Applying Emotional Intelligence In Your Executive Coaching Program

Emotional Intelligence (EI), is a relatively recent behavioral model, rising to prominence with Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence. Early EI theory was originally developed during the 1970s and 1980s through the endeavours of U.S.–based psychologists Howard Gardner (Harvard), Peter Salovey (Yale) and John ‘Jack’ Mayer (New Hampshire). Since their work was published, EI has become increasingly referenced, particularly in HR and Learning & Development professionals’ debates about organizational development and developing people based on the view that EI principles provide a new way to understand and assess people’s behaviours, management styles, attitudes, interpersonal skills, and development potential.

A foundation of their argument was that conventional intelligence, or IQ as it is often measured, is too narrow and that there are wider areas of EI that dictate and enable how successful we are. The argument suggests that success requires more than IQ which fails to assess behavioural elements. We’ve all met people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially and inter-personally inept. Consequently, we know that despite possessing a high IQ rating, success does not automatically follow. The essential premise of EI is that to be successful requires the effective awareness, control and management of one’s own emotions, and those of other people. It embraces two aspects of intelligence, which are understanding yourself, your goals, intentions, responses, behaviour and understanding others, their feelings and behaviours.

In my previous article Using Soft Skills to Achieve Hard Results, I referred to:

“Having a clear understanding of your own and others preferred behaviours enables you to develop a more well-rounded view of yourself and of your unique leadership qualities.”

Fundamentally having a good grasp of understanding your preferred behaviours, including your strengths and development areas provides the first (essential) step towards understanding how others ‘tick’. When you able to understand others and their preferred behaviours you can apply this understanding to achieve outstanding results.

EI, then, can be an integral element of your Executive Coaching program.

Daniel Goleman identified the five ‘domains’ of Emotional Intelligence as:

• Knowing your emotions.
• Managing your own emotions.
• Motivating yourself.
• Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions.
• Managing relationships.

EI embraces and draws from numerous other branches of behavioural, emotional and communications theories, such as NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Transactional Analysis. By developing our Emotional Intelligence across the five EI domains we can become more productive and successful at what we do and help provide considered leadership to others to be more motivated, productive and professional. Using this model, can you really say that you are on top of all five of Goleman’s domains?

I have been fortunate to work with some inspiring and ultimately very successful leaders and, yes, most of them have possessed a high level of self-awareness and understanding of how they prefer to work and behave at work. However, I have not (yet) worked with one who hasn’t been able to learn how to modify a behaviour (or two) at times, to enable them to continue with their own successful careers. We are, all, of course able to learn new methods and skills to be more effective leaders. The ‘trick’ is applying these learnings and being prepared to step outside our own self-transcribed comfort zones. The principles and application of Emotional Intelligence that can assist in dealing more effectively in areas such as conflict management, relationship management, empathy and understanding of others and supporting organisations and individuals through periods of rapid change and development.

In todays’ rapidly-changing business environment, effective leadership requires attitudes and behaviours which characterise the leader and their ability to relate to people (or ‘stakeholders’, if you want to use ‘corporate’ terminology) at all levels. It’s not just the learning, it’s the application of that learning that really matters!

Good leadership demands emotional strengths and behavioral characteristics and being prepared to apply these. Emotional Intelligence, is therefore essential.