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How to Fill Your Unused Coaching Capacity

October 11, 2018

Last week, we at Learning in Action, turned our attention to what we could do to help you fill your unused coaching capacity. (That time when you could be and would want to be coaching, if you had the coachees to fill it.) We are passionate about helping coaches thrive in their chosen profession.  

And we believe that both coachees and coaches can languish because of the challenges in finding each other. Marketing, sales and promotion are not necessarily a strong suit for many coaches. And most coachees don’t know the first thing about coaching, coaches, what they are looking for or where to find them.

That’s why we hosted our monthly podinar, Coaching At Capacity: How to Fill Your Calendar with Paid Coaching Time. We invited Chip Carter, Senior Advisor with LeaderJam and the Institute of Coaching, to talk with us about platforms that match coaches to coachees. If you’d like to watch and/or listen to our 90 minute conversation, you can tune in here.

Note: We’re grateful to Chip Carter for providing all the platform information in our podinar, and for verifying the information. This blog is based on that information.

 

Coach Platforms

Some of you reading this blog may have no idea what we mean when we talk about Coach Platforms. So here is a brief description that I’ve made up (because this space is so new I haven’t seen it referenced anywhere):

A coach platform is a platform that matches potential coachees (people who want coaching) with coaches.   

For purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on three primary types of platforms:

  • B2B (business to business)
  • B2C (business to consumer)
  • Coach companies


We’ll describe each of these types of platforms below and give examples.

 

B2B Coach Platform

B2B coach platforms match companies who want to offer coaching to their employees with coaches who they’ve invited onto their platform. Examples of B2B platforms include BetterUpCoaching Right NowProfitable Leadership, and LeaderJam, which is soon to be launched.
 

Platforms like these approach companies who want to create a consistent coaching program throughout their company but don’t have or want to invest in the expertise to do it themselves. Or companies who want to democratize coaching as part of their culture, and make it available to a broader cross-section of their employees.

Also, these platforms find coaches with excess coaching capacity who want to be part of their network of coaches. Many of these platforms are looking for coaches at all experience levels who have more coaching time than they can sell themselves. And because the prospective coachees in companies on the platform are at all levels of the organization, these platforms need coaches at all different price points (and therefore levels of experience).   

Each platform’s vetting of coaches is unique. For the most part, coaches submit information to these companies about their background, experience, education, certifications, credentials and areas of expertise. The platforms will perform some kind of interview and background check.

As a condition of bringing a coach into their network, the platform might require the coach to follow certain processes or procedures around coaching engagements and/or get some additional education in certain assessments they use frequently (e.g. MBTI, DISC, StrengthsFinder).

 

Side Note/Soap Box: Do yourself and everyone who would benefit enormously from working with you a favor! Discover, create, develop YOUR unique expertise in the coaching space. Determine a compelling way to articulate it. (Read my blog about it here.) You can focus on a specific target market (e.g. I focus on CEO/business owners); you can specialize in a type of coaching (e.g. wellness, Narrative, mindfulness, neuroleadership); you can develop an expertise that cuts across all coaching (e.g. Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Conversational Intelligence (CiQ), Neuroscience, Somatics). There are unlimited options. Use one of them!

 

Many of us got the impression from coaching school that we shouldn’t or need not specialize – which is the quickest way to commoditization of our industry, as far as I can tell. (You can even get your unique expertise from us at Learning in Action. We frame, teach, measure EQ like no one else on the planet. Learn more.)

B2C Coach Platform

B2C platforms create a marketplace for people who want coaches to find coaching. Examples of B2C platforms include LiveCoachAce-UpCoachMarket (focuses on career coaching).  

These platforms provide you with a place to list yourself and your work to be reviewed by potential coachees (either within companies or the public) for matching.  

The difference between B2C and B2B is that with B2C, you have to promote and differentiate yourself and you are effectively competing with many other similar coaches in the marketplace. A B2B platform will likely have fewer coaches than a B2C platform. It is in the best interest of those who run a B2B coach platform to curate the expertise and experience level of the coaches for diversity (and less overlap). 

While these platforms aren’t exactly TinderForCoaches, for coaches to be successful in gaining clients on these sites, they are going to need to either 1) stand out in some way – particularly in their unique experience, education, or expertise or 2) charge below what similarly experienced coaches charge. (Refer to SoapBox, above.)

Coaching Companies

These organizations are less of a coach platform and more of a company that hires coaches to be part of their team, full or part time. Examples include Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and LHH/Knightsbridge (which I believe has a strong focus on career transition). These are excellent organizations, IMO, and working with them would likely feel more like working for a company than working for yourself.  

Pros and Cons

The overview of these services provided by Chip Carter with LeaderJam lists the pros and cons of each type of platform and you can see them on this grid. In short, the more freedom you want, the more responsibility you have for promoting yourself. And the more money you want to make, the less freedom you are likely to have. And the better you are at articulating who you work with, what they get from your work and the reason to believe it’s true (because of your deep expertise and experience doing that), the more money you’ll make and the more freedom you’ll have. (Are you detecting a theme? 🙂 )

How to Pick a Platform

We asked Chip the question, “How does a coach pick one of these platforms? What are the factors they should consider?”, and he created this document for us. Thank you, Chip.  

I encourage you to read through the options, consider the pros and cons and determine the best answer for yourself. And I’m going to do something we coaches don’t usually do: give you some advice. (I’m cringing even as I write the word advice.) Here goes:

Choose the platform (or no platform) that will allow you to do the most coaching. 

The more coaching you do, the better you’ll get and the more likely you’ll be able to create a specialty and/or articulate an expertise. The more able you are to articulate exactly 1) what it is you do 2) who you do it for and 3) what they get from it, the more coachees you’ll attract. When you can articulate what you do, who you do it for and what they get from it in a compelling and unique way, you won’t need any of these platforms. You’ll need an assistant to keep all of your coachees and calendar organized!


Good luck!  And let us know how it goes.

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

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P.P.S. Do you coach teams? Do you want to?? It brings its own challenges. You asked for help to unpack teams – and now it’s available! The same EQ Profile that you rely on for individual coaching, can also be used for teams. We’ll answer your questions and clarify any confusion. Join us Wed. Oct 24th  live to ask whatever is on your mind about using the EQ Profile with Teams! Click for details and to register – FREE.

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Business of Coaching|Growing Client Base|Industry|Learning in Action

The Emotional Intelligence (or Not) of Immigration

June 27, 2018

For most of my life, I’ve shied away from political topics. Political discourse has always felt somewhat-to-completely futile to me. (Perhaps it’s my ‘wants’ orientation that needs a kind of ‘do this – get that’ relationship to get me motivated.)

Also, I’ve found that political issues have a way of bringing out the ire in otherwise kind and generous people. And I’m not eager to have that heaped upon me.

Now, futile or not, ire or not, I can stand quietly by no longer. My hope is that what I write brings about understanding and connection that ultimately makes a difference.

So, with great trepidation, I wade into the timely and highly political topic of immigration with a blog post (guaranteed to be at least partly futile and somewhat ire-inducing) that hopefully sheds some light on the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) aspects of this issue.

Note: While I’ve been accessing anger and experiencing at least a couple of its gifts (in particular, direction setting and motivation), my intention is to keep that anger out of these posts (as anger rarely connects us all).

The Emotional Intelligence of Immigration is About Boundary Setting and Compassion

I’m no expert on immigration. And I don’t have a solution to the challenges that illegal immigration presents to our country. I do know a bit about Emotional Intelligence as we define it at Learning in Action. And the EQ essence of the immigration debate is boundary setting and compassion.

As it relates to boundary setting, you might be thinking, “Well, duh!”  Border/boundary – same/same. OK. From an Emotional Intelligence perspective, boundary setting is about defining where I stop and where you start, what’s ok and what’s not ok between us, and what’s mine and what’s yours (particularly when we are in conflict). The ideal boundary from an EQ perspective is one that allows us to be both separate from and connected with each other. (Says easy, does hard.)

And if we tend toward thicker boundaries, compassion can keep us connected while we work out our differences. Compassion is the glue that can help us stay in relationship in tough times. Compassion connects us with others through shared thinking, feeling and wanting, and honors the inner experience of others.

Staying separate and connected (with healthy boundaries) and compassionate can be extraordinarily complex, energetically challenging and incredibly uncomfortable, particularly when we are in conflict. I call it “withstanding the thousand tiny paper cuts of being in relationship.” And it’s tough to get it just right and most of us don’t. And we can try.

Blurred Boundaries

Because the ideal EQ of both separate and connected is so challenging, most of us tend to lean one way or the other – toward either being unseparate or unconnected – when we are under stress. When we lose our separateness, our boundaries can tend to blur, making it difficult to separate what’s me or mine from what’s you or yours.

When we experience blurred boundaries, particularly under stress, we can tend toward one or more of the following:

  • Take more responsibility than is ours to take (e.g. taking on the physical responsibilities of others and/or responsibility for the emotions of others)
  • Allow others to take advantage of us (e.g. allow others to expect more of us than is reasonable, though we may not perceive it as too much at the time)
  • Enable others to not do their part (because we are doing it for them, often before they choose to do it for themselves)
  • Not be able to define clearly what’s ok and what’s not ok in relationship (perhaps because others violated our boundaries when we were growing up and there is no space in our brain that can define what a boundary is – that’s a whole other blog post to come)
  • Fear/belief that setting a boundary will end the relationship (perhaps because we’ve become so unconsciously enmeshed in the relationship that drawing a boundary can feel like an ending of both self and other)
  • Become exhausted and overwhelmed taking on too much, disconnecting us from our own joy

Do you identify with any of the above statements?

To be clear, most of the above occurs outside of our consciousness. Those of us who lean toward blurred boundaries tend not to recognize the porousness of our experience because it’s the wallpaper of our lives. We don’t see it about ourselves except perhaps when someone with healthier boundaries points it out. (It’s often something we’ve learned that we don’t know we’ve learned.)

When our boundaries are so blurred, we can literally lose ourselves. And as a nation, if we applied our blurred boundaries to our immigration policy, it would pose an incredible challenge. On our resources, on our energy, on our own joy. So, clearly, saying, “Hey everybody, come on in! We’ll be responsible for you!” is not healthy. Not healthy to us as American humans or as a nation.

Boundaries Too Thick

When we don’t err on the side of blurred boundaries, we’ll tend to err on the side of being unconnected or disconnected from others. Creating boundaries that are too thick when we are challenged. When we are disconnected from others, we don’t feel their pain, we distance ourselves from their humanness, we “really don’t care.”

When our boundaries are too thick, we can tend toward one or more of the following:

  • Believe in the idea of ‘every man for himself’ (perhaps because we learned from an early age that we had to look out for #1)
  • Not consider the impact we have on others, being unempathetic to the feelings/needs of others (perhaps because we weren’t attuned with as children, no one recognizing or sharing with us in our feelings/needs)
  • View interactions with people as transactions versus relationships, ‘dealing’ with people, instead of relating with them (perhaps because that’s been a successful strategy for us in other parts of our lives)
  • Become angered by others not behaving as we expect them to (perhaps because we learned to look outside of ourselves as our point of reference, and life rarely gives us exactly what we expect)
  • Separate ourselves from others through blame, judgement and devaluation.
  • Believe that the end justifies the means, placing policy over people and their welfare.
  • Ascribe to the idea that being right ‘trumps’ all else. (It’s about the principle!)

Do you identify with any of the above statements?

Perhaps not? Some of it sounds pretty mean and heartless. And when we are being challenged (the way that we can feel that illegal immigrants challenge us), we can be triggered into a default way of thinking, feeling and wanting that we are barely, if at all, conscious of. We can have an inner experience like what’s described above, without being aware of it.

Conscious or not, too thick boundaries are not healthy for us as humans or as a nation. As humans, when our boundaries are impenetrable, they keep us protected and everyone else out. And it keeps us alone. Physically, emotionally, or both. It prevents intimacy, connection, love. Something we all need. As humans and as a country.

As a nation, thick boundaries (whether through walls or policies or tariffs) assume that we can survive somehow completely on our own in the world, without friends, without allies, without alliances. And we can’t. Not in the long run.

Compassion

Regardless of our tendencies to lean toward blurred boundaries or too thick boundaries, empathetic compassion can keep us in relationship when it’s hard to be in relationship. Empathetic compassion taps into our heart, connecting us with the feelings and needs of others.

When we are empathetically compassionate, we know, care and share in the feelings of others. It keeps us leaning toward others versus away when the going gets tough. People who don’t experience empathetic compassion, simply don’t care about the thinking, feeling, and wanting of people, especially when they are in opposition with them.

Many things can block people from experiencing empathetic compassion. Personal hardship, wealth, racism, righteousness. (See more on Empathy in this related blog post.) And it’s rarely a conscious choice people make. It’s often a result of how their brains have been shaped by the events and relationships of their lives.

We’re All Human

Most of us are unaware of how boundaried or compassionate we are when we are being challenged. These aspects of our internal experience are largely unconscious to us. (That’s why we created the EQ Profile – to help make what’s unconscious to us about our inner world, more conscious).

For the most part, boundaries and compassion are not conscious choices we make. Rather, they are the result of the relationships and events of our lives and the meaning we’ve made from them. Those relationships and experiences have influenced our beliefs about what’s required for us to survive in the world.

And the experiences that have created those beliefs have shaped how the neurons in our brains have wired together and determine what feels comfortable and right to us. And what feels comfortable and right gets reinforced as our patterns of thinking, feeling and wanting play out. So, for some people, what feels comfortable and right, what feels necessary for survival, is to keep others out.

Understanding this, that our boundaries and our degree of compassion, are not completely our choice, helps me to understand and be empathetic toward the people who favor separating children from their parents as a deterrent to immigration.

To be clear, I’m not saying these people aren’t responsible for their actions or that connection or compassion are beyond their choice. I’m simply suggesting that understanding how these folks may have come to their position, understanding their perspective, helps me give them some grace. And I can regard them with compassion as fellow humans. I can give them what they don’t give others or perhaps themselves.

The Emotional Intelligence of People Who Favor Separating Children From Their Parents

It is easy for me to make up a lot of mean and sinister stories about the people who decided separating children from their parents would be a good deterrent to immigration. Making up stories is what we humans do. It’s part of our neurobiological make up. And those stories we make up can easily turn into judgments that then further separate us.

So, I can’t and won’t speak to the motivations and intentions of the people who made these decisions. I wasn’t there. I don’t know.

And the EQ orientation of those people is one of thick boundaries and low compassion. With such an orientation, illegal immigrants, parents and children can be otherized, blamed, judged, dealt with, and ultimately treated as objects. And all of that can be justified with the belief that the end justifies the means.

People in favor of separating children from parents don’t want illegal immigrants coming into our country, using our precious resources, taking our jobs. And they can feel comforted in that stance with the belief that they are in the right. After all, it’s the illegal immigrants who are breaking the law. They are the ones putting their families at risk, not us. They are responsible for their choices. We are just enforcing the laws of our country, as is our right. Right?

And people who favor this type of treatment of parents and children, illegal or not, immigrant or not, have developed their orientation (whether they are conscious of it or not) as a means of their own physical and/or emotional survival.

The Emotional Intelligence of Immigration

Emotional Intelligence is messy. And staying connected and separate and compassionate is challenging and hard and complicated and often uncomfortable. And what’s right isn’t easily determined. And staying in relationship while we figure out our challenges can be energetically draining.

Immigration is messy. It’s complicated. It’s not easy to see what’s right. If it was easy, we would have figured it out.

And whether referring to EQ or immigration, turning our backs on the pain of others is never the answer. It just can’t be. When we disregard the suffering of others, we are denying and degrading a part of ourselves. We can not disconnect ourselves from others without also disconnecting from a part of ourselves. We all lose when we do. We just may not see it.


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P.P.S. Did you know…. you can use insights gleaned from the EQ Profile to better understand clients and other people, even without them taking the assessment? Learn how in July at our new Master Class: Insight Mapping.

 

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Posted in: Assessment Tools|Emotional Intelligence|EQ and Current Events|Learning in Action

What is Emotional Intelligence? And What’s Missing?

April 17, 2018

I have a love/hate relationship of sorts with Emotional Intelligence. In 1995, my boss at the time suggested I read the recently released book by Daniel Goleman as part of my development.  She didn’t mean it in a casual “this is a book you might enjoy” kind of way, but more of a “if you don’t figure this out, you’ll never be successful” kind of way. Hmmm.

One of the reasons I purchased Learning in Action a few years ago was because there seemed to be no end to the depth of the space we call Emotional Intelligence.  It’s a rich, complex topic with so many angles into it.

This post is a bit on the dry side.  And iIt’s intended to help you and your coaching clients better understand the origin of Emotional Intelligence, how it has been defined, the limitations of some of those definitions and how the definition we use really matters if what we are wanting is to be more successful in life and in business. 

A Brief History of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined differently by different people. In fact, authors Gerald Matthews, Moshe Zeidner and Richard D. Roberts wrote in their 2004 book on the topic, “EI may be the most protean of all known psychological constructs.” David Caruso, Research Affiliate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, called EI a conceptual inkblot.

Controversy over the definition, construction and measurement of EI is embedded in its history.

While some of the ideas and concepts underpinning EI have been around since as early as 1920, the term emotional intelligence is more recent.

  • 1964 – Michael Beldoch used the term emotional intelligence in a research paper
  • 1966 – B. Leuner wrote a paper entitled Emotional Intelligence and Emancipation
  • 1983 – Developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, published Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences which included both interpersonal intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence .
  • 1985 – Wayne Payne wrote a doctoral thesis, A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence
  • 1989 – Child psychologist, Stanley Greenspan, put forward a model to describe EI
  • 1990 – Social psychologists, Peter Salovey and John Mayer, published their article, Emotional Intelligence
  • 1995 – Science journalist, Daniel Goleman, published the book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ

In 1995, after more than 30 years of research and publication in the scientific and academic community, the term emotional intelligence was still virtually unheard of. When Daniel Goleman published his book on EI that same year, it quickly became a bestseller, and the concept of emotional intelligence was popularized, seemingly overnight.  

In the 20-plus years since the publication of Goleman’s book, hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written on EI and related topics. And a great deal of controversy has sprung up, about both the definition and the measurement of EI. (We’ll tackle the controversy about measurement in a future post.)

Controversy about the Definition of EI

Not only do researchers and scholars differ on the definition of EI, these same researchers and scholars regularly amend their own definitions. It’s clearly an indication of the growing interest in, and scrutiny of, the topic.

Following are some of the definitions of EI that have been offered over the years and later amendments:

  • 1990 – Peter Salovey and John Mayer – emotional intelligence is: “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
  • 1995 – Daniel Goleman – emotional intelligence – “knowing one’s emotions,” “managing emotions,” “motivating oneself,” “recognizing emotions in others” and “handling relationships.”
  • 1996 – Reuven Bar-On – emotional intelligence is: “an array of non-cognitive (emotional and social) capabilities, competencies and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”
  • 1997 –  Six Seconds Team – emotional intelligence is: “the capacities to create optimal results in your relationships with yourself and others.”
  • 1998 – Daniel Goleman – emotional intelligence is: “self-awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, social skill.”
  • 2002 – Peter Salovey and John Mayer – emotional intelligence is: “The ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional meanings, and to reflectively regulate emotions in ways that promote emotional and intellectual growth.”
  • 2004 – John Mayer – emotional intelligence is: “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.”
  • 2009 – Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves – emotional intelligence is: “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships.”
  • 2018 – Six Seconds Team – emotional intelligence is “the capacity to blend thinking and feeling to make optimal decisions.”

While the details of these definitions differ, what most all of these definitions have in common is the sense-making of emotions, one’s own and those of others, to achieve an ideal outcome in relationship.  

We, at Learning in Action, align with much of that general definition. However, we see it as incomplete.

What’s Missing in Definitions of EI

For the last 20-plus years, the colloquial use of the term emotional intelligence has been shorthand for “good with people.” The most emotional intelligent person in a heated room would be the one who was most able to stay present, calm and focused on the topic at hand, while staying connected with both themselves and others. If you buy into this shorthand, even a little, clearly, there’s more going on than  simply being able to make sense of one’s own emotions and those of others.

From our perspective, several core capacities that are elemental to emotional intelligence are missing from the above definitions. For example, navigating challenging interpersonal terrain requires:

  • Not simply relying upon the emotional dimension of our experience, but also relying on our thoughts and our wants/desires
  • Not simply the recognition and understanding of emotions, but also the recognition and understanding of thoughts and desires/intentions of both ourself and others
  • Not simply giving in or acquiescing to others, but also staying connected with ourself
  • Not simply recognizing and understanding the emotions of others, but actually caring about and sharing in them
  • Not simply allowing the patterns of past relationships to blind us to the present, but seeing and accepting ourselves, others and the world as it is and as we are.

Without these essential internal capacities, emotional intelligence simply isn’t possible.

Learning in Action’s Definition of Emotional Intelligence

Our definition of EI is inspired and informed by the field of interpersonal neurobiology. Thus, our approach to defining and measuring EI is based upon science, but not constrained by it.  

We define emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize, understand and rely equally on all dimensions of our internal experience (our thoughts, wants and feelings, not simply our emotions) and the internal experience of others, to accept and be present in the moment with who and what is, and to stay connected with and separate from others in order to navigate wisely the challenges of interpersonal relationships.

The theoretical underpinnings of our approach to EI recognize the ways in which we are all shaped by the relationships and experiences in our lives, not only metaphorically, but neurobiologically. How we are shaped impacts how we see, think, feel and experience ourselves, others and the world around us.  

The end result of that shaping becomes our default experience – our patterns of thinking, feeling, wanting and focusing – that become the non-conscious backdrop to our lives and relationships. Only by becoming aware of how we’ve been shaped in ways we can’t see, are we able to become emotionally intelligent. (That is the awareness created by the EQ Profile).

We believe that emotional intelligence is an inside job. While we don’t diminish the importance of developing social skill, without the core capacities of emotional intelligence, it’s akin to “putting lipstick on a pig.”

The inner capacities that make up emotional intelligence can be developed once we are aware of them. 

Creating Awareness

Our core purpose at Learning in Action is to create greater awareness that leads to more choice and better relationships. Only by being aware of our default experience can we know what we are bringing into any challenging interpersonal situation.

Once we are aware of our non-conscious defaults – our patterns of thinking, feeling and wanting that have been shaped over the course of a lifetime – then (and only then) can we exercise more choice over who and how we want to be in relationship, and to create the relationships that we are proud of.


What about you?  How do you define and measure emotional intelligence? Has it changed over time? How so, and why?

Join the conversation.

 

P.S. Our next EQ Profile Certification course begins May 11, 2018. Register now. Hope to see you there!

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Posted in: Emotional Intelligence|Learning in Action

Angry? Who, ME?

April 5, 2018

I didn’t see myself as angry early in my career … and I was.

I accessed higher than ideal levels of anger, but didn’t recognize that within myself. Looking back, I can now understand both why I didn’t see the anger within me, and how my unrecognized anger hurt my working relationships.

This blog post is written with the hopes of opening the eyes of others who have high access to anger, but can’t see it.

Patterns Playing Out

In my early working life, I was acting out a pattern of behavior that had been modeled in my home throughout my childhood. To be clear, I, and only I, am responsible for my behavior. Now and then. And what is true is that I was shaped by my earliest relationships. And anger played a role in the shaping.

I didn’t see my anger because it was my default experience. It’s what was modeled for me and how I was wired to conduct day to day interactions. I didn’t experience myself as angry or not angry. I just was.

We are all shaped by our primary relationships. And not simply metaphorically, but also, neurobiologically. Meaning, the neural wiring of our brains, our mental models, our implicit understanding of what is is and isn’t acceptable are all shaped by our earliest relationships. And it can blind us to certain aspects of ourselves.

The Tale-Tell Signs of Anger

While I didn’t experience myself as angry, the signs were there if I had looked. My co-workers tended to give me a wide berth. Silence often followed after I spoke. I didn’t have the kinds of close personal connections at work that others had. Eventually, I was told that I was seen as having an agenda (which I thought was ludicrous.)

I just wanted to get s%$t done. I wanted to be successful. I didn’t think much about how I did that. I just did it. And because I was unaware of my inner experience and how that experience was playing out, I didn’t make the kinds of connections with my co-workers that would have enabled me to be more successful.

Angry Shadow in the Workplace

I’m not the only person who accesses anger without feeling it, knowing it, or seeing it. I believe there are armies of people, just like the younger me, in workplaces across America.

While there are a number of studies on Anger in the Workplace, they are mainly about physically aggressive or verbally abusive behavior. The more common, more subtle, more pernicious presence of anger is in the non-conscious internal experience of anger that people access and don’t see. Meaning, many people access anger and don’t recognize it in themselves.

Angry? Who, Me?

When anger is a dominant part of our internal experience and is not overtly manifest in our behavior, it’s easy for us to dismiss the notion that we might be accessing anger. In fact, I’ve worked with a number of clients who reported (in their EQ Profile) experiencing anger more than any other distressing emotion, and still didn’t recognize the anger in themselves.

Access to anger is one of the many dimensions of internal experience that the EQ Profile measures.And when an EQ Profile reveals greater access to anger than is ideal, people often push back, saying “This isn’t right. I’m not angry. I hardly ever get angry.” One might say that they are accessing anger (or resistance) at the idea that they access anger. 🙂

The Fingerprint of Anger

Anger has a recognizable fingerprint (if you know what to look for …and want to see it). Anger, like other emotions, has a direction. Anger points outward. “I’m angry at you.” The focus of anger is on the Other. (The Other person, the Other thing, Other Situation). People who have high access to anger tend to focus outside of themselves when challenged. That might look like blaming or judging or competing with or dominating the Other. Or like feeling victimized by the Other.

The essence of anger is rejection, resistance or non-acceptance of something or someone. There is no curiosity in anger, no openness, no uncertainty. Anger is right! Maybe even righteous! Some people enjoy the feeling of anger because it provides them with clarity, with a feeling of being right. If we are feeling right, there is a good chance we are also accessing anger!

The language of anger points outward, as well, and implies resistance. Many people who don’t see themselves as angry, tend to see anger as binary (versus as a spectrum) and as extreme (versus nuanced). However, anger, like all emotions, is experienced on a spectrum from “peeved to seething.” Anger has many nuanced shades that include annoyed, frustrated, irritated, perturbed, ticked, rankled, riled, livid, vexed, impatient, appalled. As people describe their challenging experiences, they’ll use these words that fall on the anger spectrum, often without noticing it

The Underlying Meaning of Anger

The underlying meaning of anger is essentially, “I’ve been wronged.” That’s why anger makes us feel so right!

Exactly what that wrong is, is unique to the person experiencing the anger and the meaning they’ve made of the situation. People who are angry can be convinced of the absolute correctness of their response. However, for any given situation that provokes anger in one person, the exact same situation can occur for someone else and they will not access anger. Our anger is all about the meaning we’ve made of the situation, and is unique to us.

The internal language that someone accessing higher levels of anger might use to explain to someone why they are angry would sound like, “You are wrong!” “You wronged me.” “You are at fault.” “You are to blame.” Most people would not externalize this language, particularly in the workplace, however it would be the voice of their internal experience. Again, the focus is on the Other.

When the person accessing anger turns the spotlight back on themselves (if they do), and owns their experience, the internal language might sound more like, “My needs are not being met.” “My values are being violated.” “This is not what I wanted / expected.” “My voice is not being heard.”

Guide for Coaches with Clients who have High Access to Anger

It’s common for clients who have easy access to anger not to see it. And though it may show up in their 360 feedback, that often merely reinforces their focus on the Other. The key is to connect them with their inner experience using what you both witness together in your coaching sessions.

If you have clients who don’t see their anger, consider the following approaches to help them see and process their anger:

  • Listen and mirror the emotion words your client uses. As your client describes challenging situations, listen for words like “frustrating,” “annoying,” “irritating” (all anger words) and mirror that and be curious.
  • Listen and mirror the focus of your client’s words. As your client describes challenging situations, listen for where their focus is. If it’s on the Other or outside themselves or if they are giving their power away, mirror that and be curious.
  • Attend to your client’s tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Some clients don’t use emotive words, however, their voice, facial expressions and / or body language may appear rigid, tight, defensive or resistant. Mirror that and be curious.
  • Divine what is underneath the anger. Considering asking questions like, “What of your needs are not being met?” “Which of your values are being violated?” “How is this different than you expected / wanted / hoped?” “How are you feeling unheard?”
  • Access the missing perspective. When you are sensing the anger in your client, mirror and explore it using some of the techniques mentioned. Then, at the right time, consider asking your client how they might have contributed to the situation that provoked their anger. What of it do they own? If they continue to focus outside themselves, respond defensively or like a victim, or respond rigidly, mirror that and be curious. (We all can tend to lose our agency when we are angry, because our focus is outward. These kinds of inquiries can help our clients regain their sense of agency.)

These approaches can help your client connect more fully with their internal experience, giving them more access to themselves. Anger can be disconnecting because the focus shifts so strongly to the Other. And turning your client’s attention back on themselves can connect them more with themselves and ultimately with others.

Do you have clients who don’t see their anger? What have you tried to help them see it? How have you helped your clients see their anger and connect more fully to themselves?

Join the conversation.

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Posted in: Assessment Tools|Coaching|Emotional Intelligence|Learning in Action

Can Anger Be Good?

March 16, 2018

Yes….is the short answer. Lest I give ragers permission to rage, I’ll explain further.

All emotions contain both information and gifts. Our emotions contain messages that no other dimension of our experience provides. If we don’t experience an emotion, we lose access to important information about ourselves and our experience. Also, each emotion comes with its own gifts that improve the quality of our relationships. Believe it or not, anger can improve the quality of our relationships! Crazy, right?

The Information in Anger

The information or message for us in the emotion of anger is “I’ve been violated” or “Someone / something I value has been violated,” or “This is not what I wanted / expected / hoped for.” All meaning, something is not right here!

Often times, our anger is prompted by a violation of our values. Even though we might not know for sure what those values are. Other times, our anger is triggered by unmet expectations. Regardless of how reasonable or communicated or clear those expectations might be.

Anger can be like the lightning rod that points us in the direction of our values, our unmet needs, our boundaries. It provides us with important clues to our inner world, the assumptions we make, the ideals we hold, the projections and presumptions we place on others and the world.

The Gifts of Anger

The gifts of anger, when received, demonstrate how anger can be good for us and for our relationships. The gifts of anger include boundary-setting, direction-setting, and motivation.

Anger helps us identify for ourselves and others what’s okay and what’s not okay,

helping us to set clear boundaries. Anger has a way of clarifying what’s important to us, providing direction, making clear what was previously foggy. Anger can give us the energy to right a wrong, to take a stand, not just for ourselves but for others, as well.

Anger, when experienced in proportion to the situation, and addressed with care for others, can be an appropriate response that fosters healthy relationships.

“Good fences make good neighbors.” This saying is so old and has been adopted by so many cultures that no one quite knows its origin. Anger is like an emotional fence that helps us to maintain a healthy separation from others, to stay differentiated from others. It helps us know where we stop and others start. Even Benjamin Franklin said, “Love thy neighbor, yet don’t pull down your hedge.” Smart man.

What Do We Mean By Anger

Some people think of anger one way: bug-eyed fury. That’s not how most people experience anger. Anger is not binary, on or off. And it’s not one volume, screeching or silent. Anger is an emotional spectrum from mild irritation to outrage.

All of the following emotions fall somewhere on the spectrum of the emotion of anger: (in no particular order) annoyed, frustrated, irritated, ticked, impatient, perturbed, dismayed, infuriated, outraged, bitter, indignant, mad, seething, cross, enraged, provoked, rankled, riled, livid, vexed, appalled, spiteful.

Some people insist they don’t feel anger, perhaps because they’d prefer not to think of themselves as angry (or want to be seen that way). However, they often recognize feeling irritated or frustrated or annoyed or impatient. All of these emotions are nuanced colors within the emotional color palate of anger.

Feeling Angry ≠ Acting Angry

Many people conflate the concepts of feeling angry and acting angry. We are used to hearing things like “I am angry!” Meaning I = Angry. Feeling, being, and acting are all merged into one. When I = Angry, there is no space for observation or choice.

However, we can feel angry and not = angry or act angry.

We have a choice point between our internal experience of our feeling and our behavior. We may not recognize that choice, and it’s there. Acting angry may feel almost involuntary for us, until we learn to understand ourselves, what is triggering our anger and how to press pause to determine an appropriate response. Feeling angry and expressing it in ways that both connect and separate us is essential for a healthy relationship, personal or professional.

What’s Lost by Not Experiencing Anger

If we don’t access our anger (and some people don’t), we lose the information it would provide. We don’t acknowledge or connect with the violation or the unmet need. As a result, we tolerate behaviors from others that those who experience healthy levels of anger wouldn’t tolerate. And our toleration of otherwise intolerable behaviors teaches people how they can treat us.

If we don’t access anger, we don’t enjoy its gifts. We may not set boundaries. We may not take a stand for ourselves or others. We may allow people to manipulate, take advantage of, or unintentionally overwhelm us with work or emotion. Not accessing anger has significant implications for the quality of our life and relationships.

Why People Don’t Get Angry

If anger has all of this information, these gifts and these obvious advantages, what keeps people from experiencing anger?

Author and addiction specialist, Dr. Gabor Mate, spoke to this question in a recent interview with Tim Ferriss. Dr. Mate connected the dots something like this:

For the first many years of our lives, we are reliant on the care, love and attention of others (usually our parents) for our survival.

During that time, we learn many things, including what’s okay and what’s not okay within our family. If we have parents that were, for example, raised by rageaholics, they might tell us, in so many ways, that “Good little children don’t get angry.” They may chide us or ignore us for our anger. What we learn from that is “Angry little children don’t get loved.”

We need love to survive. So we think, “I’d better not get angry.” We learn not to access anger in order to survive.

Instead of accessing anger to set boundaries and create separation, people who have been taught not to access anger may tend to move toward or merge with persons they are in conflict with, making the other person’s feelings and responsibilities their own. The fear of the loss of connection may cause them to lose the boundary that defines them.

Recognizing Suppressed Anger and the Cost

Many people who suppress their anger, don’t see the cost. They may feel that not experiencing anger is a good thing, a benefit to themselves and their relationships. They may be rewarded for their good behavior. They may have an underlying belief that anger is bad or wrong. They may fear the loss of the relationship more than they fear the loss of themselves.

Leaders who don’t experience anger may encounter a number of challenges that impact their leadership.

They may keep poor performing employees too long. They may suppress their own opinions or give up their authority or defer to others to not “make a fuss.” They may take on more work, more responsibility than is theirs to take. They may rationalize reasons not to delegate, not wanting to put more work on others. As a result, they can easily become overworked and overwhelmed by all that they feel they need / have to take on.

They do all of this, consciously or unconsciously, to stay in relationship. They prioritize their relationships over themselves. (And this shows up in their EQ Profile results.)

Coaching Leaders Who Don’t Access Anger

Leaders who don’t access anger often don’t draw clear boundaries. The two tend to go hand in hand.

Without clear boundaries, leaders tend to take on more than is theirs to take. They feel responsible for not only the work but also the emotions of others. As a result, they feel overworked and overwhelmed.

Often times, these leaders can’t see where or how a boundary could be set. They can’t see the option of asking for help or saying no or not stepping in to catch every falling knife. Drawing boundaries is foreign and uncomfortable for them. They turn a blind eye to the personal toll it takes on them.

A common approach to coaching these leaders would be to inquire about the cost to the leader of taking on so much; to explore how not asking for help and not saying no impacts their health, their well-being, their effectiveness.

The leader may reluctantly admit, “It’s true, I’m burnt out. Yes, I’ll ask for help. Yes, I’ll say ‘no’ next time. Yes, I’ll let my peer / boss / direct report do their own work.” But none of that happens.

In my experience, the way to help leaders who don’t access anger to set boundaries, or say no, or ask for help, is by connecting them with the cost to their loved ones.

When leaders take on too much responsibility, and work longer hours due to not setting boundaries, it often results in less quality time with the people they love most. Their loved ones and their relationships pay the price. When a leader realizes that they might be compromising their most important relationships because of a challenge with setting boundaries, then they can be coached into finding their voice, defining what’s okay and what’s not okay, and connecting with themselves.Ca

Coaches can use the value of the leader’s most important relationships to help the leader draw healthy boundaries elsewhere.

What about you? Do you have clients who don’t access anger? How does it show up? How do you help your clients draw boundaries?

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