Coaching Leaders to Use Their Strengths

Newcomb, Jan

Janet Newcomb is a Leadership Development Coach who works with all different kinds of groups regarding business leadership, strategy, organizational effectiveness, and career transitions. She is an executive coach and is based in Orange County, California. Her practice emphasizes leadership development and career transitions utilizing a customized approach that highlights each person’s unique talents and thinking styles. She has a specific brain assessment tool that she uses with her clients to strengthen their leadership skills.

Jan has over 25 years of experience in large corporations and she has served on boards for a number of professional, private and non-profit organizations. She is currently a small business owner. She has degrees in sociology and law, certificates in mediation, coaching, diversity and HR development. She has a wealth of experience which has prepared her to be a versatile and trusted advisor. Jan also has a J.D., Juris Doctor from Western State University, Fullerton, and Organizational management from the University of Phoenix. She’s a certified career transition coach, a certified parenting coach, and a graduate of the Hudson Institute, a coaching school in Santa Barbara.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  Tell us a little bit about what kind of clients you work with. I know you are faculty on the Hudson Institute, so give us kind of an overview.

Jan Newcomb: Actually, probably if I was to boil them down I would say that there are three kinds of clients that I work with most frequently. One would be what I call emerging leaders. These are the young, bright, well-educated but not yet well-seasoned with life experience people that are moving into management slots.

I work with them in a process that probably would be, I would say, similar to a lot of corporate on-boarding kinds of assignments where I work one-on-one in an educational process to help them understand their strengths and to shift from the individual contributor role to the one of motivating others.

The second category is what I call a seasoned leader who needs fine-tuning. Very often how I work with them is to shadow them and observe their interactions especially with their team. I then provide them objective feedback based on what I see that they are doing well and what they could do better.

What very often happens is that subordinates really are reluctant to give their boss feedback, especially if it is negative. So there is a bit of a fear based situation there. Then peers, especially if it’s a very competitive situation which certainly the job market is these days, are unlikely to be helpful as well. I am really just working with them helping them become more effective leaders.

The third category is what I call leaders becoming mentors. I have a very strong bias in terms of believing that the baby boomers really have a responsibility to mentor the next generation of emerging leaders and so I am working on convincing them that that should be their role and helping them step into it.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Do you deal with these folks typically through your own consulting firm?

Jan Newcomb: Yes.

Dr. Relly Nadler: In your book Adapt: How to Survive and Thrive in a Changing World, you say there are two fundamental types of leadership requirements. Then you separate qualities and competencies. For our listeners, can you explain how you see the difference of the two?

Jan Newcomb: I believe that leadership qualities are things that are useful in any kind of leadership role. They are probably more value based, more enduring, and probably more about who you are—sort of the being of you. For instance an example would be honesty, integrity, humility, things like that.

Competencies are more situational and more skill based. They really have more to do with the doing side of leadership. I see those kinds of things as related to the competencies and strengths that we deal with in the BTSA.

Dr. Relly Nadler: The qualities are more the traits that somebody has, inborn, and then the competencies seem like situational skills like you were saying, things people can learn more and get better at.

Jan Newcomb: Yes. I do believe that we have inborn strengths but you can also develop competencies, really in any area, depending on how much time you want to spend.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  Let’s talk a little bit about this assessment that you use, The Benziger Thinking Styles Assessment (BTSA). Maybe you can give us a little bit of a history about that and then of all of the different tools, why did you select it? I know that, like myself, I’m certified in different things; what was it that attracted you about it?

Jan Newcomb: It’s interesting. I was working in training and development and the first assignment I had was my boss saying, “You know there are so many tools out there, why don’t you go out and try them all and tell me which one we should be using.” That’s what I did and I came back and I said that I found this one tool that I think is really, really interesting.

The two things that I think are especially good about it are that it’s a very versatile tool. You don’t have to have 10 different tools. One telling you your leadership style, one for telling you about your conflict style, and all of these different things. You can look at this result and translate your profile into how that will show up in a conflict situation and how that will show up in a leadership situation. It’s very versatile in that regard.

The other very important piece which was a great value to me when I was doing a lot of career development work in the corporation is that it will show you your natural thinking style, and then it will also show you your developed competencies and give you a reading on how aligned those two things are.

So are you living true to type as we say, or are you falsifying type which is something that Dr. Jung talked about a bit. I find that extremely valuable when you are doing career development work with someone, it’s normally because they are feeling a bit—I’m doing well, I’m making a lot of money, something doesn’t feel quite right and they are really searching for some answers. I would say probably over 90 percent of the people that I profiled when I was still in a large corporate environment that all came for career development counseling, were all falsifying type and that is why they were confused.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So falsifying type—you said Carl Jung came up with that—what does that mean? Does that mean not using their strengths?

Jan Newcomb: What they do is that they develop competencies in areas that are not their natural strength. There’s nothing wrong with that but when you do it to the point where you are leading with a thinking style that isn’t your natural style, it puts a lot of stress on your physiology. As you get older it definitely wears you down and we believe it can create disease.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Tell us a little bit more about how the BTSA evolved and then some of the strengths because it looks like it’s all about where you are in your brain.

Jan Newcomb: Right. How your brain processes information.  Carl Jung really is probably the most well-known person that came up with some of these theories. As I understand it, Dr. Bezinger’s mother worked with Jung or someone worked with Jung, I’m not sure the exact relationship there, but the bottom line is that Dr. Bezinger believed in what Dr. Jung said but she also realized that people in the business community and other places were looking for hard data to prove what people say is true. She set out, and I can’t really tell you all of the details of what she did, but she basically did a lot of investigation and related a lot of the current neurophysiology information regarding the brain and she has come up with a way to measure through her questionnaire how your brain actually processes information. In explaining the four different thinking styles it is related to Jung. So, the frontal right, which is what you and I both are, that corresponds to Jung’s intuition function and those people excel at pattern analysis and inventing. Now if you are extroverted you are likely to be an entrepreneur or a marketing person or something that is obviously more talkative. Whereas, if you are an introverted frontal right you would be someone like Dr. Benzinger who is a scientist and who does a lot of her pattern analysis internally.

A frontal left—you see an awful lot of frontal lefts that are living true to type and are attorneys, they are doctors, operational managers, military leaders; they excel at logical analysis and decision making, they are very task oriented. They are very, very black and white and fact oriented. Their emotional connection is not apparent. In other words, they would not be the people that would be considered to be strong in terms of the emotional intelligence. They aren’t emotional, they just don’t express the same way as the more right brain people.

Dr. Relly Nadler: And would they, using the Myers Briggs, they would obviously be more thinking than feeling, it sounds like. Does it also correspond with the S and the N. You are talking about the frontal right?

Jan Newcomb: Yes. Let me finish the two other thinking styles and then I’ll talk a bit about the Myers Briggs.

The basal right is the feeling function that correspondences with Jung’s feeling function and they excel at harmonizing, connecting, building rapport, empathetic listening, establishing trust and so forth.

The basal left corresponds with Jung’s sensing function and excels at sequencing and performing routines, so if you want somebody, for instance, to do your taxes, balance your checkbook, make sure somebody follows the rules, you don’t want to talk to one of us, you want to talk to the basal left.

With the Myers Briggs, I think what I would say about it is that it has been my experience if someone, and this is probably true of all of the assessments, if someone is living true to type you are going to get a pretty accurate answer from almost any assessment. Where the problem arises, is that if someone is falsifying type–say they are a totally right brained individual but they have developed left brain competencies in order to succeed in a left brain corporate environment, you are going to get an answer; it will be accurate to the extent that yes, this is the way that I’m using my brain today, but it’s not accurate in that it is not a natural alignment.

Jan Newcomb: A good example is, I would say that I’ve taken the Myers Briggs 4 times, the first time I was a ENTJ, the second time I was ENTP, the third time I was an ENFP, forth time I was an ENFJ. What I realized was that it was accurate with regard to how I was currently operating, because for instance when I was in law school I was much more ENTJ. When I was an ombudsman I was much more FP. So, you can see that the emphasis and the competency development can shift depending on what you are emphasizing at any particular time. But, it’s important to know what is natural so that you make the best use of your strengths.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I know these days with the Step II in Myers Briggs, hopefully it would delineate that a little bit so that there would be a little less discrepancy when you take it over and over.

Jan Newcomb: I think the only danger is that sometimes somebody will take the Myers Briggs test and they’ll get an answer and think that’s it and they go away and don’t get the rest of the information.

What’s your level of Introversion or extroversion? Where do you fall within the four thinking styles? Are you falsifying your type? Hear more about the BTSA. Listen to the complete recording or our discussion without commercials, above.


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