Stop Using Personality Profiles to Coach Clients

By: Nagui Bihelek
Date: 2018-10-02

Personality profiles have long been used in coaching in order to better understand clients and assist in their training. The logic behind this is sound; however, in reality these personality profiles are causing more harm than good.

To understand how this could be let’s take a look at the main reasons people use personality profiles(pros) and discuss some of the reasons why they are beginning to be considered outdated (cons).

Pro 1:

Personality profiles have been around for more than half a century, and have millions of completed assessments. That should mean great credibility and great reliability.

Con 1:

They are based on 1920s psychology. Most have not been updated or improved in all that time. They are based on outdated research. So, they were great for the times they were created in, but the world is different now, several generations later.

Pro 2:

Most personality profiles are simple and easy to explain – 4 Colors, 4 Quads of DiSC, Meyers-Briggs, etc. While this is a great benefit that enables us to use PP with most people…

Con 2:

People are not as simple as to fit neatly into personality profiles. In order to be easy to explain, PPs group people under labels that encompass many traits that are not necessarily relevant to the people they label. To put it another way, you can’t coach with PPs because the information is not specific enough.

Pro 3:

They are widely used and trusted. This is the Achilles heel of PPs.

Con 3:

Because they are widely used, people have become accustomed to their questions, and can guess how to get different results from the questionnaires, which has in many cases made these unreliable sources.

Look, I can go on for quite a while about this. The bottom line is that contrary to what you might think based on personality profiles, people are not fixed. We are constantly evolving and changing. Not only is our physiology changing as we grow up and grow old, we also accumulate experiences and knowledge. We constantly test new knowledge and adjust our internal programming based on whether we have a good experience or a bad one.

A Modern Approach

The new age of neuroscience has changed things significantly over the past 20-30 years thanks to advancements in technology. This has resulted in studies that vary from understanding how what we ingest affects our brain functions to being able to map parts of our brain we use in different situations.

Today, thanks to neuroscience, we know that we develop neural circuits related to tasks we perform regularly. We call these habits. These circuits act like computer programs that we run at an unconscious level. Conscious behavior takes a lot more effort than unconscious behavior. If you run a conscious behavior enough times you create new neural circuits. These circuits, like programs, are loaded into your subconscious so you can run them effortlessly, unconsciously, often not even realizing you are doing that. It’s like driving a car: When you first learn to drive it takes a lot of conscious focus and effort, then after much practice when driving a route often travelled, you arrive at your destination without think consciously about the route taken and the specifics of driving.

But let’s go back to personality types and tests. These have presented a challenge in our coaching business. Personalities put labels on people, and define them as fixed. This often became an excuse for clients to continue doing the same things and behaving the same way.

The reality however, was people continued the same behavior because they never learned a new one. But when we explained to them the impact of that behavior and showed them another approach to get a different result they almost always gladly practiced that new behavior until it became natural to them. Automatic. Unconscious.

It is through this that we realized most of what we do is a learned behavior. Opening a door. Drinking. Running. Making cars or computer programs. Teaching. Engineering. Sales. All this knowledge can only be observed when we act something out. When we do something, anything, we do it through behavior.

Real World Application

When we change the behavior we immediately get feedback. We can immediately observe a different result. Take, for example, a manager who comes across as a bully. Their intention in most cases is not to bully. Their intention often comes from a passion to get things done the right way – their way. Their intention is often to help others so that they don’t make the same mistakes they’ve done. Yet their approach and their mode of communication, which is expressed as behavior, are often inappropriate for the person they are communicating with.

So there are two aspects to this:

  1. How we communicate outwardly, and
  2. How we receive communication and process this inwardly.

Understanding and working with behaviors rather than labelling and judging people as fixed allows us, and them to evolve much more quickly. It enables the ability to adopt new behaviors that get new results. Desired ones. Stopping certain behaviors also eliminates the undesired results.

If you are serious about better understanding behavior and how to apply that knowledge to benefit your coaching, we are offering 1 free behavior assessment to coaches only. Click here to learn more.

If you would like to continue learning to Understand, Identify and Change limiting behaviors check out some of the other learning material below.

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