Coaching Report

2017 February Coaching Report

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2017 February Coaching Report

This month we’re focused on leadership assessment.  Tom Peters, a famous management consultant and author, once said, “If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.”  Was he talking about leadership assessment?  No, but he could have been.  A definition of assessment from our own website, ‘the systematic gathering of data regarding areas of human functioning,’ simply and broadly captures the basic idea. In practice, however, this definition belies the breadth and complexity of the process in which multiple variables – the coach’s interaction with the leader and organization, the number and types of assessment instruments, managing the data, what outcomes to consider, and other factors - interact to either facilitate or hinder an effective assessment of the leader, and by extension, the success of the coaching engagement.

Our resources this month are aimed at three practical goals:

  • Helping you to appreciate the phases and range of options for a leadership assessment process: from engaging leaders on the assessment goals, through to measuring the effects of the assessment and refining the assessment process.
  • Helping you to understand both the upside and risks of assessment choices.
  • Giving you some tools for either getting started with conducting leadership assessments or finessing your approach.

We start with our webinar on February 27th with Tricia Naddaff on the risks and benefits of using coaching assessments.  With three decades of assessment and coaching experience, Tricia has the requisite expertise to highlight some key choices in assessment selection and use, as well as common blind spots and how coach and client can work together to reveal and mitigate these.

Our featured research paper, chosen for its broad appeal and readability, describes the challenges of orchestrating 360-degree feedback to produce sustainable behavior change.  It provides a simple, research-based taxonomy to not only improve your client’s chances of effecting behavior change, but to also detect and measure this change.  See this article, “When Does 360-Degree Feedback Create Behavior Change?  And How Would We Know it When It Does?”

Our suggested book Psychometrics in Coaching: Using Psychological and Psychometric Tools for Development, serves as an excellent resource on the selection and application of psychometric tools that are of value in leadership and other coaching contexts. It is aimed at both beginners and experienced practitioners.

Finally, please check out our online resources related to assessment, including master classes, podcasts, research articles and others!

The complexity and work around leadership assessment might be daunting.  But conducted effectively, the rewards speak for themselves: self-awareness, team alignment, and behavior change that serve both the individual and the organization.

Chip Carter
IOC Director of Operations and Marketing

When Does 360-Degree Feedback Create Behavior Change? And How Would We Know When It Does?  By Bracken, David and Rose, Dale in The Journal of Business Psychology, 2011, 26: 183 – 192.

Summary and Implications for Practice by Chip Carter, IOC Director of Operations and Marketing


This conceptual article surfaces the promises and pitfalls of 360-degree feedback methods and designs. What are the design elements of the feedback processes that facilitate behavior change? What are the conditions needed to detect those changes when they do occur?  The authors effectively illustrate the complexities of 360-degree feedback, noting that “…it’s meaningless to make any kind of blanket statement about the effectiveness of 360-degree feedback in creating [sustainable] behavior change since 360-degree feedback processes vary so widely.”  In fact, many studies suggest that behavior change is unaffected or even adversely affected by feedback designs which don’t respect feedback complexities and organization circumstances.

To avoid those outcomes, a systems view of behavior change is necessary; using feedback design factors that will increase the probability of realizing two goals. The first is aligned, sustainable behavior change across the most leaders in the organization. The second is sustaining the 360-degree process long enough to allow for repeated administration of it.

Four critical feedback design factors will promote these two objectives (sustainable behavior change and sustainable 360 process):

  1. Relevant content: Design and use instruments (custom, if necessary) tailored to the business and people strategies of that organization. By exposing raters and ratees to organizational values, desired leadership behaviors, and so on, engagement and motivation can increase.
  2. Credible data: Encourage reliable data and the perception of good data by selecting enough raters carefully, professionally constructed instruments, appropriate rating scales, rater training, etc.
  3. Accountability: This is essential in moving ratees from “acceptance” (accepting that the feedback is accurate and valuable in guiding future behavior) to sustained behavior change.  Accountability is bolstered by leader follow-up and other factors, but difficult to observe and measure.
  4. Census (organization wide) participation: Integrate 360 process into the culture as a powerful tool to communicate and instate future change, as opposed to being part of a one-time initiative.

Finally, the authors describe factors that optimize detection of behavior change, such as reliable measurements (the type of response scales, for example), understanding the interaction of feedback design factors and others.

Implications for practice

  • Coaches should center the design and administration of 360 feedback process around coaching client / organization goals. 360-degree feedback is an extremely complex process requiring many nuanced decisions in its design and implementation. The relative effectiveness in creating behavior change depends on those decisions. Compare standard and custom instruments, and consider custom instruments and partnering with specialists, depending on the nature and scope of the assessment.
  • To achieve sustained behavior change, consider designing feedback around the four critical factors: 1) relevant content; 2) credible data; 3) accountability; 4) census participation. These factors will also improve measurement and the detection of change in the organization.
  • Rater selection and involvement – who should participate in providing feedback – is a key contributing element for achieving all four critical factors and sustained behavior change. Coaches should work with clients to be inclusive rather than exclusive, with managers, peers and direct reports involved.  Consider which rater sources provide the best feedback, the optimal number of raters for each rater type, and how to effectively support raters with training, technology and other means.

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