Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2014 and has been updated to align with Mattersight’s new naming convention for personality styles.
I’ve received some really great coaching over the years. I remember once when a Sr. Exec. I respected took me aside during a client meeting and coached me on saying “we” versus “I.” To this day, I agree it is much more effective. I didn’t lose ownership by making that small change; I actually increased it. Good coaching made me a more impactful presenter. I’ve received great coaching on my golf swing; great defined by how responsive I was to the coaching versus any improvement to my actual swing.
I’ve also received coaching in and out of work that resulted in me being demotivated, demoralized, and discouraged. The intent of the coach was to help, the content was appropriate, and the feedback was accurate, but there was something in the delivery that made me dig in my heels and resist. And I know by the response that my coaching is not always received in the manner intended as well.
How does this happen? Why does this happen? The simple answer is that personality matters in coaching. While the content is important, the delivery determines if the coaching will be effective or fall on deaf ears. Consider the person you are about to coach and how they will best hear the message. After all, “Communication is about what is heard, not what is said.”
Years ago, I had a Connector (warm, sensitive, and caring – a true people person) team member tell me: “Coach me on the difficult things; I want to hear them. I want to keep getting better. Just be nice when you are doing it.” Her words made me realize that sometimes I wasn’t as direct with her because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. And she knew it, which made her feel bad. This is a tough cycle to break with no winners.
For an Organizer (logical, linear, and responsible – data is important), avoid the “sandwich.” You all know the coaching approach I mean; a positive, a constructive, and another positive. This is a practice that is mostly designed for the coach to feel better about the session because we all know what is coming! With Organizers, being direct, to the point, and supportive with specific examples or data points is most effective. Make it about the “how” by providing steps or a process, which is a logical approach. Establish a timeframe and align on expectations.
With Advisors (dedicated, observant, and conscientious – respect is key), the key is to point out the opportunity without saying “you’re wrong.” When the relationship is solid with an underlying respect for both parties, a coaching session is productive and actually strengthens the relationship. If the relationship is not a comfortable one, include a sincere “why” in your approach and avoid the word “but.” Try saying something along the lines of: “I know we don’t always see eye-to-eye; however, I do want our team to succeed in delivering excellent customer care to our customers. And you are a member of our team which is why I want to talk with you today about X.”
Coaching Originals (spontaneous, creative, and playful – show your support) successfully is easy if you don’t make it a serious, complicated message. After all, there’s never been a study showing that you have to be serious to be successful! Keeping it light can be difficult for some coaches; a tip I use is to think about an Original that I enjoy spending time with and I think about how they should be coached. I use that as my foundation for the session.
Try this two-pronged approach of content and personality in your next coaching sessions to see if personality really does matter in coaching.