Friday 23 October 2020


This morning, a fellow coach, Christina Gates, posted a very personal entry on her Linked In feed. I commented on how good it was, and she replied that it had been hard (and important) to write.  I really felt for her, as it was a very vulnerable expression of her feelings. And I reflected on the different emotions that accompany vulnerability. When we are considering making ourselves vulnerable, we often feel fearful: as Christina said, it is a difficult thing to do. Yet when I read a post like that, I am almost always left feeling greater admiration for the person who wrote it than I had done previously. And I suspect that is true for many people. There is a curious power to vulnerability; not least because we recognise the bravery that sits behind it.

My thinking then went on to some of the feedback I got from the EI 180 I did recently, and to which I have referred in previous posts. One of the messages was that I could use less self-deprecating humour.  My justification for such humour is that I hate arrogance (and I am aware that is a risk for me: that I can be quite proud, and that could easily translate as arrogance). Self-deprecating humour, I would maintain, prevents that.

But now I am wondering. Is it perhaps, in my case at least, a defence against feeling vulnerable. If I have named and laughed at my own foibles or inadequacies, I suspect that it makes it much harder for others to give me feedback on them: it is disarming in a rather self-serving way.

I was reflecting on this with a colleague this afternoon, and at the end of the conversation, she paid me a compliment. I responded with some self-deprecating humour - even though I had been discussing with her just minutes previously my intention not to use it. And she was good enough to call me out on it, which was extremely helpful.

And I am interested in reflecting on that, too. It suggests that not only am I uncomfortable with criticism, I am uncomfortable with praise, and use self-deprecation to address that discomfort too. Is it intimacy that makes me feel vulnerable, then?

Yet I am aware, too, that I do make myself vulnerable on occasion. So there is something about context that I need to understand further.  And I need to keep a close watch on that self-deprecating humour, too!


Thanks to Ava Sol and Nik Shuliahin for sharing their photography on Unsplash

Friday 16 October 2020

Emotional Intelligence - a Behavioural Approach


At the start of lockdown, I declared a sabbatical, and embarked on a number of CPD projects. In addition to those I planned at that stage, and in part because of a recommendation by David Clutterbuck, with whom I was studying Leadership Team Coaching, I signed up for a programme with Genos, to become proficient in, and qualified to use, their range of Emotional Intelligence assessments, feedback reports, and development programmes. I have just completed that, and (subject to a practical next week - update: undertaken and passed..) will soon have  (update: now have) the badge. There were a few things I particularly liked about the Genos approach. One was the chap leading the programme, Deiric McCann who was credible and entertaining.  

A second was their model of EI:

This is more comprehensive than many, having six core competences, each underpinned by seven specific behaviours. And that is the other thing I really like: the assessments are behavioural. They ask those giving feedback on an individual about specific observable behaviours. Not only that, but they ask both how important each behaviour is, and also how frequently they see it demonstrated. That gives participants very specific feedback. On the one hand, they learn what they are doing that works, that people find valuable; and on the other, what they could do more of, in order to increase the quality of their interactions with others. And that is all backed up with benchmarking data, and of course with written comments by those completing the feedback.

So I am looking forward to working with this assessment - which is available both in a leadership and a workplace version (ie for those without leadership responsibilities).  I certainly found it useful when I went through the process myself, and got some very helpful and specific pointers both about my strengths and a few things to try differently or more frequently.

For example, one of the behaviours in the Positive Influence competence is 'Responds effectively to others' inappropriate behaviour.' My colleagues who completed the feedback rated this as highly important, but rated my level of demonstrated behaviour rather lower (still high, and within the benchmark, I should add, not that I'm feeling at all sensitive or defensive, you understand...).  That is really helpful to know, and prompted some real reflection.  And I realise that there is some truth in it: I do tend to be a bit laissez-faire, and to see where something is going, rather than intervene early and clearly when someone does or says something inappropriate. And the feedback from my colleagues is that they would prefer it if I intervened; so I will be seeking opportunities to do so. (You have been warned!).  But I hope that makes it clear why I like this particular approach compared to some of the other assessments out there: it gives such specific behavioural feedback, that it is easy to develop a plan of action (putting the plan into action may be more difficult, but that's another story...)

The remaining question, of course, is whether behaving in a more emotionally intelligent way actually increases one's emotional intelligence. It seems clear that it will certainly increase one's demonstrated Emotional Intelligence, and that is surely what the development process is supposed to achieve.  But further, the process of engaging in this way will also lead to greater self awareness, which is one of the foundations of EI, and also self management (which is another EI competence).  Beyond that I refer you to Aristotle on Virtues: we acquire them by practicing them. 

Thursday 1 October 2020

Getting into my stride...

I have posted previously about my initial reservations about, and slow conversion to, online development workshops.

This week I delivered the final workshop in a Negotiating Skills programme I have developed, that required participants to work through six short online modules, before attending. And it worked! They had done the modules and learned the model. So they came to the workshop with intelligent questions about it and ready to engage in practicing the thinking and skills that they had been studying.  It wasn't free of glitches, of course, but we have learned a lot that will make the next iteration better.  

The online modules were offered in three formats - videos, podcasts and written documents; and there was a reflective learning log for participants to record their learning in after each module.  We'll be following up with a proper evaluative survey after a few weeks, when they have had the chance to apply their learning in the workplace (or forget it) and I will be fascinated to read their feedback.

In the meantime, you can count me as a full convert. And with a convert's evangelical zeal, I thought it might be helpful to share a few of the things I am learning about making online sessions effective - and in particular some of the tools I am finding helpful.

Clearly, the key thing is to be really clear about content, and deliver that in helpful, accessible and engaging ways.  And in terms of engaging, there are some neat things you can do. Zoom breakout rooms (other brands are available, here and throughout this post) are invaluable; and there's a couple of things I've learned about using them. 

One is the need to be really clear about what people are required to do in the break out and how they can go about it (my instructions normally start with 'share the time fairly...').  I give people the brief verbally, and also put a link in the chatbox to an online word doc with the brief in writing.  I have also taken to assigning people to go to the rooms automatically, rather than waiting for them to click on the 'take me to the room' option - it just speeds things up and simplifies them. I also broadcast time checks to them in the rooms at the half way point, and when time is nearly up. And I don't go into the rooms to check up on them - I have found that interrupts their work whereas I prefer to give them the responsibility to use the time wisely; and in my experience, they do.

Other tools I have found helpful include Jamboard which is a virtual online whiteboard.  You can pre-prepare these for subgroups in the breakout rooms, and put the links in the chatbox; or for plenary sharing of ideas after a breakout; for action planning, as well as idea generation etc.  Participants can add virtual post-it notes (or pictures, draw etc) simultaneously, and you (and they) can keep the link to have a record of their work afterwards.


I also like the look of Slido, which I have yet to use as a facilitator (I have been on the receiving end, as it were...).  Slido allows polling, quizzes, question sorting, wordcloud generation etc. You can also pre-prepare things like team action planning sheets in Excel, (saved online) and include names, dates, accountabilities etc, and put the link in the chat, to get the team to complete the sheet in live time - and of course have a usable record of the action plan.

The final thing I want to comment on, is the value of investing in a decent microphone and camera. For what it's worth (and based, as is most of this learning, on colleagues' sharing their experience and recommendations,) I have a Rode NT microphone (which we cheerfully refer to as the rodent, for obvious reasons) and a Razer Kiyo camera. These mean that I can be confident that I can be seen and heard clearly - a huge improvement on the built-in mike and camera in my laptop.

As ever, I'm interested in others' experiences, ideas and recommendations, so do let me know what is working well for you in this virtual world.