I’ve been utilizing personality type models for more than a decade for personal growth and relationship counseling. Luckily, I was taught from the beginning to adopt a "coach approach" when working with instrument results, and my CTI training amplified my effectiveness. Since then, I have evolved a "hybrid" approach to coaching. I begin by guiding my clients through a Self-Discovery Process® and allow that to naturally lead us deeper into the coaching relationship.
But where are the assessments, I hear you ask?
I make a distinction between assessments and instruments. Coaches are constantly "assessing" clients by asking them questions and listening for values. It’s inherently part of the coaching process. This is different from granting power to a formal instrument. Though I employ them, I confess I’m wary of over-reliance on instruments. I combine teaching with coaching as I expose my clients to proven models, all aimed at their choosing which psychological characteristics fit them best. I downplay instrument results and reference them only as additional datapoints. As Isabel Briggs Myers said (after releasing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment), "No pen-and-paper test can tell you who you are."
Here are some assessments I’ve integrated into my coaching practice, some with and some without a formal instrument.
Three models are better than one
Co-Active coaches work with a person’s whole life. In my years of applying different models of personality type, I’ve discovered that no single model can fully capture the totality of a person’s being. We are complex creatures! Accordingly, I’ve adopted a "triangulation" approach, relying on at least three different personality models to help me hone in on my client’s favorite patterns. Following are my top choices.
Interstrength Temperament. Based on David Keirsey’s groundbreaking work and enhanced by decades of research by Dr. Linda Berens and others, Temperament gets at the "why" of behavior—our motivations, sources of stress, and how we react to conflict (fight/flight/flurry/faint). It reveals where we are naturally intelligent, what we instinctively value and even describes how we get crazy when our needs aren’t met.
Interaction Styles. Based on social styles research originally done by William Marston (which yielded the DiSC instrument), this model gets at the "how" of human behavior. It outlines patterns of interaction in people that are both contextual and innate. It reveals our comfort zones, describes our leadership approach and reveals what our needs are within social frameworks. It explains how we go about getting things accomplished.
Jung’s Cognitive Processes. Carl Jung identified eight cognitive processes as part of his theory of psychological types. These building blocks of personality tell us "what" underlies most human behavior. We all have a preference for which processes we use and in what capacity. This is where the "rubber meets the road" in describing choices we gravitate toward. This model is all about the quality of our perceptions and decisions. Instruments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment (MBTI®) provide a "shorthand" code to characterize these preferences.
Beebe Archetypes. Dr. John Beebe mapped Jung’s cognitive processes to Berne’s Transactional Analysis model, and he developed a revolutionary archetypal model that describes how our psyche operates. His model suggests how we dynamically respond to certain situations, provides insight into our projections and reveals how we "know" things we’ve never been taught.
Who is the client "being"?
If you have ever administered assessments, you have surely heard the wail, "But sometimes I’m this, and sometimes I’m that.” This is because we each have three layers of "self."
Practical Self. Who is the client "being" in a given context, under current conditions? The way a person displays behavior varies according to circumstances. If you observe someone at a party, at a funeral or changing a flat tire, you might reach three radically different conclusions about who that person is. People utilize different aspects of their personality at various times according to circumstance, and unexpected situations can disconnect us from our values. The practical self is the one that always shows up.
Unfolding Self. Who is the client "being" as a result of patterns of behavior they’ve previously learned? None of us came into the world knowing how to tie shoelaces—we had to learn how. Similarly, our personality may not predispose us to sitting quietly at a desk or commuting in rush hour traffic. These are patterns of behavior we learned over time that become "adapted" into our personality. Some of these adaptations are valuable and healthy, while others may cause discomfort and stress. We may even take them for granted or consider them "normal.” Often the gremlin shows up in this area, embodied by the infamous "should."
Eternal Self. Who is the client "being" when they are truly centered? Jung postulated that personality type is innate, and subsequent research supports that hypothesis. When we work with Peak Experience or the Future Self visualization, it is a way of contacting this core self—the self of inner wisdom, the self that "knows.” This is the dimension we most want to identify and amplify in our clients. It is the source of vitality, passion and sense of purpose. It’s where they come alive.
The purpose of assessment is always to identify a client’s core personality. This is where the richness lives, where the juicy coaching can really take hold. I’ve achieved extraordinary shifts in the lives of some of my clients by coaching their Eternal Self, rather than getting sidetracked by one of the other "selves.” Part of the "Big A" agenda is creating congruence between all three selves.
Work those cornerstones
The models I’ve outlined all derive from an assumption that the client is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. By establishing a client’s truest personality pattern, I’m well-equipped to acknowledge and champion them.
When I’m confident about the innate preferences of my clients, I’m freer to dance in the moment with them since I’m able to frame powerful questions that will undoubtedly resonate with their core being. This leads to more authentic dialog with predictably satisfying outcomes.
Knowing my client’s personality opens up a vision of their whole life for me—it’s like a roadmap stretching into the future, with possibilities and potentialities flashing like neon signposts in the distance. It takes less effort to steer clients toward who they want to become.
I’ve also discovered that the self-awareness my clients derive as a result of my leading them through a Self-Discovery Process® allows them to better plan their own agenda for the coaching relationship. They come to the calls with a sense of positivity and optimism, even in their darkest moments, that makes it easy to invoke the Co-Active principles.
In addition to the models I have described, I use a variety of other instruments and assessments, depending on the needs of my clients. In all cases, I’m guided by the belief that my clients know themselves better than I do, and I’m merely assisting them along their path to self-awareness and fulfilling self-actualization.
Vicky Jo Varner is qualified and certified to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument and the Interstrength Methodology. She presents personality type workshops regularly at international conferences, and Co-Actively coaches clients through the Self-Discovery Process®. Sometimes known as the "Type Fairy," she has INFJ preferences and strives to always "dance in the moment.” Her website may be found at www.TypeInsights.com. She offers a free mini-course on "The Origins of Personality Type," as well as a variety of self-discovery packages.