Example Assessment Tools Used in Executive Coaching
|Assessment Tool||Construct Measured|
|Benchmarks||360/ Multisource Ratings|
|Cultural Orientation Index (COI)||Cultural Style Preference|
|DISC Profile||Behavioral Styles|
|Emotional Intelligence Appraisal||Emotional Intelligence|
|Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIROB)||Interpersonal Needs|
|Hogan Business Reasoning Inventory (HBRI)||Reasoning Skills|
|Hogan Development Survey (HDS)||De-Railers|
|Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI)||Personality|
|Kirton Adaptive Innovation Inventory (KAI)||Innovation Preferences|
|Leadership Assessment Centers||Leadership Dimensions|
|Learning Style Inventory (LSI)||Learning Style|
|Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory (MVPI)||Values|
|Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)||Personality|
|Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI)||Conflict and Calm Styles|
|Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI)||Conflict Style|
|Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA)||Critical Thinking Skills|
In its 2013 annual report on executive coaching practices, Sherpa Coaching reported an increase in the use of assessments in executive coaching, compared to previous years’ survey results (sherpacoaching.com). The survey results indicated that 80% of the 2013 executive coach survey respondents reported using one or more of the following five most popular assessment tools: 360 degree rating tools, MBTI, emotional intelligence, DISC, and StrengthsFinder (sherpacoaching.com).
Evaluating the measurement and administration characteristics of the assessment tool is a first step in deciding whether a particular assessment should be part of a coach’s toolkit. As reported in Herd & Russell (2010), questions to consider when evaluating an assessment tool include the following:
- What construct does the assessment tool purport to measure?
- Is this construct a competency, skill, or characteristic that is important for meeting the client’s goals?
- How effectively does the tool measure what it purports to measure?
- How easy is the tool to use and understand, by both the coach and client? Does the tool require certification before it can be used?
- How much does the assessment tool cost?
While all of the questions above present important criteria for evaluating an assessment tool, the question that may be most challenging for coaches to answer is the third one, regarding how well the assessment measures what it purports to measure. This question addresses the issue of reliability and validity of measurement, and requires evaluation of a data report of the correlation coefficients found in a well-designed study of the assessment instrument. A correlation coefficient of r=1.0 represents perfect reliability and criterion-related validity, with acceptable internal consistency reliability estimates generally considered to be above r=.7, and acceptable criterion-related validity estimates largely determined by statistical significance (psychometrics reference ). Reputable assessment providers are usually eager to share these statistics when asked for the technical manual accompanying the assessment tool; however, these manuals are rarely accessible on the website or tool’s marketing materials.
In summary, a wide variety of assessment tools are available for coaches’ use in their coaching practices. The first steps in deciding whether to use a particular coaching assessment tool relate to evaluating the purpose, measurement properties, ease of use, and cost of the assessment tool. Many of these considerations can be evaluated by studying the website materials or requested technical manual provided by the tool provider. Other important steps in deciding whether and how to use assessment tools involve consideration of the underlying feedback mechanisms associated with the client’s reception and use of assessment results. These will be briefly reviewed in the next section.
Assessment Feedback Processes in the Coaching Engagement
One fundamental purpose for feedback in any context is to increase the feedback-receiver’s self-awareness (Silverman et al., 2005). Likewise, increased self-awareness has been argued to be a primary and foundational goal in executive coaching (Kilburg, 1996; Van Velsor, 1998), and is thought to be particularly important for leaders in today’s global, multi-cultural, and knowledge-based workplaces (Ashford, Blatte, & VandeWalle, 2003; Drucker, 1999; Goleman, 1998). As suggested by Drath & Van Velsor (2006), “a key role of the coach is to help the leader gain clarity about themselves” (p. 3). With regard to assessment feedback in coaching, Ting and Hart (2004) suggest that “assessment is an “unfreezing” process that enables the coachee to see herself differently or become more aware of how she affects others” (p. 8).
The extensive research domain relating to feedback processes in organizations, and how and why employees seek and respond to feedback, can inform the executive coach who is deciding whether, when, and how to incorporate assessment tools into a particular coaching engagement. Research on the purposes and functions served by feedback, as well as on factors affecting how employees seek and respond to feedback, is reviewed below as it relate to the use of assessments in executive coaching.
The psychological factors affecting a client’s reception and use of assessment feedback are of paramount importance in deciding whether and how to incorporate assessment feedback into a coaching engagement process. Seminal research by Ilgen, Fisher, and Taylor (1979), for example, suggest that before a person changes their behavior as a result of feedback, they must first perceive the feedback, accept the feedback, and desire and intend to respond to the feedback. From a coaching client’s perspective, a variety of factors will affect each of these stages in the feedback process, including the client’s goals, current work situation, perceptions of the feedback source’s credibility, and personality and individual difference factors.
Feedback serves a variety of purposes for a client, including providing necessary information regarding the extent to which the client is meeting his/her performance goals (Ilgen et al., 1979). Feedback information about goal attainment may include information about how effectively the client is performing relative to an absolute standard (e.g. meeting a deadline), as well as information about performance relative to others, and/or information about how his/her performance is being perceived and evaluated subjectively by others. For leaders today who are working in fast-changing and volatile organizational environments, performance information in all these forms is vitally important and, all factors being equal, is likely to be valued by a client. Indeed, research suggests that as performance goals become more salient (e.g. when a promotion is being decided, or when a large project is due), feedback becomes more valued and is sought more frequently (Ashford et al., 2003; Tuckey, Brewer, & Williamson, 2002).
While feedback is clearly a performance-enhancing resource and is necessary for the client’s achievement of goals, it may not always be desired or received favorably by a client. Clients may have conflicting motivations regarding feedback that they perceive will challenge their ego or positive self-regard or reputation (Ashford et al., 2003; Moss & Sanchez, 2004). In particular, feedback that is negative, or anticipated to be negative, may not be desired or sought by a client, especially if they are feeling less secure or confident, or if they question the credibility of the feedback source (Ilgen et al., 1979; Moss & Sanchez, 2004). Likewise, using concepts from the transtheoretical model of change, it is likely that clients will be less respondent to feedback when they are in the precontemplative or early stages of change readiness (Prochaska & Prochaska, 2001), and when they are completely unaware of a performance deficiency (Kruger & Dunning, 1999).
On the other hand, studies suggest that clients are more likely to want and intend to respond to feedback from sources which they perceive as powerful (e.g. their manager), regardless of how credible they perceive the feedback message to be (Ilgen et al., 1979). As an example, if a client receives feedback in a 360 evaluation from their supervisor about needing to speak up more in meetings, the client is more likely set a goal of speaking up more in meetings even if they do not agree with the feedback.