• Eve Delunas, PhD

Customize Your Coaching with the Survival Strategies Model-Part One

Felix comes to our coaching session at the insistence of upper level management due to his troublesome behavior in the workplace. He has been placed on probation after a series of disrespectful interactions with coworkers and managers. Although he is one of the most trusted and skilled airplane mechanics in the company, Felix’s hostile attitude makes it difficult for others on the team to work with him.

Maria decides to follow her physician’s advice and seeks help for her high levels of anxiety and stress and unmanaged diabetes. She spends the first session in tears as she describes each of her worries in vivid detail. She speaks of concerns regarding her children, frustration regarding her husband’s drinking, fears concerning family finances, and worries regarding her mother’s poor health.

Evan schedules his initial session as a last resort, although he expresses skepticism from the start that our meetings will be of any value. Although in his mid-twenties, Evan has never managed to “hook up” with a member of the opposite sex. He speaks of his desire to meet someone and his tendency to freeze and “act like a stupid idiot” when in the company of an attractive female.

Lola seeks help with “getting unstuck” with her writing. Although she aspires to be a published author, she has made little progress on her book over the past two years. She feels unfulfilled in her work as an administrative assistant in a marketing company and longs to be doing something more meaningful in her life that is in alignment with her “higher purpose.” When she does try to write, her “inner critic” demolishes each sentence before it reaches the page.

Coaching is not a “one size fits all” business. According results from a Global Executive Coaching Survey conducted in 2016 by The Conference Board, coaches will be challenged in the coming decade to “Design personal and customized coaching solutions” (The Conference Board, Global Executive Coaching Survey 2016, p. 5).

The Survival Strategies Model offers a paradigm for customizing and personalizing interventions based upon a client’s temperament. Since each temperament responds best to alternate methods and approaches, coaches and counselors can use this information to provide a more favorable and helpful experience for their clients.

In this blog and several that follow, I will be providing examples of how I use the Survival Strategies Model to tailor my approach with each of the four individuals described briefly above: Felix, the Improviser (ISTP), Maria, the Stabilizer (ESFJ), Evan, the Theorist, (INTP), and Lola, the Catalyst (INFP).

Let’s look briefly at the unique challenges coaches are likely to face in working with each of these temperaments:

Typical of many Improvisers, Felix isn’t seeking coaching of his own accord. As a result, he is likely to view me as an adversary whose agenda is to force him to change. Any approach I take must circumvent this assumption on his part, or I am doomed to fail as his coach.

Maria, the Stabilizer, is a different story altogether. She wants my help in changing everyone else (her kids, husband, and mother) so she can feel better. My challenge is to get her to focus on herself and make self-care a priority.

Evan, the Theorist, is skeptical of me from the start and doubts that I actually have anything of value to offer him. He is observing me carefully to determine if I am competent and can actually be trusted. Also challenging are Evan’s proclivity for judging himself harshly and his tendency to protect himself from failure through avoidance.

Lola, the Catalyst, often sets herself up to fail with unrealistic expectations of what she will accomplish with the time available to her. My challenge with Lola is to help her balance the expression of her inspiration and creativity with managing the practical realities of life. She also requires assistance in taming her “inner critic,” who is currently running the show.

Stay tuned for my next blogs, in which I offer tips for customizing and personalizing one’s coaching or counseling approach for each of these four clients.

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All the Best!


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