canstockphoto29496806The 360 feedback process for leaders has been around a good number of years.  Over the years I have probably heard as many complaints about what a waste of time it was as I have people lauding its merits.  Most of the complaints fall into one of two categories.  Either the process had a poor design and the wrong measures, or the instrument was at fault, or both.

The effectiveness of any measure is its ability to predict outcomes.  With the 360 it is important that the ratings from 360’s predict important organizational outcomes.  The value of having a good cross-section of people providing feedback is that the aggregate of that information about the skills of the leader correlates to the effectiveness of the leader.  Research shows us that leaders who are rated as highly effective are connected with operations where turnover is low, employment engagement and customer satisfaction are high.

Companies that do the best job with design of the 360 process do the following:

  • They know, through research, which leadership competencies really make the difference to the performance of the organization.
  • They take time to explain to participants, and to those giving feedback, the importance of their feedback, and how it will be used for the leader’s development.
  • There is absolute confidentiality.
  • The instrument takes between 15 – 20 minutes to complete.
  • The organization is looking to uncover strengths rather than uncover deficiencies. There will be times when deficiencies are uncovered and need to be dealt with.
  • The results are tailored to the individual and the position. The organization doesn’t need everyone to be good at the same things.
  • The information is presented in a way that allows the leader to create a solid development plan from the information. Ideally, the report back is simple and easy to read.
  • They also produce a report that tells the leader where they are in relation to those in the top 25% and the top 10%. There is power in knowing where you are.
  • They also conduct a min-survey that lets the manager know the impact of their behavior.

Some of the key leadership competencies that organizations look at are in: Communication, Planning and Organizing, Trustworthiness, Knowledge/Competency, Creativity, Leadership, Team Member and Coaching/Developing.  A sample of the questions explored are:

  • Takes reasonable risk for the sake of the company
  • Gains perspective through looking at problems from multiple viewpoints
  • Challenges employees with new learning situations in order to build skills and produce bottom line results
  • Develops trust with employees
  • Communicates openly and honestly
  • Displays confidence when present ideas and expressing opinions
  • Listens carefully to understand needs and concerns
  • Makes decisions that might be unpopular
  • Thinks about company growth
  • Looks for new ways to achieve a competitive edge
  • Demonstrates competence and credibility in their area of expertise
  • Attracts top talent
  • Leads with an authentic style

One thing we haven’t addressed is whether the 360 is best used as part of a performance appraisal process, or as part of a development process.  A commonly reported finding of using the 360 feedback for appraisal is that the self-rating and the rating of the co-workers tend to be inflated when collected for decision-making purposes.

Is your organization and leadership ready for the next step in their development?  This is always an interesting question because it challenges how comfortable we are with ‘frank’ information that will confirm strengths, but also confirm areas needing attention.  If there is a high degree of trust in your culture, then it likely means that there is ‘candid conversations’ going on already and the 360 process will be welcomed.

The best outcomes come from an environment where the feedback will turn into a solid development plan that will both leverage strengths, and also address opportunities for development.  Anything less and the participants, and those providing feedback, will question the validity and importance of the process.