• Eve Delunas, PhD

Avoid Alienating the Reluctant Improviser (SP) Client: Part Two on Customizing Your Coaching

Updated: Aug 11, 2018

In part one of this series, I introduced four clients, each with a different temperament, and each presenting a unique set of coaching challenges.

We begin with Felix, the ISTP Improviser who has been referred by upper level management. Although valued for his skill and expertise as an airplane mechanic, Felix has been placed on probation due to his hostile and disrespectful treatment of managers and coworkers.

Improvisers are fiercely protective of their freedom and autonomy, so one can anticipate that Felix will (wisely) be highly suspicious of the coach and “on alert” for signs that the coach’s objective is to persuade him to alter his attitude and behavior.

No doubt, Felix has encountered people throughout his life who have been determined to change him, and he is well equipped to defend himself against such efforts. Should the coach suggest or even imply that Felix should or must behave differently, it is likely that individual will be met with an impenetrable wall of resistance from Felix.

To be most effective, the coach must have no agenda—no judgment or expectation that Felix must change or do anything different. Admittedly, this can be challenging, particularly when the organization has hired the coach to “fix” the employee.

Here is an approach that is often effective with Improvisers and is based upon the tenants of Reality Therapy and Motivational Interviewing:

Step One: Begin by letting Felix know that your goal is to help him get whatever he is wanting. This can be done with a series of questions, such as:

How would you like to benefit from our time together? or What do you want?

These can be followed up with questions and active listening to clarify Felix’s perspectives and goals.

Let’s say Felix tells you he wants those he works with to “leave him alone” or “get off his back.”

Step Two: Ask Felix about what he has been doing—that is, his current way of attempting to get what he wants.

What have you been doing to get people to leave you alone at work and stay off your back?

Perhaps Felix says he has been “letting off some steam” at work.

Step Three: Ask Felix to list the benefits of what he has been doing as follows:

What are some of the pros, or benefits, of letting off some steam at work?

Be sure to fully explore the benefits. It is fine to suggest some benefits that the client may not mention.

Step Four: Ask Felix to list the negative effects of what he is currently doing.

What are some of the cons of blowing off some steam at work?

This can be followed up with:

What might be the result of your continuing to blow off steam at work?

Avoid using trigger words like: “consequences.”

Step Five: Ask Felix if what he has been doing is getting him what he wants.

Has blowing off steam at work gotten people to leave you alone and get off of your back?

Step Six: Ask Felix what he might do to get what he wants.

What might you do differently to get people to leave you alone and get people to stay off of your back?

Let any suggestions come from him. Avoid offering suggestions if he says he can’t think of anything, and give him more time to consider this.

Step Seven: What is your plan?

So, what is your plan for getting people at work to leave you alone and stay off of your back?

One might ask Felix if he wants to learn other ways of “blowing off steam” that do not create trouble for him at work, and then assist him if the answer is “yes.”

Tips for working with Improvisers:

· Dedicate yourself to helping them get what they want—not what you or the company want for them—and convey to them that this is your objective.

· Avoid trying to persuade them (subtly or not so subtly) to change their behavior.

· Send the message that it is absolutely okay with you if they keep doing what they are doing—and mean it.

· Help them explore fully the pros and cons of choosing to change their behavior or not. Express neutrality with your words and your refusal to advocate one choice over another.

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All the Best!


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