Organisations that use coaching as a means of staff development, now more than ever, require evidence of the coach’s knowledge of coaching theory and practice, as well their competence and experience. As coaching practice continues to develop and is being recognised as a profession, qualification and experience alone may no longer be sufficient to distinguish one coach from another. Utilising psychometric testing, to facilitate your coaching practice can provide you with an ‘edge’ because the PCM model provides the coach with both the knowledge of human behaviour and a specialisation that takes their coaching to a higher level, providing excellence in practice.
Process Coaching is based upon the application of the Process Communication Model (PCM) psychometric test in coaching. PCM can be of interest for the coach because as a method it facilitates coaches to enhance their own coaching delivery, especially in the important areas of connecting and deciding upon coaching strategies.
The purpose of this paper is:
• To study the underpinning psychology behind the psychometric test and to have an overview of the reliability and validity of the questionnaire
• To understand how a coach can use the profile in order to deepen self and client awareness
• To glimpse the use of PCM as a method for coaching
Researches and theory
In the development of the Process Communication Model, Dr Taibi Kahler started with a group of 1200 subjects and was able to identify a of patterns, subtle observable behaviours, that people appear to impose upon themselves and others and that are directly linked to miscommunication and distress. He called these behaviours “Drivers” and named them: Be Perfect, Please, Be Strong, Try Hard, and Hurry Up. The next step was to correlate the drivers with seventy-eight personality variables. This led to Kahler identifying the six primary personality types.
The model is often described as a condominium, in which an individual’s ‘base personality type’ is the ground floor (the easiest for them to access) and their least accessible personality type would be that of the sixth floor. The descriptions that follow concentrate on the ‘base’ personality types and do not take into account the influence that the other five types might have on behaviour. However in some degree each of us has the characteristics of all of the condominium floors.
In discussions of PCM personality typology, we do not talk of people ‘being’ a personality type; rather we prefer to speak of types of personality ‘in’ people rather than types ‘of’ people. However, what follows is a basic description of the six personality types; remember that we all have each of these types in us and that we are not a personality type.
The “Harmoniser” personality type is compassionate, sensitive and warm. When under pressure, a base Harmoniser may first become pleasing and attempt to over adapt to others. They may avoid decision making for fear of ‘hurting other people’s’ feelings. In deeper distress they may become flustered and make mistakes.
The “Workaholic” personality type is responsible, logical and organised; they are also good at structuring time. However, under pressure, a base Workaholic may first increase their pressure by attempting to achieve perfection, failing to delegate or even reverse delegating (take delegated tasks back). In deeper distress they may become, over controlling and attacking.
The “Promoter” personality type is adaptable, charming, and persuasive. Under pressure a base Promoter, may first invite others to Be Strong, they may expect others to fend for themselves and may themselves become unavailable. In deeper distress they may become manipulative and create negative excitement, for example taking uncalculated risks.
The “Dreamer” personality type is reflective, imaginative and calm. When under pressure a Base Dreamer may at first begin to show signs of attempting to be strong; spreading them-selves too thinly and whilst looking very busy not completing tasks. As they get deeper into distress, they may look sad and dejected and withdraw.
The “Persister” personality type is dedicated, observant and conscientious. As they experience pressure and distress, they first begin to notice faults in others or in the work of others i.e. they notice more of what is wrong than what is right. In deeper distress a base Persister may become attacking; preaching to others from a strong belief system.
The “Rebel” personality type is creative, playful and spontaneous; they are often very good at finding innovative solutions to complex problems. When experiencing pressure and stress, they may first show signs of their Try Hard drive; they will perhaps delegate inappropriately asking subordinates to take responsibility for tasks they are not yet capable of undertaking. If pressure and distress continues they may next attempt to avoid blame and instead seek to blame others.
The Personality Pattern Inventory (PPI) has its roots in behavioural psychology. Research findings show that a person is motivated by certain psychological needs. If these needs are not met positively, then the person will attempt to get them met negatively, through very predictable non-productive behaviours. Thus, the PPI can reliably predict distress sequences for an individual and this information can be helpful for their own self development, in recovering from distress and for the coaches ability to see more clearly the focal point of the distress of their coaches.
Since PCM is a model based in personality theory and psychological dynamics, the results allow cross-cultural utilisation. The Personality Pattern Inventory has been administered to more than 600,000 men and women in the United States, and has been translated into Spanish, German, French, Italian, Flemish, Japanese, Hungarian, Romanian and Finnish. Since then, more than a million people across the world have completed the PPI questionnaire.
The PPI was used by NASA in the selection of astronauts and payload specialists because of its accuracy in predicting individual distress sequences, as well as assessing crew compatibility.
Benefits of the PCM profile and concepts for the coach
One of the main benefits of the PCM profile is to deepen the coach’s self-awareness. The training program that each PCM trained and certified coach must attend, provides the knowledge of the model and moreover, information about their own personality.
As mentioned above, PCM gives objective information about the strengths and perceptual frames of reference that are stable components of the personality.
This information provides the coach with the basic understanding of his/her own coaching style.
Let’s take the case of a coach with a “Rebel” base and therefore, someone equipped with the strengths of creativity, playfulness and spontaneity. The coach knows that his creativity is often appreciated along with his ability to be friendly and direct. The PCM profile gives information about his current motivational needs so the coach will know the importance of regularly finding positive sources of motivational input from outside of the coaching relationship. (It is important for the coach to have their psychological needs met and not to look for this from their coachee). For this particular “Rebel” base coach, let’s assume that his current phase is “Persister” He will still have the basic strengths of the “Rebel” type’ whilst his current motivation will be that of the “Persister” type i.e. “to get recognition for his work and convictions”. As a coach, it is important to know both the components and motivational sources that apply to our own personal profile and therefore pointers to how to remain motivated. This in turn facilitates us in establishing our coach identity and style. PCM is one of the few personality tests that provide the information we need to understand our own process all within the same report.
As Taibi Kahler discovered in his research, our non-productive behaviours are the result of our attempts to satisfy our psychological needs, if people do not get their needs met positively, they will seek to meet the same needs negatively. Meeting our needs successfully and positively is directly linked to motivation. As a coach, I found it extremely valuable to know the sources of my motivation and how to feed myself positively. During my first PCM training experience I discovered that, several times in my life, I had experienced long periods of non-productive behaviour due to my quest to satisfy my needs, something that I was able to feel intuitively, but had not identified accurately prior to this; hence I had not been able to find the best way to find a satisfying positive solution.
In the table below I show some indicators of how an hypothetical ‘Workaholic’ base ‘Persister’ phase coach may react when needs are unmet.
Let us suppose that this coach is unaware of his tendency to seek to meet his needs from his coachees? He may begin to impose his opinions and beliefs on them. This could well be the case when a coach doesn’t know himself and is unaware of the importance of finding appropriate ways to feed his needs. PCM provides answers and suggests action plans to regularly feed one’s own needs positively so that as a coach we are able to deal with our needs without abusing the coaching relationship.
The application of PCM in coaching
Utilising the PCM personality test with a coachee allows the coach to help coaching clients build the self-awareness that is necessary to identify new career and life goals and to enhance their performance at work. The test enables coaches to support coachees to better understand their behaviour, their preferences and their capabilities.
For example, a client once came to me with presenting the topic of moving from a managing director role in a small company to take the position of manager in a bank. He wanted to change career because of the poor work/life balance his current position offered and without even the compensation of a reasonable salary. The bank position, however, offered a better structured working time, an improved salary and the relative job security that his wife found very interesting; he also found the prospect of having more time with his three children attractive.
I asked him why, given all the benefits of this potential new position, he felt the need to ask for assistance to make his decision. His answer, perhaps not surprisingly, was that he found the opportunity interesting, but at the same time he was wondering if he would be able to deal with the lack of ‘incidence’ (excitement and challenge) the position would offer compared to the current one. The PCM personality test showed he was base “Promoter” type with a “Workaholic” stage (a lived phase that is not the current one) and a current phase “Harmoniser”.
Thus this person had the strengths of the “Promoter” and “Workaholic” types: Charming, Resourceful and Adaptable plus Organised, Responsible and Logical, and the need to be recognised as a person and sensory needs of the “Harmoniser” phase. I explained the meaning of psychological needs and he told me that he had noticed this new drive for more closeness with his relatives and to find work/life balance. He had concluded that he was overworked, but had not understood the relationship between his new needs and the demands of his current position. He decided that it was time for him to take this new job and to use his strengths to gain promotion within three years, thus gaining the benefits of his new role in terms of work/life balance to meet his needs for more closeness whilst taking seriously the manager position and using his strengths to get results and get promoted to a position that will feed his needs for incidence and recognition for work.
A systemic tool to work with executives
As for the coach and the coachee, the concepts of Awareness of Self and of Others are at the root of power and influence. In the paper “How would you communicate change with respect” and the article “Process Leadership“, I stressed the importance for leaders to adapt their communication and actions to the largest possible number of perceptual frames of reference.
The PCM personality profile inventory (PPI) in executive coaching offers a wide range of topics open for discussion between the coach and coachees regarding their approach towards the relationship between themselves, others and the systems they encounter in their environment. Often power, authority and influence are at the core of subjects discussed in executive coaching. The PPI provides the executive with the knowledge to enhance self-awareness and so, to better know how to feed their needs positively. It also promotes awareness of strengths that they can use easily and those that require more energy. In gaining this awareness a leader can recognise that the same processes are common for their followers. They can for example, draw a map of their team according to the distribution of personality types represented there in; graphically seeing ones that are very present and those less present. In this way they gain an overview of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in their team according to team goals, objectives and purpose. This SWOT analysis of a team This SWOT analysis of a team is just one of the many tools PCM offers the executive.
When examining communication, PCM provides clear information about the impact of miscommunication and the bottom line benefits of effective communication. As PCM is based on individual preferences, the model gives relevant information about what modes of communication fit with each different personality type. Executives obviously find this point crucial in their quest for efficient communication.
Motivation is also an important point in executive coaching. How do we motivate people to reach stretched targets? How do we communicate a message that is ‘heard’ by all and motivates people? How do we acknowledge our best performers other than simply using financial incentives? Etc.
Here again, PCM provides answers to enable managers find their own way to use the general concepts of motivation. For example, the General Manager of a financial institution was wondering how to keep teams motivated whilst the organisation had to put a freeze on wage increases. He found that increasing bonuses to compensate did not prevent dissatisfaction that, in turn had a negative effect on performance.
After discovering the basic concepts of motivation with PCM, he decided to test the theory by focusing on the team whose performance has the most significant impact on the company’s outcomes.
“Workaholic” floor were asked to focus their thinking on restructuring the team in order to enhance efficiency, those with a strong “Persister” floor where asked to provide customers with relevant information about the ‘healthiness’ of their products in order to develop customer trust in the company and so increase sales.
This table shows an extract of the assessment report, showing the link between the needs and the distress behavior of a team member ‘Harmonizer’ base, ‘Promoter’ phase.
Although some staff remained dissatisfied, team members were so focused on their new responsibilities that they stopped complaining about the issue of the salary freeze. During the six months of this coaching relationship, the GM reported a consistent increase in sales that consequently led to a return to annual wage increases sooner than previously expected by the company.
A method for coaching
As a method for coaching PCM provides precise tools for connecting with, communicating with and motivating coachees, irrespective of how their personality is structured. The coach knows how to use the appropriate channel of communication, perceptual frame of reference, interaction style and way to feed the coachee’s needs, in order to more effectively establish the coaching relationship. As a result in terms of efficiency, the coaching process is faster, because the working alliance begins during the first minutes of contact. Taibi Kahler’s famous sentence: “if you want them to understand what you say, talk their language”, is really apparent in coaching.
Each personality structure whilst being unique has some points in common from one person to another. For example there are only six basic personality types and we each have a little of all of them. Therefore, we only need to know what the other person’s base type is and to shift our energy to the channel and perception of that type to be able to effectively connect with them. We also know that people often show characteristics of the first two floors of their condominium, so knowing only 30 strategies for connecting and feeding needs is sufficient to be effective with the majority of people.
A coach can easily learn the most successful coaching strategies according to the base and second floor combination. To decide strategies for connecting, making an alliance and communicating as these are those of the base, whilst the strategy for motivation relates to the coaches current phase psychological needs.
Using PCM as a method for coaching is particularly efficient when the coach has to deal with coachees experiencing stress. The model shows that when a person is experiencing the early signs of stress, offering the right communication channel and perception is sufficient to invite them out of distress. If the stress is more profound, the model shows how through satisfying psychological we needs find a way forward. This strategy is more often than not proven to enable the person to get out of non-productive behaviour known as failure mechanisms.
Stress is seldom a question of just “here and now” and takes is roots in deeper issues the coachee may have been experiencing over a long period of time. PCM also offers strategies to manage such long term issues.
The profile also provides relevant information about the coachee’s life phases and the corresponding developmental issues that lead to the failure mechanisms and that are often at the root of stress. These concepts enable the coach to decide the most effective coaching strategy to use with a coachee in such situations.
Process Communication offers all the tools a coach needs to enhance knowledge of human behaviour and to develop efficiency in their coaching practice.
The PCM Coach training program is designed to make coaches proficient in the application of the psychometric test in coaching situations. Experiencing the workshop is also a valuable self-development / self discovery process for the coach and delegates frequently report this as an added value they had not anticipated when signing up for the workshop.
An additional bonus is that the workshop is accredited by ICF as a Coaching Continuing Education training program. It is more than ever important for professionals to maintain their ethical and professional stance through regular training to provide a professional service to their clients.
When used in coaching the Process Communication Personality Pattern Inventory offers results that are thought provoking, relevant and enable coaches to measure thir real effectiveness rather than relying upon subjective impressions. We are confident that you will enjoy learning more about yourself and your impact upon others.
I would like to thank to John Parr, official Process Communication representative in the UK and Romania for the valuable guidance and advice in the writting of this paper. He inspired me greatly to work in this project.