Executive Coaching 101: Emotional Intelligence (EQ)



Executive coaching comes with its own vocabulary, one that can be a little daunting if you’re not sure what you’re getting into. In the interest of better communication (one of my favorite things), I’m starting a series called Executive Coaching 101, where I’ll be defining the common terms you hear in the executive coaching space in a way that most everyone can understand.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (or EQ) is a term that was coined in the 1970s and has become a common term in the modern discourse around leadership. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.

Emotional intelligence is a critical trait for the workplace and typically includes three key skills:

  1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
  2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving;
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions and the ability to inspire or calm down another person.

How does emotional intelligence help leaders?

Charisma, purpose and determination are just a few of the traits that typically define a leader. We’ve all met people who are intellectually brilliant, but who are socially and interpersonally challenged. In my work with leaders, I’ve discovered that what distinguishes the best leaders from the majority is their level of emotional intelligence or EQ.

Rutgers University psychologist Daniel Goleman established the importance of emotional intelligence in business leadership. His 1998 Harvard Business Review article called, “What Makes a Leader” still resonates with us today:

The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but… they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

Goleman developed five components of emotional intelligence that help individuals recognize, connect with and learn from their own and other people’s emotions or mental states:

  1. Self-awareness;
  2. Self-regulation;
  3. Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
  4. Empathy for others; and
  5. Social skills, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.

How can an executive coach help you with emotional intelligence?

Many leaders possess a high level of self-awareness and have a keen understanding of how they prefer to work, but are challenged in a few areas that they may not realize. Helping you learn to identify and modify a behavior (or two) that’s holding you back is a key role of an executive coach.

Executive coaches are trained in recognizing and developing the five emotional intelligence traits identified by Goleman above (though they may not use his same vocabulary). Through a variety of analytical tools and exercises, your coach will train you to intuitively incorporate EQ into your day-to-day interactions with your co-workers.

If you’re interested in developing your own emotional intelligence or the emotional intelligence of your staff, reach out and I can help you get started!

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