Coaching: an astounding theory.

Coaching: an astounding theory. 1024 585 Bruno Sireyjol

Are personality tests useless?


From Process Communication to MBTI, from HBDI to DISC, there are many tools available to help you get to know yourself better and interact more effectively with others. In short, to perform better.

Yet only a tiny percentage of employees who have undergone so-called certification training claim to master these tools to the point of using them on a daily basis within their organization or externally.

Are these tools too complex or inapplicable? Perhaps simply useless, if psychologist Michael Apter is to be believed. The Reversal Theory demystifies the vision of calibrated and standardized psychological profiles. There’s no standard way of seeing the world, no particular way of communicating and interacting, or of approaching a problem and considering solutions.


Apter’s Theory:


We are fundamentally inconsistent. We navigate between 4 pairs of opposites, and the combinations seem infinite:

  • Serious or playful: orientation towards the goal or action in hand and the resulting excitement.
  • Conformist or rebel: respect for rules and conventions or thirst for change or disruption.
  • Mastery or sympathy: the will to control or the priority given to feelings and harmony.
  • Egocentrism or empathy: self-centered or focused on supporting others.

Disconcerting. Astonishing. Astounding. All the more so as our way of thinking or acting, in addition to the psychological needs mentioned above, is influenced in the moment by other determinants such as our vision of the world, our experience, our dominant motivational style- some consistency in our inconsistency – and of course the current experience.

Wow. Go coach with that. As if the challenge of identifying the Base, the Experienced Phase and the Current Phase of Process Communication weren’t enough to discourage novice coaches or sow the seed of doubt in the minds of newly promoted leaders eager to connect with their team members.


Coaching to win:


Good news. We’ve turned Apter’s theory into an analysis grid for identifying and adapting to each coaching situation, depending on who you are, who the other is (this coachee who’s no more consistent than you are), and the situation you’re facing.

  • Serious or playful: you may be in a playful mood, but what about the coachee, and what does the situation require? Should you focus on the end or the means, the present or the future? Should your coaching address the action or the goal?
  • Conformist or rebel: are you able to be creative and improvise, or should you conform to rules and conventions you may have set yourself? If you’ve clarified standards and expectations, what should you say and when? Coaching in the moment or special coaching moment?
  • Mastery or sympathy: what level of control is required and what’s your motivation? Is the point to leverage your coaching skills and skilfully navigate between advocacy and inquiry? Or to be guided by your feelings and the search for harmony? Reasoning or understanding? Speak up or let go. This is the coaching posture.
  • Egocentrism or empathy: should your decisions and actions be focused on you or on the coachee? Should you address what touches and impacts you, or act with a genuine concern for the development of the coachee? It’s about prioritizing the consequence on you, the coachee and your relationship.

From development to critical conversations, coaching is an ongoing challenge. Michael Apter’s theory may seem staggering. We’ve used and simplified it to offer a grid for analyzing who you are as a coach in the moment, the coachee and the circumstances. The goal is to enable you to prioritize what you need to deal with, how you need to deal with it, and to approach critical conversations with calm and confidence.

Want to find out more? Discover our Coaching to win workshop.

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