Personality Tests in Coaching: My Perspective

Dear Coach,

I am relatively new to executive coaching and see that there are lots of different personality tests out there that coaches use in their engagements. Is there one you would recommend?



Dear Anne,

Thank you for your question. My answer may get me in a bit of trouble but here goes.

There are a great many different personality tests. I’m familiar with a bunch of them, certified in one, almost certified in another. These tests are like flavors of ice cream—there’s a multitude of choices out there, and everyone has their favorite. But if you ask me, I won’t be vouching for a particular personality test.


It’s not that these personality tests don’t provide useful information. They do. 

It’s a cost-benefit analysis. When you include these tests as part of your coaching, they take time and energy, for both coach and coachee, and they add to the overall cost of the engagement. Over time, I haven’t found that the return justifies the investment.

Instead, I utilize Marshall Goldsmith’s 360° method, which I refer to as the “3-3-1” approach. Under this method, I maintain strict confidentiality and seek input from various individuals who know and interact with the coachee/leader. I ask them the following questions:

  • What three greatest strengths does this person possess? 
  • What up to three areas would be most beneficial if the leader were to improve? 
  • If you identify more than one potential growth area, which one do you recommend that I as a coach focus on first?

I’ve found that the 3-3-1 gives me the information I need to work effectively with the leader on his or her growth and development. If the leader has taken a personality test in the past, I will look at it and possibly reference it, but my coaching foundation is still built on the 3-3-1.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not trying to throw personality tests under the bus. They have their merits, like a well-timed punchline. I just happen to believe that there’s a better way to whip up growth and development in coaching.

I hope this helps clarify my perspective on the matter. Best of luck in your executive coaching journey!

Jathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at


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