what ways has your background as an elementary and middle school teacher informed your current work in leadership development?

I have taught grades 2-8 in just about every kind of learning community in our country, from inner city neighborhood schools to private, international, magnet, and charter schools. I have taught English, math, social studies, science, Spanish, and dual language immersion, and I have taught just about every kind of learner there is. There is a good deal you learn in graduate school about how to teach content, but very little they teach you (in my experience) that prepares you for the human side of the craft. Great teachers tend to figure this side out on their own, using their innate emotional intelligence. What they figure out, in a nutshell, is how to create the emotional conditions for learning. They know that if they want their students to take the emotional and intellectual risks to learn—to make themselves vulnerable to struggling in a group—they have to build a container of shared trust and a relationship that creates a foundation of safety.

Great leaders must do the same things for their teams as teachers do for their students. They must be attuned to emotional needs and meet those needs to create the safety their teams need to take the risks inherent in striving for excellence. Helping leaders learn how to create these conditions is, I believe, the end goal of leadership coaching.

 

 

In light of the March for Our Lives, do you envision any ways in which coaching of school leaders could improve student safety and mental health in American schools?

A part of my vision for this work—my dream, really—is that principals learn how to develop their teachers through coaching, and that teachers will then incorporate emotional intelligence, focus, and coaching-quality relationships into their work with students. I deeply believe this will have a profound impact on student safety and mental health, as well as academic results.

In many of our schools right now young people are on their own, really, when it comes to figuring out who they are and where they fit into the world. They are more isolated from true communities and mentors than ever, and they are finding meaning, without guidance, on the Internet. Deep personal connection is at the heart of coaching. Its core purpose is to build self-awareness so people can access new growth paths and deepen their identities. Imagine the impact of this kind of relationship and self-exploration on troubled adolescents. Imagine also how emotionally attuned an adult would be to that adolescent. If every teacher incorporated some level of this type of relationship with every student, schools would be much safer places to be in many ways. I think we would solve many of our larger social problems this way.

Schools would also become much more effective facilitators of transformational growth. After years of teaching, I deeply believe that students fail not because of their lack of intellectual capacity, but because we as educators haven’t created the conditions they need to reach their potential. One of those conditions is the opportunity to build identity as learners and as members of a caring community. So much of what I do in coaching leaders is building a leader’s competencies to create these conditions in their schools. When school leaders deliberately coach teachers in these competencies, I believe we will see transformative growth from our most challenged, most disengaged students.

 

You’ve written for Key Step Media about the differences between coaching, teaching, and consulting. How did you develop the ability to effectively switch between these varied approaches?

Being able to switch back and forth between coaching, teaching, and consulting was a real struggle for me. I come from an education organization with a robust curricular and instructional development model. What we call coaching is really teaching. As a school leader, I became good at developing teachers and instructional leaders through observation and feedback and a gradual release model of 1-1 teaching. And that is really important! Our students significantly out-perform their counterparts in the same districts because of this teaching. However, that skillset did not serve me well when developing people-focused leadership competencies. You can’t teach people self-awareness or self-management. I gradually realized this, and I needed some coaching myself to shift some assumptions and values of my own to get there.

There are some things I look for now to help me determine which approach to take. Early on in a conversation with a leader about their growth areas I ask myself these questions:

  • Does this sound like a will or a skill issue?
  • How long has this person been struggling with this “skill?”
  • What role do emotions (especially fear) play in this challenge for the leader?

Once I am confident that we’re dealing with a challenge that calls for coaching, I have a couple of ways that I remind myself that I can’t do the work for my leaders. When I feel the impulse to tell—which is really the impulse to teach—I take a breath and turn my thoughts into a curious question.

 

 

You have a multi-faceted role in the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification, for which you are a Faculty member, a Meta-Coach, and a member of the content development team. Could you speak to your involvement and aspirations for the program, as well as what you think this program uniquely has to offer? 

Yes! I have been working with the KSM team for almost a year. Selfishly, it has been an incredible professional growth experience for me to work with this team on content development. Now that I have met the Meta-Coaching team, I know that my own learning with KSM has just started. The collective wisdom and expertise of this group is off the charts.

I really love the way this program marries the EI dimensions into a holistic approach to supporting transformative learning and long-term behavioral change. This methodology is, I think, one of the things that makes this program unique. I also know that the residencies will be best-in-class, given the talent of the Meta-Coaching team and the deliberate way we intend to create the learning space for the felt practice of the coaching. However, I am particularly excited about our program’s digital learning platform. To be honest, I am not always a proponent of digital learning, and have not until now embraced the idea that it had a place in training coaches. Now that I have both experienced the Everwise Platform and started building learning pathways, I am a believer. The Everwise component will turn the spaces between residencies and coaching meetings into impactful self-guided learning opportunities. I’m finding there is something really powerful about getting a manageable “daily dosage” of learning, micro-practice, and reflection. Further, Everwise creates a community where learners can opt into ongoing conversation with their cohort—another opportunity to keep the momentum going. This self-guided learning may be the most unique thing about our program.

 

Could you share a difficult experience you had with a client and how you handled it?

The most difficult experiences that I have had with clients all come back to the same challenge: their unwillingness to do the “below the surface” work with me.

The greatest gift of coaching is that people learn about the assumptions, values, fears, motives, and traits below the surface of their awareness that either get in their way or are the source of their power. To get there, though, they need to make themselves vulnerable with their coach, and allow the coach to guide them in reflecting on parts of themselves that may feel scary; the parts of themselves connected with intense emotion.  People who keep their guard up can’t do the work.

I have tried three things when this happens. First, I back up and double down on the relationship. This starts with having honest conversations about trust and what we need from each other. It also includes conversations where we share our personal selves and build common ground. If the resistance persists over time, I step away from the work and lean into high-candor conversations about what I am experiencing, and connect it to the lack of progress I am seeing in the coaching. This conversation tends to raise self-awareness in itself for clients, and can lead us in new productive directions.

When these two approaches haven’t worked over time, then I go to my final strategy:  terminating the relationship. This starts with a version of the high-candor conversation I just mentioned, but continues with the proposal to end our coaching. Part of the message is that it may just be a personal chemistry thing, and I might not be the right person. Once this conversation led to a breakthrough for a client. The other times it has led to an ending. That has never been easy for me. I question my ability when this happens. But, at the end of the day, the time is wasted for the client if they aren’t willing to do the work with me.

 

What advice do you have for people who would like to become coaches?

If you want to be a good coach, you must first experience coaching. If you have not experienced the transformative growth that comes from real coaching, you will not be able to make it happen for others.

 

 

 

 

Interested in working with Matt and becoming a certified coach yourself? 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.

 

 

 

 

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Attunement: The First Step in Inspirational Leadership

Carl sits in his office in front of his computer on Sunday night, deep in thought.  Tomorrow he will introduce the strategic priority for the next year to his team, and he needs to inspire them.  He has spent more time working on this presentation than most, revising for the most compelling language and the most striking visuals. He has practiced the presentation with his partner to improve his presence and capture just the right mood.  He has and will put in many hours to prepare for this high stakes engagement.  And yet, when he arrives in the conference room, Carl will not be able to shake a nagging worry:  will this land with my team?  Will it inspire them?

While there is plenty that Carl may be doing right in this scenario, he is missing at least one key ingredient of inspiration: connection to his team.  Resonant leaders know that inspiration comes largely from connecting to what their teams care about.  It takes strong social awareness to create this kind of connection, which Daniel Goleman describes as the ability to, “breathe life into the hopes and dreams of others.” He calls this attunement—a direct connection with people’s emotional centers.1

How to Become Attuned to Others

If I were coaching Carl, our team inspiration work would have started weeks earlier, and it wouldn’t have happened in front of his computer.  Leaders who find themselves at a point of change or transition need to engage their teams early in the planning process.  Jentz and Murphy’s “Embracing Confusion,” while written for new leaders, can be an excellent resource for any leader in need of becoming more attuned to their teams in times of change or challenge.2  In this piece the authors urge leaders to “hit the ground learning.”  Jentz and Murphy lay out a process for systematically engaging stakeholders as experts in their experience of a team and a problem, forcing leaders to adopt a learner mindset and encouraging them to roll up their sleeves and engage their teams one-on-one as thought partners.   Jentz and Murphy’s process ends with leaders engaging their teams in “sense-making.”  In these conversations leaders share what they have learned and challenge their teams to grapple together with the complex, messy issues connected to their biggest challenges.

Coaching for Competencies and Attunement

Jentz and Murphy’s process is an exercise in building attunement. As Carl engages in it over time I would focus my coaching on raising his self-awareness and self-management, surfacing and managing his internal obstacles and personal strengths connected to empathic listening and collaborative problem solving.  My goals would be the following:

1) Build Carl’s appreciation for the power of connecting through listening for the needs, hopes, dreams, aspirations and values of people.

2) Build his ability to get out of his leader persona and engage his team in healthy, unfiltered collaboration as part of a strategy-building process.

As Carl listens for why his people care and engages them as partners in their collective challenge, he will be able to meet his team at a place of common belief and aspiration.  Simultaneously he will be building trust—another pre-requisite to true inspiration.

Connecting the Gaps

Engaging teams isn’t just about connecting, however.  Strong leaders also engage to diagnose gaps between their teams are currently, and where their teams need to be to reach their potential.  As Goleman writes, strong leaders “slow down to speed up” by engaging people in looking at the gaps.3   I would also be coaching Carl to explore his team’s gaps from both technical (logistics, skills and knowledge) and adaptive (relationships, emotions, and beliefs) perspectives by asking him two simple questions, over and over:

Where is your team right now, and where do they need to be to reach their potential?

Leaders are able to answer these questions accurately by adding the data that comes from person-to-person engagement to the rest of their diagnostic data.  As a result, socially aware leaders attuned to their team’s gaps are most likely to meet their team’s needs, while also reaching big picture objectives.  What is more inspiring than hearing your leader accurately name and go after your needs?

Flash forward now to Carl sitting at his desk after engaging deeply with his team. He no longer sits alone, attempting to pull his most inspiring ideas out of his head.  He now sits with the hopes, dreams, fears, and shared problem-solving of his team.  Their words surround him and inform his own hopes and dreams for the team’s new strategic priority.   He is not worried about whether his people will be inspired by what he says, because he already knows that he will be speaking the same language when he stands in front of them.  Because he is attuned, he will be able to meet the emotional needs of his team.  In fact, that work—the work of inspiring—has mostly already been done.  As he turns out the light he feels confident and calm knowing that the connection he has earned leading up to this moment is worth so much more than the very best words and sensational visuals.

Recommended Reading:

Our new series of primers focus on the 12 Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, including Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Influence, Teamwork, and Inspirational Leadership.

The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies – including the author of this article, Matthew Taylor.

See the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

Citation #1 and #3:  Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, (2002) Primal Leadership. (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing)

Citation #2: Barry Jentz and Jerome T. Murphy. “Starting Confused:  How Leaders Start When They Don’t Know Where to Start” (Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 86, No. 10, June 2005, pps. 736-744).

 

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Empathy in Leadership: Coaching Leaders to Manage Their Stories

empathy in leadership

 

When leaders struggle with staff morale or direct reports failing to thrive, a lack of empathy is the lead domino.   These leaders forget that, as humans, we tend to make decisions based on our stories about other people.  These stories impact our every interaction with others because we can’t hide the emotions behind them.  Our stories also determine our broader management tactics, which can be as wildly off the mark as our stories themselves.

Negative stories about others that we hold as leaders come from what Heath and Heath call the “Fundamental Attribution Error” (Switch, 2010).   The simple idea:  it is “our inclination to attribute people’s behavior to the way they are rather than the situation they are in” (180). The error, of course, is that situations are far more likely to impact behavior than character traits, and this approach can lead to unnecessary conflict or losing high-potential employees.

The antidote is what I have come to call the noble story. This idea has its roots in the concept of noble purpose, which I learned in my coaching training at the Teleos Institute.  The basic premise is that we all believe we act from “noble” intention, which we can connect to our core values.   If we believe this is true for others as much as it is true for ourselves, then we must call into question stories that assume negative intent.  This offers us a path to connecting with people we struggle to believe in.

Much of my coaching involves helping school leaders connect personally with teachers and parents who have disappointed them, who are actively resisting them, or who just don’t share their race, class, gender, or philosophy.  Empathy comes into play often. A principal’s job is to create the conditions for students and teachers to learn in their buildings, and the core emotional conditions they must create are based on trust through relationships.  You can’t fake caring and trust, so it’s my job to teach principals how to build it with everyone.

The key is to help these leaders replace their negative stories with the noble story that the other person holds about him or her-self.

 

This line of coaching begins when I hear my leaders start to explain their report’s behavior with their negative stories.  I hear things like, “How is it that an adult who went to college doesn’t know how to ____,” or “he’s not a good fit here because he doesn’t (care/try/believe) enough. “When I hear these kinds of comments I ask the following questions to raise self-awareness:

“How does that story serve you, and how is it getting in your way?” 

 “To what extent do you think that they are aware of how you are feeling?”

“What impact do you think that assumption has on your staff member?”

Leaders usually get to the unpleasant answers themselves, but if they don’t, I remind them of Daniel Goleman’s concept of the emotional loop:  you can’t fake or hide your true emotions.  People know how you feel about them.  And the impact of not being “believed in” on one’s ability to learn–especially when learning includes an adaptive challenge–is debilitating.

From here, we start our work on self-managing stories.  This is where we build the “muscle” to manage negative stories and create noble ones.  The following are steps that any of us can use to develop this muscle.

Showing Up To Connect: A Self-Management Exercise to get to Empathy

  1. List 3-5 things about the other person that is part of your negative story. What are your emotional triggers behind this story?   How can you manage them?
  2. Make a list of the real challenges this person is facing at work and/or in life. Connect each one to an emotion they are likely experiencing that may be contributing to the challenge at hand. What can you genuinely empathize with?
  3. Write a list of at least five aspects of the other’s noble story that you also value. These may include:
  • core values or character traits that you can respect about them
  • current strengths
  • past growth and success
  • the intentions that drive their actions that you can respect
  1. List the things that you want for the other as a person (i.e. as another human being in this world that is trying to do this work and live a happy life).

After taking these steps I ask my leaders to write them as a narrative.   I ask them to share it with me, and then I ask them what emotions they are feeling toward their staff member.   Leaders notice a significant change of emotion from our past conversations, and even from right before doing this exercise. This is a sign of developing empathy, and it comes with a new approach in how the leader interacts with their team.  With this motivation, I charge them with:

  1. Revisiting their “Noble Story” narrative before their next meeting with their report.
  2. During the meeting, asking questions about their report’s own noble story.  Leaders should listen for what they missed or don’t understand, holding the intention of building their noble story.
  3. Affirming what they hear and adding pieces of their own narrative.

Leaders usually report an instant shift in the energy of their relationships.  This is just a beginning of course.  Over time I work with leaders on developing the muscle to hold their story even when people struggle or disappoint them in some way.

Feeling empathy for the people we lead is not the silver bullet to accelerating growth or building team morale, but I have found it to be the foundation for both.  People need to feel that their leaders believe in them and trust them enough to take learning risks.  They also take the cues from leaders about how to treat others.

Recommended reading:

Our new primer series is written by Daniel Goleman and fellow thought leaders in the field of Emotional Intelligence and research. See our latest release: Empathy: A Primer for more insights on how this applies in leadership.

For personal interviews, see the Crucial Competence video series!

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Achievement Orientation: Coaching Strategies for Insightful Leadership

 

It is true that leaders who struggle to maintain a productive achievement orientation often have technical growth areas related to setting goals, progress monitoring, and analyzing data.  However, there is often a deeper adaptive issue at play that limits the impact of technical skill building when not addressed.

Whether they know it or not, many leaders care less about achievement than they do about other core personal values.  The good news is that leaders can learn to balance these seemingly competing values in their work.

David McClelland’s “Learned Needs Theory” from The Achieving Society (1961) has helped me and the leaders I coach make sense of this phenomenon.   According to McClelland, there are three core human motives:

  • Affiliation – valuing collaboration, relationship, and belonging to a group.
  • Power – valuing competition, recognition, and influencing others.
  • Achievement – valuing setting and accomplishing goals, and receiving feedback on progress.

McClelland believes that everyone values all three motives, but our life experiences and environments make one of them our dominant motive. Leaders who struggle to care enough about achievement are driven by another motive in a way that competes with achievement.  As a coach, it is my job to raise self-awareness about competing motives, push leaders to challenge assumptions about achievement that are getting in their way, and support them in crafting a new values-driven narrative that gets achievement and their other core motive working in harmony.

In my experience, leaders are most likely to struggle to reconcile achievement motive with their affiliative motive.

Paul is a leader I coached who fits this bill.  Paul led a small company with moderate results and was loved by his employees and clients. Still, Paul felt like there was a next level for him as a leader, and so jumped at the opportunity to leave his comfortable position to grow at another high-achieving company.  Within weeks of his arrival, however, Paul’s enthusiasm began to falter. He struggled to implement the company’s coaching system, with its focus on tight, accountable data cycles and direct performance feedback.  When I met Paul, his manager shared that Paul’s feedback often “hid the ball”, and that he was allowing his people to settle for lackluster achievement goals.  Meanwhile, Paul confided in me that his new work felt cold and impersonal. He was worried that his team was becoming discouraged by the impossibly high expectations and constant constructive feedback.

The more stories Paul told me about his performance management practice, the more I suspected that his root issue was competing beliefs. I realized that Paul’s ability to grow depended first on building his awareness about his own values conflict.

To help Paul I began unpacking his meetings with his direct reports that felt off. I asked these questions:

At what point in the meeting did you feel dissonance?   What did your person say or do that triggered that?

How did you feel when this happened? Name an actual emotion. Where do you think this is coming from?

What thoughts were going through your head that impacted your use of the coaching system?

What values or beliefs are under attack for you in this situation?  In other words, what do you deeply believe about the right way to develop people that is being violated here?

When Paul is able to name a deep belief that feels somehow compromised, I share McClelland’s core motive theory with him and ask him, “Based on the conversation we just had, what do you think is most likely your core motive?”  His answer:  affiliation.  At this point, the heavy lifting begins.  I ask Paul:

How do you think this core motive is serving you right now, and how do you think it might be getting in your way?

I follow this question with others that encourage Paul to consider the impact of his actions on his direct reports, on outcomes, and ultimately the impact on himself.  My goal is not to disparage Paul’s affiliation motive (certainly one of his core strengths as a leader), but rather to help him see when it shows up in ways that are holding him back as a leader.

When Paul starts to dig in about people’s feelings, I ask him to consider how his actions now are impacting the feelings of his people.  At some point Paul realizes that the way he currently values affiliation through relationships and nurturing emotional harmony not only impacts outcomes, but actually strains relationships and causes negative emotions. He sees that when he lets people off the hook for achieving goals and sugarcoats performance feedback, he is inadvertently sending the message that he doesn’t believe they are capable of achieving and growing.

Paul is now both confused and ready to re-balance his beliefs about affiliation and achievement.  I help him craft a new values-driven narrative that creates a new leadership path by asking the following questions:

  • What do you deeply believe are all of the conditions people need to learn and grow? Sort them by motive.  You believe all of these things, even if they currently seem at odds.
  • How will you know when some of these conditions are actually getting in the way of growth? What could you do as a leader when this happens? 
  • How will you make yourself lean into the conditions you know some people need, even when they fall into the achievement motive and push up against your affiliative motive?

Paul develops a plan to be aware of when his affiliation motive gets in his way, and to manage his unproductive impulses.  The plan helps him make better decisions about development strategies, because he is now trying to figure out what his reports need to grow rather than what makes them feel good.  With practice and coaching, Paul learns to care about achievement by replacing old assumptions and habits with new ones that balance care for people and performance.

Recommended Reading:

Achievement Orientation

Our new primer series is written by Daniel Goleman and fellow thought leaders in the field of Emotional Intelligence and research. The following are available now: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, Adaptability, and Achievement Orientation, with new releases monthly throughout 2017.

For more in-depth insights, see the Crucial Competence video series!

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How to Coach for Adaptability in Leadership

Adaptability in leadership

Coaching new school principals, I have come to appreciate the hidden emotional costs to leadership promotion. If I don’t support my leaders to adapt emotionally to their new roles, they are more likely to hit a wall when adapting to the skills of their new job.

Consider Janet. As an assistant principal, she turns every task into gold because of her work ethic, intelligence, instructional expertise, and organizational skills. She earns considerable credibility with her team, and so is a no-brainer successor when her principal decides to move on.

Six months later, Janet is struggling. She works extremely hard and everyone appreciates her level of commitment, but the school is not humming. She is both angered and confused by a growing resistance to the student culture system among the upper grade teachers, and blames the teachers when student discipline begins to slip. There is dissension among the leadership team on how to manage these challenges. She is surprised by what she sees as the weakness of many of her team members, and so finds it easier to take on student challenges herself. And yet, for the first time, she is missing deadlines and dropping balls. How can she get to the adult issues when student challenges take up so much of her time?

I see multiple entry points to coaching Janet, but most will treat the symptoms rather than the disease. If I choose to attack technical skills such as meeting facilitation, difficult conversations or even personal organization, I miss the fact that Janet has failed to adapt to her new position at an emotional level.

Adapting Starts with Self-Awareness

Because leaders like Janet begin a perpetual sprint from the moment they are offered their new job, few take the time to ground themselves emotionally in what is happening to them. William Bridge’s Transitions (1980) is an excellent place to start building Emotional Self-Awareness because it emphasizes that all change processes””no matter how positive””begin with endings and loss. Janet and I begin our work by reading chapter one and talking about endings. I ask her some combination of these questions:

Even when transitions are positive ones, there’s loss. How does Bridge’s theory of endings help you make sense of your principal transition experience so far? What have you lost or had to let go of already? How do you think this has affected you emotionally? To what extent have you been able to let go? What do you think is getting in your way?

Once Janet gets the idea about letting go, she needs help identifying the kinds of things that will get in her way if she doesn’t let go. Charan’s The Leadership Pipeline (2000) is a great place to start. I connect our endings conversation to exploring what’s getting in the way with this quote:

The highest-performing people, especially, are reluctant to change; they want to keep doing the activities that made them successful. As a result, people make the job transition from individual contributor to manager without making a behavioral or value-based transition. In effect, they become managers without accepting the requirements.

Chapter one offers concrete behaviors and values that get in the way of leaders adapting to new stages of leadership. Janet begins to see how her strength as a “doer” is holding her back from leading through others. My job at this point is to help Janet become aware of the values connected to her work up to this point, and then support her to make a conscious choice to shift them. Even when the choice is made, it takes time to unpack the habits, relationships, loyalties, and even character traits that are all pieces of Janet’s former strength.

Self Managing Through the Micro-Moments

Janet will confront countless micro-moments of challenge that are in fact opportunities to shift her deeply ingrained behaviors. Tomorrow she will be drawn to a challenging teacher-student interaction as she walks down the hallway. She can choose to jump in and solve the problem, call the behavioral support staff whose job it is to support teachers, or let the teacher manage his own challenge. Being aware””of the choice and of the emotions and values at play””is the first step. Then, Janet needs some strategies to help her choose new behaviors.

At this point, Janet and I do some aspirational thinking. I learned from Boyatzis’s Intentional Change Model (2006) that exploring the ideal opens Janet’s mind to possibilities that will likely yield effective self-management strategies. As we focus on a specific micro-moment””reactively or proactively””I say to her:

Imagine at this moment that you are able to lead masterfully through others. How would you get yourself to do it? You see that teacher struggling with that student! What do you do with your emotions and desire to jump in? What do you think or do that keeps you from engaging?

Deeply exploring this moment of opportunity allows Janet to identify some things she can do to manage her emotions and her old values and habits, and leverage new ones. She articulates a reminder that her inner coach will chant (“Remember, you are the only person that can lead this school. How many other people can do this work right now?”). She practices taking two deep breaths to ground herself in the moment. She makes a plan to engage her trusted assistant principal as an accountability partner. Janet keeps these strategies on a note-card that she tapes to the back of her iPad. We reflect on application over time, revising strategies as we learn what works, until Janet is consistently making strong choices about the work that she takes on or delegates to other staff.

Slowing your new leader down to reflect on endings, loss and surrendering strengths that no longer serve them is worth it. This coaching will save you weeks or months in new skill acquisition.

Recommended reading:

Our new series of primers was created by bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman, along with fellow thought leaders in EI, research, and leadership development.

The primers focus on the competencies of Emotional and Social Intelligence in leadership. You can find the first 3 in the series available now: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, and Adaptability.