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Grounding Professional Coaching Practice with Positive Assessments of Emotional Intelligence

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An Integrated EI-Centric Model for Professional Coaching

Our definition of Professional Coaching a person-centered relationship that uses a research-derived framework to facilitate purposeful, productive behavioral change from the perspective of the client.             

Positive and skills-based, our coaching framework is organized around the four affective learning domains and related key skills of emotional intelligence shown in Table 1.  Coaches know that coaching is not teaching or advice giving. Our brief transformative EI definition is a learned ability to think constructively, and act wisely.  Coaching is a professional relationship process for positive, meaningful learning with clear, purposeful goals set and pursued by clients with the help of their coach.

As noted above, a contemporary influence for us has been the life’s work of Seymour Epstein. We agree with Epstein (1998) that a healthy learning and being philosophy requires a two-mind (rational-cognitive and experiential-emotional) process. Research has confirmed strong relationships among the major components of constructive thinking (Epstein, 1998, 2012), reflective thinking (Nelson & Low, 201) most emotional skills (Cox, 2013; Cox & Nelson, 2008), and leadership (Hammett et al., in press; Hammett et al., 2012; Tang et al., 2010). From a coaching perspective, healthy growth and productive being is not possible when the two minds are not in balance.

The Emotional (Intelligence) Learning System (ELS) was created to provide an integrated, authentic, and practical approach for understanding, developing, and applying/modeling emotional intelligence skills. The learning model works well for developing and delivering effective coaching practices.  We describe, share, and illustrate this engaging, dynamic learning process in the sections that follow.  We include a brief background of our research, work, development of our transformative theory of coaching, ELS learning model, connections of assessment to accepted competences of professional coaching applications, and examples of EI-centric coaching programs.

A Transformative Theory of Coaching

Our coaching theory emphasizes the potential for building quality within the person and achieving personal goals.  In the action learning process, specific and essential conditions for positive personal change are observed. Our necessary conditions for learning and change encompass a set of beliefs and features that create an environment that engenders learning and positive change. From our book on emotional intelligence (Nelson & Low, 2011), the necessary conditions for learning and change that facilitate effective coaching include:

  • Acknowledge each person as competent with dignity, worth, and potential.
  • Commit to responsible growth and effective behaviors.
  • Emphasize the skills and competencies of emotional intelligence.
  • Empower each person to make positive changes and move forward in life.
  • Respect the capacity of each person to achieve excellence.
  • Identify and organize specific skills sets that can be easily learned and applied.
  • Base learning and development on honest self-assessment and your internal frame of reference.
  • Demystify emotional behavior by learning new ways to think, act, and feel.

We view the person as an integrated system of mind, body, and spirit.  Constructive thinking processes and emotional intelligence skills are keys to high achievement, career success, personal wellness, and well being.  Our theory and coaching models are structured around key personal, emotional, relational, life skills, behaviors, and strategies.  Dynamic learning and personal changes are meaningful human responses that strongly influence behavior and actions.  Positive behavioral changes are the purposeful development of self assessment-awareness, reflective listening, and constructive thinking all guided by key skills (Nelson et al., 2013).

Our approach of transformative emotional intelligence (EI) parallels the coaching profession at large.  No one theory fully explains the coaching process.  Most approaches are eclectic and borrow theory and practice from cognitive, humanistic, behavioral, motivational, and/or transpersonal theories.  Our theory is based on original research and practice with person-centered, relationship-focused, and skills-based learning through the lens of transformative EI.  Positive assessment is a dynamic learning tool for reflection and engagement to develop an awareness to learn while aligning key skills and behaviors with coaching core competencies.

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