One area involves introvert and extrovert learning styles. Introverts discover by getting alone and reflecting—their primary drive is to engage something inwardly first, then use it outwardly once they’ve figured it out. Extroverts think out loud—they learn best by talking. So while your introverted clients will do fine with lots of individual reflection, the same approach can drive an extrovert crazy. When coaching, one great way to adapt to extroversion is simply to turn personal reflection exercises into discussion exercises by asking the client to talk things through with a friend or spouse. Another option is for the extrovert to speak their reflections into a portable tape recorder instead of writing them.
It is especially important for extroverts that reflection is acted upon. While an introvert can think about something for weeks without feeling a need to do, extroverts are driven to act on what they are thinking about, and then keep thinking about it in the process of acting. When coaching, tying life purpose discoveries to immediate implementation steps (or even just making sure reflective steps are discussed in your appointments) helps extroverted clients.
Journaling is another place where you’ll run into obstacles unless you adapt to the client’s style. Some people (like me) journal in complete sentences and paragraphs. Others prefer bullet lists, or scrawling in all directions over the page, or tape-recording their journal instead of writing it. And for some, the word journaling means a daily diary that you keep on your bedside table—not what you are probably after as a coach.
I make a practice of talking through with clients what their journaling options are, which reflective style works best for them and how they’d like to record their insights. Being pro-active eliminates many potential obstacles in the coaching with reflection process before they ever occur.
Tony Stoltzfus is a master coach, author and coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. A presentation of a thorough, practical toolkit for coaching Christian leaders to discover their identity can be found in his book the Christian Life Coaching Handbook.