Coaching for Spiritual Intelligence (Part 2 of 2)
by H. Les Brown, BCW Regular Contributor

"Our spiritual intelligence (SQ) gives us access to the principles that provide the foundation for the establishment of a sound moral value system," states Danah Zohar, author of SQ: Connecting With Our Spiritual Intelligence. In my last article (BCW: Winter 2005), I introduced the concept of "spiritual intelligence." Now, I'd like to consider three specific questions regarding coaching for SQ in a business context:

  1. Are questions of values relevant to the workplace?
  2. Are there situations in which coaching for SQ is necessary?
  3. If so, what approach is appropriate?

In determining whether questions of values are relevant to the workplace, we must recognize that people operate with two separate but interrelated sets of values--one relates to the external world of behavior, while the other refers to the internal world of intention.
Traditionally, business coaching has limited itself to the realm of behavior. Generally, the realm of intention (personal motivation and purpose) has been considered "off limits" in business coaching. Therefore, in this context, coaching for SQ might be deemed inappropriate. 

However, consider how the appropriateness of conduct in the corporate environment is determined. Explicitly acknowledged or not, this is a question of values, and it is critical in determining which behaviors are encouraged and which are prohibited. Generally accepted social and corporate values such as punctuality and dress are usually presented as norms of expected behavior, rendering questions of values relevant to the workplace.

Co-existing with external, social, and corporate values, however, are the internal, cultural and personal values which transcend mere behavior. These internal values govern intention and establish the alignment of individual purpose with universally applicable principles such as goodness, truth and beauty. When we speak of SQ, we are referring to this capacity for alignment.

Surprisingly, when external and internal values conflict, external values generally prevail. What's more, immediate values (e.g., corporate policy) will triumph even over accepted social norms. In 1960s experiments conducted at Yale University, Stanley Milgram demonstrated that 65% of "good" people would deliver a lethal electric shock in obedience to orders from a perceived "superior." The same dynamic was displayed in 2001 when, in obedience to a corporate policy of "profit at any cost," traders at Enron deliberately engineered rolling power blackouts across California--callously disregarding the safety and well-being of the people affected.

When to Coach for SQ
Business coaches can readily assist individuals in aligning their behavior with corporate values, and can assist business leaders in aligning their corporate policies with broader social norms. Ordinarily, dealing with personal issues in a business context is unnecessary. However, it becomes necessary whenever external behavior must be aligned with internal values. Two such examples are resolving an individual's ethical conflicts with corporate guidelines, or establishing ethical corporate policies.

In the first example, individuals benefit from developing a strong, clear moral compass when confronted with the powerfully persuasive forces present in the workplace. When the dictates of conscience conflict with the demands of the company, coaching can help with the decision to accept the demands, to oppose them, or to depart from the corporate environment in question.

In the second example, a corporate culture will largely mirror the personal values of its leadership. The values that continue to set Southwest Airlines apart from its competition are the direct result of the personal influence of its founders, Rollin King and Herb Kelleher. For business leaders who strive for excellence, it is not sufficient merely to comply with prevailing social and corporate norms.  Ethical excellence calls a corporation and its leadership to work to a higher standard--a set of values based on internally discovered and deeply lived (i.e., spiritual) principles. Coaching can facilitate executives bringing these principles to the forefront and expressing them with clarity and purpose.

How to Coach for SQ
If coaching for SQ fulfills a legitimate need, what approaches might be appropriate? One method is to obtain information directly from the client via respectful questions about personal beliefs. However, this straightforward technique relies heavily on the client's level of self-knowledge, and thus may not yield the best results.

A personal values inventory represents a more comprehensive approach and it supplies an to a discussion of fundamental principles. Another alternative is to start with a dialogue about which issues in the corporate environment most disturb the client. This creates an opportunity to explore the underlying values and principles that are most deeply felt and most closely held.

SQ in Practice
Certified Master Coach Lyn T. Christian specializes in working with existing and prospective entrepreneurs. Her clients often ask for SQ coaching when they have difficult decisions to make, especially when they are preparing to cut the corporate umbilical cord and strike out on their own. Lyn says, "When clients are struggling to make decisions, it's important to ask them, 'Where do you go when you need to access perceptions that dwell more deeply than your logical thoughts?' It's important to discuss how they make their decisions and then help them to anchor themselves back to those spiritual realities that provide clarity. It's difficult for a coach who lacks a spiritual basis to ask a client to go to the deeper places."

SQ is invaluable when executives are embroiled in personal crises. In such cases, coaching may shift focus, helping clients to find spiritual "ground" and maintain professional balance when the going gets rough. When the crisis has passed, coaching can return to a more purely professional orientation. SQ is important for coaches as well--one reason Lyn strongly recommends that coaches have coaches: to help them to "stay in their integrity" during difficult times.

Spiritual intelligence involves emotion and intuition as well as intellect and reason. An effective coach should be prepared to use his or her own intuitive SQ in the discovery process. The goal of coaching for SQ goes well beyond the simple discovery of core principles--it must lead to the development of a personal "mission statement" which defines those principles that are inspirational enough to be life-motivating. When clients totally embrace those principles, they are liberated from the force of persuasive external influences, and are free to set a clear course for a positive (personal or corporate) future.


"The Milgram Experiment." New-Life. Available at

Zohar, Danah. 2000. SQ: Connecting With Our Spiritual Intelligence. New York: Bloomsbury USA.

H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC, Researcher for Business Coaching Worldwide and co-founder of ProActivation, is an innovator and change strategist who helps clients to effect deep and lasting change in their personal and professional lives. Read more about Les in the WABC Coach Directory. Les can be reached by email at

Return to In This Issue.
Click here to view or print entire issue for easy reading.

Copyright (C) 2002-2006 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.