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Can One’s Emotional Intelligence Be Changed?

A common misconception, even among CEOs and other top-level executives, is that emotional intelligence (EI) is a fixed trait. While it’s true that some individuals are naturally more self-aware and empathetic than others, the good news is that emotional intelligence can be improved with focused training and practice. What’s more, numerous studies suggest that boosting one’s emotional quotient, or EQ, can lead to quantifiable improvements not only in leadership skills, but in overall health and happiness. But how do you know which soft skills coaching programs will produce the most drastic improvements? While there is no one intervention training that will be effective for everyone, most experts agree on the following key points. Consider these factors when deciding which approach to take toward increasing your EI.

Not All Coaching Programs are Created Equal

Many people believe that training programs geared toward building confidence and self esteem are effective in boosting emotional intelligence. In fact, such programs are rarely effective in improving interpersonal skills and may even be counterproductive, according to a 2003 study. Research shows that the most effective interventions are based on helping individuals identify their personal strengths and weaknesses. The 360-degree feedback program, for example, is considered by experts to be among the coaching programs that produce the best outcomes. One study found that this feedback-based coaching initiative dramatically improved the performance of 1,361  global top-level executives in just one year.

The Right Coaching Program Can Enhance EQ by up to 50 Percent

Think improvements in emotional quotient can’t be measured in percentages? Think again. While many skeptics will disagree, the right training program can produce quantifiable results. In fact, on study found that coaching programs focused on developing interpersonal skills (the most coachable component of EI) can produce short-term improvements of 50 percent. Stress management programs also showed promising results, with improvements of up to 35 percent reported by participants. While no training program guarantees a 100 percent improvement, a well-constructed program should see its participants easily achieve improvements in emotional intelligence of at least 25 percent.

Your Mileage May Vary

Regardless of how well a coaching initiative is designed, its effectiveness will ultimately depend on the coachability of the individual undertaking the program. Research shows that people who are naturally empathetic and self aware are more “coachable” than propel who are naturally insecure and sensitive to negative feedback. That being said, a recent study found that evaluating a participant’s coachability at the outset of training can actually improve training outcomes. 

Do you need help identifying and developing effective leadership behaviors? EGL's leadership development programs include ALII-Map Enterprise assessment; a research-based, statistically valid instrument focused on influence behaviors, including emotional intelligence.

We collaborate closely with our clients to craft a customized development plans, incorporating everything from assessment, training to executive coaching.

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