1. Questions
2. Rapport
3. Listening
4. Image
5. Emotional Mastery

1. Questions

One of the oldest jokes we can remember is the story of the little boy standing outside the door of a house. A door-to-door salesman approaches him and asks, ‘Son, is your mother at home?’ ‘Yes,’ replies the little boy. The salesman knocks on the door but receives no reply. After several minutes of knocking with no response he turns angrily to the boy and says, ‘Hey, I thought you said your mother was at home.’ ‘She is,’ replies the boy, ‘but I don’t live here!’

The moral of that story is that if you don’t ask the right question, you probably won’t get the right answer. The combination of asking the right question because you know the subject matter well, and asking the right question in the most appropriate way, lies at the heart of skilled coaching.

Coach should bear in mind that their primary role is to help and encourage their learners to develop. This cannot be achieved if they create undue pressure or confusion by inept questioning. A meaningful coaching or mentoring session depends on using questions that provoke a response that enhances learning. It is important to build a relationship that is open and honest, so that the learner can accept the sometimes painful process of being stretched by difficult questions. Asking embarrassing questions is likely to lead to defensive, negative responses and a deterioration of the relationship.

Developing good questioning skills is vital to successful coaching and mentoring. Many managers will, during the course of their work, have received training on asking questions on interviewing, appraising and counseling courses. There are also plenty of written materials and learning packages available. Let us nevertheless look at various questioning techniques, which every coach-mentor should know about and try to apply.

The ability to ask powerful, open-ended questions is the most brilliant tool that we as humans can possess. They don’t have to be earth shattering or ground breaking questions that leave listener’s with their jaw hanging down to the ground, although they can be. More importantly they need to be questions that will stimulate emotion to provoke “aha” moments; one’s that leave the person in deep thought to inspire creativity, increase productivity, and blast glaring headlights on personal development.

Questions are the primary way to build a connection and develop lasting, meaningful relationships. They have brought peace in to broken, confusing relationships; they have helped to solve life’s most complicated problems; and most importantly they’ve brought a deeper level of understanding to humanity so that society as a whole can give and get more out of life. 

 2. Rapport

 Rapport is the essence of close cooperation in communication between people. It is often described as a feeling of warmth and trust leading to a sense of relatedness and connection. Rapport is an interactive phenomenon that cannot be created by one person alone. It requires the cooperation of both parties and forms the foundation of any coaching conversation.

In seeking to understand what rapport is, it is useful to think about a situation where rapport was missing. As you reflect upon that now, what was it about that interaction that lead you to know that there was no rapport? Perhaps the other person was using words that were unfamiliar, technical language or acronyms specific to a particular workplace or perhaps they were wearing very different clothes. Maybe they were talking very quickly and loudly, and you prefer to speak slowly and quietly. You might even have felt a chill on meeting them.


These elements and others, which we will explore next, all impact on rapport.

How is rapport created? It is a basic human characteristic to like people who are like us. We tend to show our affiliations with others by becoming similar to them. This can be on a highly visible and conscious level such as the shared clothing styles of a gang or an organization or on a more unconscious level of the shared gestures of a couple in love. In fact scientists found that some intense dislikes such as, for example, a spider phobia may be caused because the object of fear is so different in appearance from us.

The key elements in building rapport are:

• Physical appearance

• Body language and gestures

• Voice qualities

• Language/words


The closer we resemble each other the greater the feeling of comfort that is generated. Actual physical resemblance is often cited as an important factor in choosing a life partner. Obviously, in an executive coaching relationship we are not seeking such a close connection but we do want to lessen any barriers to effective communication. This means that the executive coach needs to consider such elements as, for example, style of dress.

It seems that observation of external superficial similarities generates a subconscious tendency to conclude that the other person is indeed ‘like us’. This, in turn, leads to an increase of trust and hence a more solid foundation for conversation.

For an executive coach working in the business world it is therefore important to pay attention to the styles and symbols adopted by potential clients. What is the dress code? Will your disposable pen be appropriate? On one level these considerations may seem frivolous but the executive’s decision about whether or not to use your service will depend on the signals you send about your ability to operate at his level.


One of the key indicators of good rapport between people is their use of shared posture and gestures. Just watch any couple in love. Their gestures and movements match each other. It is almost like a dance: one leans forward, then the other; one brushes back hair, so does the other.

These are very obvious signs, but rapport can be built more subtly as well through such things as breathing or even blinking at the same pace. For executive coaches it is useful to build observational skills so that they notice not only the more obvious elements of body language but also the subtleties.

A note of caution – be wary of attributing meaning to movements and gestures. We cannot be certain of the meaning – all sorts of factors including cultural differences will influence meaning – but we can notice changes and hence the impact we are having on our clients. Successful executive coaches will deliberately seek to enhance rapport by matching some elements of body language. For example, by adopting a more relaxed posture than normal if the client is relaxing back into the chair.


Matching of the tone, speed and timbre of a voice are also indicators of a greater rapport between executive coach and client. This has even greater importance when talking on the telephone where other key elements of rapport such as body posture cannot be observed.


Although words account for only 7% of any human communication, matching the use of language and key words are important elements in deepening rapport. We probably notice this most when we get it wrong. In a work context this might result in feelings of isolation and lack of rapport when first joining a company where everyone else is using acronyms which seem like a stream of gibberish to you.

For an executive coach it is important to listen to the words that your client uses and also the way in which they use language. For example, if they say they are feeling low make sure you use the same phrase with them. If you ask them why they are sad (when low means lacking in energy to them) then you are not likely to create the optimum level of rapport.

A client’s use of key words and phrases can also indicate their preferences for learning and storing information – visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (feelings – physical and emotional), olfactory and gustatory. By understanding the preferred way of making sense of the world you can then shape your communication style so that it has maximum impact. If the client tends to say things that indicate a visual preference (e.g. “I can picture that” or “I am a bit hazy about this”) then you can use visual language with them. You may, if you are a person with a preference for a visual representation system, use the phrase “Is that clear?” when checking for understanding. Whereas for a client with a kinaesthetic preference you may ask “Have you got a handle on that?”

It is also important to think about the appropriateness of the language in which the coaching is delivered. For example, in international businesses it is common to use English as the main working language and clients would be used to this. However, in smaller national German companies this would not be the case and the use of English words and phrases interspersed with the native language would not be welcomed and may even be regarded as bad manners.

3. Listening

 The ability to listen well is one of the hallmarks of an experienced executive coach. However, listening is an activity which we, perhaps all too often, take for granted. It is something we have been able to do for as long as we can remember and as such, in our opinion, is a skill which is much under-rated.

How can this everyday activity be honed to an expert level? In this chapter we describe the differences between listening in everyday and executive coaching contexts. We also detail our observations of different executive coaches’ approaches to listening and how listening skills can be developed.

In general, people tend to think of listening as a passive rather than active behaviour and, as a result, do not recognize the amount of effort and skill it takes to really become an expert listener.

The first step is to appreciate that listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is one of the five ways in which we can detect changes in our internal or external environment. By hearing something we are acknowledging the reception of a sound. Listening then requires the interpretation of that sound to give it meaning and to determine the appropriate response.

 As a coach you will ‘tune-in’ to people.

Where are they coming from?

What are they trying to say?

The art of listening requires that you:

•          prepare yourself,

•          hold the focus,

•          Show that you are listening.

Research suggests that the way people deliver a message accounts for 93% of its meaning.

•       Maintain good eye contact

•       Encourage people to talk

•       Reflect back what you hear

•       Don’t interrupt.

‘To help people think for themselves, first listen. And listen, then listen.’ 

4. Image




Don’t assume that how you feel is how other people feel about a situation. Instead of assigning a feeling to a situation that suits everyone, ask people what they think and then make a decision that suits you.

Don’t assume that others will follow, but don’t expect them to either.


One of the easiest ways to hurt someone’s feelings, including your own, is to assume that another person should act a certain way. This is easy to do and we do it all the time as humans.

We think we know how others should act or how they should live their lives. It’s really none of our business what other people do so don’t set the stage for disappointment.


Think before you act. If you are trying to get someone to do something with you, you might want to consider why you are doing that in the first place.

If you don’t want to hurt someone, don’t tell them to do something just because you want them to. Think about what you want and what they would want.


There are a number of socially-unacceptable terms that have been widely adopted as “offensive” so keep those words out of your vocabulary, even if you are “joking around” with friends.


You might make the mistake of thinking that just because you wouldn’t care if someone did the same thing to you, you wouldn’t care – you can’t apply your feelings to someone else.


It used to be that religion, politics, and money were topics that were considered taboo and not to be discussed, but these days, people are not as sensitive to those subjects as they are to other things like racism.

If you believe one thing, don’t try to convince others that they are wrong. It’s not your place to “educate” others on your beliefs.


It’s easy to leave people out of the conversation, but consider your client when you are talking to avoid saying something that might offend someone.


Before you pass judgment on someone, remember that we are all just trying to get along and do the right thing.

Some people do it better than others but that doesn’t give us the individual right to say that the other person is wrong.


Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than when you walk around all day talking about how fat you are or how fat someone else is. That’s not a conversation for the masses.

If you have a problem with your body, do something about it. But don’t put that expectation on other people and don’t look for validation from others when it comes to your body.


We default to text and messenger services these days, even for the hard conversations.

But if you are trying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, ensure that they understand what you mean by having those important conversations in person, or at the very least, over the phone.

 5. Emotional Mastery

It’s all about attitude!

First we make our attitudes. Then our attitudes make us.  (Dennis Waitley)

Harvard Research

15% people successful due to their IQ

85% People successful due to their EI

A recent study published in the Journal of Experiential Psychotherapy found that of 1,138 coaches and their clients from 88 countries, 98% of coaches agreed that having strong Emotional Intelligence themselves was essential to effectively assist their clients. And 90% of coaching clients agreed that it is important for clients to develop EI to work through their challenges. Why? Take trust. The best coaches establish a foundation of trust with their coachees. Then there’s rapport and engagement – coaches know these are essential to cultivate quality conversations that promote effort and growth. These conversations should be authentic and individualized, which requires empathy, another Emotional Intelligence competence. Cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, coaching – say that encourages the memorization of complex acronyms, or learning through predetermined, jargon-filled language, is much less likely to resonate with people. These indicate coaches who lack empathy – and likely also lack the self-awareness that would alert them to this deficit in the coaching relationship.

 According to Daniel Goleman , an American psychologist who helped to popularize EI, there are five main elements of emotional intelligence:

1. Self-awareness

2. Self-regulation

3. Motivation

4. Empathy

5. Social skills

 Blanchard Companies launched a follow-up study in 2006 in which more than 1,400 leaders, managers, and  executives shared their views on the critical skills and common mistakes connected to leadership. The top five things leaders admitted  they fail to do were the following:

1. Failing to provide appropriate feedback (praise, redirection)—82% of respondents

2. Failing to listen to or involve others in the process—81% of  respondents

3. Failing to use a leadership style appropriate to the  person, task, and situation (over-supervising or under supervising)—76% of respondents

4. Failing to set clear goals and objectives—76% of respondents

5. Failing to train and develop their people—59% of  respondents

A study in  Harvard Business Review by Laurie Bassie and Daniel  McMurrer showed a strong link between leadership skill and the  bottom line. The study looked at 11 publicly traded financial service firms and their stock price. They found that companies with higher scores for their investment in human capital delivered stock returns that were five times higher than those of companies with less emphasis on human capital.

Right Management Consultants, a major outplacement firm, found that “77% of companies say they don’t have enough successors to their current senior managers.”

In a 2006 Fortune article, Tom Neff, a top CEO recruiter, stated, “Companies don’t want dictators or kings or emperors. Instead of someone who gives orders, they want someone who asks probing questions that force the team to think and find the right answers.

Fortune has stated:

“Talent of every type is in short supply, but the greatest shortage of all is skilled, effective managers.”

Robert Kelley of Carnegie-Mellon University has interviewed  people across the nation, asking this important question: “What percentage of the knowledge to do your job is stored in your own mind?”

In his book,  How to Be a Star at Work, he states that in 1986 the  typical answer was “75% of the time.” By 1997 the percentage had slid 15-20 points, to 55%. One company’s staff members admitted that only 10% of the knowledge they needed to do their jobs was still stored in their minds!

What does this tell us?  Collaboration, teamwork, empathy,  communication, networking, and initiative  are vital to complete the tasks at work.

Dries and Pepermans, in a study with 102 managers conducted in 2007, found that high-potential managers had higher scores on  the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQi) than “regular” managers.

They had high scores in specific subscales that included Assertiveness, Independence, Optimism, Flexibility, and Social Responsibility. Many of the Eqi competencies correlate with the model presented here and the EI Star Profile used as a self-assessment in this book.

The Yale EI group, in a study conducted in 2006 with 44 analysts and clerical employees from the finance department of a Fortune 400 insurance company, found that emotionally intelligent individuals received greater merit increases and held higher company rank than their counterparts. They also received better peer and supervisor ratings than their counterparts on interpersonal facilitation and stress tolerance. In the study, the Yale EI group used the

MSCEIT self-assessment and the EQi 360-degree feedback, plus company indicators of work performance

Steve Stein, in a study of 76 CEOs in 2002, found the CEOs had higher than average scores on Independence, Assertiveness, Optimism, Self-Regard, and Self-Actualization using the Eqi.

TalentSmart, an EI consultancy that uses a modification of the  Goleman, Boyatzis, and Hay  Group model, has given over 500,000 EI surveys. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves report the following findings in their 2009 book.


Coaching and mentoring : practical conversations to improve learning / Eric Parsloe and Melville Leedham. – – 2nd ed.

Managing yourself, coach yourself to optimum emotional intelligence, Paul Morgan

Coaching for High Performance, 2007, Vivette Payne,

The seven steps of effective EXECUTIVE COACHING, 2006, Sabine Dembkowski, Fiona Eldridge and Ian Hunter

Casper, Christine M.  (2001). From Now on with Passion:  A Guide to Emotional Intelligence.  California: Cypress House.

Goleman, Daniel.  (1995). Emotional Intelligence:  Why it Can Matter More than IQ.  New York:  Bantam Books.

Goleman, Daniel. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence.  New York:  Bantam Books.

Goleman, Daniel (2001).  An EI-Based Theory of Performance.  In C. Cherniss and D. Goleman (Eds).  The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace.  (pp. 27-44).  San Francisco, California:  Jossey-Bass.

Humphrey, R. H.  (2002). The many faces of emotional leadership.  Leadership Quarterly, 13, 493–504.

Walter V. Clarke Associates. (1996). Activity vector analysis: Some Applications to the Concept of Emotional Intelligence. Pittsburgh, PA: Walter V. Clarke         Associates.

Weisinger, Hendrie.  (1998). Emotional Intelligence at Work.  California:  Jossey – Bass.

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