It is not easy to coach those with poor EQ (Emotional Intelligence) precisely because it usually means that they do not understand how their actions, words or attitudes impact others. In fact, part of good EQ is understanding ourselves and how we are perceived by others and how we impact others. If my own self awareness is low it is very hard to understand why I might have a negative impact on those around me.

So how does one coach those whose self awareness is low? While not easy I have several suggestions.

First, and this is not easy, it is critical to have an honest and direct conversation with the one being coached on how they are negatively impacting others. Because their self awareness is low they will probably not have a flash of understanding and thank you for your concern. Rather, they will likely become defensive or seem clueless as to what you are talking about. Since they are not very self aware your news will be news to them and they often will not initially believe you.

That is why it is critical, second, to give them very concrete examples of what you are talking about: "Tim, in that meeting when you....this is how it was perceived by others and this is why they reacted negatively to you." Concrete examples are absolutely essential if you want someone with poor EQ to understand what you are talking about. They are likely to push back and say something like "well that is who I am" or "I am just being honest." While both may be true they need to understand that how they did what they did was disempowering to others and not acceptable in your organization.

Third, people with poor EQ often need very practical tools for avoiding problematic behaviors. So for instance, one friend I have been coaching tends to shut down when criticized - a bad thing for a leader to do. My suggestion to him was simple. When tempted to shut down, immediately engage. In other words the emotion to shut down should be a trigger and a reminder to engage, the very thing that will allow him to change the perception that when challenged he goes silent. Giving practical tools for dealing with EQ deficits can change the equation for one who wants to grow.

Fourth, give ongoing, direct, fast and candid feedback (in private) whenever problematic behaviors emerge. It is the very thing needed because philosophical discussions about EQ don't work with those who have deficits. They need clear examples. This can be followed up by the question, how might you respond differently in the future in order to get a different outcome? Again, that goes to developing their response toolbox.

Finally, if you are dealing with significant deficits be clear that their behaviors will not work in your organization and they need to get very serious about resolving them. Some need to understand that if they do not manage themselves better they may actually need to move on. 
  • Sep 17, 2013
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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