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MBTI® Step III and Coaching

Ann Step III
View Ann Holm’s Video on Step III

MBTI® Step I is a tool for identifying your preferences for gaining energy, gathering information, making decisions, and approaching life. The result is a four-letter code such as my preferences for INFJ.

MBTI® Step II adds 20 facets–five “nuances” for each of the preference pairs that describe differences in people with each preference. For example, I am an Initiating Introvert, rather than a Receiving Introvert–I find it easier than many people with my preferences to introduce myself to new people and to interact at business and social gatherings. This is probably a learned behavior, the result of being the daughter of a community organizer who, probably before we could even talk, had my brothers and me involved in pancake breakfasts and volunteer assembly lines.

MBTI® Step III was introduced in 2009, although its development began over 50 years ago as Isabel Myers studied the importance of type development. While the other instruments help us identify preferences, Step III probes how effectively we perceive and judge, the heart of the framework of type. While we have a preferred way of perceiving, through Sensing or Intuition, and a preferred way of judging, through Thinking or Feeling, preference does not guarantee skill. Further, maturity requires using the appropriate balance of preferences for a given situation (See Psychological Type: The Essentials for more information).

I’m very new to using Step III, having completed CAPT’s certification program last summer, but I’m already finding it to be a key assessment for coaching for three reasons:

  • The reports use everyday language, not type language. Yes, you can generate Step I and II as well as Step III results from a single administration, but some clients think they “know” type and aren’t interested, or have had misinterpretations that prejudice them against the value of the instrument (see “Do You Really Know Your 4-Letter MBTI Code?). The Step III report lets you hold deep coaching conversations about a person’s  relationships, leadership style, problem-solving effectiveness, stress management, etc., without going into type theory.
  • The report only generates statements, questions, and suggestions. There are no scores or scales in the reports the clients see. The reports are based on patterns, involving answers on several questions, that Myers determined were related to how effectively we use our preferences. There are no “labels” to explain or that people might object to, just information that reflects how the client described his or her attitudes, behaviors, values, and so on.
  • The statements and questions allow for conversation and interpretation. A key coaching competency, as described by the International Coach Federation, is asking questions that “that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client.” While a coach needs to carefully choose among the many items generated in the report to find the best for a particular conversation, and then nuance those to fit a client’s given situation or needs, the entire design of the report supports effective questioning, listening, and assisting the client in gaining greater awareness of accomplishments, potential, and avenues for growth.

MBTI Step III is still a tool that is only as effective as the person using it, but I am finding it a worthwhile addition to my coaching toolkit.

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Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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