10 top tips – add depth to coaching with the MBTI framework

Posted 01 Dec 2016 by Katy Lyne, Principal Consultant at OPP

Being a business psychologist within OPP’s consultancy team, I see first-hand the power of coaching to change organisations – through raising self awareness, providing a shared language and understanding more about strengths and blind spots. Working with leaders in a wide range of industries has demonstrated, time and time again, that small changes in leaders’ behaviour can have far-ranging benefits for those they work with and the businesses they lead. 

It didn’t surprise me that the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) reported that 96% of respondents questioned in their research saw direct benefits to the individual and 95% saw direct benefits of coaching to the organisation.

Here are my top tips for ensuring that the MBTI assessment adds depth and value to coach and coachee.

Top tips for MBTI coaching

1. FIND THE CHAMPIONS

When introducing the MBTI instrument into an organisational coaching programme, it can be very helpful to enlist senior ‘champions’ who can share personal testimony to outline benefits of using the MBTI framework within coaching. Successful development stories and honesty are particularly valuable in ‘selling’ the approach to potential coachees. 

2. USE THE INSTRUMENT TO HELP MATCH COACH WITH COACHEE

Use the MBTI framework to match coachees and coaches based on their coaching agenda and what style might suit them best. Would a similar style mean there was faster rapport and more comfort, or might the coachee benefit from a totally different perspective? Too much similarity in MBTI Type may lead to collusion, too much difference may make it hard to establish rapport or challenge the coachee to work too far outside their comfort zone. Similar, but not exactly the same, preferences can work well – perhaps where the coach and coachee share similar dominant and auxiliary functions (or Core Character). There are no hard and fast rules about this, but when matching coaches and coachees it is helpful to consider the potential MBTI Type similarities and differences.  

3. BE PREPARED 

At an individual level, allow and expect the coachee to check the MBTI instrument’s robustness! Ensure you can provide adequate background reading and data. Given that coaching can touch on vulnerable areas, some coachees may want to have this information in order to gain confidence and a sense of safety. 

4. LINK TO OTHER TOOLS

Link the MBTI framework with other tools used within the organisation. The coachee may have access to other data, eg 360 tools or other psychometric resources  such as the FIRO-B assessment. Encourage reflection on the links between different sources of information to provide valuable insights.

5. FOLLOW THE ENERGY 

Notice where the energy is in your coaching conversations. Tuning in to the reactions to discussions, eg about preference pairs, can provide vital data for the coachee. Notice where they seem more animated, their tone of voice, their body language, their facial expressions, etc. Notice where there is both more energy and also where there seems to be less. Choose when to reflect your observations to help the coachee deepen their self awareness.

6. USE YOUR EXPERTISE TO INFORM YOUR APPROACH

Use your MBTI preference knowledge to inform your coaching approach and questioning. This can be particularly useful at the start of a coaching relationship. Ensure you are aware of your coachee’s MBTI Type – flexing your behaviour to accommodate their preferences can help build rapport and engagement in the process. For example, if you are aware that their dominant function is Extraverted iNtuition, try to avoid working systematically through all the facts, figures and fine detail in a report.

7. BEWARE STEREOTYPES

While MBTI Type descriptions (particularly brief ones) are a useful place to start conversations, remember that as a snapshot they are generalisations and could be seen as stereotypes. Using Step II will help to uncover the coachee’s own ‘version’ of their MBTI Type. However, always remember to highlight individuality and a broader perspective than just the written descriptions.

8. REMEMBER THE POWER OF PREFERENCE

As practitioners we can become focused on the more complex applications of MBTI Type theory, but remember that the basic idea of ‘preference’ being different to behaviour can provide potential for coaching and huge insights for some individuals. A leader I worked with recently was hugely impacted by the realisation that ‘It’s sometimes helpful to be quiet, reflect and come back later with a considered response.’

9. FOCUS ON TOMORROW 

Consider the coachee’s current needs in relation to longer term development. Using Type Dynamics and considering Type development can provide a powerful perspective for the coachee’s on-going development. Type Dynamics can be used implicitly, without much background theory, but can help individuals understand how to achieve balance and how to develop in different areas. 

10. DRAW ON MBTI RESOURCES

When coaching leaders, it can be helpful to use more comprehensive reports (eg MBTI Personal Impact Report) which provide more information about how to apply MBTI Type to a range of situations. This allows you to return to the insights provided by the report at different points in the coaching relationship, which will more fully embed the insights and learning. In addition, it can be helpful to draw on other MBTI resources, eg Typies, Flip-a-Type-Tip or Core Characters, to bring Type to life and to avoid getting too technical about the more complicated concepts around Type Dynamics. 

Related content

MBTI and FIRO: the gold standard tools for coaching – often an award-winning combination in coaching, what is it specifically about the FIRO and MBTI assessments that adds depth and complexity to coaching?

Using the FIRO Business assessment and reports in key business applications (pdf download) – discover how a practitioner has embedded the FIRO Business instrument into her freelance business, in combination with the MBTI framework.

Webcasts including ‘The power of the MBTI framework in individual leadership coaching’.

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