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chala , , , , , , ,

A fellow coach who specializes in personal coaching mentioned to me that with her clients, she can always see emotions at play but that with corporate clients, she never could. I had to disagree with her. My whole world is corporate. I work in a corporation, have corporate coaching clients and speak to corporate professionals for a living. I can attest to this that emotions are everywhere in corporations, you just have to look closer.
Recently, I was booked to speak at a symposium for the Certified General Accountants of Ontario. I was up against a concurrent session entitled ‘CRA Updates and the Appeals Process’, while mine was what the organizers referred to as a ‘soft’ subject entitled, “I’m sorry I just didn’t get to it because I didn’t have enough time’. (see same entitled E-zine Volume 4) Let me tell you that even linear thinking, fact based accountants preferred the ‘soft’ topic 2:1 that day. And as predicted, there was plenty of emotion in the room.
The toughest emotions to see are in the higher echelons of management. A client is struggling with how to effectively deal with a problem character on her staff. She may look and act unruffled on the outside but she recently admitted that if she could, she would rather just run and hide in her office instead of confronting the situation every day. I suspect many managers not only feel the same way but do exactly that.
Emotions are scary for managers to confront mainly because people don’t know what to do about them. Everyone wants a positive, harmonious atmosphere of productivity but that’s just too perfect for us humans. Humans have egos to satisfy and protect. They each have differing objectives and belief systems. That’s why an enormous industry exists where people’s differences are categorized. It’s called ‘personality typing’ and is offered under such names as Myers Briggs or Type Colours.
While understanding emotions in terms of how they relate to personality differences has its value, I feel that we need to be looking closer at what our commonalities are if we want to succeed in the Emotional Office of today.
In coaching, we use an unusual listening technique called ‘dropping it to your heart’. This means to stop listening the client with your ears and instead to try and tap into what they’re feeling about what they’re saying. In essence, listening with your heart.
When I listen to my corporate clients, I have to be even more deeply attuned to their feelings because often that’s what’s keeping them from handling the issues they’re faced with.
An example is a client I had who was a hard-nosed team manager. He had the task of formulating a business plan which he had absolutely no idea where to start. To boot, this client had a prickly personality and was known for cutting people down quickly for not keeping pace with his quick minded thinking.
Even though I write business plans for a living in my day job, as a coach, I allowed my client to get through to the emotions that were keeping him from writing a brilliant one and discovering his own formula for success.
This is how our conversation went:
Jack: I am really feeling very concerned about this assignment of writing a business plan
Coach (me): Jack, why do you feel you were given this task?
Jack: How do I know! Probably because of the previous project being similar to this one.
Coach: And how did that project go?
Jack: Oh it won an award and doubled category sales!
Coach: In that case, what do you bring to this project?
Jack: Oh, I can guess-it’s strategic insight about the consumer and the technical know how—I have been doing this for a decade or two you know!
Coach: Having those things in your arsenal, what is now keeping you from developing a business plan?
Jack: Well I told you before—I don’t have clue where to start
Coach: Jack, help me understand this, what’s a business plan FOR anyway?
Jack: It’s to make sure we hit our budget at year end!
Coach: Great- so what has to happen for that to come true?
Jack: You have to sell so many number of units for so many dollars, you have to market it to sell that and you have to produce so many number of units to sell by a certain date.
Coach: What next steps do you see?
Jack: Figure out everything I just said and write it down!
Coach: Great—does it feel like we’ve accomplished what you wanted?
Jack: Yeah, sounds like a business plan to me I guess..
You’ll notice how through probing, I was able to get Jack to go beyond his fear and get into his strengths and capabilities. Once over the fear hurdle, he was able to focus on what was most important and the next steps fell out of that.
The moral of this story (and e-zine) is that while businesses are still run and populated by human beings, we as managers need to be attuned to the emotions around us as well as in ourselves.
My request of you is when next you see an employee react in an unfavourable way, drop it to your heart and stop listening with your ears. The answers are right there in front of you.
With kindness as always,
Chala

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