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Psychometrics in Coaching: Using Psychological and [...]
Edited by Jonathan Passmore
Kogan Page, 2008.
Reviewed by Conall Platts
Psychometrics in Coaching provides a brief overview of a number of psychometric instruments of potential use in coaching. The book is described as being aimed at ‘coaches, HR practitioners and those interested in selfdevelopment’ and was commissioned by the Association for Coaching to support coaches in their use of psychometrics, both in selecting appropriate instruments and in getting the best from them. The book covers well-known and less well-known tests, fifteen in total, all of which are concentrated on personality and competency domains. Whilst this intentionally excludes a range of cognitive, interest and values-based psychometrics, good coverage is achieved.
Chapter 1 gives a useful introduction for the lay user of psychometrics. It provides a very clear summary of key considerations; categories of test available, historical influences on modern psychometrics, minimum standards to be expected of robust tools, approaches to validation and considerations for ethical test use. Whilst any certified test user would have addressed these themes more extensively in their training, this chapter is likely to provide a useful reminder for those new to test usage. The book is clear in its rationale for excluding cognitive aptitude/ style tests (describing these as being ‘less amenable to change’), although I would personally have welcomed a section exploring the cognitive strategies which can be learnt and developed within a coaching environment.
Chapter 2 is entitled ‘Using feedback in coaching’ and offers an overview of the basic principles of effective feedback, some of the research conclusions underpinning feedback best-practice and concludes with a particular focus on feedback in the context of 360. Whilst I felt the topic was appropriate in principle, the chapter’s shortcomings reflected a broader confusion I noted in reading the book; those new to the use of psychometrics may well find the book of much greater use and relevance than more experienced users. Particularly in light of the feedback skills training embedded within most psychometric accreditation courses, it is assumed that this chapter was intended to be of greater benefit for new users.
Once past the first two chapters, the book follows a helpful structure within each section. In brief, this follows the convention: introduction/overview, construct definition, outputs, considerations for the coach, considerations for the coachee. Whilst the chapters vary in the extent to which they provide supporting data and practical tips, the lay out and tone of the chapters makes them easy to follow. Given the choice of psychometrics and standardised chapter structure I followed my interest; chapter 3 (‘Coaching with MBTI’), Chapter 9 (‘Identifying potential derailing behaviours: Hogan Development Survey’) and Chapter 16 (‘Coaching with FIRO Element B’). In each case I found the chapters confidently written and sharply focussed; each offered useful reminders and insightful case studies. As a reader I was quickly struck by the experience of the authors in using these instruments skilfully in a coaching context. As a reasonably experienced user of all three, I benefited from each, and intend to return to them at some future stage.
Having satisfied my needs around the familiar, I then actively searched out some chapters covering constructs or methodologies new to me or about which I knew little. This took me to Chapter 7 (‘Coaching with Saville Consulting Wave’), Chapter 8 (‘Coaching for emotional intelligence: MSCEIT’), Chapter 11 (‘Developing Resilience through coaching: MTQ48’) and Chapter 12 (‘Using archetypes in coaching’). I personally found these four chapters to be very illuminating. In particular, I was struck by the freshness of Saville Consulting Wave and the potential benefits of the normative/ ipsative, motive/talent split featured within it. Dr Caruso and Professor Salovey’s chapter on the MSCEIT was a personal highlight. Not only did I enjoy reading their narrative around the EI construct (and their unique area of focus within it), I struck gold with their ‘Emotional Blueprint’, an emotion- focussed problem-solving process flow. I found Chapter 11’s exploration of ‘mental toughness’ very interesting and finished the chapter with a bold ‘note to self’ not to neglect this topic in future diagnostic coaching sessions.
Finally, Chapter 12 proved to be the hidden gem at the car boot sale. On starting this chapter I was still firmly in a critically evaluative mindset and this mode of thinking quickly came into conflict with Chapter 12. I probably should have known more about archetypes and anticipated the content better, but I admit to having been naïve. Archetypes 1, critical evaluation 0. I know that I could not begin to do the chapter justice, just as I can’t adequately describe ‘the field’ in a systemic constellation, but I found myself unconsciously applying some of the insights (e.g. ‘Staying in the Fire’, ‘Being with all that Arises’) the very next day in some telephone coaching sessions. I remain confused as to what archetypes have to do with psychometrics in coaching, but I am appreciative of its inclusion and look forward to delving deeper in the near future.
Chapter 5 (‘Coaching with OPQ’), Chapter 6 (‘Coaching with the Motivation Questionnaire’), Chapter 10 (‘Coaching for transformational leadership: ELQ (Formerly TLQ)’), Chapter 13 (‘Coaching for strengths using VIA’), Chapter 14 (‘Coaching for stress: StressScan’), Chapter 15 (‘Coaching for cultural transformation: CTT’) and, finally, Chapter 17 (‘Coaching with LSI’) all contributed equally to the credibility of the book; each put forward well-thought through, empirically-based tools. Amongst them there was variation in the extent to which use of the tool in the specific context of coaching was brought centre-stage.
At the end of my read I remained slightly puzzled by the choice of psychometrics included in the book. Whilst I understand that space is limited in a book of this kind, I personally would have appreciated inclusion of a few more ‘household classics’ (e.g. NEO, CPI, 16PF) and a few more entries covering broader coaching domains (e.g. values, change and career choices). The book appears to have aimed high; it covers a broad domain (psychometrics), in a large field of application (coaching), in support of a very widely defined audience group (selfdevelopers through to HR professionals). As a coach, psychologist and formerly a psychometrician I found the book incredibly useful and thought-provoking in places, although this was in equal proportion to the sections where I found it more difficult to extract immediate value.
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