Pitfalls of Assessment Tests

Pitfalls of Assessment Tests



This is exactly why I do not use standardized assessment tools on my executive coaching clients:

…one of the main hindrances to coaching was understanding people as collections of fixed properties with desire attached.


…by using assessment models this way we are reinforcing our understanding of people as things, and this way of understanding makes any effective coaching impossible or nearly so.


…it assumes that the person is a thing which can be found out about, figured out, and predicted.

–James Flaherty of New Ventures West
Chapter Six of Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others (Third Edition)

Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others

The Irony of Positive Thinking

Harvard's Daniel M. WegnerWhen people undertake to control their minds while they are burdened by mental loads–such as distracters, stress, or time pressure–the result [will] often be the opposite of what they intend. …

Individuals following instructions to try to make themselves happy become sad, whereas those trying to make themselves sad actually experience buoyed mood.

When people in these studies are encouraged to express their deepest thoughts and feelings in writing, they experience subsequent improvements in psychological and physical health. (See also Resistance is Futile on this blog.) Expressing oneself in this way involves relinquishing the pursuit of mental control, and so eliminates a key requirement for the production of ironic effects. After all, as suggested in other studies conducted in my lab with Julie Lane and Laura Smart, the motive to keep one’s thoughts and personal characteristics secret is strongly linked with mental control. Disclosing these things to others, or even in writing to oneself, is the first step toward abandoning what may be an overweening and futile quest to control one’s own thoughts and emotions.


When we relax the desire for the control of our minds, the seeds of our undoing may remain uncultivated, perhaps then to dry up and blow away.


The Seed of Our Undoing by Daniel M. Wegner
From Psychological Science Agenda
January/February, 1999, 10-11.




Coaching vs. Advice



There is an important difference between coaching and advice.

• Coaching is listening to and standing for a person’s greatness and the expression of their possibility while inviting the client into new ways of being, seeing, and speaking that will support his or her intentions.

• Advice is telling someone to take an action consistent with the advice-giver’s worldview, paradigm, opinions, interpretation, assessment, standards, etc.

Each has its place, but are most valuable when clearly distinguished. For example, to say, “I have an opinion about what you should do in this situation,” is a responsible way to give advice.

Also on this blog, How to Work with Facts —and, Opinions a video by Tony Mayo



World Changing Coach



What coach has had the greatest impact on a client? The man with the strongest claim may be Earl Woods, whose famous client is his son, golfer Tiger Woods. How did Earl Woods become such a fantastic coach?

By studying, as I have, with the most important influence on executive coaching, Werner Erhard. Some of Earl Woods’s coaching wisdom is below, excerpted from the 1996 article in Sports Illustrated about Tiger being chosen Sportsman of the Year. It is all pure Werner Erhard.

Earl Woods“What I learned through est [created by Werner Erhard] was that by doing more for myself, I could do much more for others. Yes, be responsible, but love life, and give people the space to be in your life, and allow yourself room to give to others. That caring and sharing is what’s most important, not being responsible for everyone else.

“Which is where Tiger comes in. What I learned led me to give so much time to Tiger, and to give him the space to be himself, and not to smother him with dos and don’ts. I took out the authority aspect and turned it into (more…)

Focus Point



Focus PointI do some balancing postures as part of my yoga practice, standing on one foot while stretching my body. The people who taught me these postures said to “find a point some distance away and hold your gaze on it” while in the posture. I resisted doing this, preferring to let my eyes wander during the stretch. Besides, I know how to balance. It is just a matter of holding your body in the proper position. So, I wobbled or fell.

Now, I remind myself to choose a distinct object as a focus point: the corner of a doorway or the center of a flower. While holding the posture I often notice my eye wandering. And my body wavering. I can only regain my balance by (more…)

Resistance is Futile

Resistance is Futile

Winston Churchill

Abraham Lincoln called it his melancholia. Winston Churchill had “black dog days.” Today, we refer to it as depression.


Charles Darwin’s depression left him “not able to do anything one day out of three,” choking on his “bitter mortification.” He despaired of the weakness of mind that ran in his family. “The ‘race is for the strong,’ ” Darwin wrote. “I shall probably do little more but be content to admire the strides others made in Science.”

Depression’s Upside
New York Times


Recently, I noticed that I was lethargic, frequently irritated, and found most thoughts of the future unappealing. At first, I was sure the circumstances were the cause. If you look closely enough at (more…)