Assessments In Coaching: Why, And Which Ones?

Dr. Ron Young, the Co-Founder/Chief Science Officer and lead psychologist of PAIRIN, specializes in professional coaching and development.

After years of blending the disciplines of counseling psychology, leadership and executive coaching, I have found this integrated approach to consistently achieve superior results, especially when paired with a well-researched, proven assessment to use with my coaching clients. Graduate programs for counseling psychology require extensive education and experience on the correct use of assessments.

I have found that in instances where I worked with clients whose previous coach used assessments without sufficient training, it created confusing misinformation. In several situations, the misuse of assessments created episodes of derailing distress.

When used by an appropriately trained professional, assessments provide deeper insights more quickly than could be achieved without using assessments. I’ve also found the use of assessments to often create epiphanies surprisingly early in the client relationship.

Research demonstrates that assessments are widely used in coaching. Experts estimate there are more than 5,000 psychological assessments in the English language. Personally, my five-drawer filing cabinet is filled with different assessments. But maybe that’s just me? Sidenote: Hi, my name is Ron, and I’m an assessment geek!

One study investigating the use of psychometrics in coaching reported that assessments increase the coach’s understanding of their coachee and they can provide “the ‘most powerful take away’ to coachees in terms of generating better self-insight and awareness.” McDowall and Smewing (2009) found that the use of psychometrics is beneficial to the coach, coachee and the coaching process.

In my experience, assessments help the coach have a better understanding of their clients. They also provide greater self-insight and self-awareness to coachees. Assessments help clients organize their self-perceptions and create actionable goals with a more complete understanding of themselves.

My clients report the “head start” and greater ongoing self-understanding that assessments provide are among the most powerful takeaways from their coaching engagement. Most of the time, I ask my clients to complete an assessment before our second session and debrief their results in the next session. This process opens important areas for discussion and provides structure to our coaching sessions.

By utilizing assessments, I gain in-depth knowledge and understanding of my clients and do so more rapidly. My clients use the unique insights provided by assessments to help guide their reflection and move them toward their goals. Without assessments, coaches are more prone to pursuing goals that are only symptoms of an underlying cause. By focusing on the areas of greatest return on time, money and effort investment, I get to important foundational issues faster and with greater clarity.

When selecting an assessment, I make sure that it has published reliability and validity studies. As a coach, you should only use assessments that have been well researched and validated. Next, I determine whether the assessment is likely to create unique insights that will add value to the coaching process. If the assessment results are either redundant or unrelated to coaching goals, do not use it. It’s also critically important to only use assessments for their intended purpose. When driving nails, don’t use a screwdriver when a hammer is the correct tool for the job.

Not all assessments are created equal, nor are all coaches equally prepared to interpret and provide assessment feedback. Only use assessments that you have the necessary qualifications to use in your coaching practice. The minimum qualifications are understanding what it measures and feedback training. Some psychometric experts, myself included, believe that a coach’s feedback skills are as important as the selection of the assessment instrument. Consider the quality of the assessment’s reports. I choose assessments whose reports are easy to understand and difficult to misinterpret. Another important factor to consider is ease of use. Only use assessments that require an hour or less to complete. Personally, I prefer those that require 30 minutes or less. The longer the assessment, the greater the diminishing return on investment.

I want to once again stress the importance of having proper training when debriefing coaching clients on an assessment. I have observed disastrous results from an ill-equipped coach providing inaccurate information when debriefing a client and/or debriefing a client who was not equipped to hear the information contained in the report. It seems obvious, but in my opinion, coaches should not offer services that are outside their competence.

Without assessments, coaching clients can use the coaching process to help them view themselves in a mirror. With assessments, clients can view themselves in a three-way mirror, like those used in dressing rooms, providing insights, perspectives and a more thorough understanding of themselves. These types of deep insights are difficult to achieve without assessments, and that’s why I always use and encourage all coaches to use assessments in their coaching practice.

1. Combine Gifts, Passions And Innovation

Know who you are today by doing a fresh analysis of your gifts and passions. Use the results of your analysis as your lens for identifying unmet needs in the business world. Think outside the box by breaking away from conventional wisdom. Combining your gifts and passions with innovative ideas is foundational to a successful business that meets your and your consumers’ needs. – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.

2. Gain Clarity And Choose Metrics For Success

I’ve had numerous pro-service clients do this, and most of them have considered it. The most important thing is to have clarity about why you want to start a business. The second thing is to very carefully choose the metrics that will indicate to yourself that you are succeeding. Your “why” and your metrics will keep you grounded when the going gets tough—and it will. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

3. Leverage Your Experience And Do A SWOT Analysis

Know your strengths, be clear on your personal motivation and leverage your current experience and insights that you have developed over the years in your industry. Think about the pains and gains your clients have experienced and gaps that have not been filled. I also recommend doing a SWOT analysis to gain clarity and alignment and to determine the value proposition. – Breshana Miller, Kairos Coaching & Consulting, LLC

4. Brainstorm With Close Friends

You can’t hesitate or keep your new business too close to your chest. You need to brainstorm with your closest friends, your professional network and those whom you trust. Bounce your ideas off of others and see if they resonate. What do they think your new business is worth? Who do they think the customers would be? Do they know someone who would buy? Have that conversation 100 times and get to work. – Jacob Warwick, ThinkWarwick

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

5. Match The Commercial Proposition With The Value You Offer

It is important to match the commercial proposition with the value that you are offering. Before leaving, start researching the potential market to ensure there is a real need. When you are clear on the commercial viability, you can reverse-engineer the process to ensure the proposition fits with your personal drive and passion. – Claudine Reid, PJ’s Community Service

6. Have A Strong Support System In Place

Being an entrepreneur and working for a corporation require different mindsets. To sustain the personal drive and passion, it helps to have a strong support system in place—people who are just as passionate and driven as you and believe in the success of the new business, such as friends, a mastermind group or an experienced coach who can ensure there is a balance between work and personal well-being. – Masha Malka, The One Minute Coach

7. Don’t Follow Your Passion—Bring It To An Opportunity

Don’t follow your passion. I’d rather you bring your passion and drive to an opportunity. The first step is finding a way to improve lives in exchange for profit, then apply your natural passion and drive to improve as many of those lives as possible as efficiently as possible. Because when you do that really well, vision, momentum, growth and, eventually, profit are the results. – David Robertson, Growthpoint Coaching Co.

8. Leverage What Makes You Irreplaceable

You need to clarify the market need for what you do via research, interviews and more. In regard to fulfilling your own needs, a reflective, holistic approach is required to uncover your own personal wants, needs and values to be successful. And above all else, you must uncover something that makes you irreplaceable in the market that you serve. Get all those right and then go for it! – Linda Martin, Linda Martin Results

9. Connect With Your Four Selves

First connect with your four selves—intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical—and be crystal clear about your purpose and commitment to it. Launching a new venture requires all your energy and commitment. Sometimes, it’s rough. Second, get deep input and feedback from those around you—both your trusted network and your more fearless critics. The wider the scope, the richer the insights. – Luis Costa, Luis Costa – coach · facilitator · speaker

10. Enroll Clients To Help Craft Your Company Vision

Get connected to your purpose, build a business plan around your core values and enroll the customers you want to serve to help craft the company vision. In doing this, you will likely find that your needs and the needs of your future customers are very aligned. Trust that a successful launch will follow and that you will have a tribe of allies ready to offer guidance and support when needed. – Emily Rogers, Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching

11. Outline The Customer Journey And Your Sales Funnel

First, outline the customer journey to define the scope of their need. Second, outline your marketing and sales funnel. If you are not excited to do that, hire someone who is or don’t launch. If the idea of selling and marketing for hours every week does not excite you, pursue a hobby instead. Third, if you don’t have the drive or passion to build a business, get a dog. The dog will love you back every day. – Kelly Tyler Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

12. Experiment With A Minimum Viable Product

Take small steps. Too many people get sucked into the entrepreneurial dream without realizing how tough it can be. I would suggest experimenting with the product—take a minimum viable product (MVP) to the market and get feedback. Leaning on your personal drive, experiment with your own business identity. Too many people overestimate their passion and drive and underestimate the challenge. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

13. Take An Inside-Out Approach

Start with your mission and vision. I believe, as a coach, taking an inside-out approach where executives can start exploring their passion as well as what they would see as success for this new endeavor is key. Then, we can explore the marketplace and how this would be sustained as a successful business by developing a strategic business plan. Allow your personal drive to set the tone for success. – Bryan Powell, Executive Coaching Space

14. Build A Business Around Your Retirement Dreams

Start by thinking about your retirement. If you grew your business and sold it for a killing, what would you then be doing in life? At that point, when you wouldn’t have to think about money and profits, what would you be doing with your time? That’s what you should build your business around. It’s bound to be an area where a strong customer or market need is coupled with your own passion and drive. – Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting

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