I was asked by the CEO of a large health care plan to coach one of his executives, the head of IT.
“Mike’s got problems,” he told me.
“People feel that he doesn’t listen to them. Some complain that he has stopped communicating with them. I’d like you to see if you can help.”
My first coaching session with Mike consisted of a series of questions.
- Tell me about your management team, I asked him.
- Who do you think is doing well?
- Who needs improvement?
- I asked him to describe his relationships with his boss and his peers.
As he talked, I observed two things.
First, Mike displayed a very high what I call “AQ” – or analytical intelligence. He clearly liked to solve problems. But Mike lacked “EQ” – the emotional intelligence to discern what people needed and how to support them. For example, he talked about one employee who took too long to fix a server outage. He told me he had “given her a few hours” to solve it, and when she had failed, how he had to step in and solve it for her. He didn’t think to mention how she felt or whether he had helped her learn anything in the process.
As a coach, your first goal is to help people become more aware of their behaviors.
I asked him to take the Straight Talk® survey. When I saw the scores, it confirmed my analysis. His highest score was in the Thinker dimension. His lowest score was in Harmonizer, the dimension that shows sensitivity for other people’s feelings.
My subsequent meetings with Mike focused on helping him become more attuned to the balance between analytical and emotional intelligence. We worked on tracking how people felt and mirroring sensitivity to their feelings. We practiced positive reinforcement. We practiced staying in the flow of strategic discussions and asking relevant questions. We focused on how he could be an effective coach for his employees.
After three months of coaching, I followed up with Mike’s direct reports, who reported Mike’s style had become much more emotionally attuned. “He’s no longer telling us how to do everything,” one of them said. “Now he asks questions and let’s us take more time to figure it out for ourselves.” Another put it this way: “It used to be that everything was in crisis mode for Mike and he would tell us what to do. Now he actually communicates with us.”