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Grounding Professional Coaching Practice with Positive Assessments of Emotional Intelligence

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According to Kaplan and Saccuzzo (2018), another form of validity evidence is provided when a reliable instrument is used in practice to achieve positive ends.  The purpose of the self-assessment items that Nelson and Low created in the 1970s was to facilitate meaningful conversations with people about themselves. As such, the ESAP®, its predecessor instruments, and the positive assessments they have developed since have been used reliably to engage people in meaningful conversations that encourage them to acknowledge their personal strengths and to self-identify specific personal skill opportunities for growth, a necessary step in developing accurate self-knowledge and appreciation. Through the skill of Positive Change–the reframed problem indicator of Change Orientation–willing clients are then guided to create action plans to understand, learn, and apply specific skills for developing and maintaining relationships, working well with others, and healthily coping with the pressures of everyday work and life.

Nelson and Low, their students, colleagues, and associates have conducted hundreds of classes and workshops that used their positive assessment instruments in this way.  Beyond this practical, positive application, their assessment instruments have generated a plethora of research that has not only added to our knowledge of what EI is (or can be), but has also provided a research vehicle used by many doctoral students to hone their own research skills and finish a terminal degree, another very positive outcome of using the instruments. You are invited to visit the Bibliography tab on our website (Emotional Intelligence Learning Systems, 2020) to review a list of research articles, theses, and dissertations that have been completed using Nelson and Low’s assessment models and theory of healthy being. Based on this evidence from practice, research, and observations, it can be said with confidence that the ESAP® measures a skills-based form of emotional intelligence, what the authors have begun to call transformative emotional intelligence.

We have observed with interest the aforementioned studies that connect Nelson and Low’s EI assessment models to authentic, helpful leadership practices. Recall that many PERL skills measured by ESAP® demonstrated significant positive correlations with transformational leadership, and its problematic indicators demonstrated significant negative correlations with non-leadership (i.e., laissez-faire). PERL skills were also positively correlated with leadership quality as assessed by class standing in the USAF Squadron Officer leadership course. How then, can we explain leadership in terms of emotional intelligence?  The answer is grounded in Nelson and Low’s (2011) longer definition of EI.  It is not difficult to envision how a good leader engenders the four dimensions of EI by using PERL skills to facilitate practicing the four dimensions of transformational leadership.  For example, accurate self-knowledge and appreciation are emboldened using PERL skills that facilitate Individualized Consideration.  Intellectual Stimulation and Idealized Influence are facilitated through PERL skills related to having a variety of healthy relationships and working well with others.  Finally, dealing healthily with the demands of everyday work and life is enabled using the same PERL skills that facilitate Inspirational Motivation. These observations, combined with the growing use of our assessment models and learning materials in U.S. military leadership courses, prompted us to write a text on this topic (Low et al., 2019). Through our lens of EI, leadership is operationalized as positive influence.

Concurrent Content and Construct Validity of SCALE®

In a recent validation study by Hammett (in press), of the 247 inter-scale bivariate correlations produced by comparing the SCALE® and ESAP® composite and total score measures, only 22 (8.90%) were not statistically significant. Of the remaining 225 bivariates, 213 (86%) were statistically significant at the highest levels (p < .001) and 12 (5%) were statistically significant at the lessor level (p < .01). From this study and others, SCALE® has produced adequate evidence of content and construct validity for measuring emotional intelligence as defined by the authors.

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