What is EQ?

Working with a new employee or contractor requires a little bit of something called emotional intelligence (EQ). It’s the idea that we can be smart, not just about academia, but about feelings as well. This is something all of us should carry into every work relationship, but is especially important when the relationship is new.

I am referring to the attitude with which we all approach unfavorable work product or behavior. It you are not getting what you want out of your team, or colleagues, the most likely reason is that you are not asking for what you want, and are not being clear about your expectations. It’s important in these moments to recognize what is going on with you – the source of your frustration. This is where emotional intelligence or EQ comes into play. A self aware professional is always looking inward as they think about the results they are outwardly receiving: What was your role in getting those results? What could be preventing someone else from delivering on your expectations? What else can you do to support this person in achieving said results?

Everyone is a Coach

This where having coaching in your back pocket helps. A manager or leader who is coming from a place of direction or instruction presupposes they know what the underlying issue is. As coach, we all must ask more questions to discover what is causing the disconnect. A coach lives in the “discovery phase“. We, in that moment, must suspend all accusations of wrong doing, and instead step back and ask “what’s going on here?” Literally. It’s the time to run the tests, get the back story, find out the ailment, before prescribing a solution (you’re fired, you need to set an alarm clock, you’re not a good fit here).


As coach, we all must ask more questions to discover what is causing the disconnect.


Someone missed a deadline, or an objective, or the deck wasn’t to specs – ask. “What happened here?” Because while it is easy to assume that someone is incompetent or lazy, the more likely scenario is that communication around expectations may not have been clear. Or perhaps, there are underlying issues emotionally or physically that are impeding progress.

Assume Worst Case Scenario

The best example I can think of is from a colleague of mine. He was delivering a training to about 25 participants. Throughout the morning he noticed that one participant was clearly distracted. He was on his phone and constantly texting back and forth even though my colleague repeatedly called on him to bring him back to attention. Finally, my colleague called a 15 minute break to inquire “What’s going on? You seem distracted. Is everything OK?” And he found out that the man’s wife was in labor.


Some things trump laziness and incompetence. And most often those things are what make us human. Recognizing humanity in ourselves and in others is the foundation of emotional intelligence and where great work relationships begin to grow and flourish.

The One Question

So, the next time you question a colleague, direct report, or manager’s work product, first ask, “what’s going on?” It’s likely not as sinister as you may think. And armed with the new knowledge of the root problem, you can, together, start to find solutions.


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