Emotional Intelligence

leader development, coaching, performance, talent, teams & change



Opportunities to Improve

Personal & Organizational Performance

 Consider the following example that has happened to me and possibly to you as well.

 You are sitting at your computer, late in the evening, tired but still having much to do, and you look at the e-mail you are about to send, knowing somehow that it contains some angry remarks, and yet too tired to pay attention to the wisdom in your own emotional recognition, that to send this note is trouble, and so you send it anyways.  You then spend the next few days, weeks or months repairing the damage this e-mail has wrought.

 This example, shared universally by my clients in different countries, businesses, hospitals or schools is one way to demonstrate that it is important to pay attention to the wisdom in our emotions in order to make optimal decisions.

 Emotions are everywhere in our lives.  At times emotions are what matters most, while at other times they recede to the background and rational thought takes center stage. Interestingly, in my work as an executive coach I am often struck by the fact that when smart people are stuck, and can not resolve a situation, it is almost always the case that there are strong emotions present somewhere in the equation. Either the person is experiencing a difficult time managing his or her own emotions or is very concerned about the feelings of the other person or people involved. When I can help people to focus on emotional problem solving and emotional planning, together we generate new and innovative options that are often able to dramatically improve the situation.

 In every situation where emotions are running high or simply where the stakes are of great consequence, I believe it is helpful to use the Emotion Roadmap I have created to be more effective in how we deal with emotions.  The Emotion Roadmap is both a planning and problem solving tool that can increase anyone’s ability to be more effective navigating the emotional highways we are all traveling on.

 A simple, pragmatic way to understand emotions is to view the definition of emotional intelligence as the abilities to identify, use, understand and manage our own emotions and our emotional relations with others. This definition is adapted from the work of Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College and his colleague Psychologist Jack Mayer.


The Emotion Roadmap is based on a series of questions that reflect the definition.

For “identify” the question is: Who are the key people and how do they feel?

For “use” the question is: What feelings would be ideal for each key person?

For “understand”: How might I create the ideal feelings in each person?

For “manage”: What am I able and willing to do to create these feelings?


In my experience I have used this simple roadmap to help organizations manage and adapt to change, to help executives with overlapping responsibilities negotiate cooperatively, to help supervisors hold more effective performance discussions, to help principals in schools address angry parents and so forth.  By focusing on the current feelings and then reflecting on what would be ideal, you then generate a gap analysis and form a plan based on what you are able and willing to do.  This is really a time tested planning and problem solving strategy that is applied to the emotional aspects of important situations. 


What situations would mandate the use of the Emotion Roadmap? The number and type of situation is unlimited.  Let me just share a few where use of the Emotion Roadmap would be beneficial:

¨   The potential loss of a key executive because of an inability to relate to others can cost an organization somewhere in the vicinity of $250,000 in recruiting costs and whatever expense might be associated with getting a replacement trained and integrated into the company.

¨   Gallup surveys in recent years have consistently demonstrated that many employees are not considered engaged, i.e., highly supportive of their companies. If the surveys are correct and the average organization has upwards of 70% of their employees that are not engaged obviously companies are not as successful or as profitable as they could be.

¨   Rumors impacting organizational changes are constant in many companies and workers spend time worrying and discussing endless possibilities and not being focused on being productive.

¨   Many organizations have more than one leader who has overlapping responsibilities with other leaders who do not report to them.  While conflict should be welcomed, in many organizations it is managed poorly and the result is often a lack of productivity and poor quality.

¨   Holding meaningful discussions about performance is another area that is often seen as problematic in most organizations. Most managers often postpone these discussions until the last minute. They will tell you that they were too busy, but I believe that it is other concerns that have their roots in the emotions associated with these discussions that cause people not to hold thoughtful conversations about performance.


Following is a brief description of how using the Emotion Roadmap can benefit a conversation about performance between a manager and an employee in any organization.


First, every organization has these discussions, some formal, others not, but either way hardly any organization finds them to be of value.  I believe it is because we do not pay attention to the emotional underpinnings of what is happening when we have these discussions.  When I teach about this I explain that every one of these discussions needs to be guided by what we want as an outcome, but that in general, we should view the discussion as having three different emotional phases: phase 1 – rapport building, or the warm up, which occurs when we first sit down; phase 2 – moderate tension that helps us to focus on specific areas of strength, development opportunities and weaknesses; and phase 3 – a feeling of appreciation for the respect and professionalism that hopefully has just been demonstrated.  In my years of practice I have never heard anyone else describe these meetings this way and when I teach people how to do this the discussions are vastly improved.


So consider that you have a first year employee, Sharon Peters, who you are about to review for the year. This person has given you her best effort all year long and overall you are quite pleased with her performance.  On occasion she has forgotten to communicate important information to her peers.  You have called this to her attention and you have seen an improvement. While the behavior is not perfect it has progressively gotten better. Other behaviors such as the quality of her work, her ability to meet deadlines, her work ethic, her relationship skills have all either met or exceeded expectations.


You are about to visit with her to go over the overall results of the year and you pull out the Emotion Roadmap. By following the template you consider the following questions:


Identify Emotions

How are you feeling about the upcoming meeting to discuss Sharon’s performance? How do you believe Sharon is feeling?


Use Emotions

What would be ideal regarding how you want to feel and how you want Sharon to feel at the beginning of the meeting when you are establishing rapport? What feelings do you want In the middle of the meeting when you are going over the behaviors, most of which have been excellent, with the one exception of communication with peers? And at the end of the meeting when you are done, how do you want you both to feel?


Understand Emotions

If there is a gap between what you would want to feel ideally and what you are feeling, what can you do to close the gap prior to the meeting or during the meeting? If you believe Sharon is not feeling the way you would like her to feel, what might you do to create the feelings you want?


Manage Emotions

Finally, what are you able to do and what are you willing to do to generate the feelings you want for you and for Sharon?


Hopefully you can see how thinking this through, and answering these questions for yourself, will generate a highly positive outcome in Sharon’s first year end review of performance.


Two other critical points:


  1. In my entire career I have never heard anyone talk about how they were going to plan emotionally for a performance discussion meeting.  My point being that simply thinking this through for yourself will produce a better outcome than what will happen when you do not think through the emotions that are present, and that might be generated, in a potentially volatile situation.


And while the situation with Sharon may not appear volatile to you, if you can recall your own first performance review, chances are you were nervous, perhaps very nervous.  If so, if your supervisor handled it well, the relationship probably progressed smoothly. On the other hand, if you found the supervisor dwelled on the one or two things you did not do well, and mostly ignored the successes you were having, you probably went away somewhat demoralized and upset.


  1. Also, while I chose to use Sharon as an example of a very positive experience with an employee, everyone that has ever managed knows that there are discussions that are held with employees who are generating significant problems in the workplace. My point here is that because the situation with a difficult employee is more challenging, it is perhaps even more important to use the Emotion Roadmap to plan how you want the experience to go, so again you can achieve a positive outcome, even when dealing with a difficult employee!



 SIMSBURY, CT  06070     (860) 658 2737      E-mail cjwolfe@cjwolfe.com



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