Emotional Intelligence in coaching and management, with Victoria Mikhailova

Victoria Mikhailova is an experienced leadership coach with multiple skills: situation understanding and intelligence, process communication, and emotional skills and competences, and organizational and individual behaviour, coaching for teams and managers. She kindly shares with us how recent innovative concepts of emotional intelligence unfolds new leadership tools.

Nicolas Bry: Hi Victoria, tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional experience?

Victoria: Hello Nicolas!

After 12 years in sales, marketing & management positions in France, Russia and Poland, I started in 2002 my own business in training, consulting, communication & BtB services. 14 years later I am specialized in Executive and Organizational Coaching. I operate 3 types of seminars & conferences on coaching, consulting and leadership.

My educational background includes MBA & Executive Coaching CESA from HEC Paris. Before that I studied Arabic Philology at Saint-Petersburg National University.

I went through professional seminars & certifications such as Process Communication Model, Drama Triangle, Emotional Skills & Competences and several others. My main interests today are the organizational and individual behaviour, I continue to develop my expertise on this field.

NB: You work on micro-expressions of the face: can you tell us more about it, and share a few examples?

Victoria: Many people watched the TV series Lie To Me, in which Dr Cal Lightman (performed by Tim Roth), a genius body language & micro expressions scientist uses the techniques of observation for discovering the truth through minor behavioural clues.

This fiction is based on real scientific research, in particular on Paul Ekman work. Doctor Ekman spent more than 60 years studying the emotions and their physical expression.

Dr Ekman continued the work of scientists such as Charles Darwin who had wrote that facial expressions of emotion are universal, not learned differently in each culture; that they are biologically determined, the product of man’s evolution.

Another prominent psychologist Taibi Kahler discovered the impact of the positive & negative state of mind on our behaviour. The Process Communication Model that he developed in particular for the NASA, studies how human behaviour pattern changes under the normal and severe distress. Dr Kahler described precisely the modifications of our verbal and non verbal behaviour and in particular face expression when we enter into distress sequence. He established the link between our communication preferences, psychological needs and motivation and negative behaviour under the stress.

Let’s see how it works.

When we communicate all our body takes part in this process: our face, posture, gestures, our voice. We use a certain language style, chose particular words, build structure of sentences and behave in a way we thank is appropriate to our interlocutors and to what we cant to say. Only 7% of the received information come from the message itself. The rest is the result of how we perceive the behaviour of the person.

While we communicate positively, our body, face expression, language, voice are coherent with the content of our message. We speak and move fluently.  The message content corresponds to shown emotions.

Emotions are constantly present in our live and we transmit them all the time though our body language and our face expression.

Take anyone portrait from internet, an unknown person, a public person or Mona Lisa reprography and try to describe what you see, feel, imagine about that hero! It is amazing to see how much information you get from a simple « fixed» by photography face !

Example: Obama

What can you say about President Obama’s mood ?

Is he : Happy ? Angry ? Cautious ? Sad ? …?

Now watch attentively President Obama’s face and answer the following questions :

  • How are his eyebrows?
  • How are his brows?
  • How are his lips ?
  • His body ?

The macro expressions are the most visible, they are what we show to the external world. They usually last between 1/2 second and 4 second. They often repeat, and fit with what is said and the sound of the person’s voice.

Micro expressions happen when people have hidden their feelings from themselves (repression) or when they deliberately try to conceal their feelings from others. Importantly, both instances look the same; you cannot tell from the expression itself whether it is the product of suppression (deliberate concealment) or repression (unconscious concealment). They are brief, usually lasting between 1/15 and 1/25 of second. They often display a concealed emotion and are the result of the suppression or repression.

A simplifier : shown emotions can be false (a deliberately made simulation of an emotion not being felt) to masked (a false expression made to cover a macro expression).

How it happens?

When emotion appears, and it appears every time when we face the different so called triggers, our body and our face react with the contraction of the particular muscles.

Dr Ekman developed with W. Friesen the first and comprehensive tool for objectively measuring facial movement – the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), published in 1978 and revised in 2003 with J.Hager as third author.

The micro expression disappears very quickly from the face, however, if we get it and if the face expression does not match with the content of the message, we instinctively feel a disruption between what we see and we hear.

During the recruitment interview, the recruiter wants to know as much as possible about the candidate, to feel how easy it will be to work with this person. Have you heard one saying: « No I would not recruit this candidate; my inner voice says that something is wrong ».

We are naturally equipped with the “inner voice” and we can improve this competence by mastering our awareness of micro-expressions.

NB: How mastering this analysis of micro-expression can be useful in our professional life?

Victoria: In the world of management, we point out the importance of Emotional Intelligence, of our capacity to consider the emotional side of humans doing the business, working, producing.

Our ability to recognize and to understand our own emotions and those of the other people is a critical skill for building the positive relationships and keeping the mastership of our lives.

Of course, we are all naturally equipped with this knowledge, we communicate and socialize with each other.  And sometimes we fail. We fight with our co-workers, we leave the dream job, we fire people we admired earlier, divorce from our loved ones. We spend a lot of energy managing the miscommunication and conflicts instead of creating, innovating, doing, thinking, having pleasure…

Developing our emotional intelligence helps us to better understand ourselves, to develop our empathy and to strength our professional network.

NB: Would you explain your 2-steps approach that can applied in a job interview?

Victoria: Some years ago one of my friends opened a headhunting company specialized in « Rare profiles ». During a friendly dinner I asked him to explain this concept. He said this amazing sentence « Someone who really wants to do this job ».

In France the job market is reputed as a tough one. Often candidates want just to have a job. Any job.

How to determine the degree of envy one feels for the job?

How to appreciate the degree of ease that his manager will have to interact with this employee?

How to perceive the leverages for keeping the initial motivation on top?

How to identify the risk zones and to anticipate the non-productive situations?

Even if everyone can learn and be able do the job, the critical factor of someone’s professional success remains related to the degree of his involvement. That’s what we call « motivation ».

Motivation and emotion have common Latin root, both means bringing the person into movement.

With no motivation there is no development, no persistence, no interest in feed-backs, no inspiration…

A motivated employee is an asset for the company while the unmotivated one generates a loose of energy by criticizing, blaming, complaining & disturbing his colleagues.

Deceasing the real motivation (emotions) during the job interview makes the difference!

The 2 steps approach consists in creating first a positive atmosphere during interview for establishing a person-to-person dialogue with natural and fluid language. Only after that, the recruiter may start the step two addressing the involving deep questions.

If the dialogue is fluid, the recruiter has the access to the natural « behavioural signature » of the candidate and can understand his personal dynamics.

An attentive recruiter captures micro expressions and can deepen with additional questions. For this, mastering of micro-expressions is very useful! Of course, he should not make any fast conclusion without considering several hypotheses of the observed candidate.

Some recruiters love putting candidate under pressure with the purpose of seeing how they will deal with the hard situations.

Do we really need to use drama and pressure? What’s about ethical side?

The wish to anticipate « nasty » situations is understandable and thanks to powerful tool such as Process Communication Model, the recruiter can predict one’s distress pattern from his observable communication elements (language, behaviour…) without creating pressure during interview. The behavioural clues will give a lot of information to the trained recruiter about candidate’s personal dynamic.

Being attentive to the emotional signals from the candidate and later from the co-worker is a permanent process that helps anyone to improve his relationships, and make them last for life!


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