Transforming the emotional intelligence and people skills of a senior executive.

A Group Strategy Manager at a multinational pharmaceutical company had been advised to improve his people skills or his job was on the line. Peers described his management style as “my way or the highway”, and while it was efficient, it was not the most effective strategy and had become personally draining.

Initially sceptical about the emotional intelligence training the company mandated, he soon took on the challenge of transforming his leadership and communication style.

Our coach introduced the leader to the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence (MSCEIT) framework. Using our specific EI tools, such as a mood meter, combined with a better understanding of body language and facial expressions, he learned to observe and pick up on emotional cues. More careful about his emotional vocabulary and how it impacted others, he began to approach each conversation as a relationship opportunity. This transformed his ability to diffuse and pre-empt potential conflict. He now proactively develops a communication strategy to ensure successful outcomes for all important conversations.

Learning and development outcomes for the Group Strategy Manager included:

  • Increased awareness of himself and his interpersonal and leadership style
  • Improved listening skills and ability to observe and understand emotions in others
  • More care in the way he manages and communicates his emotions
  • Increased communication and conflict management skills
  • Improved relationships with colleagues.

Building on his technical and strategic intelligence, these new emotional intelligence skills soon hotshot his career and opened doors. He now holds a C-level position in a major retailer.

Hank (not his real name) talks about his coaching experience and the success strategies he used to sharpen his emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.

What were the opportunities and challenges that led you to coaching?

My management style could have been described as “my way or the highway”. Though it did work efficiently, it wasn’t the most effective and definitely personally draining. After receiving less than flattering feedback from colleagues in 360 surveys, I was determined to improve my self-awareness and deepen my understanding of others.

What coaching tools and support did you find most useful?

As part of our regular coaching sessions, my coach introduced me to the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence (MSCEIT) framework, which I found particularly helpful. By analysing my EI abilities (or lack thereof) in a systematic manner I was able to re-engage with colleagues on a kind of emotional level that I had previously given up on. Using specific tools such as the mood meter in combination with a better understanding of body language, my ability to diffuse and pre-empt potential situations of conflict was transformed.

How have you changed?

Besides becoming a fan of the TV series “Lie to Me” and Paul Ekman’s work around facial expressions, I am now much better equipped to perceive emotions by picking up on emotional clues. I feel I have become a better listener and more observant and considerate about other people’s feelings. I have also become more careful about the emotional vocabulary I use.

I now develop a communication strategy for all-important conversations with team members and peers.

How did this impact your professional life and your team?

Within weeks I was able to enhance my communication skills, resulting in improved personal relationships with colleagues.

Accepting that effectiveness in building strong business relationships is an important leadership capability; the skills I learned were a key success factor in gaining a C-level position in another company months later.

Nowadays, I even find myself consciously looking out for micro expression leaks and often suggest potential learning opportunities in this area to my team members and people I mentor.

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