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What is Emotional Intelligence?

What is emotional intelligence (EI)? This is one of the most frequently asked questions that Daniel Goleman (Dan), psychologist and author of the New York Times bestseller “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ,” gets from his audience. 

If you’re new to the work of EI or if you’re in need of a refresher, this article will define emotional intelligence and break down the four domains and twelve competencies that make up Dan’s framework. We’ll also provide guidance for how you can assess your own emotional intelligence and outline some resources you can use to continue your EI learning journey.

What does Emotional Intelligence (EI) mean?

Emotional Intelligence refers to a different way of being smart. EI is a key to high performance, particularly for outstanding leadership. It’s not your IQ, but rather it’s how you manage yourself and your relationships with others.

—Daniel Goleman, Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership

The 4 Domains and 12 Competencies of Emotional Intelligence


There are four domains and 12 competencies in Daniel Goleman’s model of EI

The four domains are as follows:

  • Self Awareness
  • Self Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

Under the four domains mentioned above, there are 12 competencies, which are as follows:

  1. Emotional Self-Awareness
  2. Emotional Self-Control
  3. Adaptability
  4. Achievement Orientation
  5. Positive Outlook
  6. Empathy
  7. Organizational Awareness
  8. Influence
  9. Coach and Mentor
  10. Conflict Management
  11. Teamwork
  12. Inspirational Leadership

What is a Competence?

A competence is a skill needed to perform a role, or task. There are two types of competency: Threshold Competencies and Distinguishing Competencies. Threshold Competencies are the minimum one needs to handle the cognitive complexity of a given task. Distinguishing Competencies are those traits found the the highest performers that set them above the average. Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis analyzed the internal competency models of dozens of organizations to identify Distinguishing Competencies common to all, and built their model of Emotional Intelligence from that data.

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The 12 Emotional Intelligence Competencies Defined

What is Emotional Self-Awareness? 

Emotional Self Awareness lies at the heart of emotional intelligence. Emotional self awareness is the ability to understand our own emotions and their effects on our performance. You realize how your feelings affect you and how well you’re doing. Your values and sense of purpose help set your course of action. 

What is Emotional Self-Control?
Emotional Self-Control (also known as emotional balance) is the ability to keep your disruptive emotions and impulses in check to maintain your effectiveness under stressful or even hostile conditions. With emotional balance, you recognize disruptive emotions—emotions that get in the way like high anxiety, intense fear or quick anger—and you find ways to manage your emotions and impulses. You stay calm and clear headed under stress, even during a crisis.

What is Positive Outlook? 

Positive Outlook is the ability to see the positive in people in situations and events. It means persistence in pursuing goals despite setbacks and obstacles, you can see the opportunity in situations where others would see a setback that could be devastating, at least for them. 

What is Achievement? 

The Achievement competence means that we strive to meet or exceed a standard of excellence. We look for ways to do things better. We set challenging goals, we take calculated risks. There’s a big paradox about achievement orientation, and that is when you have positive goals, it’s very helpful. But if you stay in this overdrive all the time and try to drive other people in the same pace, you can become a toxic leader. Even though achievement drive helps you get your career goals, it may make you unhappy in your life.

What is Adaptability? 

The Adaptability competence is flexibility and handling change and juggling multiple demands, adapting to new situations with new ideas or innovative approaches. It means you can stay focused on your goals, but easily adjust how you get there. You can meet new challenges and you’re nimble and adjusting to sudden change. You’re comfortable with the uncertainty that leadership can bring.

What is Empathy? 

The Empathy competence means you have the ability to sense others feelings and how they see things. You take an active interest in their concerns. You pick up cues to what’s being felt in thought. with empathy, you sense unspoken emotions. You listen attentively, to understand the other person’s point of view, the terms in which they’re thinking about what’s going on. empathic leaders are able to get along well with people of very different backgrounds and cultures, and to express their ideas in ways the other person will understand. Empathy doesn’t mean psyching out the other person so you can manipulate them, but rather, it’s knowing how best to collaborate with them.

What is Organizational Awareness? 

Organizational awareness means the ability to read a group’s emotional currents and power relationships, identify influencers, networks, and the dynamics that matter in making decisions. A leader who can recognize networking opportunities and read key power relationships will do a better job at leading. Such leaders not only understand the forces at work in an organization, but also the guiding values and unspoken rules that operate among people.

What is Influence? 

Influence as a competence refers to the ability to have a positive impact on others, to persuade or convince them to gain their support. If you’re strong in the influence competence, you’re persuasive and engaging and you can build buy-in from key people. Remember, leadership is the art of getting work done well through other people. And influence is the most powerful way to do that. 

What is the Coach and Mentor Competency? 

The Coach and Mentor competency is the ability to foster the long term learning or development of others. By giving feedback and support. You have a genuine interest in helping them develop further strengths. You give timely, constructive feedback, you understand the person’s goals, and you try to find challenges for them. 

What is Inspirational Leadership? 

The Inspirational Leadership competence is the ability to guide people to get the job done to bring up their best. With inspiration, you can articulate a shared mission in a way that motivates and offers a sense of common purpose. Beyond people’s day to day tasks. 

What is Teamwork? 

The teamwork competence is the ability to work with others toward a shared goal, participating actively sharing responsibility and rewards and contributing to the capability of the team. you empathize and create an atmosphere of respect, helpfulness and cooperation, you can draw others into active commitment to the team’s effort. Leaders skilled at the teamwork competence build spirit, positive relationships, and pride of identity at being on the team. And it’s not just teams. This competence holds the key to collaboration of any kind. 

What is Conflict Management? 

The conflict management competency means the ability to help others through emotional or tense situations, to tactfully bring disagreements into the open and to define solutions that everyone can endorse. leaders who take time to understand the different perspectives work toward finding a common ground on which everyone can agree. They acknowledge the views of all sides, while redirecting energy toward a shared ideal, or an agreeable resolution. Clearly being able to manage conflict matters for leaders. But that doesn’t mean convincing other people that yours is the correct opinion. There’s a difference between winning and effectively managing conflict.

How to Measure Your Emotional Intelligence (EI) Competencies

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis developed an instrument in partnership with Korn Ferry to help people who want to develop their strengths in emotional intelligence. The assessment tool is called the Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI). The ESCI is a 360 degree measure meaning that you first evaluate yourself, and then you ask up to 10 people who know you well, and whose opinions you value and trust, to rate you anonymously. The information collected is then fed back to you as an aggregate with a profile of your strengths and weaknesses. 

The value of the ESCI is that you can understand how others see you in relation to each of the emotional intelligence competencies. The tool also helps you identify which competencies you are skilled at and which you may need to strengthen in partnership with an EI-certified coach or develop on your own.

Emotional Intelligence Resources

If you are just beginning to explore emotional intelligence, our hope is that this article served as a valuable starting point. If you’re interested in delving deeper into emotional intelligence, below is a list of resources which may further your understanding of the brain science behind the work.

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The First Season of First Person Plural (FPP) is Here!

Welcome to First Person Plural!
Episode 0: Who We Are, and Where We’re Going

For years, Daniel Goleman’s work has been applied in personal development and business contexts to help people become better leaders. But what does emotional intelligence look like when we go beyond the first person application? 

The day we’ve been waiting for is finally here! Today marks the launch of the First Person Plural: EI & Beyond (FPP) podcast. 

Over the course of the first season, we hope to inspire FPP listeners to apply emotional intelligence to their lives, their relationships and the systems they are a part of — including their families, communities, workplaces, and society at large. 

This podcast will take you on a journey, shifting from the individual “I” into the plural “us.” In a world that has become increasingly more isolated, independent and Individualistic, we will explore how our emotions and actions cast ripple effects throughout the world.

Emotional intelligence will always begin with us — by looking within and honing our strengths in self-awareness and self-management. But this podcast will take you on a journey, shifting from the individual “I” into the plural “us.” In a world that has become increasingly more isolated, independent and Individualistic, we will explore how our emotions and actions cast ripple effects throughout the world. Using the theory of emotional intelligence, we will learn to ask deeper questions about change and collective good.

For more detail about what we can expect from the FPP podcast, we invite you to listen to the first introductory conversation ( “Episode 0”) between Dan and Hanuman Goleman.

Then, Be sure to keep an eye out for a bonus episode coming next week entitled, Emotional Intelligence 101: The Basics of EI. This episode will offer a brief overview of the theory of Emotional Intelligence for those new to the work or for anyone who could use a refresher.

Our first official three act episode, which explores wellbeing and purpose, will be released on February 9th. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest. 

None of this would be possible without the generous support from our Kickstarter supporters who helped us raise an incredible $12,000 to support the production of our first season! Thank you for believing in us and the power of emotional intelligence. Your enthusiasm and generosity has been a beacon as we delve into this adventure. 


If you’re interested in supporting our work and getting special behind-the-scenes access, consider becoming a monthly Patron!

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The Vernacular of Compassion

Bryant Johnson at Work
Bryant Johnson at Work
The author at his desk

As I type this (well, not literally), I’m putting the finishing touches on a promotional video for First Person Plural: EI & Beyond, a new podcast from 爱博体育网站. While my brain is awash in keyframes, masking layers, and animated warp deformations, I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself, and my role in bringing you First Person Plural.

My name is Bryant Johnson. I’m a graphic designer, illustrator, and lately, an associate producer on First Person Plural. I’ve been working with 爱博体育网站 (né More Than Sound) for seven years, designing the visual look for books, videos, pamphlets, and online trainings.

This spring, as I hunkered down in the pandemic bunker with my partner, my cats, and more streaming video than one could reasonably expect to consume in a lifetime (actually, I should have written “more books”—pretend I typed that instead), Hanuman reached out to me with the idea of creating a podcast on emotional intelligence with his father Daniel Goleman. He wanted to do a more freeform exploration of the subject, emphasizing lived human experiences. And, he asked if I’d be interested in working on it.

Of course I said yes.

Audio isn’t exactly my medium—I’ve spent most of my life working in visual media: first in print, then video and board games, and later graphic design. But the subject is one I hold dearly.

Emotional intelligence is the reconciliation between the inner world of our thoughts, emotions, hopes, fears, and biases, with the external world of our interaction with others, and the systems we all navigate.

It’s a vocabulary to describe the dynamics we’ve observed and experienced for our entire lives, but didn’t know how to express. And when everything feels like it’s on fire, it’s a bucket of cool water within grabbing distance.

In the weeks since I first wrote this, much has changed in the world. We will have the opportunity to work towards a future without hate; without fear; without a cynical and mortally willful ignorance of reality.

What excites me is the chance to combine my experience in visual storytelling with a new [to me] medium: to craft new ways to make the material accessible, educational, and fun. To build an equitable future, we need more compassion. I hope that First Person Plural will make that abundantly clear, and give listeners a chance to build the skills of emotional intelligence—the vernacular of compassion—in themselves.

We have some exciting episodes in production, and I can’t wait to have you all join us in this endeavor!

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Emotional Intelligence: The Backbone of a Better World

Elizabeth Solomon, Coach and Producer

We were four months into the COVID-19 pandemic when Hanuman Goleman called me up and asked me if I wanted to be part of a podcast with Daniel Goleman on Emotional Intelligence. I’m not sure there is a single thing that would have deterred me from saying YES… and so, even with a packed schedule and four kids in the house, I agreed before I knew the details. 

I have been working with Daniel Goleman for the past four years. As a certified Emotional Intelligence (EI) Coach, I use a curriculum based on his work to coach clients in developing their EI. An organizational psychology geek, I have also spent quite a bit of time zeroing in on purpose, talking with Dan at length about the role meaning and social good play in transforming our workplaces. 

Here’s what I know from my experience as a consultant, coach, and storyteller: Emotional Intelligence is the backbone of a better world.

Elizabeth Solomon

While EI has gained significant traction in the corporate world for the benefits it has on business, it’s implications go far beyond. It’s a roadmap for improving ourselves — a method through which we can change our perspective and our relationships. EI makes people better parents, better partners, and better citizens of the world. In this pandemic, it has proved invaluable. 

Over the past seven months, the most salients questions I have been asking myself are: “How did we get here? And “How do we vision and move towards something different?

While no one thing is the antidote to our current crisis, saying YES to a podcast on emotional intelligence is one way I seek to be a part of moving us beyond our fears and grief and into a place where we can begin to imagine a more equitable and resilient future. 

As a producer, writer and correspondent for First Person Plural, my goal is not only to support the work of Daniel Goleman — whose ideas have changed the way we understand emotional intelligence, focus, and leadership — but to bring you the voices and perspectives of people applying emotional intelligence on the front lines. 

If there is one thing I know it’s that the application matters more than the theory. 

We can talk all day about things like empathy, bias, self-management, and organizational awareness — but until we understand how these things are being applied from person to person and situation to situation — we really don’t understand the pitfalls and possibilities of the work. 

In the fall, our production team interviewed a regenerative farmer and a public school teacher. “How are they leveraging emotional intelligence?” we asked, “How does self and social awareness help them in their mission to give people access to good food and a quality education?” 

These are the things First Person Plural is looking at — how emotional intelligence and related concepts play out on the day to day. 

These are the conversations we need to be having.

Please support us in having them together. After all, you are a part of us and we are a part of you.  We all need to be a part of the conversation.

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Integrating Emotional Intelligence Into the Fabric of Our Lives

CEO Hanuman Goleman in his Home Office
Hanuman Goleman is seen at his desk with podcasting equipment, desktop computer and TV in the background.
Hanuman Goleman, Founder and CEO of 爱博体育网站, sits in his home office.

Dear Community,

I am pleased to announce a new chapter at 爱博体育网站: a podcast with Daniel Goleman on emotional intelligence!

Over the last few years, we turned our attention to widening access to practical emotional intelligence development by launching the training and coaching certification programs now housed under the company “Goleman EI” — programs which offer top notch EI programming for businesses and individuals.

Doing that work, we learned a lot: we reaffirmed the importance of EI; we watched hundreds of people benefit from concentrated EI training and coaching; and we connected to a deeper mission, which is to take this work as far as we can, well beyond the realm of leadership development and business.

This is why we are launching a podcast — First Person Plural: Emotional Intelligence and Beyond. Each episode will explore conscious and unconscious ways that our beliefs and ideas create the systems we are a part of. And in turn, we will look at the impact of those systems are on our daily lives. This podcast will go beyond EI theory, diving deep into the waters of how EI is lived and applied across cultures, industries, and communities of interest.

Why now?

From a growing annual fire season to widening income inequalities — from racism to a divided political landscape — the conditions we find ourselves in did not come out of nowhere. When I look at the world these days, much of what I see is the result of acting without self-awareness or regard for others. We are living the results of decisions, actions, and inactions that we, collectively, have either taken or tacitly endorsed.

This leads me to believe that now, more than ever, emotional intelligence must be integrated into the fabric of our life. If there is going to be change, we must first widen our understanding of ourselves and one another.

What’s the podcast going to be like?

My team and I are putting together a three-part podcast. In each episode you will hear from experts, game-changers and community members who will offer their thoughts on topics crucial to reinforcing EI in society. The structure for this podcast reflects my belief that it is imperative for us to have a clear conversation about the systems we are a part of — the networks and circumstances we live in willingly and unwillingly.

Systems dictate our choices. We must understand them and our role within them to create a more sustainable and just world.

When I reflect on the rise of an authoritarian mindset today in the US and around the world, I remember what my ancestors faced during the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe.

I remember what marginalized communities have faced in the US all of their lives with the ongoing violations of their dignity and their rights.

Like so many others, I wonder “What can I do?” The scope of the situation is daunting.

Creating An Emotionally Intelligent Future

If emotional intelligence has taught me anything it is not to underestimate the power of shifting our mindset, even a little. From our mindset we begin to shift our behavior, allowing ourselves to take new actions in service of our deepest values — in service of our community!

Social change is a tall order for a podcast. But I do hope that First Person Plural can further the conversation, instill a sense of hope, and inspire action. I trust that, together, we can create a more emotionally intelligent future — one in which everyone is recognized and treated as valuable and given the resources to thrive.

I believe in humanity. I believe that we all want to thrive. When we pay attention, we can learn. We can find new ways to uplift us all.

As I write this I can hear my two children — home every day now — laughing in the background. Five and three, they bring tears to my eyes. I cannot do this podcast without thinking about the state of the world I want to see them grow up in.

There is hope. It is not over. We are still making decisions.

We are still creating the world that will become our future.

Thank you for being a part of this journey towards a wiser, kinder world.

Starting in November, keep an eye out for details about our podcast’s Kickstarter campaign. Scheduled to launch in early 2021, the first season will largely be funded by our incredible community supporters, like you. To learn more about the podcast, sign up for email notifications here.

With love,

Hanuman Goleman

爱博体育网站 Founder & CEO

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Guests Inside My Head: How to Combat Rumination

How many voices chatter inside your head—especially during moments of stress? How often do they speak over each other—over you? All these voices, like guests who pop up unexpectedly to your house, demand attention. At times they are useful, for example, these voices help us intentionally look at a problem and come up with creative solutions, such as how best to navigate a difficult relationship with a new client. Sometimes they’re not helpful, and can keep us caught in a loop of repeating thoughts—we might relive a conversation from the previous day over and over again. In other words, productive mind wandering is different than what often happens—mindless chatter and unhelpful rumination. 

Particularly in moments of stress, or in the face of a setback or unexpected news, unplanned guests may storm the various rooms inside our heads, each voicing their opinions about what we should feel and how we might respond to a difficult situation. Be upset. Be generous. Be angry. Be elated. Without emotional awareness or regulation, the guests in our heads can easily turn a civilized tea party into an out-of-control rager.

These guests in our head often mill about unattended, and sometimes, undisciplined. Matt Killingsworth’s study found that 47% of the time our minds wander, mostly worried about and anticipating what’s to come, or ruminating about the past and what we coulda/shoulda/woulda. The good news: there is increasingly substantive research on how mindfulness can help us to focus on the present moment rather than get stuck in what was or what might be. Some of this research is documented in Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson’s book, Altered Traits.

Mindfulness certainly helps in situations in which the unexpected guests in our head demand so much attention that we become overwhelmed. It enables us to reduce mind wandering and focus better. We can also more effectively manage our triggers. However, as Matt Lippincott and Goleman note, we need more than awareness of our triggers. Otherwise, while we might be fully aware of these guests in our heads, we don’t know how to contain their energy. Without the other competencies of Emotional Intelligence, such as emotional balance and empathy, these guests can overwhelm us.

Whether at work or at home, practicing EI in real life is not easy. Yet without EI, the unexpected guests might overstay their welcome, causing disruption or longer-term harm to the integrity of the house. Mindfulness can encourage awareness and non-judgmental curiosity about the guests and allow us to observe them without falling down a rabbit hole of rumination. With greater self-awareness and self-management, we become more able to attend to each guest without pretending they don’t exist or trying to deny them entry. As studies have shown, suppression or avoidance of emotions and feelings generally result in the opposite of what we want—they eventually surface with even greater fury and demand for attention.

Contrary to some misconceptions, mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence don’t require that we “forgive and forget” when we are negatively impacted or triggered. The impact is still an impact. Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence offer us the tools to better manage how much we are impacted. Self-awareness helps us pay attention to the guests inside our heads without being held captive by them. Self-management enables us to not get carried away such that we forget that we are in control of which voices get to stay. Social awareness and relationship management offer us the capacity to navigate challenging dynamics with others. By practicing these competencies, we can intentionally shift from fruitless rumination to self-reflection.

We have the capacity to choose which guests inside our heads get to stay and which we release so they don’t occupy unnecessary real estate inside our heads. Then we can allow our own inner voice to speak with greater clarity and calm.

Want to develop your Emotional Intelligence in a supportive, virtual community? Over five, twelve, or twenty-four weeks, you can hone the skills that differentiate top-performers. Begin your learning journey this fall. You can learn more and register yourself or your team here.

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Coaching vs. Counseling: Advice for New Coaches

TW: This article includes a brief mention of sexual abuse.

As the fields of coaching and counseling continue to grow and evolve, there is increasing overlap and influence between them. Clear objectives, homework assignments, and even Emotional Intelligence assessments have become more common in therapy, while coaching is increasingly open to the importance of unconscious bias and triggers. Yet it remains vital that ethical coaches understand the purview of their work and the line between coaching and counseling.

I recently spoke with Michele Nevarez, Head of the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching and Training Programs, and Nora Infante, a licensed psychologist and senior executive coach, about the distinctions between coaching and counseling as well as their advice for new coaches. As Nora eloquently put it, “This topic as a whole comes from identifying coaches’ need to better understand how these two worlds come together and what keeps them apart.”

How these worlds come together

In addition to increasing overlaps in the goal orientated nature of coaching and counseling and common tools and timeframes, the root of a client’s need for coaching or counseling often overlap. Nora shared: “The reason someone goes to therapy or counseling is because they have a situation in their lives that is painful or not useful that they want to move beyond. The goal is working toward a different experience. Both therapy and coaching begin with the client in a present state that is less than perfect and hopefully advance to a future state that will be improved.”

What keeps them apart

Usually, the gravity of clients’ situations as well as the extent to which their past is explored differ between coaching and counseling. Nora observed: “Coaching clients are generally in less serious situations, while counseling is more likely to come at a moment of crisis. Most coaching engagements begin with someone who is already functioning well but really needs to develop some self-awareness and insights to help them maximize their skills and develop new ones. It’s very behavior focused. Whereas in therapy you will delve more deeply into some of the root causes of triggers than in coaching.”

While coaches identify triggers with their clients and help develop ways to move forward effectively, they don’t spend time exploring the root causes of triggers. Substantive exploration of the past remains the domain of therapy. Coaches may touch on the past, but only in a very focused way⁠—to gain context for the present and to help their clients identify strategies to move forward.

Red flags for coaches

It is important that coaching clients have the “ego strength” to receive constructive criticism and even negative feedback and make use of it. If feedback itself is a trigger for a client, making them overly reactive and emotional, it can be a sign to the coach that coaching may not be the right fit for the client.

Additionally, feeling particularly concerned or protective of a client and/or having a client who continually returns to the same chronic issues can represent red flags. Nora elaborated: “If you find yourself feeling excessively preoccupied or protective of a client, it’s an important sign to you as a coach that you’re in an area of emotional vulnerability for the client that probably requires a deeper level of work than is appropriate for a coach. It is also a red flag if you find yourself having the same thematic conversation over and over again with your client⁠—despite their receiving feedback, having clear coaching goals, and giving homework assignments.”

Common fears

Particularly for new coaches without clinical training, the line between coaching and counseling is often blurry and intimidating. “Anybody who’s an ethical coach should know how to walk that line,” Michele said, “Because if they are so scared of that line that they don’t actually know the difference between coaching and therapy then they won’t even be a good coach. They may overlook the things they should be paying attention to that enable them to get to the heart of a client’s belief structure and mindset that fuel their current behavior and outcomes.”

When new coaches do identify a client who would be better served by therapy, there is often fear around saying so and ending an engagement. “They might be afraid of a client’s reaction, need the business, or don’t want to burn bridges,” Nora explained.

How can new coaches navigate the line between coaching and counseling?

Find a mentor

For new coaches, the insight of a psychologist mentor or a seasoned coach who understands the nuances between coaching and counseling can help tremendously. The guidance of a mentor was extremely beneficial for Michele early in her coaching career: “Having a mentor was vital for me as a new coach because I didn’t want to shut down and stop coaching in the areas that are appropriate and would allow me to do my job well. Nor did I want to traverse a step ethically. Sharing situations anecdotally (as to maintain confidentiality) with a mentor can make a huge difference in making those discernments.”

We discussed a story of an early client with whom this outside advice was crucial: “One of my very first coaching engagements was with someone who unfortunately had experienced sexual abuse. I remember at the time when they shared that with me I was so nervous. So, I went to two of my psychotherapist friends⁠—of course while keeping my client’s confidentiality⁠—and asked for advice. For me, it was super helpful to have a mentor. Someone who is more experienced and understands the nuances. 

“As it turned out, the client had been in years of therapy and had substantially worked through their trauma. So even though it was initially a red flag to me, it ended up not being an issue at all. They already understood the source of past triggers and were able to take a forward focus in their work with me.

“That forward focus is the simplest way I’ve found to describe the line between coaching and counseling to new coaches. If you go back it’s only to gain context that informs the present⁠—but coaches don’t spend time exploring the past. And of course, if the past becomes too intractable or repetitive that’s a critical warning sign.”

Learn to identify common personality disorders

Coaches are likely to encounter clients with personality disorders including narcissism, OCD, histrionic, and borderline,­ even among top-level executives. Nora encouraged coaches without a clinical background to familiarize themselves with personality disorders:

“Knowledge is power. You may not have clinical training, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t gain valuable practical knowledge with basic and ever-continuing education. The chances of a new coach running into something complicated in the person they’re working with are quite significant. I really encourage formal coaching programs to spend meaningful time helping coaches identify when they may be dealing with a personality disorder and helping them to recognize when to seek appropriate collegial consultation for issues that are beyond the scope of routine coaching. Coaches can prepare for those important conversations, which unfortunately might ultimately include extricating themselves from an engagement. It’s important that coaches not be naïve about the complexities of the human mind and behavior. Coaching is rarely going to be easy and straightforward.”

Pair coaching with therapy

While some clients’ situations unfortunately necessitate that the coach end the engagement, many others can benefit from pairing coaching with therapy. Both Michele and Nora shared that they are always prepared to work with therapists in conjunction with a client.

Even clients who have not experienced trauma may benefit from the pairing of coaching and therapy. Nora shared the story of a client for whom this was effective: “A C-suite client who I’ve worked with for a couple years identified early on that her stress resulted from being a ‘people pleaser.’ She believed that she achieved her success just from being easy to get along with. She had a much harder time owning her intelligence. She saw her success as a result of her being a nice person⁠—a bit of imposter syndrome. It turns out that during her whole life she had been the one taking care of everything for everyone and wanting to please all the people all the time⁠—an impossible task. 

Nora continued: “Six months into our engagement this remained an overarching issue. I assigned homework, she understood it well, and was in control of her emotions, but we continued to come up against this bedrock problem. After about nine months, the stress of her need to make everybody happy so over shadowed our work that I recognized the need to refer her to a therapist. And this a good example of where the client continued coaching and started important therapy. In therapy, she was really able to deep dive into the root of her need to please, convert those important insights, and return to the tools that I could use to effectively  support positive change.” In this way, helping a client pair coaching with therapy⁠—or even knowing that a client is already in therapy­⁠—can benefit both client and coach.

Above all, it is crucial that coaches learn to navigate the line between coaching and counseling. The guidance of a mentor, training on identifying personality disorders and ending engagements, and the ability to work in conjunction with a therapist can all make this often-intimidating line far easier to navigate. 

Strengthen your Emotional Intelligence alongside like minded peers with our online courses. You’ll utilize our application-based model to create positive changes throughout your life from anywhere in the world. Click here to learn more and register to begin your learning journey this fall.

Interested in becoming an EI Coach? Click here to learn more about the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification and register to receive updates on our 2020 cohorts.

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