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Using Psychometrics and Assessments in Leadership Development

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Using Psychometrics and Assessments in Leadership Development

by Chris Woodman


Leadenhall has been using a range of instruments to support clients and it’s individual and team coaching work since it was founded in 2011.   I was trained to the British Psychological Society Level A and B standard in psychometric testing back in the 1980’s by Saville and Holdsworth who were one of the leading providers of tests in the UK at that time.  In those days we were trained to administer pencil and paper tests!  More importantly we learned the importance of Validity and Reliability and the statistical principles on which psychometric questionnaires and tests are based.

Since those halcyon days there has been a proliferation of tests and questionnaires, and it is difficult to know where to start if you are looking to introduce some form of psychometric or other form of assessment.   There are even online tests to establish which Hogwarts House you should be in!  Turns out I’m a Hufflepuff.  Apparently, ‘You believe in equality and have a keen sense of justice.’  Couldn’t agree more but I’d like to see the technical manual.

At Leadenhall, we have several instruments we use regularly with our clients including Hogan Personality Suite (for coaching and leadership development), Hogan Business Reasoning Inventory (to assesses business problem solving), DiSC (coaching, leadership, personal and team development), Insights Discovery (leadership, personal and team development) and the Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team (team development).   We also use 360-degree feedback tools including the Hogan 360 assessment.

Our first question with any instrument is whether it adds value to the work that we are undertaking for our clients and their staff.  The added value normally comes from additional self-insight in motivations and behaviour, increased insight into others motivations and behaviour and better understanding of group dynamics or team behaviour.  We can then build on those insights to enable people to make more informed choices about their behaviour and how they respond to the behaviour of others.  Our mantra is that we cannot change someone’s personality, but we can enable people to make more conscious and effective choices about their behaviours.

For full-service coaching assignments we find the Hogan Personality Suite incredibly valuable as a diagnostic tool for both the coach and the coachee.  The process of feedback is, in itself, a joint exploration which builds deeper rapport and accelerates mutual understanding.  The focus on motivation, ‘bright side’ personality and risk factors – potential derailers – are very helpful as a starting point for leadership and professional development.

We also use Everything DiSC to support our individual coaching, particularly on our online coaching platform Coaching on Demand.  Combined with our in built 360 tool we are able to look at the personality data and real comments from peers, manager and direct reports.

When working with Teams, either facilitation or more extensive team coaching, we use a number of different tools.  The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team which includes a DiSC profile as part of the questionnaire provides a great team model with data to help a team understand where it is now and how it can improve in the five key areas of Trust, Constructive Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results.  With senior executive teams we also use Hogan for more in-depth team analysis combined with individual feedback sessions.

When working specifically on development of leaders we undertake a Leadership Development Review, which we developed over ten years ago with our client Fidelity International.  It involves leaders undertaking the Hogan Personality Suite, the Hogan Business Reasoning Inventory and a 360-feedback process.  Each element is fed back to the leader, combined into a summary report and used as the basis of a two-hour coaching session.  The leader then pitches their development plan to their manager and HR.

When an organisation is looking to bring about a broader cultural change including improved working relationships, cross team working and improved communication we have delivered facilitated workshops across the organisation.  This has included Insights Discovery or Everything DiSC to create a common language for people to understand their own and others preferences – and how best to work effectively with people with different personalities.

Although this article has focused on the tools that we use to support our work, they are just that ‘tools’.  The quality of our work is provided by the coaches and facilitators who coach, facilitate and deliver feedback.  I remember a conversation with an experienced CEO of a major psychological consultancy who said ‘people place too much importance on the specific psychometric they use – but there are many good, well-constructed psychometrics – what you really want is a good coach or consultant.  When a builder builds the extension to your house, do you ask whether he is using a JCB or a Komatsu?  You just want a good builder who will do a good job knows how to use the appropriate tools to get the job done’.


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