What Kinds of Assessments Do I Need as Part of My coaching?

When you want to develop yourself as a manager or leader you need data about you and the organizations in which you have worked, are working, and will work in the future. Every executive coaching case requires its own unique set of data based on the actionable data which already exists, the goals of the coaching, and the availability and practicality of gathering the information.

Most executive coaching situations require data on you and your organization or the system in which you work: Past, present and future. Some cases focus primarily on gathering and analyzing data to help you make decisions. The major focus of other situations is more on using what you and your coach already know to improve what you do and/or help you to achieve key business objectives. The following is an overview of the major categories of data, which are commonly collected as part of executive coaching. Work with your coach, your boss, HR professionals in your organization, and others to help decide which data is needed in your case and can be collected from a practical standpoint.

Data About You

Your Past

You know your past from your viewpoint. Your coach can help you step back and work with you to review your past from a more objective perspective. Usually, this is done through a combination of structured interviews of you and others with whom you have worked and interacted, a review of your resumes and other records of your life and work, and surveys about your life and work and how your view those experiences. By working with your coach the two of you can come to a new awareness of the patterns in your life and work, how they may have affected you and your environment, and their implications on your current and future thinking, feeling, and behavior. By truly understanding your past you can better understand what drives you today, how you can best deal with current challenges, and how you can change to more effectively address future opportunities.

It is especially important to let your coach know about previous coaching and developmental experiences you have had and the conclusions and changes, which took place as a result. This will allow you and your coach to leverage those past activities and what you have learned so your new coaching can take advantage of your past developmental experiences.

Data on You- Present

Normative assessments and surveys of you and people with whom you work are one of the best ways to come to an objective sense of who you are, what you do, and how it affects your success at work. They are instruments where norms or averages have been established across large groups of people who you can compare yourself to. They help you compare yourself to other relevant groups. These standard tools come in the form of surveys, tests, questionnaires, interviews, and tasks so you can see how you perform and respond compared to established norms of representative sample groups of people. The following are some of the most common assessments used as part of executive coaching:

       Personality tests
    •   Interest inventories
    •   Style surveys
       Developmental assessments
       Skill inventories
       Feedback surveys

Most of these assessments take from ten to ninety minutes to complete. All but the feedback surveys are usually completed by you. Most of them include multiple choice questions. Your scores on these assessments are based on the degree to which your responses are within the typical range of responses by people similar to and different from you. For example, if you repeatedly answer questions on a personality assessment in ways which suggest that you see yourself as independent, the degree to which you get a high score on "independence" is not just based on how high your score is but also on how much higher it is compared to the average person in your comparison sample group (men vs. women, age group, years of experience, etc.). In addition, your score is also based on the degree to which people in the comparison group vary above and below the average. For example, if most people score relatively low and there is very little variation between people above and below that low average, then your relatively high score is interpreted as very high.

Test Validity and Reliability

Each assessment device has its own level of validity and reliability. The more it has been researched and proven to test what it says it tests and is accurate repeatedly in different situations, the more you can rely on it to accurately reflect who you are and how you compare to others on important criteria. Since each instrument has its own biases and works better with certain people than with others, it's usually good to use at least a couple of instruments for each thing you are evaluating in yourself to "cross-validate" the findings. By reviewing the results of all of your assessments, you and your coach can figure out what they mean and what they tell you about what you need to do in your coaching and future development.

Personality Assessments

Personality assessments, such as the 16PF or the Gilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey (GZ), usually tell you things about how you are built psychologically: How you tend to think, feel, and behave. They can also often help you better understand why you do what you do and what will be easy or difficult for you to change. For example, if you are naturally sensitive and warm with others you may find it easier to improve the way you listen and show you care about others. You will more likely come across as naturally having empathy and focusing on others. If you are less inclined to be sensitive and warm, you can still learn to be a better listener and focus on others more effectively. But it may take more time, be a bigger "stretch" for you, and look differently for you to show you care than someone else who is more naturally warm and sensitive.

Interest Inventories

Interest inventories, such as the Strong and Campbell, ask you about the degree to which you are interested in a variety of activities, jobs, people, courses, or topics. By comparing your levels of interest with those of others with similar and different characteristics and in different jobs and situations, the inventories can help you see what kinds of things you are more likely to enjoy and be motivated to do. For example, if you do not like routine activities, and you like routines much less than other people in certain jobs where routines make up a good part of the job, you may find it less enjoyable and more difficult to be energized by those kinds of jobs.

Style Surveys

Style surveys, such as the Myers-Briggs and DISC, usually ask you to choose between two or more options representing a select set of tendencies. For example, do you see yourself or find yourself doing things, which are more dependent vs. independent, planned vs. improvised, or taking charge vs. following others? By seeing the degree to which you consistently choose one set of options vs. the another, compared to the degree to which others select one of the options or another, you can gain insight into your combination of stylistic tendencies (are you more independent, practical, and action-oriented in most situations, or more dependent, theoretical, and careful thinking.) Style surveys help you understand how people with your style and other styles tend to think, feel and behave and how they can best interact with other people with similar or different styles.

Developmental Assessments

Developmental assessments, such as the CDREM and SCT, are usually completed in the form of interviews to help determine your developmental level. They help you to compare yourself to others along a continuum of development on one or more scales (self-awareness, cognitive development, etc.). By better understanding your developmental level, you and your coach can gain new insights into how you view your world. Your world view drives your assumptions, your decisions and your interpersonal relationships. It can help you determine what is reasonable for you to expect of yourself in your next stage of development. For example, if you find that you are focused on rules and principles as the primary criteria for whether you believe something is right or wrong (as opposed to the unique circumstances of a person or situation), you are more likely to be rigid and judge others based on your own mindset rather than taking into account what is called for by the people and situation at hand.

Skills Inventories

Skill inventories help you to evaluate yourself on skills required by your current or future areas of responsibility. They are as numerous as the number of skills needed in jobs. These inventories can take many forms: Card sorts, to identify priorities and perceived levels of competency; Job sample performance tests, where you perform tasks and are evaluated based on objective criteria; And paper-and-pencil tests where you are tested on mental acuity, math skills, your reactions to cases situations, or other job-related activities. Another form of assessment similar to skill inventories are surveys and interviews in which you and others rate your effectiveness on a variety of job functions: Leadership, communication, listening, vision, delegation, etc.. These 360-degree surveys allow you to compare how others view your effectiveness with their view others, how they would like you to perform, and how you see yourself.

Other Information about You

In addition to normative assessments it is also very important for you to share a variety of information with your coach about you:

       Your current role
       Areas of responsibility
       Career objectives
       Developmental priorities
       Important issues and situation you are dealing with in an out of your work

By understanding these facts and your perspective on your current situation, your coach can better grasp the context within which you must perform and want to develop yourself.

Data on You- Future

It is rare for any individual manager or leader to have quantitative or even qualitative data, which will help them to predict their own performance. But there are leading indicators which you and your coach can use to help you develop the most likely scenarios about you in your organization. Answers to the questions like the following can serve as leading indicators:

What is the pattern of relationships you have developed in your life and career?
How resilient have you been to changes in your business environment?
How well do you fit in with the culture of the organization in which you work?
What kinds of work activities have given you the greatest satisfaction?
What results have you achieved for your organization in the past six months, year, two years, five years?

By working with your coach and others to answer these and other similar questions you can develop scenarios to help you be realistic about your future and make the best decisions for you and your organization.

Data about Your Organization

The following is a sample of some of the many things your coach may need to understand about your organization.

Your Organization's Past

    •   Strategy
    •   Finances
    •   Customers
    •   Human Resources
    •   Changes
    •   Significant events
    •   Past leadership
    •   Organizational history
    •   Restructuring
    •   Reengineering
    •   Traditions
    •   Successes
    •   Failures
    •   Relevant news stories

Your Organization- Present

    •   Who's who
    •   Organizational charts
    •   Culture
    •   Business plans
    •   Team members and their roles and responsibilities
    •   Current business activities
    •   Recent events and immediate challenges

Your Organization- Projected Into the Future

    •   Likely scenarios of how things will roll out in the months and years ahead
    •   Predicted performance of people and businesses
    •   Anticipated accomplishments and difficulties to be faced
    •   Emerging technologies and innovations
    •   Economic trends and leading indicators
    •   Expected changes in your team and other key players
    •   Anything else that has a reasonable chance of happening with significant impact on you and the system within which you work

Updating Your Coach on Changes in Your Organization

Since most executive coaching projects last for months, it is guaranteed that the information your share about you and your organization, present and predicted future, will change during the course of your coaching. Often people being coached forget that their coach is not "on the job" with them, day to day, to stay up to date on changes in their world. Your coach needs to work under the assumption that what you tell him or her at the beginning of coaching is "the way things are" as your coaching progresses unless you inform him or her of changes. By doing so, you can make a big difference in your coach's ability to serve your well.