Why Coaching Should Begin with Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Coaching today is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. While coaching focuses on making the best of one’s potential, the core of coaching lies in maximizing one’s strengths, recognizing an opportunity for improvement, setting goals, and actively working on them.

The aims and goals of coaching change from individual to individual. Different stages of career, unique personalities, and values demand personalized coaching goals. One thing, however, remains constant among all –the importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence as a tool for professional growth.

Knowing Oneself: The Key to Organizational Success.

As the management consultant and educator Peter Drucker said,“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves - their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.”

This is the essence of coaching and why starting from self-awareness makes perfect sense. As an organizational coach and counselor, I get to work regularly with clients on skills like effective communication, leadership, teamwork, and conflict resolution and it goes without saying that all of these skills benefit from a strong foundation of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

During workplace coaching, one can expect to work on areas, including but not limited to:

  •  Strengths and weaknesses
  • Core values
  • Mission and purpose
  • Passions and interest
  • Personality and leadership style

However, self-awareness still holds utmost priority, so much so that if I could only work on one skill with people I coach, it would be self-awareness. It is vital for effective management, leadership, and overall developmental success.

According to Daniel Goleman, an internationally known psychologist for his work on Emotional Intelligence, “Self-awareness is indispensable in leadership, allowing leaders to harness their competencies for the greatest positive impact on others.”

Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are two sides of the same coin because you can’t have one without the other. With self-awareness and emotional intelligence comes the ability to manage one’s thoughts, behaviors, and emotions proactively as opposed to reactively leading to better positive workplace culture and relationships.

Want Sustainable Change? Work on Self-awareness First.

The goal of any coaching program is sustainable behavioral change. Intentional Change Theory (ICT) outlines a simple yet effective five-stage model for helping individuals and teams achieve sustainable change to meet personal and professional goals. Among the five, the first two steps are of great relevance and support the very claim of why coaching should begin with self-awareness!

According to the theory, the first step is the discovery of the ideal self and a personal vision. The second step is the discovery of the real self and its comparison to the ideal self. These initial steps allow one to assess their strengths and weaknesses and can only be achieved by working on improving self-awareness, emotional regulation, and emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness also leads to better coaching outcomes because the greater the level of self-awareness of the attendants, the greater the value they drive out of the coaching program.

Struggling with Leadership? Self-awareness is the Key.

Ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? This is a psychological phenomenon where people think they are more competent than they are. In simple words, they are unaware of their limitations, oftentimes leading to disastrous results.

In their paper titled, Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments, Justin Dunning and David Kruger, both Cornell University psychology professors, discovered the inability to recognize one’s skills, or lack of them, is not only leading to people making poor choices, but their incompetence also robs them of their ability to recognize their incompetence.

Sounds complicated? It’s not. Leaders who are not self-aware enough to recognize their lack of skill in a certain area can not in turn recognize that they need to work on a particular skill. The ability to recognize one’s limitations and consequently working on them is key to great leadership, communication, and teamwork. And, it can be achieved by, you guessed it, self-awareness.

Some leaders manage to get results while being non-self-aware, however, their techniques and methods are not sustainable.Managers who use methods like intimidation or other tactics are still bad leaders at the end of the day.

In a nutshell, coaching aims to help individuals and leaders fulfill their greatest potential. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence have proven to be the first step towards achieving greater organizational productivity, performance, and should take center stage at the beginning of any coaching program.

Read More Related to Self-Awareness: 3 Ways to Help Your Team Become More Self-Aware


Tom Finn

Chief Executive Officer

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