Tools for Coaching Mastery

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The Influential Difference
by Joseph Liberti

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 17 of the upcoming book, Coaching Emotional Intelligence: A foundation for HR professionals, internal coaches, trainers and consultants, by Joseph Liberti.

Once your student sits down in your classroom, what will make the greatest difference in how much she will learn? Once the coaching conversation begins with your client, what will have the greatest influence on his progress?

You! You are the influential difference in learning, change and growth. That is true about the facilitator of any subject, and it is especially true in the development of emotional intelligence.

To understand your influence, consider that two elements that are involved in determining your results when you conduct coaching or training are:
What you do, and
How you are being when you do it.

What you do is important because that provides necessary support for you and your clients or learners. Presenting the right information, in the right sequence, with the right materials are examples of things that are important for you to do to get good results.

How you are being when you do those things makes all the difference. Your way of being, the nature and quality of your behavior, has the single greatest influence on outcomes in your training and your coaching. Nothing that you can do will be more powerful than that. So how must you be to most positively influence learning?

The three ways you must be, to most powerfully influence learning outcomes are:
1. Be present
2. Be connected
3. Be contextual

Be present
What does being present mean to you? When I have asked that question of my students they respond with things like “being in the moment” or “being in the now.” Let’s agree for this conversation that being present is being mentally, physically and emotionally focused on each moment. To be present, you have to be here in his moment—not in the past or future but right now. So that means you cannot be focused on the future as when you are thinking, “oh my goodness, what do I do next? You cannot be focused on the past, as when you are still caught up in the thoughts and feelings of a disagreement you had just before class or your coaching session started. You cannot be focused on other problems, deadlines or whatever.

Now those things sound obvious. What’s not so obvious, and frequently happens unconsciously, is losing your focus on the present because you are caught up in an emotional agenda. For example, it’s possible to have an emotional agenda around being approved of. Fear, perhaps of being rejected, has you focused on getting people to like you rather than being focused on being present to the needs of your audience and being effective.

What is important about being present?
When you are present you can tune in acutely to your client or audience. You can really hear the meaning behind the words they say. You can respond instead of reacting, choosing the most appropriate and effective things to say and do.

Being present, moment-to-moment is easier said than done. What enables one to be present?

The skills that enable one to focus on this moment are skills of emotional intelligence.

If you are emotionally self-aware that means that you are tuned in to you—you are recognizing the emotions that are influencing your thoughts and actions. If you are also effective at emotional self-management, you can be fully available to your clients or students.

You must be tuned in and connected to yourself first, in order to be tuned in to, and make full connection with, somebody else.

If you are aware of what your emotions are and are able to manage yourself by being a compassionate witness to your emotions, but not have them dictate your behavior, you can be fully present.

For example, you may feel anxious and think “I must perform,” so that people will approve of you. Or, you may think, “I hope I’m doing this right.” To experience the feeling of anxiety, to sense and acknowledge your feeling and to be able to stay in the moment, is what’s required to be present. So, your emotional skills, including emotional self-awareness, and emotional self-management are critical to staying present.

What disables being in the present is denial or avoidance of your emotions. For example, you may have had thoughts like this: “I am anxious about this presentation today. But I’ve been told to leave my emotions at home and put them behind me and I’m not going to pay any attention to that fear. I’m not really afraid anyway. That’s nonsense, that fear stuff. Come on, I’m able to get past that.” That’s how we were trained by our society and our workplaces to think and act, but it doesn’t work.

What does work is to witness the emotion, to acknowledge the emotion and to regulate or command the emotion instead of having it command you. That doesn’t mean denial or avoidance. That means staying present to your experience. And the degree to which you can stay present to your experience is communicated to your audience whether that audience is one or one thousand.

That demonstration of being present teaches very powerfully. You are providing your client or audience the vicarious experience of being emotionally aware, self-managing and present. There’s no other way to equal that level of power in teaching and coaching.


Joseph Liberti is the founder of EQ At Work, an organization that trains and certifies emotional intelligence coaches and trainers. If you would like to read the full chapter, "The Influential Difference," contact or

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