Answering the “What Am I Made of?” Question

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As Jack became clearer on his need to partner with others effectively,

he opened the door to Quadrant 2 work. He began to step through

the door as he started to explore new ways of working and being in

relationships with others. As he discovered that he was capable of

expanding his repertoire of behaviors, he started to explore the question

“What am I made of?” Like many people, Jack tended to rely on

a few tried-and-true ways of getting things done. His more directive,

take-charge way of doing things fit well in the fast-paced operations

environment of his previous job.As the acknowledged expert,

he commanded the respect of others and was rarely challenged to

take a different approach. His management style was effective and

he was largely unconscious of it; it was just how he did things.

When we are faced with a new environment or changing requirements,

we often need to reinvent how we work by learning to play

some new cards in our decks of capabilities.We may not really discover

what we are capable of until we are faced with a situation in

which our preferred way of getting things done is not going to work.

This is where coaches can add great value, because they are trained

to see the potential that resides in their clients, even when clients are

unable to see this for themselves.

Touchstones are areas of development that clients need to have a

minimum level of proficiency at in order to move on to the next

quadrant. They are not necessarily addressed directly but rather may

be woven into the fabric of coaching conversations to create the

shifts and changes needed to support lasting change. For Quadrant

2, the touchstones are as follows:

1. Expand your emotional vocabulary

2. Translate emotions into intentions

3. Read the emotional context of situations

4. Speak the language of emotions

1. Expand your emotional vocabulary. Clients need to recognize

their own emotions in order to respond to them. It is not

uncommon for people to ignore or downplay emotional

responses, just as Jack did in his conversations with the IT

person, often with the misguided hope that if they do not pay

any attention to emotions, they will just go away. Emotions

that are disregarded usually resurface later more intensely.

Jack’s anger at Stan for the possibility of missing the deadline

is an example of emotions that had built up over time. If Jack

had recognized his uneasiness earlier and spoken with Stan

then, the later episode might never have happened.

If we think of our emotions as being like a language our

bodies speak to share information with us about what is going

on in a situation, then the ability to identify various emotions

that we experience is analogous to expanding our vocabulary.

The greater the depth and breadth of our vocabulary, the more

information we can receive. It takes practice and attention to

expand your emotional vocabulary, but it is more than worth

the effort.

2. Translate emotions into intentions. One of the reasons why

people ignore their emotions is because they are sometimes

not sure what to do with them. It is uncomfortable when we

find ourselves in situations, like Jack, where we are angry

with someone and uncertain about what to say or do. It is

easier to ignore the situation and/or complain to others

about it, than to actually address it appropriately. Emotional

situations that are unresolved tend to fester and grow lives of

their own. Like monsters under the rug, they can wreak havoc

with our professional relationships and cause many sleepless


Coaches can help clients follow the trail of their emotions

back to the source of the issue. Questions such as “What is

really bothering you?” and “How are you feeling about this situation?”

can help clients identify their own feelings. Getting at

the root cause is usually the hardest part of the equation and

the place where a coach can be of great service to the client.

Once a client acknowledges the source of his or her feelings,

deciding how to deal with the issue effectively is much easier

to see. In Jack’s case, he needed to address the lack of clear

communication between himself and his IT partner. Once he

was clear on what he wanted the outcome of his conversation

with Stan to be, he felt empowered to take the necessary action.

This is how we translate our emotions into intentions. With

time and practice, clients become faster and more adept at

practicing this essential skill.

3. Read the emotional context of a situation. It is a natural extension

once we become aware of our own emotions to start

tuning into the emotions that are present in our relationships.

We can get some valuable clues about how to handle situations

when we become aware of what is going on just below the

surface. Jack was able to address the demands of his customer

by looking more closely at the emotional dynamic that was

playing out between the two of them. Previously, Jack had

tended to give in to the client when the client became upset.

Once Jack saw that he was unwittingly encouraging the client

to push the limits of the contract with this behavior, he was

able to see how he could change the dynamic by changing how

he responded. Through coaching, Anne was able to assist Jack

in finding clear and respectful ways to communicate the

boundaries of the contract, without losing the customer’s

respect. In fact, over time, Jack’s ability to effectively read the

emotional tea leaves in this relationship helped him to more

clearly understand what the client valued and to provide

stronger service within the bounds of the contract.

4. Speak the language of emotions. The ability to speak directly to

the emotional subtext of a situation is an essential skill for

clients who are building strong, lasting relationships. The

unacknowledged feelings that are swirling within a conversation

often derail the intended outcome. Jack was not looking

forward to his meeting with the demanding customer. He

opened his conversation by saying, “Fred, I know that you are

upset about this situation. It is my hope that we can work

together today to find a path forward.” Fred and Jack were able

to discuss what Fred was upset about, which gave Jack the

opportunity to understand Fred’s side of the story. Being able

to convey his grievances helped Fred to calm down, and the

two men were able to find a workable solution. If Jack had not

stated openly that he was aware of Fred’s feeling, it is likely that

Fred would have demonstrated just how upset he was through

his language and his actions, making it more challenging to

move forward.

The ability to remain calm that is created from the work in

Quadrant 1, coupled with the insight that is derived through

the development in Quadrant 2, form a solid foundation for

stepping into emotionally charged conversations.