A Needs Assessment That Shows How Coaching Is Part of the Solution

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The COO and the HR senior VP tacitly assumed that coaching

would contribute to achieving their goals. They felt that because

there had been so little recent leadership development, just about

any development at that point would be appreciated. However,

people can appreciate a learning experience without that experience

impacting the business or achieving business goals. The real question

is: What contributions can the coaching initiative make to

achieving business goals?

Answering this question requires an assessment that goes beyond

the individual assessments that are typically a part of the coaching

process. Table 8.1 summarizes some of the most common assessments

for both individuals and organizations. Coaches will routinely

conduct intake interviews, conduct or review multisource

feedback, and examine standardized test results. Some may have

their client’s write autobiographies. Coaches begin the coaching

relationship on a firm footing of understanding the client’s issues.

A similar approach to assessment must be done at the organization

level in order for coaching—as a strategic initiative—to positively

impact the organization and contribute to achieving strategic goals.

Several organization-focused assessments are summarized in Table

8.1. Realistically, coaches don’t have the time or expertise to conduct

an organizational assessment, however, coaches can advocate that

such an assessment be conducted if it hasn’t already, and certainly

coaches can review the data from organization assessments that have

been done.

Let’s return to PharmaQuest and see how expanding the needs

assessment to explore organizational issues helped to hone the

objectives for coaching. Table 8.2 presents two of PharmaQuest’s

business goals, summarizes the needs assessments, and describes the

coaching goals. The first business goal, increasing the number of

leaders ready for promotion, was further explored with a series of

focus groups and day-in-the-life studies. These assessments revealed

Table 8.1 Needs Assessment Activities

Assessment Activity Description

Individual

Intake Interview The initial interview conducted by the coach with the

client. This interview, which can last several hours,

delves into the client’s life history, professional

background, perceived strengths and development

opportunities, and charts an initial course of action.

Actions typically include additional data collection.

Multisource, multirater Data about a client’s behaviors and performance are

collected from his or her manager, peers, and

subordinates to provide a variety of perspectives. Data

are summarized to focus on themes, observed

strengths, and development opportunities.

Standardized Tests Standardized tests enable comparisons between the

client and others who have taken the same test. Tests

can be differentiated from surveys in that tests have

been statistically calibrated (e.g., validity and reliability)

so that norms can be established. The Myers-Briggs

Type Indicator, for example, can provide insights into a

client’s personal styles and preferences.

Autobiography The client writes his or her life history, beginning with

early childhood and continuing to the present day.

Data are reviewed to discover patterns in the client’s

life that continue to play out in his or her current

professional situation. These patterns, if dysfunctional,

may offer insights into more root cause issues of

performance.