Friday 19 March 2021

Emotional Intelligence and the Thinking Environment

I blogged recently about David Rock's SCARF model (which is one approach to Emotional Intelligence) and its links to Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment. In this post, I consider the Genos EI model  (about which I have also blogged previously) and its relationship to the Thinking Environment (about which I have blogged very frequently!)

The first of the six EI competencies (in the Genos model) is self awareness. It is fairly clear how a leader who is being coached in a Thinking Environment style, which involves ever deeper reflection and the questioning of assumptions, is likely to develop better self awareness. Not least, as one of the questions repeatedly asked in a Thinking Environment is 'What more do you think, or feel, or want to say?' That invitation to consider feelings as valid and important parts of the leader's data is both simple and powerful. Unacknowledged and unexpressed emotions are not only blocks to good thinking, they are also often significant blindspots. Bringing them into the conversation certainly enhances self awareness on many occasions.

However, it is less obvious that such coaching will support enhanced awareness of others (the second competency). It may do, of course, but equally, it may not.  And the same seems to apply when considering the other four competencies: authenticity, emotional reasoning, self management and positive influence.  Each of those may be developed in a Thinking Environment coaching relationship; but there is no guarantee that is the case.

I was thinking about this in a Thinking Partnership conversation with a colleague, and had got this far. So I was starting to conclude that the links between the Thinking Environment and Emotional Intelligence were rather less obvious and more tenuous than I intuitively imagined. Fortunately, I asked my colleague for her views as I got to the end of my thinking. She pointed out that I was thinking about only one way in which the Thinking Environment might apply.

If one considers leaders who are not only the beneficiaries of a Thinking Environment for their coaching, but also start to be practitioners, applying the principles and practice in their workplace, the picture changes dramatically.

Leaders who genuinely listen to others and help them to develop their thinking are certainly likely to enhance their awareness of others and their positive influence. The practice, if taken seriously, includes striving to embody all ten components of the Thinking Environment.  That certainly requires and develops self management: not least the need to refrain from interrupting. And such leaders, genuinely listening to others individually and in teams, is likely to become much better at emotional reasoning: that is, factoring in all those human dynamics when considering different possible courses of action. And I think the practice of self awareness and self management, informed by that enhanced awareness of others and emotional reasoning, is likely to develop a more genuine authenticity in Leaders. I think that last may be the weakest link, but I think it's a reasonable hypothesis.

So all in all, I think my intuition was well-founded: there is a strong link between Kline's Thinking Environment and Emotional Intelligence: it was merely my initial framing of my exploration that threw me off the track for a while.  I will, of course, continue to think about this (both on my own and with colleagues) and may post further musings in due course.


With thanks to Kelly Sikkema for sharing her photography on Unsplash

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