How to make coaching work for different personality types

Given today’s unprecedented rate of change, it’s not surprising that coaching has gone from the latest business buzzword to a fundamental business tool.

Nicole Soames, CEO of Diadem Performance, and best-selling author explains why tailored coaching is vital to driving employee engagement and performance. 

More and more companies are committed to creating a coaching culture that encourages continual learning and development. 

As a manager or leader, this means developing a range of coaching skills and techniques that equip you to help a diverse range of people discover a new way forwards to fulfil their potential and maximise their performance. 

The secret to setting yourself up for coaching success is harnessing your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – those set of emotional and social skills that are most effective at influencing others – to recognise and understand your and other people’s different personality types. This will enable you to flex your communication style accordingly and build a strong coaching relationship based on mutual trust and respect. 

Recognising your personality type

First things first, you need to draw on your self-awareness – a key EQ skill – to recognise your personality type and the impact it can have on others. People are predictably different. All of us fall somewhere along the axes of outgoing to reserved and task-orientated to people-focused. The DISC model below illustrates this in greater detail by breaking down personality into four different types: Dominant & Driven; Influencing & Persuading; Secure & Steady; and Compliant & Considered.

Let’s now look at each personality type in turn and examine how this can help or hinder you as you coach different personality types. 

D Personality Type: Dominant and Driven

You are solution-orientated and results-driven, so may find developing coaching skills more challenging. You may feel frustrated waiting for the other person to discover their approach to solving a problem and be tempted to tell them how to do it instead. 

I Personality Type: Influencing & Persuading

 You are wired for people and like to inspire others, so are keen to help people improve. However, being outgoing, you will need to ensure that you remain objective and listen empathetically to the other person rather than tell them what you think they want to hear. 

S Personality Type: Secure & Steady

You are reliable and people-orientated and will be naturally inclined to offer support and encouragement. However, you may find it challenging to adopt a mindset that challenges the other person, as you like to maintain the status quo. 

C Personality Type: Compliant & Considered

You are conscientious and thorough and will follow coaching procedures, frameworks and processes. However, you may struggle to be adaptable so that you can think in the moment during coaching conversations. 

By exploring each personality type, you should have a clearer understanding of your style and its impact on other people. It’s worth noting here that you may be a blend of two different personality types or more. 

Understanding the personality type of your coachee

Now that you know your personality type, you need to harness your EQ to understand the personality type of the person you are coaching. The descriptions below will help you identify their dominant personality type and what you, as a coach, may need to watch out for. 

D Personality Type: As dominant and driven individuals, they are likely to be punctual, determined and purposeful. D types will commit to their coaching sessions as they are keen to improve their performance and be successful. Watch out: D personality types will be impatient for results. They are more likely to interrupt you and try to take control of the conversation. This may mean that they are less likely to listen carefully to the questions you are asking them. 

I Personality Type: As people who love to influence and persuade, they will be enthusiastic, warm and animated. They will enjoy the chit-chat and be happy to discuss their feelings. Watch out: I personality types often lack focus and attention when it comes to details. They are likely to adopt a hasty approach and be reluctant to go through the methodology. 

S Personality Type: As secure and steady individuals, they will be good at listening and accepting of the coaching framework. They will ask lots of questions to help them understand, be patient and won’t expect to see immediate results. Watch out: S personality types prefer to maintain the status quo. They don’t like to be challenged so are more likely to come up with a list of conservative ideas. They are often sensitive, so may take feedback personally. 

C Personality Type: As compliant and considered individuals, they will take coaching extremely seriously – turning up on time having done all their preparation. They like to follow the rules and procedures and will analyse and question every aspect of the coaching process. Watch out: C personality types can be hard to read as they don’t like to show their feelings. They are often perfectionists, so may worry about making changes unless there’s proof that a course of action has worked.

Flexing your communication style to coach different personality types

Once you have interpreted your coachee’s personality type, you need to be agile and adaptable so you can flex your coaching style and manage the coaching conversation effectively. For example, if you are both D personality types, make sure the conversation doesn’t turn into a power battle. Instead, draw on your self-control to slow down the pace, so they have time to think about the questions you are asking. 

If, on the other hand, you are coaching a person with an I personality type, ensure they stick to the model and do not go off on a tangent. Although I personality types are good at looking at the big picture, you may need to challenge them to complete their actions since they tend to struggle with the detail. 

When it comes to S personality types, generally they are quite sensitive and likely to take feedback to heart and view it as a criticism, so you need to be careful about how you give them feedback. Finally, when it comes to coaching C personality types, make sure you are fully prepared by gathering evidence to support the coaching sessions. They will need to see facts and figures to help them decide what is the right course of action for them. 

The more coaching hours you put in, the more confident, you will feel coaching different personality types. Practice really does make perfect. Try to weave these EQ principles into your daily life by challenging yourself to recognise people’s different personality types and to flex your communication style accordingly. You will soon reap the rewards of stronger, more meaningful coaching relationships that empower your people to discover a new way forward to reach their full potential.

About the Author

Nicole Soames is CEO of Diadem Performance, a leading commercial skills training and coaching company, and author of ‘The Influence Book’, ‘The Negotiation Book’ and ‘The Coaching Book.’ Her new book ‘The Presenting Book’ will be published in October.

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