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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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How to Build Self-Management to Change Deeply Ingrained Behaviors

Several years ago I decided that I had enough personal baggage getting in my way to merit going to therapy.  It was a wonderful and challenging experience, therapy.  I had some major epiphanies about where some of my “less functional” behaviors come from. One of these behaviors—being over-critical of and micro-managing my kids—was one that I felt real motivation to change.  Unfortunately, despite what felt like life-changing new awareness about my parenting behavior, I struggled to self-manage when they didn’t clear their breakfast dishes or borrowed my clothes without asking.

Therapy is just one path that leads to epiphanies about ourselves in our lives, and if we are present and aware we see these moments as real gifts. Unfortunately, those gifts often fade into the background of our lives once the sessions are over.  Therein lies the hard truth about self-awareness and self-management:  building new self-awareness (even rock-your-world self-awareness) does not in itself change our behavior.

It takes deliberate focus and supported skill building, informed by self-awareness, to shift ingrained, routinized, emotionally-laden behaviors.  

This is the work of self-management: building the intellectual, emotional, and behavioral muscles to modulate our thoughts, emotions, and reactions to the triggers that lead to ingrained behaviors.   This change doesn’t happen overnight after our big epiphanies.  To truly change our behavior we must self-manage in our trigger moments, over and over and over, until we replace old, ingrained habits with new, ingrained habits.  Self-management is a long-distance race.  And the race is winnable!

Five Ways to Develop Self-Management

1. Do the pre-requisite self-awareness work

My coaching colleague Michele Nevarez wisely says that, “we arrive at where we aim.”  Before we can effectively go after our self-limiting behaviors, we have to understand where it is we are actually aiming, or what we are really trying to self-manage.  This is because emotional self-management is more about managing what causes our behaviors than the behaviors themselves.  Doing self-awareness work means uncovering the triggers, emotions, and self-limiting thoughts that lead to our behaviors.  Our target is to self manage at the point of trigger; before the behavior itself.  We want to head off our emotional chain reaction that leads to the behavior.  Some of us who are naturally self-reflective can do this work independently if we ask the right questions.  Most of us will need the help of a thoughtful friend, coach, or therapist to bring these triggers, emotions, and thoughts to the surface.

2. Plan for it

Once we know what our trigger is, we can plan for it.  If I know that my adolescent son will yell at his sister every time she is remotely critical of his outfit, I can plan for how I react.  I can plan my response, verbatim.  I can plan a logical and fair series of interventions if they escalate.  I can even plan to leave the room and put on my headphones.  If I can be aware enough in the moment and remember to follow my plan, then that may sometimes be enough to shift a pattern of unproductive behavior.

3. Access your power

I believe that we all have the power inside of us to not only manage our triggers but become resonant leaders in our own right.  This power comes from our values and our deeply-held beliefs.  We can learn how to access this power in the micro moment of our triggers to block our self-limiting emotional chain reactions and create the space for a productive path.  Questions we can ask ourselves to discover that power include:

  • Why do I care about this behavior or situation?
  • What do I believe about what is right and true about this?

Once we identify our deeply held belief that connects to our triggering context, we can articulate a phrase or a mantra that we can access in the moment—such as “my kids will build character and social skills if I let them work this out on their own.”  It will help us to practice accessing our beliefs with a partner in a simulated moment of trigger to build this muscle.

self-management emotional intelligence

 

4. Cultivate your inner coach (the angel on your shoulder)

Remember the cartoons of our youth, in which a devil and an angel would appear on a character’s shoulder at a key decision-making moment?  With our ingrained habits, we have an oversized devil and undersized angel on our shoulders.  Cultivating our inner coach is essentially building up that angel.  What can this coach say to you at your moment of trigger to remind you how you plan to manage your emotions and story?  How can that coach help you remember why you care about this behavior, and what you aspire to become?  If you can answer these questions in meaningful ways to yourself, and practice, then your angel/coach will likely be there for you in that split second of need.

5. Create structures for reflection and support to sustain practice over time

Again, changing ingrained emotional reactions, stories, and behaviors is a long-distance race.  We have to practice over and over to rewire our brains, literally growing new neural highways and building new behavioral muscles.  If we do not build structures and supports around this practice, we will likely lose focus amidst the other urgent day-to-day demands of our work and our lives.  Coaches are great supports because we not only keep your eye on the ball, but help you to continue to build new awareness and self-management strategies over time.  Peer coaches or “change partners” can be effective if you both truly commit to a long-term relationship and stick to an effective system of reflection, revision, recommitment, and practice.  Those of us who are particularly reflective and disciplined can even do this work on our own, but even this group will need some external structures (like scheduled, sacred self-meetings) to make it happen.

With the right skill-building, supports, and self-discipline, we can build new awareness and change deeply ingrained self-limiting behaviors over time.  In other words, we can become more emotionally intelligent. I can think of no better reward for a long distance race.

Recommended Reading:

Our new series of primers focuses on the 12 Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, including Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Emotional Self-Control, 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!

 

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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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Coaching for Conflict with Self-Awareness and Self-Management

The more I have learned about the emotionally intelligent leadership competencies, the more I am struck by how little most other conflict management trainings and literature focus on self-awareness and self-management.  Some models focus on social awareness, incorporating listening for other perspectives, but most focus almost exclusively on relationship management “moves” – i.e. how we interact productively with others in conflict.

In my experience, any approach not grounded in the self is not likely to succeed. The best conflict “moves” in the world won’t help me engage effectively in our conflict if I arrive feeling that I’m right, you intentionally hurt me, and that what I really want is “justice.”

Before we focus on strategies to manage conflict, we must raise critical self-awareness and build self-management so that we are able to bring our best selves to any relationships in our lives – personal or professional.  In my coaching of people in conflict, this rigorous self work begins with exploring the baggage and stories that might be getting in our own way.  Then it moves to self-management, exploring how we can manage our baggage and stories so that we can effectively communicate with others in conflict.

What baggage might be getting in your way?

As a leadership coach, my first goal is to help people see how their emotional reactions to conflict have triggered their “baggage’’, or the thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviors that limit their ability to effectively engage others.  This happens through asking a series of questions that include some combination of the following:

  • Tell me exactly when in this conflict you were first aware of having a strong negative emotion?
  • Tell me what emotions you were feeling? (follow up with probing questions and only accept answers that are actually emotions)
  • Exactly what happened that triggered these emotions?
  • When you were feeling these emotions, what thoughts were going through your head?
  • And so what did you do?
  • How do you think your actions served you, and how do you think they might have gotten in the way of resolving your conflict?
  • If you had to name what you really wanted to happen—your real goal—what would you say?

What stories might be getting in your way?

Once people are able to see their baggage more clearly, they are ready to consider how their stories—about other people involved and about what actually happened—may also need to be reconsidered.   My next goal, then, is to help them become aware of their negative stories, focusing mostly on the person or people on the other side of the conflict.  This work happens through the following questions:

  • When you were/are feeling the strong emotions you have named, what story are you telling yourself about the person/people on the other side of the conflict?
  • What evidence do you have that supports your story?
  • How does your story about this person or people serve you, and how does it get in your way of engaging effectively in this conflict?
  • What other stories might be true about this person/people and their emotions, values and behaviors?

How can you manage your baggage and stories?

Getting to awareness about our baggage and stories tends to be pretty enlightening for most people in conflict because we are least likely to be aware when we are feeling wronged by others.   Awareness alone, however, does not mean we are prepared to effectively engage with others in a conflict.  We also need to deliberately manage our baggage and stories in the moment.

To manage the baggage, I focus people on self-management strategies they can use at the moment they feel emotionally triggered.  Coaching for emotional self-management follows this line of questioning:

  • How can you manage the emotional triggers that are getting in your way right now?
  • What do you need to do for your true goal to be working through this conflict, and what can you do in the moment to hold onto this goal?

Helping people manage their stories is usually the highest impact self-management coaching for people in conflict.  We explore what they need to believe about the other person/group in the conflict to effectively engage them.  I help them build the emotional “muscle” of replacing negative stories with “noble” ones by engaging them in the following exercise:

  • Make a list of the real challenges this person is facing, and the emotions that feel related to this conflict. What can you genuinely empathize with?
  • Write a list of at least five aspects of the other’s noble story that you respect or value. These may include: values they hold; positive shared experiences; behaviors and actions that positively reflect on their character; their real strengths and past successes; the noble intentions that drive their actions

Without fail, after making this list people notice an immediate positive shift in their emotions connected to the other person/people with whom they are in conflict.  I charge them with reading their list before their next engagement and noticing how it impacts how they show up differently to the interaction.   People usually report that they are suddenly able to engage without the negative emotions they have been bringing up to this point, and they are able to listen with real curiosity to other people’s experiences and interpretations of the conflict. This, in turn, prevents escalation, and may even prevent future conflicts from coming up.

Conclusion

When we add rigorous self work to our conflict management coaching, we make it exponentially more likely that our people will effectively access the relationship management strategies they learn in most programs and literature in the field.   When we help people become aware of their emotions and the baggage and stories they trigger, they realize the extent to which they are working from assumptions without evidence.   They become motivated to manage their baggage and revise their stories about others involved in their conflict.

When you self manage effectively, two things happen.  First,  you show up able to listen with curiosity to other perspectives.  Second, you show up reflecting other people’s noble stories back to them.   When we reflect people’s noble stories—their best selves—to them, that’s typically how they will show up. If our goal is truly to resolve conflict, then shouldn’t we be inviting our best selves to the conversation?

Recommended Reading:
Conflict Management: A Primer

In Conflict Management: A Primer, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and colleagues introduce Emotional Intelligence and explore the many facets of approaching conflict management with skill and positivity.

In a relatively short read, the authors illustrate how to frame conflict as an opportunity rather than a burden, how to maintain bonds despite differing perspectives, and how to blend mindfulness and thoughtful analysis into professional relationships that work.

For more in-depth understanding of emotional and social intelligence in leadership, see the full primer collection or the Crucial Competence video series.

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Coaching, Teaching, Consulting: What’s the Difference?

coaching, consulting, teaching

As the Senior Director of Adaptive Leadership for the Achievement First Charter School Network, I coach for the full range of leadership roles with a focus on emotional intelligence. I’ve been developing leaders for over ten years, but I’d like to tell you a story about how I learned to develop the emotional intelligence competency of Coach and Mentor early on, and how that lead to a refined understanding of the differences between coaching, teaching, and consulting.

The Muddled Approach

David seemed to be struggling to manage his time and take decisive action. This surprised me, as I promoted him from team lead to department manager because of his incredible organization and effective problem solving. So, I dove into developing David’s personal organization system. But that seemed fine, and our work there didn’t improve his performance. David then told me that he just needed a thought partner to solve new kinds of challenges. I shifted to that, assuming that David would learn over time if I lead him to, or just told him, the right answers the first time. Several weeks passed and I realized that David’s task management only got better on the challenges we discussed in our meetings, but not on other issues where I anticipated he’d make progress on his own.

At this point, I wasn’t sure what more I could do for David. There was something going on here that I doubted I could teach him. I began to wonder whether David had the skills and abilities that his role required.

So what went wrong? Ultimately, this is an unfortunate unfolding of events, because I attributed a weakness to David that was actually about my own failure to give him what he needed to grow.

When Teaching and Consulting are Not Enough

Back then I would have told you that I was coaching David, and many managers would agree with me. Since then I have learned from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and my mentors at the Teleos Institute that I was actually teaching and consulting, not coaching. I have learned in my own work that knowing the difference and being able to match the right approach to the right growth area is critical to developing leaders.

So far in my David story I had been teaching (modeling, practicing, and giving feedback on a skill) and consulting (giving advice and co-creating). I had pushed on his observable skills and knowledge because I assumed that I could SEE David’s obstacle to growth. This would be true if David’s growth area were just a skill gap, but David kept hitting a brick wall. Strong managers who coach know that when someone like David hits a wall with technical skill development, there’s something deeper going on, an obstacle to growth that we can’t see.

In their training related to Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence model, Korn Ferry Hay Group uses the metaphor of the iceberg to explain that there is a whole set of characteristics we have that are hard to see, and that play a role in our ability to develop new competencies.1

It is easy to see the skills and knowledge that are the “above the surface” part of the iceberg. It’s harder to see values, self-image, and motives. Sometimes these deeply personal characteristics “below the surface” get in the way of our growth. Teaching and consulting alone won’t work when the challenge is below the surface. That’s when we need to coach.

Knowing When to Coach:  Technical vs. Adaptive (Or Skill vs. Will)

The concept of technical vs. adaptive challenges has helped me make the right decision about when to coach as a manager. Technical challenges require us to learn new skills and knowledge about something we’ve already got in our wheel-house, and that is consistent with the way we see the world.

Adaptive challenges go beyond skill and knowledge acquisition. They demand a shift in the way we see the world and ourselves. If it’s adaptive, it hits us below the surface at our values, character traits, core motives, and beliefs.Quite often, as in David’s case, managers who attack technical skill building quickly discover that the obstacle is actually adaptive. When skill growth stagnates, strong coaches ask themselves a simple question: “Is this a skill issue or a will issue?” When they sense an adaptive or will-related challenge they pivot to coaching. Strong coaches will move back and forth between teaching, consulting, and coaching over time, but they always make a deliberate choice about which hat they are wearing.

A good coach helped me realize that David’s obstacle was an adaptive one. I stopped teaching him how to organize his time and consulting him on technical problems, and I started asking him questions. We dissected specific times when he was getting stuck and I asked him how he was feeling and what was going on in his head in the moment. We discovered that David’s greatest strength, his analytical mind, was turning against him in the face of multiple new challenges and his ensuing feelings of incompetence. When a new challenge came up, David got so in his head about the many potential solutions and his inability to choose that he defaulted to answering email or executing tasks that made him feel successful.

Our coaching shifted to how he could self-manage his limiting emotions and behaviors, and manage his brain so he could settle on one sound decision. I deeply believe that managers can coach. The key is to know when to coach, and to shift our focus to what’s below-the-surface. If we can accept that we don’t have the answers there, then we can facilitate a conversation that helps our people surface their unseen obstacles and tap into their full potential.

To summarize the difference between these three approaches

Teaching is when a manager models, guides practice, observes practice and gives performance feedback, and is appropriate when someone has a skill or knowledge gap.

Consulting is asking guiding questioning, giving advice, and co-creating, and is appropriate when someone needs a thought partner to help solve problems.

Coaching is supporting someone to uncover their internal obstacles and to learn how to manage them, and is appropriate when a manager realizes that skill and knowledge gaps are not the primary obstacle to performance.

Recommended Reading:

coach and mentor competencyIn Coach and Mentor: A Primer, Daniel Goleman, Matthew Taylor, and colleagues introduce Emotional Intelligence and dive deep into the Coach and Mentor Competency, exploring what’s needed to develop this capacity in leadership.

In a relatively short read, the authors illustrate the valuable skills needed to foster the long-term learning or development of others by giving feedback and support.

See the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete Emotional Intelligence leadership competency collection!

References:

  1. Hay Group. “What is a Competency” from Hay Group Accreditation Training Presentation (Boston, MA, 2013).
  2. Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, (2002) Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2002).

 

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How to Influence with Emotional Intelligence

 

Today marks the release of Influence: A Primer, the latest in the Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence series, which explores the 12 EI competencies of leadership developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. Influence is a competency not often associated with Emotional Intelligence, yet it is essential to leadership as a social skill in order to make progress and get things done through – and with – others.

To help clarify this relationship, and illustrate the style of influence covered in our primer, we thought we’d share a few excerpts and quotes. The primer itself is available now for only $9, and will cover all of this in much greater depth, yet in a concise format you can read in less than an hour and fit in your pocket!

What is Influence?

Influence is a social competency. Leaders who are equipped with the emotional self-awareness and self-control to manage themselves while being adaptable, positive, and empathic can express their ideas in a way that will appeal to others. Influence is necessary for any leadership style, and can be done in a way that is meaningful and effective or fraught with resistance.

Leaders competent in influence will gather support from others with relative ease and are able to lead a group who is engaged, mobilized, and ready to execute on the tasks at hand. This is how real progress is made, how extraordinary successes are accomplished. How does a leader leverage these abilities to become influential? That is the focus of this Primer.

Daniel Goleman:

With the Influence competency, you’re persuasive and engaging, and you can build buy-in from key people.

You can’t order people to do what you want, you must persuade or inspire them to put forth their best efforts toward the clear objective you have defined.

Influence competence draws on empathy””without understanding the other person’s perspective and sensing their feelings, influencing them becomes more difficult.

Richard Boyatzis

The core intent of the Influence competency is a desire to get someone to agree with you. The behavior that demonstrates this competency is doing things that appeal to their self-interest and anticipating the questions they would have.

To the extent that we have a sphere of influence””and we all do in our families, with our friends, at work””we are leaders. Everyone is a leader in this sense.

Peter Senge

Real change often happens informally, with people who are good listeners, respectful of their culture, and who look for windows of opportunity.

Don’t worry about “getting everyone on board.” Instead, build a critical mass of people who have influence and then support them in spreading their influence.

Where there are matters you care about deeply, let go of the moral high ground of thinking “I’ve got to get people to do this,” and find where your interests and others’ naturally intersect.

Vanessa Druskat

Emotionally intelligent leaders typically recognize that team collaboration requires effective team member interactions, and such interactions are built upon the trust that grows out of relationship-focused norms and behavior.

In our work, we have found “emotion resources” or tools to be one of the most effective ways to enforce or reinforce team norms and, thus, to influence team behavior and outcomes.

Matthew Lippincott

Leaders with self-awareness and emotional self-control are better able to influence others and cultivate effective relationships.

By consistently demonstrating honesty, integrity, and authenticity in your interactions with people, a leaders’ ability to influence them significantly improves.

Matthew Taylor

Effective leaders use influence both to move people and inspire them to move. They do this by simultaneously communicating belief in their teams, appealing to their values, and holding them to high expectations for growth and achievement.

At any given moment, the leader has many variables to consider, including other people’s emotions, beliefs, values, goals, level of self-awareness, level of resistance, and level of skill. Ultimately, what the team””the individual or the group””needs is a just-right recipe of warm and demanding.

The Influence Primer is available now.

In Influence: A Primer, Daniel Goleman and colleagues introduce Emotional Intelligence and dive deep into the Influence competency. In a relatively short read, the authors illustrate the valuable skills needed to guide others in realizing the value of your ideas and point of view – not for the sake of exerting blind command, but to collaborate towards a positive vision with empathy and awareness.

Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor is Senior Director of Adaptive Leadership Development for the Achievement First Charter School Network.  In this role he coaches and trains school superintendents, principals and others across the leadership pipeline on emotionally intelligent leadership.  Mr. Taylor is also a contributing author for More Than Sound and consults with k-12 education organizations to build cultures that accelerate leader and teacher growth.

Prior to this role, Mr. Taylor founded and led Achievement First’s Residency Program for School Leadership””a partnership between Achievement First and other charter networks and urban districts to train school leaders.  It was in this role that Mr. Taylor completed the Teleos Institute’s executive coaching program and developed his passion for incorporating the emotionally intelligent leadership competencies into school leadership training.  While the Residency Program was originally built to share best practices with district partners, the emotional intelligence curriculum that Mr. Taylor developed is now informing Achievement First’s core priorities as the organization strives to build a more robust approach to leadership of people.

Before his leadership development work, Mr. Taylor taught elementary and middle school for eleven years then served as the Principal of Amistad Academy Middle School””the Achievement First flagship school””for six years. Under his leadership, Amistad distinguished itself as the number one middle school in the state of Connecticut for African American student achievement and among the top ten for both low-income and Hispanic student achievement. Mr. Taylor earned his Ed.M. in Administration, Policy and Planning from Harvard Graduate School of Education, a M.S. in Elementary Education from Barry University Graduate School of Education, and a B.A. in History from Carleton College.

He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children.