Psychometrics in Coaching
July 21, 2021

Find the best of Psychometrics to help you as a leader or a coach

By Paul Laughlin

Psychometrics have a bad reputation with some leaders. Past bad experiences from either superficial tools or poorly handled debriefing of results leave a bad taste.

However, the discipline of using Psychometric and Psychological tools to aid personal development has come along way in recent years. Akin to other progress within the coaching profession, a greater scientific rigour and results focus has emerged. So, it’s worth taking another look.

Many leaders have limited awareness as to the options available, perhaps limited to any used in their recruitment process. So, a new book edited by Prof. Jonathan Passmore is particularly welcome. Although aimed at the coaching community, it providers coaches and leaders with a helpful overview of leading Psychometrics. This post reviews that book, “Psychometrics in Coaching”.

What you will find in a book of 2 parts

I hope you are intrigued enough to read further and consider this book. If so, let me start by giving you an overview of what it provides to readers.

At the top-level level this book is divided into two parts, each with a different purpose. The first is a grounding in best practice us of Psychometrics. For those working in coaching and wanting to improve the robustness of their approach, this part could help. I fear for the lay reader (especially those outside academia) it could be off putting. It is a dry way to start a book.

The second part is more obviously accessible and interesting to explore. It includes 17 chapters, each summarising a different leading Psychometric tool. The general pattern for each chapter is to cover the background of tool, evidence of robustness, how to use as a coach & how to use what coachees. This second part of the book is a very useful reference for leaders and coaches.

Laying down the foundations/standards

Having said that Part One is on the dry side, once you have read the whole book you appreciate its role better. It provides both a grounding in terms that many chapters use and helps set the bar. For coaches in particular, it will help readers understand what to expect of a new tool, the evidence to require on robustness etc.

It start with a general introductory chapter on the relevance of Psychometrics to coaching work. This opens our eyes to the range of approaches, potential benefits & ethical considerations.

The remaining 4 chapters give the reader insights into 4 different aspects coaches need to understand before using Psychometrics in practice:

  • Designing psychometric questions (best practice & why)
  • Using psychometric questionnaires (training needed)
  • How these tools are developed (evidence you need)
  • Using feedback in coaching (best practice for sharing results)

17 Psychometric tools to consider

As mentioned earlier, Part two is made up of a chapter each summarising these diverse Psychometric tools. Some are obviously direct competitors, with competing academic bases. But a number a complementary, measuring different aspects of personality or behaviour. Which to use of those depends on the client need and context of their use.

I found many which were new to me here and heartily recommend this curation to HR professionals, leaders and coaches. Each chapter is short enough to not be chore, but also provides a thorough overview of background, design, testing & usage.

Leadership coaches like me will also appreciate the time taken in each chapter to explain how the tool can help both coaches & coachees. The latter helps guide appropriate usage & highlight resources to help coaches when working with their clients. But the former is not just so coaches have familiarity with the tool. Each chapter also brings to light the insights/self-awareness that coaches could gain for their own development.

What types of Psychometric tools are included?

So, without further ado, here is a brief list of the Psychometric tools included and their primary purpose or focus.

  1. MBTI: Myers Briggs is probably the most well know & focusses on identifying a personality type/preferred style.
  2. TMS: Team Management Systems is a set of tools focussing on diagnosing why teams behave as they do at work, using their Workplace Behaviour Pyramid & Team Management Wheel.
  3. OPQ32: A set of personality questionnaires focussed on understanding aspects of personality & competency potential.
  4. MQ: A Motivation Questionnaire, focussed on understanding patterns of motivation & why that is key to work performance.
  5. Saville Consulting Wave: A set of tools focussed on assessing individual & organisational performance variables. Enabling comparison of current and desired culture to support culture change work.
  6. 16PF: A personality questionnaire focussed on strengths, competencies for the workplace & emotional elements. Well grounded in academic research and with comparison to normative adult population.
  7. MSCEIT: An emotional intelligence test focussed on helping subjects understand and develop their own emotional intelligence and how to apply EI strengths at work.
  8. Hogan Development Survey: A personality questionnaire grounded in a socio-behavioural model, to help leaders develop greater maturity through identifying & addressing potentially derailing behaviours.
  9. TLQ: The Transformational Leadership Questionnaire is a 360-degree feedback tool which identifies 10 leadership impact measures.
  10. MTQ49: A psychometric tool focussed on the challenge of mental toughness. It helps subjects explore 4 elements of resilience (control, challenge, commitment & confidence).
  11. Archetypes: This chapter is a little different as it explains the application of a psychological model, rater than a psychometric questionnaire. The Archetypal Practices Model (16 elemental patterns of behaviour).
  12. VIA: An Inventory of Strengths tool, grounded in Positive Psychology research. Enabling subjects to explore their strengths and how they could adapt (e.g. play to their strengths) to improve their wellbeing.
  13. StressScan: A set of tools and resources to help subjects explore their stressors (in work & wider life), individual factors/drivers and organisational factors, in order to better manage stress and avoid burnout.
  14. CTT: A set of Cultural Transformation Tools grounded in a levels of consciousness model. Providing subjects/teams with visual reports to explore existing & desired culture, plus actions required as a result.
  15. FIRO Element B: A Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation set of tools to raise self-awareness about behaviours and their impact on relationships at work.
  16. LSI: A Life Styles Inventory questionnaire enabling subjects to explore their thinking & behaviour patterns, including a focus on being, as well as knowing & doing styles, could enable Cognitive Behavioural Coaching.
  17. MTR-i: A type mapping system that builds on MBTI to support similar approach to Belbin Team Roles, a focus on preferences, flexibility and different styles that could suit different contexts.

Anything still missing? Other tools?

Given such a comprehensive curation, it feels surly to point out that more could be included. But for the sake of informing you, I’d make the case for a couple of others that I have found helpful. Although the final tool above does bridge between MBTI and Belbin Team Roles, it still takes a different approach to the latter. For completeness I would like to have seen Belbin Team Roles included in this list of tools too.

Likewise, the VIA tool above is perhaps the purest way to apply the field of Positive Psychology, however Gallup’s Strength Finders is a much more widely used tool. Once again, I would have liked to see both included. Partly that would enable the reader to compare the research basis and validity testing that all the above could provide.

Finally, I would have liked to see some other tools used as a basis for 360-degree feedback. A number of the above provide that detail, but as a leadership coach I for instance use the Integrated Leadership Model. It would have been good to see that included in this curation too. But, overall I am very impressed by the breadth shared in this book and recommend it to both coaches & leaders seeking the right tool for their current need.

What’s your experience with using Psychometrics?

I hope you found that book review helpful. Have you read this book too? Any other observations?

More likely, do you have experience with any of the above or other proven Psychometric tools? Perhaps you have completed them as a client or used them as a coach to help your coachees develop. If so, I’d love to hear your experience and any advice you’d have for other leaders or coaches.