By Francine Campone, Ed.D., MCC
Measuring Authenticity as a Coaching Outcome
How can a coach measure coaching outcomes? This is a topic of great interest to many coaches, especially those who seek to provide evidence of their impact. A number of valid instruments are available in the marketplace for coaches to use in measuring changes in specific dimensions: for example, emotional intelligence, communication skills, team functioning and similar goal-oriented outcomes. Susing, Green and Grant , however, are interested in a valid measure of a central construct in leadership coaching. Specifically, the authors propose that a valid measure of authenticity is relevant to the development of leadership and to furthering understanding of underlying psychological processes in effecting positive change.
Susing et al. present three justifications for a valid measure of authenticity: reducing reliance on idiosyncratic outcome measures (such as a specific skill set); allowing meaningful comparisons across different research studies; and furthering the understanding of the psychological processes supporting positive change in coaching. They offer a persuasive case for authenticity as a central construct in the development of leadership. I found their discussion of the concept of authenticity particularly useful insofar as this is a term that is widely used in discussions of leadership and in self-defined coaching goals but it is not as frequently defined. The review of the literature of authenticity begins by noting the historical roots of the concept in philosophy and psychology and proceeds to anchor the construct in the context of coaching. While the preponderance of references to authenticity in coaching focus on the authenticity of the coaching practitioner, the importance of authenticity in the coach-client relationship points to both participants in the engagement.
The authors’ definition of authenticity draws from various definitions in the literature. They define the construct as “a congruence between behavior and emotional expression on one hand, and conscious awareness of physiological states, emotions or cognitions on the other…unconstrained by external influences.” (p.18)
The challenge remains of how to measure such an elusive construct. The article’s authors unfold the development of Authenticity Scale by Wood, Linley, Malty, Baliousis and de Joseph (p.19). This entailed identifying three key factors in the definitions of authenticity: self-alienation, authentic living and accepting external influence. From these, a 25-item pool was developed to address each of these factors and was tested with a random sampling of 200 undergraduate students. Participants also took measures of anxiety, stress and happiness. Wood et al. performed a multifactor analysis finding positive correlations between authentic living and happiness and negative correlations between authentic living and stress and anxiety. The original 25 item pool was reduced to 12 based on these correlations, resulting in a second version of the scale which was again tested in subsequent studies which “provide the first direct test of several theoretical models that view authenticity as integral to well-being.” (p.19).
The authors of this article, however, are concerned with the relationship between authenticity and optimal functioning. To that end, they infer that “the optimal functioning of a leader is very similar to the optimal functioning of an individual with respect to that individual’s relationship with others.” (p.19) To extend the usability of Wood’s Authenticity Scale, Susing et al. adapted the items on the individual self-rating instrument to create a peer-rating version which is offered as a complementary tool for use in leadership coaching. The peer-rated version invites respondents to assess a leader on the same items as the leader is self-assessing, using the Wood scale. For example, the self-rating scale asks the leader to indicate the degree to which the following statement describes him or her: I don’t know how I really feel inside. The peer-rating version asks the respondent to identify the degree to which the following statement describes a particular leader: They don’t know how they really feel inside.
Susing et al. propose that using both scales extends the functionality of The Authenticity Scale in a coaching context. The final section of the article offers support for this, citing several studies which link authenticity with optimal job performance. In particular, self-awareness and self-regulation are prerequisites for authenticity and a fundamental concept of coaching which underpin the notion of client self-directness. Self-concordance is linked to persistence and achievement of goals as well as higher levels of well-being.
Francine Campone, Ed.D., MCC, coaches mature professionals to reinvent their lives by reinventing their work. She is a leader in the coaching research community and deeply committed to the development of reflective coaches in practice. Francine teaches evidence-based coaching and coaching research practices for UTD and enjoys a wonderful life in Denver, Colorado beyond her activities in the coaching field.