Olesya Luraschi's picture Submitted by Olesya Luraschi September 18, 2019 - 9:59am

Ask any good coach and they will tell you that the science of relationships and how to improve them is core to effective coaching. Leaders need to build real connections with their colleagues to inspire problem-solving, innovation, and creativity. Good workplace relationships are imperative for building strong teams and fostering overall well-being. And yet, despite the importance of interpersonal connectivity, relationship science is often not discussed explicitly as a vital part of evidence-based coaching. Few researchers provide us with a guide to establishing meaningful connections. But one power couple is the exception to this rule.

The Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, is honored to present the 2019 Vision of Excellence award to Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman. The Vision of Excellence award was established to recognize lasting contributions and pioneering work on the scientific foundation of coaching. The award will be presented at the Institute of Coaching Conference, which will also feature a discussion with the Gottmans. Although the Gottmans are known for their work on romantic relationships, their research is invaluable in managing professional relationships and work-life balance, showcasing the behaviors and thoughts that harm relationships and teaching those which foster healthy, lasting relationships. 

About our Award Recipients

Dr. John Gottman is world-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, having conducted over 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. Recognized as one of the top 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century, he is also a prolific writer as the author or co-author of over 40 books.

Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman is the co-founder and president of the Gottman Institute. She is highly recognized as a clinical psychologist whose work centers around distressed couples, abuse and trauma survivors, substance abusers and their partners and cancer patients and their families. She is also the author or co-author of several books including most recently Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

Research from the Gottman Institute

Drs. Gottmans’ research presents a vital opportunity for coaches to create a framework for their clients which optimizes relationships. A focus on building relationships can present many benefits to individuals including:

  1. Improved ability to maintain and strive toward goals
  2. Increased happiness
  3. Decreased stress
  4. Increased workplace efficiency

The Gottmans have refined the science of relationships to the point where they can train coaches and related professionals to help clients actually build and transform their relationships. When asked to identify the most important principle in relationship science, Dr. John Gottman has noted the positivity ratio as the most robust and impactful. Gottman describes this positivity ratio in an interview with Harvard Business Review:

It sounds simple, but in fact you could capture all of my research findings with the metaphor of a saltshaker. Instead of filling it with salt, fill it with all the ways you can say yes, and that’s what a good relationship is. “Yes,” you say, “that is a good idea.” “Yes, that’s a great point, I never thought of that.” “Yes, let’s do that if you think it’s important.” You sprinkle yeses throughout your interactions—that’s what a good relationship is.

Gottman does clarify that this strategy is not meant to foster total compliance but instead show agreement in a relationship. He goes on to stress that good relationships are not about communication but small moments of connection. It is not a stretch to apply this principle in work place relationships and even the coaching relationship itself. Affirmation fortifies relationships and builds trust.

Building Relationship Coaching Skills

The Gottman Method is one of the best ways to learn how to help clients and patients build and maintain stronger relationships. This method is supported by decades of research and available online and in person. For more information, check out the Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare Conference and learn from the Gottmans themselves. Additionally, the Gottman Institute provides a blog series on science-based strategies for healthy workplace relationships, which include topics such as:

About the Institute of Coaching

Established in 2009 with the mandate to cultivate the scientific foundation and best practices in coaching, the IOC provides world-class professional development and community networking through our webinars, learning events, sell-out annual Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare Conference sponsored by Harvard Medical School, and an unparalleled coaching resource library. 


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