Tools for Coaching Mastery

This column is provided by an IAC Coaching Masteries®-Licensed School or Mentor.

IAC Coaches, Leap Out of the Box!
by Doris Helge, IAC-CC

Are your clients in a box?

How many times have you heard someone say something like, "According to the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I'm an introvert (or extrovert) so I can't _____"? When you hear that, it's almost like the person is saying, "Don't expect me to be flexible, change, learn or grow. Communicate with me like I'm in a box labeled X."

A client once said to me, "Pat's a brute and can't change. According to the DISC behavioral model assessment, Pat will always be aggressive and demanding." This is a serious misinterpretation of how personality indicators and behavioral model assessments were designed to be used. Tendencies and preferences aren't the person—and people can change over time depending on circumstances, self-awareness, intentions and other factors.

Another client recently sent me four digital printouts of assessments about himself with an eager request, "Please review these before our coaching session. I want to plan for a new life. I'm trying to interpret all of these assessment models about my personality and strengths. The harder I try, the more lost I feel. Help me out. I really want to know who I am and what I can achieve."

Even though the instruments were reputable and had been conducted by professional service providers, there were multiple contradictions. The above client had been labeled as power-oriented, compassionate, authoritarian, introverted, extroverted, conscientious, patient, impatient, lacking follow-through, unmotivated and excellent in relating well to others.

Letting the client out of the box

You can imagine his relief when I said, "These assessments can provide value but they're kind of like an MRI scan. They produce a snapshot in time. Who do you want to be?"

We then spent his valuable time clarifying his values, life purpose, vision and goals so he could emphasize his known strengths, identify hidden abilities and manage weaknesses.

Are you in a box?

Our left brains are hard-wired to analyze people and situations as rapidly as possible; to categorize as much data as possible to save precious energy. In order to manage the billions of new sensory data per minute competing for their attention, our brains quickly link a person, situation or characteristic with a previously stored associative network.

This is why most of us are sometimes unconsciously lazy. We label people instead of being curious about who they are and what they can teach us about ourselves and life. Too often, the results of a personality inventory or behavioral assessment are confused with the person who is being assessed.

According to quantum mechanics, what exists changes according to the eye and expectations of the observer. The very presence of an observer produces an impact. This is often true regarding the person who confides, "The XYZ test says I'm a _____." His listeners expect him to act like a ____. Voila! A self-fulfilling prophesy has emerged.

Evidence to support this claim emerged long before the field of quantum mechanics became well-known. In the Rosenthal-Jacobson study leading to "the Pygmalion effect," elementary school teachers were told which children were brighter than their peers. The teachers then unconsciously behaved in ways that facilitated and encouraged their students' success.

When our expectations for someone's achievements are low, they internalize our poor expectations or negative labels. However, when we believe someone will excel and wholeheartedly support them, they almost always do because "reality" is heavily influenced by the external world.

You can easily see how this process can inhibit effective coaching. Instead of enjoying an exploratory conversation in which we are curious to discover the other person, we can limit clients by labeling them as an object with a fixed personality or characteristics.

How IAC gets coaches out of the box

Our clients are capable of endless changes. Often, we are the one person in their lives who is holding the space for them to adapt, change and shift their identity.

A masterful coach will listen to the results of an assessment model and remember that people exist in a field of infinite possibilities. We ask our clients, "I see who the assessment says you are. Since this was a snapshot in time, who do you want to be now?" and, "How do you want to grow beyond your existing identity?"

Coaching is a powerful illustration of quantum mechanics and the Pygmalion effect. We elevate a client's problem-solving abilities with our focus. We change a situation in a positive way by believing in and observing our clients' highest potential. We hold a focus (shine a spotlight) on our clients' greatness so they can shimmer more brilliantly.

We help our clients discover hidden strengths and resources. We believe in their abilities, even when they don't. We enjoy using IAC Mastery #2 to affirm and validate our clients. We hold a space for clients to eventually acknowledge their own greatness.

The Magic of the IAC Coaching Masteries®

The IAC Coaching Masteries® emphasize the importance of: (1) coaches using their intuition and (2) helping clients discover the value of their own inner guidance. Just imagine how you'll escalate your coaching confidence and effectiveness when you tune into your innate inner sage instead of relying on psychological inventories. Enhance your clients' confidence by encouraging them to self-discover instead of passively accepting the results of an assessment or behavioral style inventory.

As the IAC Coaching Masteries® indicate, masterful coaching involves using a variety of techniques and tools. Some of the most powerful tools reside inside of both you and your clients—including body, mind, intuition and spirit. Enjoy using every valid tool available to you and your clients, from behavioral models and psychometric inventories to the crystal ball that emerges when you employ your intuition and attune with your client's inner wisdom. Enjoy the magic of the journey of coaching!


Doris Helge, Ph.D., is an IAC, CTA, RCI and NLS-certified coach, and a coach mentor. She is founder of the IAC-licensed training school, Confident Coach Connection. She also created the New Coach Virtual Chapter of IAC and other mastermind groups that boost coaching confidence and collaboration. Discover more at

1 thought on “Tools for Coaching Mastery”

  1. Doris–I’ll attest to the study with teachers. As a teacher, I help students tap into their potential. I acknowledge and expect that each student will up to his/her best and more. I try to affirm and expand their own perception of what’s possible. I tell them I believe in them and show them how to believe in themselves. They are amazed when they surpass what other adults expected of them in the past.

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