"I'm almost embarrassed to tell you this..."
That’s how Sadie* started our coaching meeting.
Rarely have I found that to be the start of an upbeat conversation.
In the few short seconds before she completed her sentence I was frantically scrolling through my memory of her EQ Profile results and our conversation about it a month or so prior. As well as what her manager, a divisional VP, had said when he nominated her to go through this coaching process…
“She is on a tear, she’s a star--she gets great results, she is a great collaborator inside and outside of her team, and she steps into challenges in a big way. She’s maturing well in her role and we want to groom her to be in a bigger one.”
When I met Sadie, it didn’t take long to see that she is smart and quick and likeable. And the results of the Learning in Action EQ Profile had backed up her manager’s description of her.
What could have gone wrong?
“…there are two very small things I’ve been doing since we last talked and they have made a huge difference,” she continued.
I wasn’t expecting that.
Image credit: Sebastien Gabriel
My most simple definition of emotional intelligence (EQ or EI) is--at its core, EQ is our ability to form and maintain mutually satisfying relationships…particularly during times of moderate stress. This means all relationships--with children, partners, friends, and Little League parents; with peers, team members, managers, and Board members; with strangers in grocery stores. You get the idea…
For most of us it’s easy to be on good behavior when everything is going well and we aren’t feeling challenged. It’s relatively easy to be pleasant, to listen to others, to ask questions rather than direct conversations. It’s when things are a bit stressful that we slip into bad behavior (at least bad as far as healthy relationships are concerned).
During those times we tend to rely on well-established patterns that, at least once upon a time, helped us feel more secure, more in control, and helped us get our basic human needs met. These ways of thinking, feeling, and acting have become habits. Instead of making conscious choices about how to respond, we experience an emotional “trigger” and react, often in predictable (habitual) ways.
Those people with a high level of emotional intelligence are able, in challenging situations, to balance equally their attention to their own feelings, thoughts, and desires with their attention to others’ feelings, thoughts, and desires.
In the moment they are both self-aware and other-aware. They are able to manage their own stress enough to be emotionally grounded, to stay connected with others, and to be respectful of themselves and others in their thoughts and actions…self-aware and empathetic.
In case this sounds like a superhuman feat, it may help to know that EQ is changeable. You can improve it just like you can improve your physical fitness. It just takes some focus and consistent practice to change the habits that aren’t serving you well.
And, often times, some rather small changes can have a big impact. Let’s get back to Sadie’s story.
Sadie and Her Two Small Changes
A bit of context...
Sadie is an obviously high performing Director in a national, industry-leading organization. She has earned leadership awards at work, been through powerful leadership training, and has worked through some personal trauma, which she describes as helping her “come to more peace and get more real.”
She clearly came to our coaching already possessing some high level, hard-earned emotional intelligence. And her aspirations for our work together?
“To rebound with grace and humility” was her vision.
A sensitive perfectionist is how she described herself and she wanted to not take everything so personally and be so self-critical.
So what did she do?
Approach conversations with real, open curiosity and not be so serious.
Those are the two small things that Sadie pulled from our conversation about the EQ Profile results.
She established two new habits that we discussed during the debrief:
- When in a meeting, she would ask two questions before offering any advise or input
- She rekindled a ‘fun perspective’ by reminding herself that she enjoys her job and loves the people and the mission. That she has interesting work and a path forward in her career.
It sounds so simple, doesn't it!?
And what are the results?
The sincere, open curiosity has yielded the most surprising benefit, changing her whole approach to meetings and to her expectations (of herself, mostly).
“I am not as disappointed and am delightfully surprised at how free flowing the conversations are and how we can come up with a more solid direction.”
By her own admission, Sadie still gets too directive sometimes, but she is aware of it and is continuing to experiment to find the right balance.
Not being so serious has “made a ton of difference” to her. ‘Freeing’ is the word she uses to describe the feeling that enables her to not burden herself with having to have all of the answers and, instead, to put things on the table by asking more questions and seeking more clarity.
Who knew so much change could happen so quickly and easily!? As well as create such feelings of lightness, ease, and joy...while getting equal or better outcomes.
As with most things, it’s a work in progress, requiring conscious practice to create new habits, but Sadie is clearly riding the wave!
*Sadie--real person, real situation, fictional name
Image Credit: Lexi Ruskell
- QUESTION ONE:
What are some of the behaviors of other people that trigger a reaction in you (that you don't like)?
- QUESTION TWO:
What is your typical reaction or default pattern when you are triggered by those behaviors? How would you rather respond to those situations?
- QUESTION THREE:
Who is someone with whom you could brainstorm a bunch of ideas that would be simple (and perhaps even fun... imagine that!) to disrupt the old pattern and make way for a new one?
If you're curious how we might be able to help you or your team zero in on your most important small things, please contact us. We'd love to help you ride your own next big wave with lightness, ease, and joy!