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Using Assessments to Create Breakthroughs in Coaching

Apex’s philosophy for development is to employ a variety of assessments.  We believe that assessments create real “AHA” moments for people and can really jump start professional development by creating radical self-awareness moments. This is true for training as well as Executive Coaching.

When working with our coaching clients, we usually employ a variety of assessments to begin the engagement.  This allows us, as the coach, to get to know the coachee and their strengths and weaknesses.  It also helps us give them critical feedback and insights that will accelerate their growth and development.  Below are some of our most commonly used assessments and what insights they provide to us and our coaching clients.

DISC INVENTORY: Behavioral Styles

The DISC focuses on behavioral styles and helps us to understand how people behave normally and when they adapt to their work environment.  This inventory allows the coachee to see how they are perceived by other people and when used well, it gives them insights into how they can flex their style to be more successful with individuals who have different styles.  This can be very powerful in terms of successfully working with co-workers, boss’ and direct reports.

As a coach, we use the DISC to help people predict how other styles may respond to certain situations.  This information is a great tool that allows us to coach our clients to develop strategies, in advance, on how to engage with those styles that are most different to their own.  We coach a lot of sales leaders and the DISC is also very useful in helping sales people understand the needs of their clients and adapt their sales approach to fit that context.  Overall, the DISC is a great coaching tool to use on Day 1 of a coaching engagement; as it helps both the coach and the coachee to begin the process with impact.

360 DEGREE ASSESSMENTS: Performance Feedback

360’s are a great addition to the data uncovered in the DISC.  Whereas the DISC focuses on the Behavioral Styles of the individual, 360’s give information on how the individual is performing in specific areas of their job.  Performance Data is arguably the most important information that a coach needs to really help their clients grow in the right areas.  What a 360 does is to uncover perceptions of performance from all angles: peers, direct reports, customers, and the boss. A robust 360 process should be the essential building block to creating a targeted Development Plan.

360’s take many different forms and should be chosen to fit the needs of the coachee.  There are dozens of on-line quantitative instruments that provide in depth feedback on where a person is performing at their best and where they are at their worst.  Many of these assessments also provide great developmental guidance on how to increase performance in the areas that a participant scores low in.  This can be an invaluable tool to a coach who is trying to assist their client on their Development Plan.

Another approach to generating 360-degree feedback is to use an interview model.  An experienced coach often finds that they can uncover much more information by interviewing people face to face and asking probative questions about their coachee’s performance.  This also has the added benefit of building rapport with some of the people that your client works with, which may help them in the long run.  After 18 years as a coach, I find 360 interviews to be a more robust data source than the quantitative assessments; with one exception.  If the person is resistant or defensive, then you definitely want the quantitative data that they can’t “run and hide from.”  Because the data are what they are and it isn’t just your opinion as the coach who is interpreting feedback.

 Emotional Intelligence: Management of People and Relationships

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships effectively.  It has been determined that while IQ is a weak predictor of achievement and job success, EQ is highly predictive of a persons’ success on the job.  IQ is also largely static over time, while EQ can improve with focus and effort.  Because of this fact, it is important to assess the Emotional Intelligence of our coaching clients.  Improving their EQ can lead to better relationships and higher levels of performance.

There are four underlying skills that make up a person’s Emotional Intelligence.  These are Self Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.  By assessing each of these skills a customized Development Plan can be created to focus on the skill that needs to be improved the most.  The coach can help the client implement strategies and techniques to develop that skill.  Enhancing even one skill in one’s EQ, can have very beneficial effects.


The use of assessments in Executive Coaching often create powerful, breakthrough moments for coachees.  These “AHA” moments are often the things that stick the most and positively affect the participant’s Self- Awareness and therefore their performance. We list just a few of the many assessments out there, and encourage our clients to implement the ones that are the best fit to their organization and specific, individual needs.

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