• Jeff Doolittle

Why Executive Assessment is Important

The last thing an executive needs in today's demanding workplace is someone or something telling them what they already know. The higher you move within any organization, the less objective the feedback you tend to receive; however, it becomes more critical personally and professionally. The better the quality of the feedback you receive, the better the decisions you can make. Executive coaching combined with executive assessments provides deep insights into areas that with attention lead to enhanced potential. According to outcome-based research, a coach's timely and appropriate use of executive assessment leads to improved personal and organizational outcomes.

The medical model can be a helpful analogy for understanding why executive assessments are important. Consider your last visit to the doctor. You weren't going to the doctor to be told what you already knew, but you needed answers or help with something you couldn't answer alone. You were likely going to the doctor as a reaction to something not being right or proactively to uncover something before it became a problem (or possibly because someone you care about told you to go). At the doctor visit, the assessments likely started with subjective questions, then progressed to more objective measures to pinpoint where additional review or attention might be helpful. Potentially, the doctor then ordered the use of advanced targeted assessments that required a specialist's technical interpretation.

As in the medical analogy, executive assessments come in various formats, providing subjective and objective feedback. Executive assessments have different degrees of sophistication, requiring different qualifications, certifications, or degrees for interpretation, like the difference between a thermometer and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Also, a battery of assessments can take more time to complete and reveal more insightful information than any single assessment alone.

When should You Use Executive Assessments?

The best time to use an executive assessment is typically around transition points in your career or at any time when you are looking for additional objective feedback. You should avoid using an assessment if you don't want feedback that may contradict your perspective, don't have the time to do anything with the feedback, or feel confident you already know everything you need to know. As for how frequently you should use an assessment, each instrument tends to have different spans of time when it is helpful to repeat. The rationale is because some attributes that are measured are more fixed. Think about the difference between our shoe size and weight. While our shoe size tends not to change frequently once we become adults, our weight will tend to fluctuate throughout our lifetime. Some items measured, such as stress, tend to change frequently because most stress drivers are situational.

Types of Executive Assessments

Not all executive assessments are created equal. What is essential to understand when considering different assessments is the:

  • degree of reliability (i.e., consistency)

  • validity (i.e., the accuracy of interpretation)

  • fairness (i.e., equivalence across different populations)

  • type of feedback (group norms or self-reported)

  • education requirements to interpret the results

While no one categorization system exists for executive ass