Coach Interview Series - Ekaterine Babunashvili PCC


Grant Herbert: 

In this session I will be switching gears a little bit. Normally, I would be here doing a training. But today, we’re starting our coach interview series.  

When I started this group a little while ago, I really wanted to set a place apart to allow and give Emotional Intelligence coaches, trainers, and even people who are considering moving in that area, a space where they could come, chat, and remove all the other noise from coaching. We've got plenty of other avenues where we can talk about other disciplines of coaching, so what we want to do here is focus on Emotional Intelligence. 

So, let us welcome Ekaterine Babunashvili.  

Ekaterine: I feel welcome in this group. I’m glad about being here. Thank you for inviting me and starting out your coach series together with me. I am feeling quite lucky with this.  

Grant: Fantastic, welcome. So, are you ready to get started Ekaterine? 

Ekaterine: Of course, I was very much looking forward to this. A pleasant morning to all of you. 

Grant: Love it. Awesome.  

Hey, this is how we roll here. We don't want to make it too rigid. I've got some questions that I am going to ask you and we'll do our best to stick with that. 

But we just really want to make sure that you get an opportunity to let us know more about you; to give us your perspective on some things around Emotional Intelligence coaching, and we can go from there.  

Well, firstly, for those of you who haven't read the bio, Ekaterine is a PCC with ICF , Professional Certified Coach.  She is a certified coach, certified business trainer, and emotional intelligence practitioner. She has nine years of experience in training and coaching executives and teams in both the business and government sector. She is very passionate about leadership development, organisational transformation, and she assists companies in implementing coaching and management style and transforming corporate cultures.  

So, what I'd love you to do, even though I've sort of stolen a little bit of your thunder there, is ask you some questions. The first question is:  

Can you tell us a little bit about your coaching journey and how you got into coaching? And what's been happening in the last nine years?  

Ekaterine: Thank you for so much for this. Although I would like to ask that we start a little bit with the presence for Ukraine because we know what is happening in the world right now. And Ukraine is very close to me both to my heart and territorially because I have some of my friends and colleagues who are from the Ukraine. In fact, one of the pieces of my coaching and training career also unfolded in Ukraine in a very beautiful way. So, I would start today with Ukraine because most of my thoughts during the day and most of my attitude to what I do is somehow around Ukraine. When I’m not coaching or when I’m in between coaching sessions, I am one with the world in expressing my presence for Ukraine.  

I have a friend her name is also Ekaterine. She’s a writer. In one of her last books, she said: 

“The world is divided into parts:  people who have experienced war and people who have not.”  

And I know that when one experiences war, that person will never be the same again.  

On the other hand, there is Georgian Philosopher who is very famous in our country and beyond. He said: “From going through the most intolerable experiences, we are born once again, and this time we're born in our essence as we are.” 

So, in my view, this is what we are observing through the enormous courage of the Ukrainian people. And once again, I would like to give my presence and respect for that. So, I wanted to start out with this.  

Grant: Hey, as I said, we don't want to make this about that situation there, but I do understand where you're coming from and seeing that you've done that, I want to jump in as well to my Russian coaching friends and say that my heart's with you as well. 

We’re not going to get into talking about what's going on. That's not what this is about but wherever you are in this group, wherever you're from, this is a safe place to talk about these things. This is place of love. I also noticed a few comments going on backwards and forwards between coaches from Ukraine and Russia. I understand that it’s not for us to judge what people are doing but I feel for all the people over the entire area there.  

Let’s switch gears a bit then. So, we’ve talked about where you started as a coach. So, in relation to this, why Emotional Intelligence? Why does that really interest you, and why did you get involved with Emotional Intelligence in your coaching? 

Ekaterine:  When I started to learn about coaching, I straight away started to coach people. What I noticed was that even as a beginner coach, I had very nice feedback and results coming from clients. When I went deeper, I understood that what I was doing there was basically down to how the emotions work. With all the people that I have interacted with around the world — whether it was a leader or a person seeking a purpose, setting goals, and a bunch of beautiful mind work, it was all about emotions. This is because there is a whole emotional world inside us is happening all the time.  

I have discovered that I was not that much conscious about it in that way before.  

As I became more conscious about it, I also reaped the results of being respectful to my own emotions and the emotions of others. Through this, I realised that I'm quite an empathetic person as well. I received feedback that I have this ability to empathise with others.  

Then, it became more interesting for me. Because in the emotional world, you start with “emotional alpha” as I call it — some self-awareness, naming the emotion and increasing your awareness about it. Then you start being able to self-regulate more, be able to positively influence others more, and motivate yourself more and have those five key elements that Daniel Goleman coined as the elements of Emotional Intelligence. So, they unfold in more conscious ways and then, you have more choices. This is how we all are independent in a sense - we have a choice. So, Emotional Intelligence coaching gave me more independence, gave myself more assurance, and improved my ability to assist others in the best possible way as well.   

I started to dive deeper into Emotional Intelligence and at some point, there was a colleague, a dear friend who kept on asking as to when I would do the Emotional Intelligence training. She was very demanding on me. Then, I thought, “Okay, I will do this training. I will develop the methodology of the training as I see it. Although what I did was took away all the books that I read before about Emotional Intelligence. And I started to deconstruct my emotions and started to remember, “Oh, I have embarked on this new level and what did help me?” So, I started to detect what helped me on my journey to develop Emotional Intelligence. Then, I put it in some metaphors and algorithms. Of course, I also included what I knew and learned from some renowned authors.  

Then, it came - I was able to conduct the Emotional Intelligence training, it was a success because it showed that people needed it and I have also learned a lot along the way.  

Grant: Yeah. I love that. There are a couple of things that you said that I really loved.  

I loved how you said: “Respect your emotions.” There are many “Emotional Intelligence gurus” out there that still teach people to “manage” their emotions. They still teach people to (what people see out of that) suppress and ignore them.  

But I love how you say respect them because emotions are who we are. They are a part of who we are. They are not something that we can sort of put aside over there. Sometimes when people say silly things like, “oh, I leave my emotions at the door when I go to work.” Well, no you don’t. Because they're a part of who you are. So, being able to respect the emotions and then the term I like to use is “navigate the emotion”.  

I also love how you said to deconstruct. Because we now know with the latest neurobiology and neuroscience, that we're not born with a reptilian brain that has five emotions there in our genes, we actually construct our emotions. 

The other thing that you said that was great is as you were going through your training (and this is certainly something that I always advice to the people going through my certification do) is to go through it for yourself.  

So, the biggest gift for myself as I was getting certified in Emotional Intelligence, was a change in myself. It’s the awareness and the strategies that I got. And as you have also said, I was able to help other people with it as well. 

This is why I'm so passionate about it. I love that. It sounds like we are kindred spirits which is why we're together today. 

You talked about Daniel Goleman and the five elements (you and I talked about this other day.) If we go back to the Salovey and Mayer, back before Daniel Goldman, they talked about a four-quadrant model which are:  

Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.  

Now, Daniel came along in the late nineties and wrote a fantastic book (which if people haven't read, it's come out now in another edition) and he pulled out motivation and empathy and sort of changed it around a little bit. However, not surprisingly, about four to five years ago, he’s gone back to the four-quadrant model.  

So, perhaps he realised that pulling that out was a little bit confusing. So, just having that simple framework is what I love to be able to help people realize that there’s Emotional Intelligence which is about self and there’s Social Intelligence which is about working with others.  

Now, I work with 26 different competencies of Emotional and Social Intelligence. So, my next question for you is: If you were to pick one of the competencies of Emotional Intelligence, which is your favorite competency to work with your clients? 

Ekaterine: I would straight away say that self-awareness. Because for me, and I believe for us who help and assist people — be it personally, professionally or in the area of leadership development — self-awareness is a meta competency.  

So, what is meta competency? 

A meta competency is a competence that other competencies are built on.  

So, self-awareness is a skill that is vibrant and is always there for you. If ever you do not know a certain algorithm of self-regulation or whatever motivation, or if it is a trap, if you are self-aware in the moment, you will figure out how you’re going to regulate yourself.  

And this happened numerous times with my coaching clients. I did not teach them those algorithms on self-regulation, emotional control etc., I was just coaching them which involves listening, not giving advice, and asking powerful and transformational questions and doing so unfolded their self-awareness. Like for instance, after having four coaching sessions with one executive (I had six coaching sessions with him), he himself told me during the coaching session, the algorithm that I teach on the trainings. 

Grant: So just to calibrate there, when you say algorithms, is that like a strategy? 

Ekaterine: Yes. 

Grant: Yes, I thought so. Sorry, please continue. 

Ekaterine: So, algorithm is the strategy, the instrument or the tool.  

So, back to the executive that I was coaching, he told me the algorithm and said:  

“Now that realised that when I’m self-aware, I can manage emotions in this sequence.” So he told me this strategy. Then, this experience has been repeated numerous times with other people - if their self-awareness increases and unfolds, they find solutions for themselves. And I would say it is more beautiful than what they will learn in trainings because it is tailor-made.  

So, what I have noticed is that algorithms or strategies do not work without self-awareness.

Therefore, I do not teach. So when people ask me to teach them self-regulation or conflict management (which is a part of the social skills), I tell them that I will not teach it to them yet, but I tell them: Let’s start with some self-awareness work. Let’s do the homework first, then the rest will unfold, and we can proceed.   

Grant: Exactly. I have had exactly the same experience, Ekaterine, where a company and some individuals as well, want me to teach them communication or conflict management. So, I’ll say: 

“I'm pretty sure you've probably done that sort of training before. I guarantee that the reason why you're wanting to do it again is that people aren't using it.”  

Because if there's no basis built of self-awareness, is they do not have any understanding of what they're doing to sabotage the result anyway. And secondly, it doesn't make any sense.  

That’s why I love the four-quadrant model. As it starts in self-awareness, then goes to self-management.  Now we’re ready to learn some social skills and work with others.So we look at Social Awareness and we learn about empathy etc. Then, we can get into those what the corporate world wrongly calls “soft-skills.” 

So, I totally understand and agree with what you're saying that self-awareness is a meta and everything else builds from that. And for me, my personal experience (I work with three competencies of self-awareness which are emotional self-awareness, accurate self-awareness, and personal power) and for me, of all the 26 competencies, I find Personal Power as the competency that underpins every other competency. Because without that sense of self-confidence, self-worth, setting boundaries, assertiveness, saying yes and no appropriately, all those things, you're not going to (in my experience) implement fully anything else. So, I believe that yes, self-awareness is the pinnacle. And within that personal power is the pinnacle of that as well. So, what are your thoughts on that? 

Ekaterine:  Yes, absolutely. What you are saying now is very important. Because if there is no inner integration and an inner sense of being strong, and feeling your potential, it is very hard to go the social skill work such as conflict resolution and empathy. Even empathy may then become a bit toxic. Like for instance, if you’re an empathetic or sensitive person and you find it hard to regulate your feelings, you do not know where to stop, or where to put a boundary, you will become very much hurt and the emotion may overwhelm you.  

I'm very much familiar with this because I am quite an empathetic person.  I did not know how to manage this, and I was very sensitive.  

So, this is quite a challenge especially in today's world, when you see the things that are happening. So, you need to be self-aware to be aware about your strength — your inner competent strength — then you apply in the different spheres of Emotional Intelligence —whether it’s motivation or self-regulation when it comes to empathy and social skills. So, yes, I totally agree with you on this.  

Grant: Certainly. I've been doing this work now for 14 years and I learn every single day. I’ve won awards and that sort of stuff, and that’s all great, but for me, the greatest reward is seeing lives change.  

I tell people all the time that I'm a subject matter expert in Social and Emotional Intelligence, but I'm a work in progress in its implementation every single day. Like for instance, there are times when technology doesn’t work then I go: 

“Okay Grant, practice what you teach.” 

So, for me, what I love about Emotional Intelligence is: 

It does not matter how old you are, or what stage in life you are at. You can start to develop these competencies. It definitely starts with self-awareness, and it needs support and accountability so you can make that incremental change.  

It’s not a switch that automatically turns on the light when you press it.  

A lot of times, in organisations, they want me to come in and do a session. And I say to them: 

 Well, that’s great, the problem is it’s not a switch like if they do not have any emotional intelligence, now we’re going to turn it on. It’s reconditioning — getting rid of the unhealthy conditioning. It’s changing your algorithms as you say.  

I can’t believe that our time is about up but I would like to ask you just a very quick question:  

With all your nine years’ experience — starting an ICF chapter in your country, growing in your practice, working in the government, in organizations, and with individuals — where do you see yourself in this profession of being an Emotional Intelligence practitioner in a year from now? 

Ekaterine: In a year, I see myself assisting businesses in building puzzle of business to wellness. For me, personally, years ago, I was very ill. Then I explored the wellness world, and I changed my lifestyle. And this experience and wellness routine that I have built into my life helped me become much more content.  So, the first is self-awareness but it must be accompanied with good physical health. This wellness also pertains to our physical wellbeing. 

So, the challenges most organisations now have is that their business needs effectiveness. Yes, they grow but the price is very high in terms of wellness and wellbeing. I would like to help more companies (which I am already doing but I’m going to expand this view) build outposts, wellbeing and have more ambitious goals and become more effective. And wellness also helps in that. So, it’s actually a paradigm or a mindset shift then followed by different procedures, cultures and everything. So, I'm going to see a bit more of those cultures in one year.  

Grant: Fantastic. I love that. I'm finding the same thing. It’s funny how going through a pandemic, and now we've got unrest in the world which we've had in certain countries for many years. Finally, the conversation in organisations is finally recognising that these Emotional Intelligence skills are the number one skills of an organisation who wants to grow. We've known it for years because when you look at it logically, organisations, no matter how good technology gets, are built on people and people are emotional beings.  

So, I'm really excited that I've had the opportunity to meet someone who is thousands of miles away from me in Georgia, who is doing exactly the same as what I'm doing. And we need more people.  I have a goal that I over the next year, I’m going to develop another minimum of 100 Emotional Intelligence practitioners around the world. I have a 10-year goal for that to be a thousand. So that's a hundred a year.  

Now I'm going to exceed that goal because we need more Emotional Intelligence coaches and trainers right now. And that's what this group is all about. We've got them in here. So my whole purpose in this group is to empower them.  

I'm turning 60 in a couple of months. I'm not going to my grave yet, but my lifestyle and the stage of my journey is changing. 

So now, I'm looking to be able to help others to do what I've been on. I've been blessed to be able to physically do Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence training coaching in 22 countries around the world and many more online. 

Over the last couple of years (three years now) I've been running an emotional intelligence summit.  I was doing it in person and COVID hit. Now, in the last two years, we have covered more people with that because we had to do it online.  

So, I just want to really thank you for stepping up and being our first interviewee. Hopefully you and I will continue to have chats.  

If there is one thing that you could encourage the other Emotional Intelligence practitioners in this group, and those thinking about being one, what would it be? 

Ekaterine: I would say, to be more of the authentic self everyday. For me, in this stage of my life, that is the best reminder and encouragement. Whether our coaches will also like this, I will be very happy because I have reminded myself and I have reminded others that being authentic unfolds the best of us as we’re building a unique life that is happening inside us. So, I would leave with that. 

Grant: I love that. Thank you so much, once again, for tuning in all the way from Georgia. 

I look forward to being able to have many more conversations and I look forward to interviewing many more coaches over the coming weeks and months.  

So, thank you Ekaterine for joining us. And to those who are watching, thank you for joining us. If you are watching this in the replay, please give heaps of love to Ekaterine for stepping up.  

If there are any insights that she has given you, I'd love to hear about them. If you have questions about coaching or about anything in you practice that people like Ekaterine and I can help you with, this is what this group is for. So, drop your questions in the comments. I look forward to having more conversations with you in the group. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep getting out there and helping us to increase the level of emotional intelligence in this amazing world. 


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