Transforming Your Life With Emotional Intelligence and Intuition: Insights From Tatiana Poliakova


Adversity can make or break a person and having high emotional intelligence and intuition often means the difference between success or failure. Join Tony Martignetti as he sits down for a talk with transformational life coach Tatiana Poliakova as they discuss how developing your intuition can transform your life. Tatiana talks about her life experiences growing up behind the Iron Curtain, and her early realizations on how behavior can impact how people see you. Tony and Tatiana talk about her journey from international banker and trader to pursuing her passion, helping people transform themselves. Learn how to change your life with these talking points from Tatiana.


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Transforming Your Life With Emotional Intelligence and Intuition: Insights From Tatiana Poliakova

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Tatiana Poliakova. Tatiana helps top performers to dream and to create miracles in their lives, to move from a success-empty to successful life, to become aware of behaviors that do not serve them in the creation of their dreams, to discover their authentic cells, what are truly their desires and values. Before becoming an Executive Coach, Tatiana spent over 23 years in leadership positions in international investment banking and management consulting. She grew up behind the Iron Curtain and she has lived in Germany, the United States and the UK. She is living outside London with her two daughters and her entrepreneur husband. I want to welcome you to the Virtual Campfire, Tatiana. 

Thank you so much, Tony. It's such a pleasure to be with you.  

Emotional intelligence is a muscle to develop 

I'm looking forward to digging into your story and hearing all the journey that brought you to making such a big impact in the world. It's going to be so fun to hear all the brilliance that you brought into the world. One of the things that I want to make sure you know about this show is how we do the things, we share people's stories to what's called the flashpoints. Flashpoints are points in your story that ignited your gifts into the world. As you're telling your story, we're going to uncover those flashpoints. We'll have you pause along the way and share what's coming up as you're sharing them. I'm going to turn it over to you and let you share what youre called to share. 

I love the metaphor of the flashpoint. When you mentioned that, first of all, it’s associated with fire. Secondly, it makes one think straight away, “What were those flashpoints?” Sometimes those flashpoints are positive and warming. Sometimes at the moment when they're happening, they feel pain. It's almost like burning fire. However, the impact that they have long-term can be transformational.  

The best one that comes to mind is this walk from school to home when I was eight years old. The snow was falling. My mom was called to the school in the middle of the Russian winter. I was a child who loved looking out the window. I was a little bit spaced out sometimes because I was lost in my own dreams. I was wondering while walking with my mom, the snow is falling, I was thinking, “What did this teacher tell my mom?” I could see my mom’s tears were running down her face. It's a bit vulnerable to share that the flashpoint caused that. 

The teacher of the German language at that time asked my mom if she had trauma during my birth because my progress with the German language has been so disappointing. She was asking me some questions and I didn't know how to answer them. In German class, you have to put the bar in second place in the sentence and I wasn't doing that repeatedly. We are talking about it some time back, so I'm sure it wouldn't happen nowadays. It was a very painful moment for me and my mom. It was also the moment when I realized then what impact that particular behavior can have on how other people perceive you. 

I'm very blessed that I have a stepfather who was one of the leading rocket scientists in Russia. When my mom came home all upset, “I don't know whether Tatiana has some academic problems with performance or something.” He said, “Don't worry, she's clearly intelligent and she's going to graduate with honors.” I guess on that journey, that was an important moment for my moment of realization that stayed with me. It’s this journey to getting this degree with honors. Getting a degree with honors doesn't mean it brings overall happiness, but it helped me to get where I am now. 

That is a powerful moment and I thank you for sharing. There's something about how you developed has an impact on other people. The emotional impact that you have and the capacity to have an impact on other people are showing up at that moment. This moment of, “I'll prove them,” is showing up at that moment too. It's dual in that regard. It creates that fire in you to want to rise and show people that, “I’m capable, can do this. 

Thank you so much for highlighting that because it’s given me a lot of pleasure when I was doing my final exam in German. This teacher came to listen to how I speak German at the final exam. I could clearly connect with almost like, “I will prove to her that not only can I get the best grades in German, I actually can go on and study International Economic Affairs specializing in German-speaking countries.” That probably was a very clear realization of this rebel nature, and I proved them with the support of the family. 

In that environment, first of all, it sounds like, in general, it wasn't a time when people were in tune with emotions. Sometimes things would come off as like, “You're not cutting it, I'm going to give it to you straight.” We spend a little more time thinking about, “How is this message being received? That's great that we've come more in tune with, “How does my message get received so I'm not being so harsh with the message?” When I hear that story, I still think the fact that someone would say that to her, to your mother, I'm dumbfounded. 

It’s this concept of growth mindset and a fixed mindset. I hope you wouldn't experience such type of language. However, you still could observe very much a fixed mindset. I was speaking to the leader in one of the big funds and we're discussing commercial intelligence versus IQ. I said emotional intelligence is developed on muscles, and she was very surprised. Imagine how often it is written everywhere that all IQ set in stone. How is it set in stone? It's like IQ can be developed as well because what even is IQ? To be fair, this leader said, “Yes, I can say that,” however, there are particular thought processes still in our minds. How children are raised when somebody gets a particular grade? Do they take it as the definition of their intelligence? Do they take it as, “I can grow further and say nothing about my intelligence, whether I got a bad grade because I can develop anything?” I told my husband I can become a good singer and he's like, “Let's take that off your mindset, it’s a little bit too far.” 

Tell me about what happened next as you journey through your life. You've got this new foundation of, “I can do anything,” in your childhood. What did you go on to do next? 

It's interesting because at some point when I went to study International Economic Affairs, it was at the time when the Soviet Union broke down. That's why there was an opportunity for me to study. The studies of International Economic Affairs normally were given to men. After the study, one would go and work abroad. Women wouldn't go on their own to work abroad, that was a rule in the Soviet Union. I had this opportunity set because the Soviet Union broke down. There was this foundation from Germany that came to interview people and our German group to potentially get a scholarship to study in Germany. In this German group, there were ten of us. There were 7 boys and 3 girls. All boys were invited to the interview and all girls were not. When I asked my wonderful German teacher what's the reason, she said, “Don't you need to think about settling your private life first?” 

I was eighteen at the time. I didn't think about that. It's interesting in the same fashion, it was a flashpoint because it set me on fire. I was like, “There’s no way somebody will decide whether I can go to the interview with the foundation or not. I am going to find my own scholarship.” It's not the teacher’s decision, it was official policy. I decided that’s what I'm going to do, so I sent many applications to all different places in Germany. I sent many letters. I had many conversations, talk about collecting noes. It just felt, “What do I have to lose?” Nothing. At that time collecting noes was relatively easy. I had this flash behind me to not prove something. Eventually, I run into a scholarship. They gave me the scholarship to study in Germany, which was amazing. 

I love this story because first of all, it starts to arise this feeling of fighting for fairness. You think about the years of the imbalance, the inequality that has shown up, and when someone gives you a no and says it's not because of your merit, not because of what you're capable of but because of your gender or who you are in terms of your colors or what have you. That fairness, it's something that gets you frustrated and it lights the fire inside you to say like, “It's my time to turn it on and show you that I'm going to make this happen. I'm going to make this work.” The fact that you fought on and created that, it goes to show you the tenacity that you have to make things happen. Kudos. 

There is a big difference between serving and pleasing. 

Thank you. When you were speaking, you made me realize that I’ve got to be grateful to this teacher because she was honest with me. It helps to settle this fight for fairness in me. You're so right. 

You want people to be kind and nice to you but at the same time, you want people to be real with you. You want the truth. It's important even as a coach to be that person who's going to serve not to please. To ensure that people are getting the truth from you around how they're showing up, who they're being. Would you agree? 

100%. Radical candor is important because otherwise, if we're observing somebody’s particular behavior that doesn't support that person and might irritate us and we choose not to share with that person, how does it serve that person? To be able to do that, we need to have this jar where we give someone praise for something they did. People can only receive radical candor feedback when there is this jar of connection and trust and genuineness. If somebody has your interest at heart using radical candor, you're much more likely to receive it in the right way than someone who always highlights a negative point. 

I love that we've meandered into this world of radical candor because it speaks to all of the things we've danced around already, which is to say that, “It's great to be given that fairness, that honest feedback from the world as long as it's given in a way that's about supportinghelpinglifting up and not bringing people down.” It's about the environment that it's given in. Honesty has to be given in a way that’s in an environment that supports and not denigrates. 

What comes to me exactly is the connection of the growth mindset because there’s the opportunity that somebody can learn and develop from that and also make the right choices. I remember when I worked on a trading floor, there was this nice man who worked with me. There are many aggressive, stressed characters. When you meet someone who's soft-spoken and doesn’t have this energy, you’ll think, “I like that guy.” That guy had fantastic skills. However, he wouldn't close the deal. Because he was so nice, I would dance around in terms of giving him that feedback.  

A year later, my manager came and said, “This person needs to remain redundant.” How much did that serve that guy with me dancing around? It didn't. It might be if he realized that earlier he would adjust and behave differently, or if it's completely disconnected from what he wants to do, he could look for opportunities that are more aligned. It could be a mirror for a person to think, “Am I in the right place? What do I want to do? Am I over-adjusting?” 

It makes me think of this when you're having those honest conversations with people, when you're being very clear and saying, “This is what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.” What's going to happen is you're going to unlock more possibilities with them than if they just heard what they want to hear which is to say, “You're doing a great job, you're a nice person.” That's not going to help them to grow. 

It's exactly about serving versus pleasing. That is such a big disease to please. 

I want to jump back into your story because I want to hear what else happened along your journey? The last we left off, you were stepping into the world of international banking.  

Another important flashpoint was early in my journey that was so important because I have strong perseverance, and that's how I was creating things in my life. I got this opportunity to interview for a management trainee program at Dresdner Bank. I was very young still. They were open to interviewing me with my Russian degree even though I was studying in Germany, where everyone else would be like 6 to 7 years older. Many Germans who have PhD would go for that process of selection. They have never had anyone from the former Soviet Union block and such that program. I remember I wasn't trained to go for the selection day, it was two days. I surrounded myself with books sitting on a fast train going from Hamburg to Frankfurt. It wasn't that fast at that time, so it was enough time to have that conversation. 

I was reading those finance books and there was this nice elderly man sitting next to me and says, “I see you're reading a lot of finance books.” I said, “Yes, I have this very important interview.” I was getting a bit irritated because he’s distracting me. He says, “Can I give you an advice? There is another cabin and we can have lunch there in a cafe and we can have a conversation. I guarantee you, this conversation will be more important for you than those books.” My normal temperance, I wanted to say no but luckily at that moment, I listened to this sense of intuition within me. I went and had this lunch with him. 

He turned out to be the CEO of some Mittelstand German business. He prepared me for that interview. It's almost as if he knew what they will be asking me, how I should respond, how I show up. He coached me during this one hour in authenticity and in courage. I didn't know those words and those forms at that time, but that’s what happened. I still remember because he was going down to Stuttgart. I still remember me exiting the train and he was wishing me goodbye. Those types of moments, I know I wouldn’t get that job or that position without that encounter. 

I’m in awe because that story is powerful for so many reasons. When you open yourself up to something like that and the possibilities that can transpire from one conversation, having the courage to do that because you could have said, No, I don't want to be distracted. I'm doing the work that I need to do, don't break my concentration. Instead, you saw that intuition was telling you something else. It opened up a door to something even bigger. There are many people who go through life and they don't look at the clues. The clues that intuition leaves, and instead they just head down, they say, “I'm doing this. Don't bother me.” 

There are many occasions in my life where I went more into the habitual behavior of just pushing and persevering. At that moment, I was able to connect with my intuition and actual ability to connect with intuition, not just those moments which life presents to you. It's noticing the opportunities. It's also a muscle that we can develop. I'm more consciously looking for such types of situations and helping my clients to do the same. 

I'm glad we stumbled onto this because this is an area that has been brought up a couple of times, is that intuition is a muscle we built. It's part of preparing yourself to listen but it comes through having experiences, building up experiences, and seeing where they can help to build that muscle to the place where they say, “My past experiences are telling me that this is the time for me to listen. Maybe in the past, I wouldn't have listened because I haven't been able to see that I can trust that. I'm at a place where I know I can trust that. I can step into this even if it is wrong, I know that I have a way to come back from the misstep if it is a misstep. 

Technical skills are important, but they are just the door-opener.What is much more important is the ability to connect with other people. 

It's also about permitting ourselves to slow down and become aware of that like me on the train, all those books, those to-do lists. We don't allow ourselves to stop, to have this perspective. What's happening is there might be some hidden opportunity there if I just start looking at that. 

I feel like you're talking to me directly. This is exactly the thing that I'm always finding myself stuck in. As well-intentioned as you are, sometimes you find yourself stuck in those patterns of, “Here I am, I’m doing. Wait a minute, I know better than this.”  

It’s one thing to know something cognitively, and another thing to allow ourselves and give permission and feeling good. 

I want to jump into what brought you to coaching because apparently, there are many great stories along this path. What I'd love to know is, you spent so many years in this industry, what was the exit? 

It's quite a big change for me because when I look back when I was at Columbia Business School in late ‘98, ‘99, I didn't want to attend any classes which didn't have formulas in them. I had to go to Human Behavior class to get my pass, to get my best grade. I thought it was a waste of time. I thought, “If it doesn't have Black-Scholes formula, if I cannot put the numbers, what's the whole point? That's what I paid my money for.” I remember all the debates with people who had different views at that time.  

Years forward, I was in a different place. I realized as I was growing in my leadership positions in finance, technical skills are important but it’s just the door opener. What is more important is the ability to connect with other people and build networks. The ability to empathetically connect with people and to be aware of their own needs, and being able to ask others for their needs, and then make agreements on the back of that.  

I was lucky in a way because in one of my later positions in the city, my manager had a lot of challenges in his private life. I was on the trading floor and suddenly this investment banking had some challenges. It's often that people in my career would come to me to have a conversation. I almost started coaching without realizing it. Sometimes we would spend even a couple of hours having this conversation until I realized, “I cannot do my work, raise my children, and spend so much time coaching my manager.” 

I found him a life coach and signed him up. I'm very grateful to him for this opportunity because it made me think about human behavior much deeper and also think, “We have a highly successful guy, outside successful with so much pain inside.” What drives people and creates this outward success by depleting themselves inside? What differentiates the success-empty people from successful? How do we build that life that gives us fulfillment and gives us the feeling that we are making an impact and helps us grow in our connections? 

That's beautiful. You felt as though you had this connection to the need to make more of that happen. You outgrew your container. 

That's exactly what happened. When I was on the trading floor, I had a lot of adrenaline in closing the deals. The adrenaline started disappearing. I would close a $10 million deal and I don't feel excited anymore. I remember I was calling one of my clients, a major hedge fund guy, and I discussed with him various allowance we had and all foreign companies we were financing. I was laughing and I said, “We have some potatoes and we have some apples as well.” He's like, “What are you talking about?” I fell all structured products. They felt to me at that moment as potatoes and apples. At that moment of realization, I was making the present job, it suddenly clicked, “I'm not excited for that job anymore.”  

What excites me is to understand what drives people, to understand how to support them in leading them in life. It wasn't a straightforward decision because I had such a comfortable position at that time. I was the Managing Director on a trading floor, in the front office at that time. There were only seven women Managing Directors among 300 men in this organization. I was able to get promoted to Managing Director while working four days a week. It felt like a super cushy job, which I could do with my eyes closed. It wasn't an easy decision. I realized I just had to choose the joy and passion above the comfort. 

Herein lies the issue that many people face that they get so tied up, handcuffed to the comfort of, “I have it good, how do I leave something that's cushy and good, and then go into the great unknown and create something else?” You described that moment very well. The fact that you are doing it and making it work is another example of how this is possible. The possibility is there, you have to have the right attitude, the growth mindset, to make that happen. You've modeled it throughout your life to create that. It's beautiful. 

Looking back, it feels great in retrospective. There are some difficult moments and difficult decisions, and as you say handcuffs. I call it a good golden cage. That's what I call the other side of gratitude. I recommend our clients to practice gratitude daily. However, there is a dark side when gratitude comes from the place of fear, of losing what we have. 

When you're grateful for the things that you have but you're so grateful that you don't want to give them up. It's almost like you want to say, “Thank you. You've served me well. Now it's time for me to let go and see what happens next.” That's a powerful exercise too. There's so much that we're skipping over in the journey to becoming a coach that we could dig into. I want to shift gears a little bit and ask, as you reflect on your journey and you think about where you are, what are the lessons that have sat with you? What is the lesson that you've learned the most about yourself and your journey? It could be repetitious but if there are things that we haven't talked about that you want to share. 

The more important one is this realization of how we create our world from the inside out. I remember sometimes when I was frustrated in the city, I would come home on a difficult day, a difficult transaction. It's easy to go into the blame mentality. Blaming the market, blaming the trader, blaming the client, the aggressive hedge fund guy or girl, or whoever that is. The realization which I got very early on in my journey as a coach, I can choose the perspective on how I view the world. The world is created through my story, which I tell myself about.  

It's unleashed my energy into creating something which is set and driven by my intention, or it can send my energy into anger and disappointment, and go on this journey on a spiral down. You can go on to spiral up or spiral down. As Michael Singer calls it an elevate of consciousness inside out. Inside-out realization not just in my head but getting it in, and not a single one I shift away from that. I even get into some type of drama triangle or blame mentality because it's easy to see it in others and much more difficult to notice it in one’s self.  

That's a great insight. I'm sure there are many more that you could reflect on if you had more time. As we move towards the conclusion here, I want to ask one more question. What is 1 or 2 books that have had an impact on you and why? 

I will give you two books. One comes from my coaching journey. It's called The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. It's very much in line with the ability to surrender sometimes to the events, and surrendering doesn't mean I'm going to do nothing. It just means, in the story of meeting this man on the train, it’s noticing the opportunities that life presents to one and surrender to this opportunity. Michael Singer has been a very successful businessman, I believe the story brings together spirituality and his journey in a powerful way. 

Your story embodies a lot of this too. This book has been mentioned in the past and hearing it and recommended it again. The context of your story and the way you brought it to life makes it even more powerful. Thank you. What's your second book?

The second one goes back to my youth, it's called The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It's a fantasy. It has a lot of descriptions of what was happening after the Russian Revolution through fiction and also a different comedy. It's the devil who comes to Moscow. There are some fascinating events that unfold. There is also a lot of history and that there is a connection with Pontius Pilate. There is a connection with Jesus Christ. It has a lot of wisdom, a lot of looking at different systems but also at people and how people react. It's a beautiful classic book. 

There's something about those types of books that stick with you and they hit you at the right time. That sounds fascinating because we need those types of books especially when we were younger to help make sense of the world we live in. When they're packaged in fiction, it helps to get us excited about it too. Think about Harry Potter, for example, it's a book that is fantastical but it gets people excited about thinking differently, a different journey that people can go on. If it gets people reading, that's fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing that. I'm going to say thank you so much for everything, the stories, the insights, and the warmth that you brought into space. I'm so honored. 

Thank you. I enjoyed the conversation. You made me think of the flashpoints.  

I want to give people a chance to know where they can find out more about you. Where's the best location to find more about Tatiana? 

I hang out the most probably on LinkedIn. There is my website, and also

Go find out more about Tatiana. She's an amazing individual as you already know. I want to thank the readers for coming on the journey with us.  

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About Tatiana Poliakova

Tatiana-HeadshotAfter a 20 plus years career in investment banking and trading floor, I decided to step out. In my last couple years in banking, I have become quite disillusioned, and really interested in psychology and human behaviour: I had a full example evolving right in front of me with traders and sales fighting for that bit of bate which significantly diminished by tightening in European regulations and political uncertainty.

After getting a professional certificate in executive coaching and human behaviour from Henley Business school and much of sometimes quite painful self-reflection, I now work with teams of high achievers to help them become less dysfunctional and benefit from being a team rather than a bunch of strong egos pulling in different directions, and consult high achievers on how to manage and shift their thinking to achieve the outcomes they strive for while stopping just surviving and starting enjoying life and their journeys!

My expertise has been developed throughout a long career in leadership positions in Investment Banking and Management Consulting across Europe and the US, where I worked with diverse groups of individuals in intense environments.  Having observed, experienced and supported individual development through periods of great change, turmoil and uncertainty, I was inspired to further understand not only what drives people to succeed but how to combine professional success and drive with personal coherence and wellbeing.  Before training as an Executive Coach, I worked as a Managing Director and Head of Loan Sales at Nomura for the last 10 years, and for the previous 15 years, I was an Investment Banker with BNP Paribas, JP Morgan, and Dresdner in London, New York and Frankfurt and also a Strategic Management Consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton in New York and London. I hold an MBA from Columbia Business School in NYC and Master in International Economic Relations from the State Finance Academy in Russia.

I am also a Trustee of the SmileTrain UK board, a charity which provides free cleft surgery and comprehensive care to children in need around the world. I am passionate about diversity in the workplace, and have been one of the early members of Women in Nomura Network.

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