This blog is describing a powerful way to help people learn about themselves through feedback.
We know that feedback from others is one of the main ways that we learn about ourselves. It is like a mirror that can help to dispel some of our myths and blind spots – as long as we don’t become defensive. So how do self-report questionnaires contribute to this process since we are only answering what we believe about ourselves? Self-report questionnaires can provide insight because, by asking lots of questions, various themes and consistencies can be pulled together. These consistencies are not always obvious in the ‘confetti’ of our everyday lives. However, ultimately, we are still only dealing with what people believe about themselves. In this blog I would like to suggest using psychometrics to significantly enhance the feedback process.
I start by acknowledging that, to help a coachee to gain insight, it is important to start from where they are at. We capture this through our conversations. We can add in some psychometrics to help articulate their beliefs about themselves.
This allows us to compare different forms of self-report. This is analogous to looking at a sculpture from different angles – each adds an additional perspective. This enables differences to be challenged which can contribute to increasing self-awareness – but we must recognise that this is still self-report which reflects a person’s beliefs including levels of bias and even delusions!
Most coaches will be familiar with the Johari Window which is used to understand the process of building self-awareness by reminding us that everyone has blind spots as illustrated here:
|Known to self||Unknown to self|
|Known to others||Public Arena
What I know about myself and so do others
What I don’t know about myself but others do
|Unknown to others||Private Curtain
What I know about myself but others don’t
What I don’t know about myself and neither do others
To increase self-awareness we need to decrease the Blind Spot. Decreasing the Blind Spot is facilitated by feedback from others. Coaches may well encourage their coachee to solicit feedback directly – suggesting that they go and ask other people. There are advantages to this direct approach. However, direct, face-to-face feedback can involve a range of emotions which result in varying levels of honesty. It can also be unstructured – the person giving feedback may emphasise things important to them rather than the person seeking feedback.
The Paired Process is an alternative. It involves the coachee asking a carefully chosen ‘other’ for feedback – but this time by completing the same questionnaire as the coachee. This ‘other’ answers with their perception of the coachee. Because the result is scored using the same themes/scales, any differences are immediately highlighted. This structured form of feedback can be used with all kinds of questionnaires – personality, values, interests, emotional intelligence etc.
Such feedback is especially important for questionnaires that suggest that they measure self-awareness – as is the case with all the Emotional Intelligence (EI) questionnaires. This is because everyone is above average on self-awareness – at least from their own perspective. Why – because none of us are aware of what we are not aware of! All EI questionnaires would be far more useful if they were available as a paired process. Not only is this an opportunity to check the individual’s self-perception but it also increases that individual’s engagement in the process. This is especially true if care is taken in choosing the ‘other’ for that feedback. Consider completing a questionnaire about your own espoused values – and seeing if these are recognised by someone you have specifically chosen because you value their opinion. The same goes for the way you see your personality. A good coach will help the coachee to choose the ‘other’ and my experience is that the process is both more personal and intimate than what is often called 360-feedback (i.e. from multiple ‘others’ which is then grouped, averaged and anonymous). This creates a better context for reflecting on the feedback as part of a self-development process.
Some questionnaires that offer this option available from Team Focus are:
And so why did I use the picture at the beginning of this blog? It is because the coaching context brings more perspectives into the room. Although I am sitting there just with my coachee, it is like having a third person (the questionnaire) or a fourth person (the selected ‘other’) contributing to the self-awareness process.
Roy Childs, Managing Director of Team Focus, is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and, like many other senior staff members, a Chartered Occupational Psychologist. His background in psychometrics includes having worked with some of the best-known authors of personality questionnaires including Ray Cattell (16PF) and Will Schutz (FIRO). With Team Focus he has developed a new range of instruments designed to bring psychometrics into the 21st century.
Roy runs the widest range of BPS recognised qualifying courses in the UK and his publications include “the Psychometric Minefield”; “Emotional Intelligence and Leadership”; “The Big Five – Bring a little colour into your lives”; “Coaching with FIRO Element B” published in the book “Psychometrics in Coaching”, ‘Action Learning Supervision’ published in the book “Coaching Supervision” and ‘The Relational lens’ published by Cambridge University Press.
Read more blogs from Roy Childs