I was recently coaching a leader who had the potential to do great things. I’m sure you know this type of person—smart, quick, articulate, and out to prove he is the smartest person in the room. All that was missing was a little thing called emotional intelligence. And that “little” thing was holding him back.
In our first coaching session a few months back, he described himself as being strong on accountability and had no issue calling people out on their deficiencies. Note to self…doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He told me he was very competitive and he never played team sports but did excel at shot put and discus. Note to self…didn’t learn to play well with others. When I asked about his hobbies, he told me he was into fly fishing. Note to self…prefers own company versus others. And when he talked about his team, he told me how he had whittled it down (interesting choice of words, I thought to myself) to people who could handle his public confrontation. He seemed to think that a good leader doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. Note to self…this guy leads by intimidation.
As you might guess, this was an individual who got results and he was sure it was his smarts and technical brilliance that helped him get to where he was. My challenge as a coach was to convince him that what got him here wouldn’t get him there—the promotion he wanted—without improving his emotional savvy and ability to build strong working relationships both with his team and his peers.
I remembered watching the Steve Jobs biopic awhile back and thinking, what better way to have this guy see himself in action than to watch this movie and witness the impact of Jobs’s leadership style on everyone around him. When I suggested that he watch the movie he resisted because he detested Ashton Kutcher, but eventually, he agreed, and at our next coaching session, he was a whole new person. He told me he now “got” what I was saying about technical brilliance versus emotional savvy. And I knew he was open to change when he said, “I would hate to think I drove people away like Jobs did with Wozniak.”
From that point forward he was all “ears” to my suggestions. I had him take emotional intelligence assessments so he knew exactly the behaviors he needed to stop doing and start doing. I exposed him to the concept of “balancing advocacy and inquiry” and learning to ask good questions instead of the leading questions that he said he was guilty of doing. We explored the art of “small talk” and the importance of social interaction. We also talked about the importance of just slowing down, not needing to respond in the moment, and giving himself time to think about how what he says will be received by the other person.
There were lots of strategies we talked about and experimented with over the months I coached him; however, that movie was the key to unlocking his willingness to do something different. So, if ever you find yourself needing to coach or work with someone like this, have him or her watch the Steve Jobs movie. It brought self-awareness to my coachee and created the readiness for him to be coached. It may even result in your colleague getting a promotion, just like mine did. As they say…IQ gets you hired, but EQ (i.e. emotional intelligence) gets you promoted!
So let’s hear it. Have you worked with someone like this? Are you like this? What are you doing to become more emotionally intelligent?