Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Sydney Business School


Personality has long been recognised as a significant predictor of many important life outcomes. As such it affects most aspects of our lives. Previously a sizable body of research has focused on demonstrating the relationship between personality and consequential outcomes. More recently, however, the literature has suggested it is time to consider exploring the feasibility of intentionally changing personality in beneficial ways.

Exploration of such interventions in populations without major psychopathology, however, is recent and limited. This may reflect a common view that personality is not amenable to change; nor is endeavouring to change it helpful. Over the last decade research has increasingly suggested that personality change may well be possible. This, in turn, has highlighted the need to address a number of related questions: For example, is personality amenable to intentional change, and if so does this translate into tangible life benefits? What type of practitioners would logically undertake such change interventions within a normal population (e.g., coaching or counselling/therapy)? What processes and resources are needed to responsibly achieve such change? How would clients/research participants experience intentional personality change (e.g., would they experience it as helpful or hindering)?

This thesis endeavours to answer these questions. I provide an argument that intentional personality change, though not empirically tested in the past, appears likely to be both amenable to change and beneficial, based on related literature (e.g., how we change in different social contexts, and how a range of short term interventions have resulted in positive incidental personality change). Coaching, it is argued, is a suitable context to explore this possibility with clients without major psychopathology. A model of personality (big five/five-factor) and measure (NEO PI-R) for assessing such change is suggested and described. I recommend that change be targeted at the facet level. Finally, I identify the need for resource development to further the empirical exploration of intentional personality change within a coaching context.

In Chapter 3, I describe the development of a set of resources designed to empirically explore intentional personality change coaching. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a panel of coaches/psychologists (experts), in order to develop coaching interventions for each of the 30 facets within the NEO PI-R. Further consultation with a sub-group of this panel led to the development of a stepwise process of intentional personality change coaching, outlined in Chapter 3, and other coach training material outlined in Personality Change Coaching Training Manual: A Resource for Coaches.

In Chapter 4, I discuss an empirical study that investigated the hypothesis that application of the above resources over 10 sessions of coaching would facilitate change on client selected personality facets. Fifty four participants were randomly assigned to a waitlist or a coaching group. Participants in the coaching group achieved significantly greater change on selected facets over the 10 week coaching program. Age, gender and number of facets targeted did not significantly predict change on ATSS. The findings of this study support the hypothesis that application of the personality change coaching resources developed can facilitate change on client chosen personality facets.

In Chapter 5, I explore clients' experiences of personality change coaching. A qualitative design, employing inductive thematic analysis was used. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 32 individuals who had participated in the personality change coaching program. The themes that emerged were as follows: personality coaching promotes reflection, leading to greater self-awareness; it fosters an authentic self and values consistent way of living, without loss of valued aspects of identify; it produces tangible real life benefits including enhanced confidence and competence, and strengthens ability to relate to others; and most clients viewed the coaching program as enjoyable, positive and beneficial.

Professional considerations of conducting personality change interventions in a coaching environment are discussed. The combined findings from Chapters 3 and 4 suggest that a structured coaching process can facilitate change on client chosen personality facets, and that such change is viewed as worthwhile and practically relevant by participants.

As exploration of intentional personality change is in its infancy, the studies included in this thesis should be viewed as preliminary, and a number of limitations are discussed throughout the chapters. Nevertheless, the current studies provide an important foundation for this emerging area of research.