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Assessing the Client


Disciplines > Coaching > Process > Assessing the Client

Personal assessment | Work assessment | See also


One of the first stages after meeting your client is to assess them, understanding as much as you can about them so you can then optimally help them.

Of course assessment never really stops. A good coach is constantly deepening and revising their understanding of clients.

Personal assessment

Coaching is very much about the person, so you need to gain a good understanding of the real person. We all wear masks that protect our inner selves and help us survive in environments that do not fully align with our natural selves. To help the client, it helps to see something of the person behind the mask.

The biggest problem in personal assessment is usually the willingness of the client to expose their inner selves. They do not know you and do not know yet if they can absolutely trust you. Your position as a coach certainly helps, but it may not be enough. Personal assessment is a slope up which you climb as your understanding increases. The gradient of this slope depends on the openness of the person, the fragility of the inner self and the overall remit you have.

There are several methods you can use in personal assessment, including:

  • Psychometric tests: Applying tests such as a Jungian Type Inventory, 16PF or DISC to identify preferences and personality characteristics.
  • 360 degree reports: Getting views on the subject from bosses, peers and subordinates (often in a structured format).
  • Semi-structured interview: Using a set of topics, but allowing for discussions and probing.
  • Conversational exploration: What seems like an informal 'chat' can give you a wealth of data.

The actual methods used vary greatly and there are proponents and exponents of more and less structure. In the end, you must use what works for you and works for your client.

Work assessment

In executive coaching, your goal as a coach is to help your client become more effective in their workplace. This means understanding more about what they do.

Work assessment can start with external research, for example scanning websites about the company and reading shareholder reports. A big picture always helps create a useful contextual frame.

If you are employed first by the company and then assigned to an executive, then you may be given a particular remit. You may also have a chance to ask questions to get an initial situation.

When talking with the client, start with an exploration of what they do, what 'success' means to them. Then ask about how they go about their work. Finally and as appropriate discuss the people with who they work. Work problems, especially those that a coach can help, are often to do with how people interact with others. Asking anyone about problems at work and most will talk about other people, sooner rather than later.

See also

Job Analysis, Performance Management, Listening, Questioning techniques

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