Research Paper By Calvin Chuang
(Life Coach, AUSTRALIA)
Coaching is a new dynamic profession that is rapidly growing. In 2004 annual spending on coaching in the United States [was] estimated at roughly $1 billion.
1 The rapid growth coincides with an increasing acceptance that coaching is a valuable tool for getting results. According to a Manchester Consulting Group study of Fortune 100 executives, coaching resulted in a ROI of almost six times the program cost as well as a 77 per cent improvement in relationships, 67 per cent improvement in teamwork, 61 per cent improvement in job satisfaction and 48 per cent improvement in quality.” With all this demand, more and more people are taking on the profession of a coach. However the question needs to be asked, “Can anyone be a coach? Or is it restricted to a certain personality?
2 To explore this question, this article will take a brief look personality types through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It will then relate it to coaching as profession by comparing it to the ICF core competencies to see if indeed anyone can be a coach.
The purpose of this article is to create discussion and awareness surrounding different personality types and their relationship to coaching. Personality tests by their very nature are personal. It is not the author’s intention to uplift or diminish any person or personality type but rather to raise awareness of the natural tendencies of the coaching profession. The author, while not an expert at the MBTI, has tried to remain objective as possible but understands that the information presented is open to interpretation.
Introduction to Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most popular personality type indicators used today. Developed in the 1940s by Isabel Myers, and her and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, MBTI is designed to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives.
3 To do this, the pair created an evaluation to look at four main areas of personality preference:
- Introversion vs. Extroversion
- Intuitive vs. Sensing
- Thinking vs. Feeling
- Judging vs. Perceiving
Extroversion (E) vs. Introversions (I)
The first section of the MBTI focuses on where individuals get their energy. Individuals with an extrovert preference obtain their energy from the outside world. They find large groups and big events great for ‘recharging’ their emotional battery. They tend to be viewed as outgoing, energetic people who have many friends. Conversely, introverts obtain their energy from their inner selves. They like to reflect on ideas, images and thoughts and ‘recharge’ by spending time alone or with with a few people that they know well. Often seen as reserved or shy, introverts live very rich internal lives.
Sensing (S) vs. Intuitive (N)
This section looks at people’s preference when it comes to gathering information. People with a sensing preference, gather information through their five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. They are practical people who remember details in events and experiences that are important to them. Intuitive individuals are the ‘big picture’ people. They tend to focus on the “impression or the meaning and patterns from the information”4 they receive. Future orientated, intuitive are able to ‘read between the lines’ to discover new possibilities of doing things.
Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
The third section of the MBTI looks at the way people make decisions. People with a thinking preference tend to make decisions based on logic. They analyse the pros and cons of each side and then make an objective decision. Thinkers are often described as cold, logical and decisive. Individuals with a feeling preference make decisions based on their feelings and the feelings of those involved. They like to hear the views of others and make decisions that will allow the most amount of harmony in relationships. Feelers tend to be described as warm, caring and tactful.
Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
The final section deals with how much structure people to prefer to have in their lives. People with a judging preference like to be planned and organised. Judges like to have things decided and are annoyed with those decision are changed. They are often seen making ‘to do’ lists which makes them appear very task and goal orientated. Individuals with a perceiving preference prefer flexibility in their lives. Perceivers tend to only make decisions when needed, as they like to ‘keep their options open’. This makes them appear spontaneous, flexible and playful.
Additional information regarding of Myers Briggs Type Indicator
When applying the MBTI it is important to remember that there is a level of degree to which individuals have preferences. An individual with an extrovert preference may still feel the need to be alone and recharge, thinkers will at times make decisions based on feeling, and perceivers make lists to accomplish tasks. The more strongly a person leans toward a certain preference the more reliable the preference characteristic will hold true for them.
The combination of these four preference areas makes up the 16 personality types of the MBTI: ENTJ, ESTJ, ENFJ, ESFJ, ENTP, ESTP, ENFP, ESFP, INTJ, ISTJ, INFJ, ISFJ, INTP, ISTP, INFP, ISFP. The mix of the four will may also change which of the areas are more dominant for individuals.
Myers Briggs Type Indicator as it relates to coaching
According the International Coach Federation (ICF) coaching is a “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.” The ICF also, has several core competencies that each coach is required to abide by in order to be certified by their organization. When looked at through the lens of the MBTI, these competencies give some insight into what personality traits are needed from a coach.
Guideline A: Setting the Foundation
The profession of coaching requires coaches to meet certain ethical guidelines and professional standards. This includes knowing your limitations and establishing a coaching agreement. Setting boundaries and agreements from the start lends itself to those with a judging personality preference, as they are comfortable with a structured environment. It would also suit those who have a thinking and sensory preference. Thinkers are more likely to direct with the standards while those with a sensory preference are more comfortable talking through the details of guidelines. An extroversion preference would also help during this time, as it would allow the coach to comfortably go over even though the relationship is fairly new.
Guideline B: Co-creating the Relationship
Once the nitty-gritty of the coaching agreement is out the way the coaching session begins. A crucial element of coaching is co-creating the relationship. According to the ICF, this involves establishing trust and intimacy with the client
5 as well as having “coaching presence.”5 People with a personality preference for feeling would thrive in this area, as they are naturals when it comes to creating a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust.
5 Those with extroverted tendencies would also help fit this requirement, as an extrovert’s natural friendliness would help them get to know their client quickly. Intuition also plays a vital role in co-creating relationships as coaches need to “accesses [their] own intuition and trusts one’s inner knowing—‘goes with the gut’ in order to know when it is appropriate to ask questions.”5 Intuitives also thrive, as they are able to creatively look at several possibilities for a client heading into the future.
Guideline C: Communicating Effectively
A crucial part of any coaching process involves the areas of active listening, powerful questioning and direct communication. According to the ICF, active listening involves the coach’s ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression.
5 This definition again supports those who have a natural preference toward intuition. While those who are sensory will most definitely be able to accurately listen to the words spoken, it is the intuition preference that will allow the coach to ‘read between the lines’ and listen to what is not being said. Introverts, in general, are good listeners so will also find this process more natural then extroverts. This is also true when asking powerful questions as the deep thinking introverts are able to find “to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client.”6 Coaches are encouraged to ask open-ended questions that help the client move toward their goal. For those with a perceiving preference asking these open ended questions will be natural, however balance is needed as those with a judging tendency will be able to ask questions that direct their clients towards the end goal. Direct communication involves using language that is of greatest positive impact on the client. Feelers are able to gauge their client’s feelings to see what would be the best language to use in a particular situation. However, they need to be mindful of their own feelings so as to keep the focus on their client. Thinkers on the other hand not will have no trouble being direct but need to watch that their language does not impact their client negatively.
Guideline D: Facilitating Learning and Results
The last of the core competencies revolves around the ability to create awareness, design actions, goal set, and making sure accountability is in place. Creating awareness is defined as the ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results.
6 This would suit those whose MBTI preferences are thinking, intuitive and judging. Intuitive are able to see the big picture, thinkers are able to logically able to distill several points of information and those with judging preferences are able to make sure they are heading towards their client’s goals. Judging tendencies also help with planning and goal setting as the coach’s ability to naturally create structures and deadlines will enable their clients to do likewise. A balance between thinking and feeling tendencies would be well suited as the coach needs to help their client create a structure that is logical but to be aware of their client’s feelings in order to ensure any actions implemented are met with enthusiasm. Feeling and judging tendencies will help them in the accountability stage as the coach helps encourage the client to get excited about their decision and stay focused on the task at hand.
Conclusion: Can anyone be a coach?
Like any career, the question about whether anyone can be a coach is a simple yes. However, like all professions there are going to be certain personalities types that it will tend to attract as well as certain personality types it will come more naturally to. Comparing the ICF core competencies to the MBTI shows that a natural tendency towards intuition is something that will be helpful to coaches. Those who are sensory can still make great coaches, it may just mean that they will have to learn some intuitive skills. A balance between an introversion and extroversion preference as well as a balance between a thinking and feeling preference may also make coaching feel more instinctive. Extroversion will help make the client feel comfortable and motivated while introversion will allow the coach to listen well and think deeply in order to ask the powerful questions necessary. Some feeling tendencies will help the coach gauge how the client is feeling and some thinking will help the client be able to view the client’s situation objectively. The structure of the coaching process seems to lend itself to people whose MBTI leans toward judging. However, some perceiving is needed so the coach is able to ask opened ended questions in order to let their client open to discover the answers for themselves. Given this information, the MBTIs that a coaching career would most likely attract and come naturally to are: ENTJ, ENFJ, INFJ, INTJ.
When it comes down to it though, one’s MBTI personality profile does not dictate if they can or cannot coach. It may not even give a clear picture is someone is a good coach. Instead, one’s ability to coach depends more on how much their client thinks, feels and believes their coach is of benefit to them.