A little-known tool to make Coaches more Effective

Calling all leaders and coaches. We have a problem. The world is becoming ever more turbulent. Technology is reshaping business models. The volume of data is exploding. The traditional career has become a thing of the past. The challenge. Keep pace. Keep employed and thrive in the digital age.

How can coaches help their clients in this chaotic environment?

I used to think part of the answer was Psychometric tools. You know the ones. You answer questions about yourself in an online questionnaire and a profile report is generated. These can be also be used in teams. I’ve used a range of these over a period of 25 years in my corporate career at Kellogg’s and then Shell.

I’ll admit the self-reporting tools were helpful to remove the problems that came about due to personality clashes. They did make people more aware of their own behaviours and more sensitive and able to flex their style to accommodate the behaviours of others. But I can’t say that I saw anything that fundamentally enabled people to make a step change in their performance. As a leader of a global L&D team of 45 professionals, responsible for the training and development of 500,000 people, I did not have a tool that could really help people to understand their true values, thinking patterns and how they made decisions.

Problem is, most tools are typically only getting a notion of personality or behaviour. Some serious academic research suggests personality and behaviour type are not good predictors of performance. I’ve been digging around this issue and I recently came across research that appeared in a Harvard Business Review. It reported the findings of a study by (Schmidt & Hunter 1998) [i] that set out to discover the most effective recruitment selection processes and to reveal the practices that don’t work as well. It was based on validity coefficients ranging from 0 to 1. The higher the number, the higher the correlation between test scores and predicted future job performance.

Below is a summary of the results

Psychometrics typically use the Likert Scale or are Ipsative in the assessment technique they use ie stating whether you ‘strongly agree’ or ‘disagree’ with something or whether you prefer one thing vs another. These tools are often looking to ‘measure’ personality or behaviour. They rank towards the bottom – with a coefficient of up to 0.22. 

Now, here’s a heck of a quote from Dr Paul Kline, Professor of Psychometrics, Exeter University. He is one of the foremost exponents of psychometric theory.

There are no units of [psychological] measurement and no true zeros. Whatever psychological measurement is, it is not scientific measurement as defined in natural sciences … If we consider what is meant by intelligence or extraversion, just for example, it is by no means clear what units of measurement might be used or what the true zero may mean. This problem applies to the majority of psychological concepts and variables.

So, How can coaches help clients to –

  • Understand and improve decision making?
  • Identify thinking biases?
  • Increase influence and build more collaborative working relationships?
  • Improve our innovative problem solving?

I left Shell at the end of 2016 and have since been building a portfolio career. I resolved to find a more profound tool to support my growing coaching practice.

I think I’ve found it. You probably have never heard the name. It’s called Axiometrics.

You’re thinking. Axio what ? The word is derived from two Greek roots ‘axios’ (which means worth or value) and ‘metron’ (measure) and so literally it means the measure of value. I knew there would eventually be some benefit from having a degree in Classics.

The funny thing is. This is not a new kid on the block. The person who created the field of Formal Axiology was Robert Hartman and he was born in 1910. His work influenced Maslow. He was nominated for a Nobel prize in 1973. His discovery was that there are three dimensions of value that we use when thinking and making decisions.

Hartman’s Three Dimensions of Value

  1. Intrinsic Value
  2. Extrinsic Value
  3. Systemic Value

Let’s illustrate the difference between these three dimensions of value by using each one to describe a smartphone.

Intrinsic Value

The smartphone signifies to the world that you are part of modern society, you want to stay in touch with your friends, share your life with them, comment on their lives. You cherish the satisfaction of getting a status update and playing the latest games with friends. You feel lost without your smartphone

Extrinsic Value

This smartphone is an item of communication, value £500, beveled edges, sized to fit your palm, shiny colour

Systemic Value

The smartphone is a communications device based on cellular radio technology.

You will see this pattern of three around you. For example in:

  • People
  • Task
  • System


How the three dimensions of value shape our Thinking when it comes to looking at the world

Intuitive thinking: “gut feel,” thinking we use when we connect, bond, identify with, “get inside.” Though we can “bond” with an object or idea, it usually applies to people, and is unconditional acceptance of the other’s uniqueness, without evaluating, judging or critiquing

Pragmatic thinking: thinking we use when we pay attention to properties, parts, steps, when we count measure, weigh, compare; processing the environment, the “real world in real time.” 

Conceptual thinking: thinking we use when we focus on rules, order, meaning, plans, goals, the future, ideas. Black and white thinking, principles, standards.

I have used Axiometrics® Profiling, to help my coaching clients identify their internal valuing system and thinking patterns that influences their attitudes, decisions and actions. Basically, it revealed their Values. It helped them understand “Why” they do what they do.

Back to the story. I said this stuff was not a new kid on the block. After Robert Hartman died in 1973, his work was picked up by one of his students Wayne Carpenter. During his 40 years of research, he founded Axiometrics® International and has successfully expanded the mathematics of Dr. Hartman to account for ‘real life’ variables. Axiometrics ® is now used to mathematically measure and assess specific capacities of an individual.

It is accurate. There have been extensive validation studies since the early 1980s. If you want to read more about the validation – please click below:

Axiometrics Validity Studies 2019 (axiometricspartners.com)

It’s time to wrap up my article on the little-known tool that makes coaches more effective

  • The Axiometrics ® online “thinking” exercise only takes 15 minutes to complete
  • You rearrange two sets of 18 statements – from most to least preferred
  • There are no questions
  • There are 6.4 quadrillion possible outcomes
  • There are over 85 different types of report
  • It makes no attempt to classify you or label you as a ‘type’ e.g. ENTJ or Dominant
  • Is not discriminatory for age, sex, creed or culture and is validated by the EEOC
  • It can be used to look at current performance, but also to predict future performance
  • Has applications across the entire talent lifecycle e.g. Recruitment, Personal and Professional Development, Retention, Succession Planning, Team-working
  • It can inform training needs analysis and the design of training and coaching focus 
  • Rigorously define and measure decision-capacities against a culture benchmark


Finally, a person’s profile results change, and you can measure distance travelled as a result of people working on their personal development plans that have been informed by Axiometrics ®. In short, you can use Axiometrics ® to measure the impact of training and coaching in individuals and across teams.

We hope you found this interesting. Let me know what you think. If you ‘like’ it or comment on this article, We’ll send you a 4 pager that will explain Axiometrics ® in a bit more detail. Let’s help more people thrive in this ever-changing world! Let’s start a conversation

What tools do you use to measure thinking patterns and decision making?


[i] Schmidt & Hunter (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262-274.



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