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Skeptical about the Use of Tools

Posted by Venkatesh Madurai Subramanian | December 19, 2019 | Comments (2)

I bumped into an HR professional the other day, and we were discussing a possible set of coaching interventions for a group of her organization’s executives. I offered sample sessions and outlined my approach, starting with a solid self-discovery session with each coachee. At this point, she asked me if we could save time by using the DISC profiles of everyone.

This, in turn, triggered a series of debates and discussions, and  I eventually declined the opportunity. I recalled the initial days in my leadership journey when a similar tool was thrust upon me by my very well-intentioned bosses and HR colleagues. This was the “16 personality type” tool. I recall having been very excited by the tool and soon started looking at not just myself, but others around me as INTJ, ESTP, and so on and so forth.

Though the “16 personality type tool” had cast me as a particular “type,” along with the usual disclaimers and caveats that accompany it, predictably, I had fallen into the trap of telling myself that I “belong” in a particular “type” and can never change. Over time, when I redid such tests, lo and behold, my “type” had changed.

Long before deciding to become a coach, my friends and teammates would approach me for help with statements such as, “I am not a creative person, what should I do?” Upon inquiry, it turned out that they perceived themselves to belong to a certain “box” and they, in turn, accepted to be in that “box,” along with all the limitations and constraints presented by said “box.”

Far from belittling such tools, I would merely like to benefit from them with a coaching mindset. For instance, wouldn’t it be wonderful to use the learning and the very essence of such tools while, at the same time, apply more intelligence to them? This could invite the coachee to pursue a certain direction or, conversely, choose to absolutely avoid certain directions based on what the learning is from such tools.

As an example, let us take the INTJ personality type. Some of the features of those in this personality type are:

  • They need time alone to “recharge”
  • They are imaginative, creative and introspective
  • They care more about facts than people’s feelings
  • They are a stickler for schedules and planning

Now, depending on what a coachee would like to accomplish, how about leveraging what that person is good at and applying that in the coaching engagement to bring out the best in the coachee, serving them to the fullest.

Let us imagine a situation where a coachee of this personality type is frustrated with a monotonous routine, which conflicts with them loving schedules and planning. Wouldn’t it be natural to ask a coaching question around when they last had time for themselves or when they last were able to apply some creativity to break the monotony? Isn’t this line of approach bound to create an aha moment for the coachee and add a lot more value?

venkatesh madurai headshot

Venkatesh Madurai Subramanian

Venkatesh Madurai Subramanian, or “Venky,” is a veteran in the Travel IT professional industry, with close to 30 years of experience spread over four countries. He is passionate about coaching, as well as technology, which can be seen in action at He is firmly committed to exploiting technology to galvanize coaching practices in unprecedented ways.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (2)

  1. Jean M says:

    Hello Venkatesh

    Interesting article

    Even with a coaching angle as you put it, isn’t the approach still based on the type of the person and you will still be typecasting the person no?

    What do you think?

  2. Hello Jean

    Thanks for your comments

    I do agree with you that there is a possibility of typecasting. However, in my view, the risk is minimal: it is up to the Coach to avoid this risk and handle it well.

    There needs to be some discovery process to address the Coachee’s needs: and exploring that is the responsibility of the Coach: to serve the Coachee. And, tools can be used to explore this without typecasting the Coachee.



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