Not so long ago, coaching was only available to senior executives, sports teams and poor performers who wanted to avoid being fired. Thankfully this perspective has shifted, and coaching is now seen as a best-in-class approach to personal and professional development.
However, as the demand for coaching has grown, so too have the approaches to coaching. Performance coaching, executive coaching, and life coaching are but a few types now available. There are also many different coach training programs as well as professional standards and certification processes. However, in reality, people can say they are coaches without being held accountable to any of these standards.
So, when choosing a coach, what should you look for?
An effective coaching relationship requires trust – think of it as a partnership. You need to know that the coach has your best interests in mind, will support your choices and won’t make the process about themselves.
Questions to answer for yourself are:
- Have they worked with similar people successfully?
- Are they available at a time/place that works for you?
- Are they trustworthy?
- Are they discerning?
- Are they organized and prepared?
- Are they an excellent listener?
- Do you respect them?
- Are you excited to work with them?
You don’t have to like your coach, but you don't want to dislike them. This isn’t about finding a new friend, but is about creating a partnership that will support your development.
Should I work with someone of my type?
It’s natural to want to work with a coach who understands personality type. It gives you a shared framework and language to start with. And when we feel misunderstood, we might think that a coach who shares our personality type will “get us.”
In reality, when you work with an experienced coach, it doesn't matter what their type is. Understanding you, who you are and what your challenges are, is part of their job.
We can learn more from someone of a different type because they can demonstrate how different strengths work. If you are looking to be stretched or are facing a challenge that’s in your blindspots, working with a coach of a different type will be very beneficial.
What does each of the 16 types want in a coach?
Based on your personality type, there are a few traits you’ll likely be searching for in your first coach. These won’t be obvious in a single meeting, and you may need to have a few sessions to assess whether they’ll be the right fit for you. But, effective communication is key to building a trusted partnership, so keep that and the below in mind as you look for a coach.
Sensor-Feelers seek coaching for how it can help the people they care about, rather than for themselves. These types look for a coach that's practical, down to earth, wants to get to know them as a person, and can relate the growth activities to the people they care about.
ISFJs seek a coach who:
- Is organized, practical and supportive
- Uses methods that are reliable and have worked before
- Assigns tasks with specific examples and expected outcomes
- Provides clear benchmarks for improvement
ISFPs seek a coach who:
- Is warm and personable
- Role models how to perform growth tasks
- Uses concrete steps for learning activities that stretch you just the right amount
- Provides positive feedback and encouragement
ESFPs seek a coach who:
- Is friendly and values building a relationship
- Provides a variety of hands-on learning activities, some of which can be completed in groups
- Allows learning to come from fun, concrete tasks
- Provides praise when practice is going very well or skill development is almost complete
ESFJs seek a coach who:
- Is supportive, organized and personable
- Provides a structured approach to development
- Allows time to talk with others with similar learning goals
- Offers positive feedback that focuses on impact on others
Intuitive-Feelers might seek coaching to help them be more grounded and take action on their vision for a better world. Or, they may seek a coach to help them unravel an ethical dilemma and get back to living authentically. These types look for a coach who acknowledges their feelings, values and integrity, as well as recognizing their need to serve others and the world in some way.
INFJs seek a coach who:
- Is open-minded, supportive, creative and well-prepared
- Asks people-oriented questions and is comfortable discussing a range of interpretations and impressions
- Allows time for reading, reflection and independent study
- Assigns creative tasks that are abstract, metaphorical and intuitive
INFPs seek a coach who:
- Is empathetic, harmonious, and intelligent
- Allows learning goals to shift and flex
- Assigns tasks that are imaginative, original and provide deeper study
- Creates an uncompetitive, companionable learning environment
ENFPs seek a coach who:
- Is inventive, authentic and playful
- Promotes brainstorming, answers ‘what if’ questions, and experiments with new ideas
- Uses learning activities that are imaginative, different and allow for exploration
- Takes an emerging approach to coaching that allows exploring pathways to get to an overarching goal
ENFJs seek a coach who:
- Is inspiring, insightful and an effective communicator
- Allows time to talk to different groups of people on topics of interest
- Follows a structure that allows time to put learning into action
- Connects learning to underlying motivations and how that can help others in the future
Sensor-Thinkers seek a coach to help them achieve a specific goal. They want to know the coach has experience with similar clients or objectives. And they are seeking someone who won’t get too fluffy, but who will stick to the facts and relevant information.
ISTJs seek a coach who:
- Has the relevant expertise and experience
- Is organized, practical, professional and uses reliable practices
- Adheres to the set schedule and doesn't deviate from the goal
- Uses learning activities that are immediately applicable to the goal
ISTPs seek a coach who:
- Is pragmatic and entertaining
- Gives hands-on assignments that relate to the skills being developed
- Takes a logical approach to skill development, but gives you freedom to practice in your own way
- Provides feedback that is timely, respectful and precise
ESTPs seek a coach who:
- Is straightforward, enthusiastic and flexible
- Helps develop skills in real time
- Focuses on the immediate benefits and measurable payoff
- Connects learning to topics of interest
ESTJs seek a coach who:
- Is competent, prepared and models the relevant skills
- States the benefits and constraints of learning activities upfront
- Provides a clear timeline and learning outcomes
- Is structured, sequential and practical
Intuitive-Thinkers seek a coach that respects their ideas, expertise and competency. As their level of mastery is self-assessed, they also seek a coach that they can reveal their perceived failures and weaknesses to. As they will ask many questions and want a rigorous definition of the goal, they need a coach who can answer those questions clearly and precisely.
INTJs seek a coach who:
- Is competent, challenging and capable of debating key questions
- Stimulates original thinking by focusing on global systemic issues and overarching principles
- Allows time for independent study and reflection
- Considers the long-term impact of current actions or desired goals
INTPs seek a coach who:
- Is competent, logical and knows what they are doing
- Takes an intellectual approach to learning objectives
- Assigns learning tasks that are independant, creative, challenging, and intellectually adventurous
- Allows time for critiquing, evaluating and comparing
ENTPs seek a coach who:
- Is intelligent, resourceful and enjoys debating practical theories
- Can question or challenge assumptions or expectations
- Is strategic, and a little competitive, about the learning development plan
- Uses case studies and critical analysis to inspire learning
ENTJs seek a coach who:
- Is accomplished, challenging and mentally nimble
- Sets learning goals that are focused on professional mastery or getting ahead
- Encourages debate, analysis and independent learning
- Explores long range use and effectiveness of development goals
When looking for a coach
Instead of focusing on choosing a coach of a specific personality type, focus on whether their communication style, experience and approach to personal and professional growth aligns with yours. Use the list of questions above, or create your own, to vet different coaches to check if they will meet your requirements – including whether you are excited to invest your time and energy into working with them.
Are you a coach or counselor who is looking to unlock the power of personality in your practice? Head over to our Truity Testing for Coaches Platform and start administering our personality assessments to individual coaching clients or entire teams in minutes – no training required.