Small Business Systems

Developing Emotional Intelligence Through Coaching for Leadership, Professional and Occupational Excellence

This is not a real story. The purpose is to educate you about Emotional Intelligence.

Melany, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of a large corporation in Chicago, IL  was upset. She was snapping at people and felt out of sorts. She had not slept well the night before, and something in the previous day’s seminar had bothered her. She had been considering how to improve her leadership style through enhancing her EI. The instructor had explained that such efforts were short-lived if not anchored in a personal vision. Just after lunch, it dawned on Melany what was so troubling: she did not know what she wanted out of life. She does not think or dream about the future and thus found it difficult, if not impossible, to conceive of a personal vision. 

It certainly was not because she did not have a bright future. She was among the elite in her country. But she had trained and entered corporate life in the United States 20 years earlier, under her current leadership which had different assumptions about possibilities in life and a career. Her team members were also frustrated. Melany had trouble eliciting excitement among them about a future for the organization. She had learned not to dream about the future, but to react to things as they occurred. It had shaped her approach to leadership into a reactive style—one that was not working well.

There are millions of ‘Melany’s’ working in organizations throughout the world. They want to be better managers and leaders, but are puzzled as to how to reach this elusive goal. With the best of intentions, they attend training programs, get Master of Business Administration degrees (MBAs), and hire consultants and coaches to help. And yet the degree of change is often minimal. The people feel compelled to throw more resources into training, or slowly develop a belief that great managers and leaders are born and not made. While management of organizations seems better than it was decades ago, it is a sobering thought that the return on this massive investment in management and leadership development is so small. If the outcomes were subjected to a rigorous utility analysis, a prudent businessperson would liquidate or divest the effort.

The most common mistake is to think that acquiring more knowledge will make us better managers or leaders. To be effective managers or leaders, we need the ability to use our knowledge and to make things happen. We can call these ‘competencies’, which I define as the underlying characteristics of a person that lead to effective and outstanding performance. There is a specific set of competencies that have been shown to predict outstanding managerial or leadership performance. Regardless of author or study, they tend to include abilities from these three clusters: 

1. Cognitive or cognitive-intellectual ability, such as systems thinking. 

2. Self-management or intrapersonal abilities, such as adaptability. 

3. Relationship management or interpersonal abilities, such as networking. 

The latter two clusters make up the key components of what we call ‘EI competencies

Beyond knowledge and competencies, an additional ingredient necessary to outstanding performance appears to be the desire to use our talent. This seems driven by our values, philosophy, sense of calling or mission, unconscious motives and traits. These domains of capability help us to understand:

• what we need to do—knowledge 

• how we need to do it—competencies

• why we will do it—motivational drives, motives, values and unconscious dispositions.

For too long, the assumption has been that these abilities or competencies are characteristics with which we are born. This deterministic view has led to a focus on selection and placement rather than development. While it might seem more 156 EDUCATING PEOPLE TO BE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT intelligent to focus on certain factors that are empirically known to impact performance in recruitment, hiring and succession planning, and then to refocus on the same factors in training and coaching to maximize smart selection decisions, it is equally likely that ‘placement’ focuses on a different set of competencies than ‘development’. For example, in placement, we are concerned with corporate compatibility and threshold abilities like relevant experience, whereas in development we would focus on capability, both latent and manifest, and on dreams and aspirations. But these competencies, and in particular EI competencies, can be developed.

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