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Coaching Skills Strengthen Essential Skills

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Hayley Hesseln, Ph.D., CEC, and Janice Gair, CEC, CPHR, ACC

Have you ever wondered why some highly intelligent people are not particularly successful, whereas others of lesser intelligence are wildly successful? While having a high IQ is a measure of intellectual functioning and can explain how well we accomplish technical tasks, there is another form of intelligence that affects our ability to appropriately manage our emotions, to work collaboratively with others, and to be strong leaders. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capacity to understand and regulate emotions and to recognize the emotions of others and act accordingly. We draw on emotional skills to create lasting and meaningful relationships, to form productive teams, and to help us solve problems. We propose that coaching based on EI can effectively build capacity and promote greater productivity.

Today, Individuals begin their educational journey in kindergarten and often continue through postsecondary and graduate training. During those years, curricula primarily focus on developing academic skills pertaining to the humanities and social and physical sciences. We are taught basic disciplinary skills to increase our knowledge and ability to work and think. But what about the importance of soft skills that focus on how we do our work?

Emotional skills are positively correlated with success. Stronger leaders demonstrate higher levels of assertiveness and empathy, independence and strong problem-solving skills. Similarly, the best teachers when compared to their mediocre counterparts, demonstrate higher flexibility, stronger empathy and enhanced self-awareness. Those who excel at their professions often demonstrate a suite of essential emotional skills higher than their less successful colleagues. It is these skills that we do not learn at school but are trained in the workplace.

Research indicates that recent graduates lack essential skills around critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Lane and Murray specifically measured this gap showing that 30 percent of college graduates were underprepared. In response to the skills gap, many businesses have hired coaches to work directly with employees. Since 2008, the demand for executive coaching has increased substantially. The American Management Association surveyed businesses in 2008 to find that 52 percent of respondents use coaches and an additional 37 percent would in the future. [1]

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