Using Assessments to Benefit Coaching Clients and Organizations
Why Use Assessments?
Organizations use assessments for a variety of reasons. Pre-employment assessments are the most popular, but over the past several years many more assessments for leadership development purposes have become commercially available. Executive coaches use a large variety of assessments depending on the issues which present themselves within a coaching engagement. Assessments are quite often used to validate what a client or coach already believes are strengths or opportunities. Why use assessments if the issues may already be known? The main reason for assessment use is to provide a model for dialogue that helps the client see themselves from an objective or fact-based viewpoint.
The executive coach can then focus on asking how the client wants to change behavior considering the feedback versus the coach’s opinion. With the above thought in mind, there are five primary reasons why organizations should consider using assessments in the coaching process.
1. Assessments provide a good starting place in the coaching process.
Coaches know little about a client before they begin a coaching engagement. In the beginning, clients may not have awareness of areas where they want to amplify strengths or make improvements. Assessments can show observations and themes from others that are great launching points for the coach and client.
Example: A coach began a coaching engagement with very little advance knowledge of the candidate from the sponsor or manager. The client happened to have completed a Myers-Briggs assessment (MBTI) four months ago. The coach used the existing data from the Myers-Briggs to better understand the personality type of the client and asked questions that helped validate the assessment results. The Myers-Briggs discussion laid a foundation to begin deeper probing of the client’s goals for the coaching engagement.
2. Assessments help people discover who they are and how they project to others. Gaining self-awareness is often one of the most helpful early steps in the coaching process. Most people believe they understand themselves better than they really do. Our understanding is often based on how we want to be perceived rather than how we really are seen by others. Assessments provide a safe and confidential way for people to learn about who they really are and how they interact with others.
Example: An executive coach worked with a client who displayed many “command and control” mannerisms but seemed to have no awareness of this behavior. The coach suggested both an informal 360 interview process with the client’s direct reports and an emotional intelligence inventory. The verbatim comments from the interviews were well supported by the low emotional intelligence scores on self-awareness. Through both data points, the coach and client entered a robust brainstorming discussion on how the client could display less controlling and more empowering behaviors.
3. Assessments can validate feedback received through other channels. Prior to a coaching engagement, a client may have received feedback from a manager or direct report about his or her behavior or performance. Assessments are great tools to validate others’ feedback and better understand the importance of using that information for improvement.
Example: Prior to a first meeting with a client, the manager and sponsor provided the executive coach with lengthy feedback about a client’s tendency to be over-focused on tactics vs. strategy. Because the client was being promoted to a higher level, there was some concern about her being able to be more strategic in her new broader responsibilities. The coach suggested using an assessment called the Leadership Versatility Index (LVI), which is uniquely focused on measuring strategy vs. tactics focus by senior executives. The feedback from the LVI survey validated the manager’s concern and served as a starting point for the ensuing coaching discussions.
4. Assessments can help an organization speak a common language regarding leadership development. Developing leaders can be a complicated process with terminology that may not be equally understood by all in the organization. Some assessments can provide a common language that leaders can use to describe behavior in simpler, more consistent terms. Using assessments with a common language can often create a verbal shorthand for identifying behaviors and discussing them without lengthy explanations or misunderstandings.
Example: After receiving personal feedback on the Myers-Briggs assessment, an executive client wanted to introduce the concept to his team. The coach then conducted a team coaching session where team members took their own Myers-Briggs assessment and then compared their profiles with others to better understand how to work together. Because of the common language of personality types within the MBTI, the client and his team were able to hold fruitful discussions on how they would better work together on team projects.
5. Assessments can help determine if progress has been made through coaching. Some assessments can be used as a pre- and post-measurement for coaching outcomes. This can be helpful when comparing the same measured attributes across time to see if real behavioral progress has been made. The most frequently used assessment for measuring time-based improvement is simple interviews, where the stakeholders are asked how much relative improvement has been made against a set of behavioral goals. The added benefit of this kind of assessment is the message it sends the stakeholders about the client’s commitment to improvement.
Example: An executive coach interviewed a client’s nine direct reports at the beginning of a coaching engagement. The coach asked specific questions about the client’s desired behavior change area. Six months later, at the conclusion of the coaching engagement, the coach re-interviewed the direct reports and asked the same questions, focusing on how well the client had either improved or regressed over time. After collecting the data, the coach was able to show the client areas of progress and what areas needed further emphasis.
How can coaching help you find out more about yourself with the right assessment, so you can achieve what’s next?
This post is an excerpt from the book, Accelerating Leadership, co-authored by Lance Hazzard and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., published in June 2019. Information regarding which assessments organizations use most and much more is included in the book. More information can be found at www.acceleratingleadershipbook.com
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Find out more about Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at www.oppnacoaching.com