Coaching Success Stories

John’s Emotional Intelligence Success Story

Senior vice president C. was complaining bitterly to John. “You don’t keep me informed. You need to keep me informed about what I need to know. I’m tired of asking you. I’ll ask others,” she raged.

What had triggered this outburst? C.’s boss asked C. a question, and she didn’t know the answer.

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness & Self-Management. Don’t Attack. Don’t Defend. Listen.

John felt attacked, “unfairly treated and defensive,” but he didn’t go on the attack and say what he was thinking, “I get no support from you.” Nor did he ask her, “What do you need to know from me?” John and I had been in executive coaching together for a year, and that question had been asked and answered. He knew that asking again would just provoke and anger C. more. Instead, he listened and acknowledged she was unhappy. He promised to get back to her after he thought things through.

Don’t Let Your Buttons Get Pushed: Use Empathy

Later in an executive coaching session, I asked John, “What’s off track in your communicating with C.?” John acknowledged he had been too busy with an important work project and neglected talking to C. He knew she wanted to be informed “of anything likely to come to her from an outside party.” She didn’t like to be blindsided by questions to which she didn’t have answers. Though she was a very able senior leader, it made her feel incompetent.

John had similar wishes about how he wanted his own direct reports to keep him informed, so he had some empathy for C’s feelings. But he thought it foolish for her to be so defensive with her boss. After all, she couldn’t know everything that was going on, and should simply acknowledge this and return later with the appropriate answer. Furthermore, John thought, “She should trust me” to do my job and doesn’t need to know everything anyway.

Be Self-Aware, Calm Down & Get Emotional Distance. Then “Style-Flex”

With time John was able to calm himself and emotionally “step back” from his own frustration. This allowed him to accept that C. didn’t think like him. With increased self-awareness and the ability to manage his emotions, John committed to giving C. what she wanted. He promised to “over communicate with her” and scheduled these sessions in his calendar. Previously, John had kept C. informed but stopped. He was very busy and forgot.

John unconsciously sabotaged himself. He wasn’t aware of his behavior until I pointed it out to him.

John didn’t believe C. needed to have all the answers she wanted and should trust him to do his job so he stopped communicating with her! He was aware of his thinking about what C. needed, but unaware of his behavior, failing to communicate with a boss who wanted to be updated regularly. Admittedly, this was not very smart. But John’s irritation with C. and his unconscious “forgetting” got in the way of his “style flexing,” or adapting his approach to her needs and wishes, all in the service of a better relationship.