The individual personalities of coachees impact the success of coaching interventions. Individuals who are open to the new and the different, who have low self-esteem and other low core self evaluations, or who tend to set goals focused on avoiding failure are those more likely to benefit from coaching.
Personality traits can impact how well people learn. For the Big Five personality traits, for example, previous research has found that Conscientiousness, Extraversion and Openness (being open to new ideas and experiences) will enhance an individual’s learning or training experience, while Neuroticism hampers learning. The fifth personality type, Agreeableness, has in previous research shown no impact on training or learning.
A study published in Applied Psychology focuses specifically on one-on-one coaching and the influence of individual differences on its effectiveness. The research, based on performance evaluations of the study’s participants before a series of coaching sessions and twice after the sessions (immediately and three months later), examined the correlation between four of the Big Five personality types—Agreeableness was not included—as well as two other personality characteristics:
Underpinning the research are the unique characteristics of one-on-one coaching that differentiate coaching from group and other types of training and learning, and which can influence which personality traits are more likely to respond to coaching.
One-on-one coaching differs from other training and development programs in four ways. First, coaching is led by the coachee—that is, it is based on the coachee’s personal agenda and is tailored to the coachee’s needs and ambitions. Second, coaching is goal-focused, with goals that are set by the coachee. Third, coaches use a broad range of tools and methods, both conventional and innovative, to achieve the desired outcomes. Finally, performance improvement and learning in coaching is achieved through coachee self-reflection, facilitated by the coach.
The results of the study reveal that with these unique characteristics, coaching benefits different personalities in different ways:
This study introduces a factor that many organizations may fail to consider as they make training and development decisions for their personnel: the individual characteristics of their employees. To ensure the best return on their training and development spending, organizations should consider screening employees based on individual differences, and offer one-on-one coaching opportunities to those who exhibit low Openness - low CSEs and avoid high goal orientation.
The study also has implications for the design of coaching interventions. At the beginning of an intervention, coaches should have an understanding of the individual characteristics of those they are about to coach. If, for example, coaches know that their coachees are low in Openness, they may begin the sessions with familiar interventions and then build up to novel or unusual methods and ideas.
Individuals who have low CSEs and avoid high goal orientation are the most likely to benefit from coaching. Coaches aware of these characteristics in those they coach will emphasize the strengths of coaching—including the personal guidance they can offer in increasing through self-reflection the self-awareness of coachees. With the help of their coaches, these individuals can develop insight into their personality, recognizing their blind spots, uncovering overlooked strengths, and challenging the self-limits that in the past inhibited them and prevented them from setting goals that increased their competence and self-esteem setting goals that increased their competence and self-esteem.
The Effects of Coachee Personality and Goal Orientation on Performance Improvement Following Coaching: A Controlled Field Experiment. Rebecca J. Jones, Stephen A. Woods, Ying Zhou. Applied Psychology (August 2019).
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