A Vocabulary for Coaching and Development

A Common Language for Preferences and Interests

Processes for job selection, succession planning, and coaching require a vocabulary of competencies, capacities, and preferences and interests. Many organizations and training programs spend a good deal of time to define key success factors for their employees or graduates. Skills and abilities are clustered into competency lists that reflect organizational requirements. These are often merged into descriptions of an organizational culture and reflected in documents used for employee engagement and for marketing the enterprise to prospective employees. Capacities are more than core competencies and reflect development potential within the talent pool.

When it comes to preferences and interests, it is common for organizations and individuals to conflate these with competencies or capacities. This conflation can result in confusing terms and language where the individual feels judged, misunderstood, or straight jacketed. Personal preferences and interests run the gamut from a "leaning" to an "obsession," but they do not necessarily correlate with behavior as a competency does. Individuals can indulge a preference or interest or keep it out of the workplace or their personal life. Often their behavior and choices will reflect their preferences and interests, but this is not necessarily so. It is defensible to say that the stronger a preference or interest, the more likely the individual is to actually behave in ways that reflect it. Human Patterns offers defines 206 preferences and interests. While these are by no means a complete listing, they at least offer the coach or developmental specialist a specific vocabulary that can be shared and discussed with individuals and can inform or shape organizational roles and functions. Each graph in a full Human Patterns report has a legend associated with it that explains the terms illustrated by the graph. This leads to productive discussion about the pattern of preferences and interests displayed in the graph. While many graphs correlate to some extent with common models or theories of personality types or styles, the Human Patterns administrator is trained to focus on the term itself - the vocabulary - within the context of the current group as well as all the other preferences disclosed through an administration. When the administrator does this well, both the administrator and the subject who completed the inventory can have a dialogue about proportion and weight using language that does not require the subject to have specialized training in psychological theories or models, just to be a literate user of the English language. Fluency in English is thus preferable for reception of coaching information or direction.


A. Laffoley

Academic Program Director Raleigh- Durham, NC

I used the Human Patterns Inventory in the development program for high potential senior leaders and recommend it as an effective tool as part of any comprehensive employee development program. In my opinion an important differentiator of this tool is the light it shines on the switches that may occur in our behavior when we are in reaction mode (e.g. in a stressful situation). Bringing awareness to where this occurs is invaluable to an individual’s personal development.

K. Jobe

Executive Recruiter Charlotte, North Carolina Area

I have used the Human Patterns as an internal recruiter as well as during client “coaching” engagements. It is the most comprehensive psychometric test that I have ever worked with. I highly recommend this tool to any organization that is committed to talent optimization.

F. Christian

Managing Director Chicago, IL

Human Patterns is a rare exception among assessment tools. Most are simplistic and slipshod, more mirrors of their creators' craniums than windows into one's own. Human Patterns has a richness that allows me to start meaningful conversations with the hidden high potentials I work with, who after years of severe underemployment have lost sight of themselves and their unique ways of working with the world. I'm so enthusiastic I now require it for new clients to shortcut to solutions.