Coaching with Style: Using Knowledge of Temperament and Type to Customize the Coaching Process


Author: Susan Nash


When working one-on-one with individuals in corporations to improve business performance, understanding each individual's type and temperament provides an invaluable tool to maximize coaching effectiveness. Therefore the first step I follow is to anchor the coaching process by the client participating in a self -assessment of temperament, cognitive processes and working style, either one-on-one or in a group session, to supplement the use of the MBTI® . This has a couple of benefits:

1) It provides me with the type of information listed below and in Table One, so that I can understand their preferred coaching approach.

2) It provides a tool for my clients to better understand and manage their own behavior.

For this article, I am going to compare and contrast coaching approaches used with two clients: Alice who has preferences for ISFP and Janet who has preferences for ISFJ. If you look at the "four-letter" code alone, you might think that the approach used with each person would be fairly similar: after all, there is only one letter difference! Let's take a more detailed look though at each individual's personality profile:

Alice: Preferences for ISFP

Janet: Preferences for ISFJ

Current Job Role

Alice is the Director of Sales for a software company. She enjoys her work because it requires responding quickly, seizing opportunities, working with people, and selling a product she believes in.


Janet is a Project Director for a university medical research unit. She enjoys her work because she is responsible for a team, has a strong teaching responsibility, and works on projects to help the elderly, a population she cares about.

Temperament: Improviser™


Temperament: Stabilizer™

First Function: Valuing (Fi)


First Function: Recalling (Si)

Second Function: Experiencing (Se)


Second Function: Harmonizing (Fe)

Third Function: Visioning (Ni)


Third Function: Analyzing (Ti)

Fourth Function: Systematizing (Te)


Fourth Function: Brainstorming (Ne)


As you can see, although there are broad similarities in each personality profile, the fact that each person has different core needs, values, behaviors and skills (temperament patterns), and gathers information and makes decisions using different functions, means that the same approach with each would not produce an effective result for each person.

Let's look at how the coaching process might differ for both. (If you would like greater clarity on their type preferences, hierarchy of functions and temperament, refer to Table One.)


Let's look at how to coach Alice and Janet based on their temperament first.

As Alice has the Improviser™ temperament, she responds best to a flexible coaching approach. While she recognizes the need for objectives for the coaching process, she prefers these to be short term in nature, and tends to focus primarily on the current context. She values coaching on what she needs to do right now. My challenge is to balance the focus on the long-term, while providing interest and challenge in managing her current situation. To compare, Janet has the Stabilizer™ temperament and responds best to a structured step-by-stepcoaching approach geared towards achieving a concrete end result. We began the process by defining clearly the overall objectives she wanted to achieve, and she was very clear in this process. She enjoys the clarity of these goals, and completes the assignments on the way to the goals with persistence and alacrity.

Cognitive Processes

Let's look at how to coach Alice and Janet based on the cognitive processes they primarily use to gather information and make decisions. Alice uses Experiencing (Se: Extraverted Sensing), which means that she is very tuned in to the current context and wants to take immediate action. As a coach, my focus is to help her slow down and ensure she gathers all the relevant data before she jumps in to begin a specific task or activity. In addition, Alice uses Valuing (Fi: Introverted Feeling) to make decisions. This means that she tend to be very private in her innermost beliefs, and can be easy going until these values are crossed. As a coach, I focus on helping Alice recognize the issues that are important to her and script logical explanations to support these beliefs using her fourth function, Systematizing (Te: Extraverted Thinking). We also encourage additional use of her third and fourth functions to provide balance and improve her individual productivity. She now tends to slow down and "allow the ideas to gel"; this uses Visioning (Ni: Introverted Intuiting) before taking action. Plus, she consciously structures her action plan and "puts some steps in place for the next session"; this uses Systematizing (Te: Extraverted Thinking).

Working with Janet is very different. As Janet uses Recalling (Si: Introverted Sensing), she has a strong grasp on what is realistic, and in working with her, I tend to focus on what she did before, what worked, what didn't work and what she would change. The challenge can arise if she is trying something new, in which case, I encourage her to find someone who has completed this task before, and use their knowledge. We have also been working in exploring possibilities that might not be obvious using her fourth function, Brainstorming (Ne Extraverted Intuiting), which her background and education have developed. She uses Harmonizing (Fe: Extraverted Feeling) where she builds good relationships with people, but she can struggle with conflict and providing tough messages. In this instance we have worked on her deducing a logical point of view using her third function, Analyzing (Ti: Introverted Thinking) and then scripting what she is going to say, and practicing it with a colleague. This has enabled her to reduce some of her sensitivity to conflict.

I create for each of my clients a table like the one below, as a visual reminder of their Working Style (Type), to enable me to adjust my style when necessary, and as a result my coaching practice has become more effective for my clients and more rewarding for me as a coach.


Here is a high-level interpretation of the differences between my two clients:


Alice: Preferences for ISFP

Janet: Preferences for ISFJ

Broad Similarities

Both Alice and Janet tend to be more reserved, gentle, and empathetic with others. People may gravitate to them for this reason. They both tend to be more informing in their communication style; that is they tend to try to enroll others in what they want to achieve, rather than providing direction with a clear time and task focus (directing). In addition, they both tend to influence situations from "behind the scenes."*



Those with preferences for ISFP are Artisans (SP) whose core needs are freedom to act in the moment, a desire to see concrete outcomes, and an enjoyment of the here and now.


Those with preferences for ISFJ are Guardians (SJ) whose core needs are living up to responsibilities, membership, and contribution to a concrete achievement.

Primary Perceiving Process
Alice primarily gathers information by using Experiencing (Se: Extraverted Sensing). She tends to pick up all the concrete data in the current context - sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch. She is very tuned in to minute changes in facial expression and body language that allow her to assess a situation.


Primary Perceiving Process
Janet primarily gathers information by using Recalling (Si: Introverted Sensing). She will regularly refer back to what she has done before and is able to compare and contrast what worked in the past with what is happening currently. She is also values what is real and applicable.

Primary Judging Process
Alice primarily makes decisions using Valuing (Fi: Introverted Feeling) which means she tends to be tolerant of individual differences and lives by an internal sense of what is right and wrong. Although she may not enjoy conflict, when some action goes against her values, she may speak up bluntly it.


Primary Judging Process
Janet primarily makes decisions using Harmonizing (Fe: Extraverted Feeling) which means she tends to prefer gaining consensus and likes for everyone involved to reach an agreement before moving forward. She may find conflict quite painful and may tend to postpone giving tough messages.

Type Development
As both women are in their late thirties, we would expect to see evidence of them using their third and fourth function. According to John Beebe, these functions are accessible to us in our conscious, although they tend to be more tiring to access and use on a regular basis.


Other Functions
Alice's third function is Visioning (Ni: Introverted Intuiting): this means she may describe flashes of inspiration or insights when she steps back and thinks about a problem. Her fourth function is Systematizing (Te: Extraverted Thinking), which means we may see her creating logical step-by-step action plans to achieve an end result.


Other Functions
Janet's third function is Analyzing (Ti: Introverted Thinking), which she may use to dissect and categorize data to create a logical argument. Her fourth function is Brainstorming (Ne: Extraverted Intuiting), which we can observe when she generates numerous approaches to a given situation or reads between the lines beyond the concrete data.

* See Linda Berens work on Interaction Styles [Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to Interaction Styles, (Telos Publications, 2001)].



When working within organizations, we have found that by giving each of the functions a more "business focused"name, individuals can understand more easily what this function may "look like" when being used. The terms we selected are:


Information Gathering Functions

(Perceiving Process)

Decision Making Functions

(Judging Process)

Extraverted Sensing: Experiencing

Extraverted Thinking: Systematizing

Introverted Sensing: Recalling


Introverted Thinking: Analyzing

Extraverted Intuiting: Brainstorming


Extraverted Feeling: Harmonizing

Introverted Intuiting: Visioning


Introverted Feeling: Valuing


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