I have a very poor sense of direction. I have driven down roads that have turned into pastureland. I have taken routes that I thought were correct only to find myself miles away from my intended destination. I have ridden on the wrong subway or hopped on the wrong bus so often that I am usually surprised when I get it right. I have been lost so many times that I usually don’t say, “I’m lost”. Instead I say, “This is not the most efficient route, I know, I know…” One of the roadblocks that I frequently encounter is that I usually don’t know where I am in the first place! Where is Point A in relation to Point B? Poor topographical orientation (the cognitive scientist’s way of saying, “You don’t know where the hell you are!”), is an effective analogy to describe how many of us feel at during our lives. Where am I? Where am I going? How do I get there?
The answer to the question, “How do I GET there?” in life is as varied as the maps and gadgets that are available to help us reach a physical destination. Deciding what tool provides the most effective guidance is really dependent on several factors including how familiar we are with the area, our general sense of direction, or whether we want a map or written directions. For that matter, we may have a preference for north-south/east-west directions versus left-right/”turn at the Target store on the corner” type directions. I have found the GPS system to be most helpful but believe it or not, I had to learn to actually listen to it before it was of much use to me. The point is, what we use to navigate our surroundings is a matter of personal choice. One must seek the most understandable and the most effective option.
In coaching, there are many ways to help steer someone in the right direction. One that recently came to my attention was Strength Finders a system that highlights an individual’s top 5 strengths or talents. I found it useful especially when seeking an insight into one’s occupational inclinations. Another powerful instrument is the Strong Interest Inventory which looks at 6 themes (namely the quality of being artistic, investigative, social, enterprising, conventional or realistic) and projects an individual’s probable interests, work activities, potential skills,and values. It also helps identify specific careers that are likely to be satisfying and it touches on an individual’s “personal style”. For example, it gauges someone’s propensity for taking risks. Again, this is another excellent and respected instrument that has helped many people, particularly college students, clarify a career path.
Indeed each instrument has merit based on the questions it is intended to address as well as the personal preferences of it’s user. There is no universal tool of self-discovery. However, my favorite coaching assessment tools are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (Step I, II, and III). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Step I is an instrument that describes the broad strokes of an individual personality. This is the traditional tool that many people have likely encountered in some way, although not always in it’s authentic format. One of the goals of this questionnaire is to identify people who have similar general tendencies, “birds of a feather”, so to speak. It is most useful when trying to understand how we tend to view the world and how we might interact with someone with different type preferences. It’s a great team building tool! However, it is also clear that even though people of like mind have similar characteristics, they also exhibit a vast array of individual differences. The MTBI Step II (also known as Form Q) serves to capture these differences.
The MBTI Step III is a questionnaire that gauges type development. How well does an individual use his/her dominant and auxiliary functions characteristic of that type? Can that person effectively shift to the non-preferred third and fourth functions when necessary? The MBTI Step III is not only a snapshot of how effectively an individual is perceiving and judging information he encounters, it is a dynamic tool for personal growth. (What?? That sounds pretty useless, more lofty theories that waste my time!) Fortunately,the best part of the MBTI Step III is that the client doesn’t need to know the theoretical underpinnings of this instrument at all. The feedback session is delivered using everyday language and it tends to feel like a productive conversation! Some of the comments I have gotten from clients has included:
- “It’s a coaching jumpstart. You can get to the heart of the matter faster.”
- “Since it doesn’t use all kinds of terms, it’s easier to own these statements you get from the report. It’s like a great conversation.”
- “The information I got during the feedback is not necessarily big news but it definitely showed me where my growth opportunities are.”
Just like maps, written directions, and GPS tools guide us toward physical destinations, tools such as the MBTI Step III can tell you where you are right now and show you a variety of paths that help you get where you want to be. There is a distinct advantage to using a tool that is based on solid theoretical principles but is translated into everyday language. In fact, it might be one of the most interesting conversations you will ever have about yourself and I invite you to take the journey.
Note: ***The MBTI Step III is newly released but not widely available yet due to the credentialing and training required to administer it. I offer it in my coaching practice and I welcome any inquiries. Contact me @ annholm.net