360-DEGREE SURVEYS AND FEEDBACK:
What’s the first thought that comes to mind as you consider the word “feedback”? Possibly, a wave of emotion you’d prefer not to experience is washing over you right now? Is it possible also that a similar emotional state is induced as you read the words 360-survey? We’ve inadvertently been conditioned to understand that “feedback” is always “negative” and 360-degree surveys are a mechanism to highlight what’s “negative” about you. The reasons why you’ve been conditioned in such a way is not the subject of this blog. Rather I’m concerned with illuminating what benefits there are to participation in a well-executed 360-degree feedback survey.
WHAT IS 360-DEGREE FEEDBACK?
A 360-degree survey allows individuals to receive feedback in a consolidated format via a 360-degree feedback report. Those sought for feedback may include direct reports, peers, line manager or supervisor and even line manager once removed. In some cases, feedback is sought from others external to the employee’s organisation. The goal of a 360 survey is to provide feedback to an individual with the purpose of illuminating where there are strengths and where there are development opportunities, that are used to inform a personal performance development plan.
BENEFITS OF 360-DEGREE FEEDBACK:
When a 360-Degree program is deployed effectively, seven clear benefits arise:
360-degree feedback surveys will incorporate questions that fit neatly into a particular management or leadership framework with associated behaviours. A long but non-exhaustive list includes people skills, teamwork, collaboration, relating, communication, strategic thinking, results orientation, achieving, planning and organising, innovation and creativity and leading change. Some 360-degree surveys however will consider themes beyond these and will be more likely to illuminate aspects of a manager’s behaviour that might evoke a stronger emotional response when scoring highly on critical, distant, autocratic, oppositional or even perfectionistic tendencies / behaviours.
Clarification of behaviors then allows one to make an assessment on the extent to which a particular behavior has been demonstrated or not.
DIALOGUE IS PROMOTED:
Regardless of what 360-survey is utilised, all 360’s will provide a final report of the manager’s rating on the various behaviours or themes particular to the management or leadership framework or construct.
It’s at this point where a skilful coach adds potency to what is the start of a developmental process. By partnering with the participant in a debriefing session an empathetic coach will illuminate where there may be blind spots gently holding the individual in a place where there’s presently unresolved contradictory forces and moving the individual to building clarity, insight and a choice point with respect to action. I use the word contradictory, because self-perception is sometimes different to the reality of how the individual has been rated.
In addition, a skilful coach will partner with the participant to build clarity on where there’s congruity between ratings in areas associated with optimal management and leadership, celebrate success and develop most optimal ways to leverage these strengths.
WHAT YOU FOCUS ON GROWS:
Coupling optimal survey administration with a debrief and support of a coach will reinforce where a manager is performing well and so is cause for reinforcement. Simultaneously, exploration of development opportunities enables a manager to develop insight and so strive toward newly created development goals with a sense of clarity and purpose. Knowing what to focus upon enables the individual to hold themselves accountable for those behaviors as they execute a plan to focus upon and leverage the insights provided by the 360 report with the ultimate aim of growing leadership capability.
RECEIVE FEEDBACK FROM MULTIPLE STAKEHOLDERS:
Reciprocity is an important aspect of a healthy relationship – a mutually beneficial exchange of information or feedback. However, performance feedback is often one-sided e.g. a manager or supervisor giving feedback to a direct report. Feedback just doesn’t happen from peers, direct reports or even the manager once removed – they don’t feel it’s their role to give feedback. By introducing this element into a relationship, we have created another touchpoint of reciprocal support for a manager’s performance and management style.
SUPPORTS TRANSITION TO LEADERSHIP:
Consistently high performing functional contributors are commonly promoted to a mid-level management role with a team of direct reports, primarily because of their high performance. This occurs in many industry sectors and professions, including but not limited to sales people, accountants, marketers and analysts. However managing and leading teams require different skills sets. Some make the transition effortlessly and this occurs largely because they possess innate leadership capability. Or because they’ve benefited from great leadership role models in their career journey. Many however struggle to transition, continuing to behave like a bigger version of the functional contributor they once were and as a result risk derailing. A derailer is a weakness that requires improvement if potential is to be realized. Good quality 360-degree surveys will incorporate a derailers section that helps to guide participants to specific areas where individuals can take action. Alternatively combine a 360-degree survey with a skillful coach and the potential derailers may be illuminated as sometimes, a derailer can be linked to a talent taken to an extreme. Combined with the open-ended comments, 360 survey participants can clearly see themes develop in their feedback to leverage as leadership development plans are created in order that the transition to leadership mastery occurs.
Feedback can also be gathered via face to face one on one interviews, led by a skilled interviewer armed with a discussion guide and or bespoke survey. Whilst this approach potentially provides a great deal more granularity / detail and rich descriptive data, verbatim comments and observations, it can be inefficient: time consuming and expensive to execute. However, 360-surveys administered electronically is a more efficient process – a incredible depth and breadth of data can be acquired in a short period of time from a large number of stakeholders. Furthermore, when combined with a coaching program the speed with which the coachee case conceptualisation occurs is likely to be much faster once again saving precious resources.
MEASURES THE EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM:
We often “top and tail” our leadership development programs with a 360-degree feedback assessment. Coupled with leadership development workshops and one on one coaching, the 360 survey can become a central feature of a leadership development program. Participants develop insight and create a growth strategy at program entry…. the “top” 360. Then because they execute strategy to grow through the program, participants look forward to the “tail” 360 where changes in behaviour are realised as seen by comparing and contrasting “top” and “tail” 360 survey reports. Furthermore, when taken together the results can demonstrate the overall effectiveness of the leadership development program.