Talkin ‘Bout My Generation: Coaching with the MBTI

By Jack Speer | June 25, 2015

“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.” – Carl Jung

Here’s the challenge – the Baby Boomer generation is getting closer and closer to the retirement finish line, but the generations coming in behind them in this race, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z aren’t quite ready to fill the senior leadership seats they occupy. It’s not that they aren’t eager, most of them just may not have quite enough professional and life experience to make the tough decisions required of a senior leader. How do we coach and develop these younger generations to fill the leadership pipeline?

Each generation brings their own perspective and views about career and development to the workplace. Our views are shaped by our unique life experiences. Every individual is unique and different, however, the themes below seem to emerge when looking at the generational impact on career view and development.

Generation (Birth Dates) Life Events Career Views Development
 Veterans/Silent Generation (1922-1945)  The Great Depression
Respect Rules
Respect Authority
Adhere to rules
Learning from Experience
 Baby Boomers (1946-1964)  The Civil Rights Movement
JFK Assassination
Vietnam War
Landing on the Moon
Personal Growth
Work Efficiently
Cause Driven
Desire quality
Question authority
Team Oriented
Contribution Oriented
Career Oriented
 Gen X (1965-1980)  Two Working Parents
Personal Computers
The Challenger Disaster
Work/Life Balance
 Computer Based
Develop Skills
Results Oriented
Information Based
 Gen Y (1981-2000)  Terrorist Attacks 9/11
Financial Instability
Technology – Instant Messaging, Wireless, Internet
Oklahoma City bombing
School Violence
You Tube
Goal Oriented
Immediate Feedback
Respect for authority
Coaching & Frequent Feedback
Technology Based
Career Path
Action Learning – Solving Real Work Problems

When in doubt about how to best coach someone, regardless of their generation, the best approach is to build trust first. There’s no substitute for clear and direct communication across generations or any other difference. The MBTI assessment is one of the best self-assessment and coaching tools for understanding personal strengths, communication style, and the type of position, work environment, and development plan that best fits a person’s style. Our personality and our generation affect the way we approach decisions and it impacts our communication with others. It can be used to facilitate communication across generations and leverage the information to build a meaningful development plan.

Development plans should be customized to fit the individual given their personality type, communication style, and generation. Development experts agree that up to 70 percent of development plans should include new experiences, 20 percent learning from self and others such as a coach or mentor, and 10 percent training. One of the best ways to learn is by doing—by gaining experience, trying something new, or taking on a project or stretch assignment.

Your plan for coaching and follow up during an assignment might vary depending on the individual’s generation and personality type.

For example, a Gex X employee with an introverted preference might require less conversation when completing a developmental stretch assignment once they clearly understand the goals, deadlines, and resources available. The combination of Gen Xer’s typical self-reliance and the introverted preference for thinking things through might be vastly difference from a Gen Xer with an extraverted preference for talking things out during the project.

Gen Y has grown up with technology, text messaging, and quick answers. This in combination with an extraverted preference for talking things through, might lead to a desire for more frequent conversation and feedback. If you were to add in a preference for Judging, the individual might be more receptive to a planned weekly conversation, versus a Perceiving preference for more flexibility and spontaneity, but might be prone to drop by.

Knowing the MBTI preferences may also help shed some light on personal preferences for working with details, numbers, and data (Sensing), or looking at the big picture (Intuition) and decision making approaches that range from considering values and the impact on people first (Feeling) to objective, rational, logical analysis (Thinking).

So how do you begin to customize a development plan? For starters, ask a few good questions and always listen with respect to the individual.

  • What’s most important to you at work?
  • What are you really proud of at work or school?
  • What are your strengths?
  • In what areas would you like to develop?
  • What motivates you most?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What actions will you take to achieve your goals? & When?
  • How can I help you?
  • How often would you like to talk or meet about your development plan?
  • How do you like to be recognized?

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart” – Carl Jung

By Saundra Stroope. Saundra is the Chief Learning Officer at Small Business Owner University and a HR talent management consultant with 20 years’ experience creating solutions that align with business strategy and achieve results in a variety of industries (healthcare, aerospace, defense, mining, energy, telecommunications) at award winning, global and Fortune 500 companies. Saundra has published over a dozen works and a chapter in a book “Integrated Talent Management Scorecards” (ASTD Press) and “Hire the Right Person Every Time: 5 Steps to Interviewing Success” ( She can be reached at