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The Emotionally Intelligent Supervisor

By Jackie Arnold

In 2007 I was lucky enough to attend a London event where Daniel Goleman was speaking about his book ‘Emotional Intelligence’.  Since then I have had several discussions with coaches and supervisors I have supported, on what characteristics are displayed by emotionally intelligent supervisors (and leaders). From these discussions and a variety of articles the following seem to be emergent.

They are able to:

  • Recognise, express and cope with feelings and emotions of self and others
  • Cope with the demands and pressures of the supervisor’s/leader’s role
  • React proactively by building relationships and leading by example
  • Focus on understanding others before seeking to be understood
  • Pose incisive questions and challenge when deemed necessary
  • Support others to set and achieve goals that benefit both the team and the individual
  • Motivate and encourage others to greater achievement
  • Maintain a positive mind-set in times of change and in challenging situations

Daniel Goleman’s book on emotional intelligence states that EI is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting people to “do their jobs more effectively” (Goleman 1995) It is well known that people tend to leave as a result of poor managers and stay where they feel valued and supported.

If as coach supervisors we are to supervise those who coach leaders to do their jobs effectively we need to focus on supporting them to:

Tolerate stress, control impulses, practice positive self-regard, and to build social responsibility optimism and happiness. Looking for strengths and establishing the weaknesses based on these criteria can significantly enhance the success of coaching and coaching supervision.  After clear guidelines and contracts have been agreed we need to support the coach to establish their key strengths and development areas.  At this point a supervision development plan can be introduced and jointly devised based on the EI behaviours outlined above.  The first session can then be based on this evidence and enable the supervisee to learn more about their strengths and operating style. It also enables the supervisor to challenge them in areas where they wish to develop.  It is essential to explain the broad concept of EI supervision to the coach and explain how these behaviours enhance coaching performance. It will be useful for the supervisor to be familiar with the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-I; Bar-On 1997a) as this can serve as a useful worksheet to discuss and plan the sessions.  These can then be used by the coach with their own clients very effectively.

A well-defined plan of action and by using the Seven Eyed Model (CSA Workbook) or Circle model (Jackie Arnold 2009) or similar will ensure the supervision stays on track.  It is also necessary to do a pre and post intervention evaluation session so that the coach is able to see clearly where he/she has developed.

As leaders in the field of coaching we aim to support others to lead, support and grow in times of change and uncertainty. In this way we can all contribute to helping people achieve extraordinary performance and show the passion and motivation that leads to exceptional results.

©Jackie Arnold 2010


Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman (1995)

Coaching for Leaders in the Workplace – Jackie Arnold How to Books (2009)

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership from Leadership Coaching (2010) published by AC

and edited by Jonathan Passmore

Bar-On R (1997a) The Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-I) A test of Emotional intelligence, Multi-Health Systems Inc, Toronto Canada

John Whitmore – Coaching for performance (1992)