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Data gathering can be done in lots of ways. Some alternatives for gathering information are described below:
• Interviews. The coach will create an interview protocol and conduct either individual face-to-face or telephone interviews. Interviews can be conducted with direct reports, peers, supervisors, and others in the organization who have a high degree of familiarity with the client. The results from the interviews are summarized separately and reviewed with the client, along with the data from other sources.
• Multi-rater feedback assessments. Sometimes these are also called “360-degree feedback instruments.” In addition to making “self ratings, usually the client is asked to provide a list of raters from the following categories: direct reports, peers, current and past supervisors, and customers. Most multi-rater feedback tools are now available so that the entire administration is done electronically. Typically, once the client has provided the raters’ email addresses to the survey administrator,
the raters receive a web address and a password.
When the raters access the website and type in a preassigned password, they can take the surveys at their convenience. Reports may be generated electronically and emailed to the coach, who delivers the feedback to the client.
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• Testing. Some coaches use individual psychometric tests. Some tests require professional qualifications, either through a certification process by the publisher or by educational background. In the hands of a competent practitioner, they can be very helpful. These include personality tests, interest inventories, learning styles, and interpersonal style tests.
• Existing qualitative and quantitative data from performance appraisals, attitude surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, and training programs. The information from these sources can be very helpful to the coach, particularly at the start of a coaching program, because it provides insight into how the client is being perceived by various parts of the organization.
• Observations of the client. Experienced coaches have skills in observing and recording behavior, and the information gathered from direct observations of the client during meetings, phone calls, and presentations can be very useful. The coach may also ask to see written materials from the client such as emails. All of this can provide powerful real-world data, especially when combined with data from assessments.
How much historical data to include? This depends on the nature of the client’s issues. It can be really helpful for the coach to understand client behaviors that may have a long history. And it can be helpful for the client to reflect back and gain greater self-awareness and insight. However, the focus of the coaching needs to be on how the behavior will become more adaptive in the present and future.
Using Multi-Rater Feedback in Coaching
Larger organizations often develop their own multi-rater forms, which reflect the behaviors or cultural issues of importance to the
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organization. Consulting firms and publishing companies offer dozens of forms for specific applications—supervision, sales management, leadership, and so on. If properly chosen or developed, a 360-degree feedback rating form will address important, relevant dimensions and will be a good foundation for coaching.
Multi-rater feedback can be used to support coaching, either to help a client develop his or her potential or to address a performance concern. Such data can be useful for identifying developmental needs of future leaders. It is helpful for communicating behaviors consistent with new organizational values or principles or to provide senior leaders with valid data so they can make fine-tuned adjustments to their leadership styles. Typically, results are shared only with a client, who now “owns” the data.
The 360-degree feedback methodology is used because it provides the coach and the client with a language and a set of concepts with which to conduct their sessions. Multi-rater feedback can be used together with personality tests, appraisals, or other data sources. Depending on the style and model used by the coach, multi-rater feedback can be used as a source of information to validate concerns the client has, to better define issues that are not well understood, or to explore for possible “soft spots” that might cause trouble in the future.
In some situations, there may already be existing multi-rater feedback, and the client can allow the coach to gain access to it. The data may have been part of a leadership development program, or it may have been generated for administrative purposes. If it is recent and appropriate, the data will serve its intended purposes as an impetus for self-reflection and action planning.
In many organizations 360-degree data collection is regularly used for “administrative” purposes, such as performance evaluation or making decisions about promotions, compensation, or perhaps even retention. One component of this application will be a formal feedback session in which someone goes over the data with the employee and may use it to begin a coaching process. In this situation, the person doing the feedback—usually the boss or an