Written by Rachel Clapp-Smith
Have you ever wondered if the leader you see in yourself is the leader others see? There are a host of theories I could regale you with to explain how and why we come to see ourselves as certain types of leaders. However, on the very basic level, the question of finding congruence in how we see ourselves and how others see us is a matter of self-awareness. The most important piece about becoming self-aware is getting feedback. Many organizations implement systems such as 360 assessments and annual reviews as mechanisms to provide feedback. Sounds like a good idea, right?
Well, the problem is that organizations do a good job with building the structures, but a terrible job at the very human element of the feedback loop – how to craft feedback in a developmental way, how to absorb feedback that may not always be positive, and how to turn such feedback into actionable items for improvement. If you are human like me, your gut reaction to feedback might be dread in anticipation of feedback and sulking if it is negative. Because we all feel this way, we have a tendency to give positive feedback, which is nice to have something reaffirm how great we are, but not always developmental, because it may make us think that everything we do is just fine. The truth is, we all have room for improvement.
I might suggest at this point that we all just suck it up and learn how to process feedback so that we can turn it into something positive. This isn’t bad advice and I would recommend training yourself to use a learner mindset in receiving feedback about how you lead. But this blog post is about how to get really honest and complete feedback. When you want to hear the hard news, who do you turn to? The people who know you well, who support you, and who can be honest with you. In short, where strong relationships exist, so, too, does honest feedback.
Because of this, it is almost silly to use only 360 degree feedback, i.e., only in the workplace. With 1080 degree feedback, that workplace information can be augmented by family and friends, and members of our community domain (volunteer organization, church group, sports club, etc.). This gives leaders a panoramic view in high definition. When the leader they see is not the leader others see, the 1080 view will make it clear why, because the feedback is more complete and in some areas, likely more honest.
How often do you ask your friends and family about how they see you lead? We have evidence from our research that the way they see you lead has an awful lot to do with the way you see yourself lead. Furthermore, our research shows that the more your friends and family acknowledge you as a leader, the more effectively you lead at work.
There’s a lot of power in 1080 feedback. Are you ready for it?
What is it?
Feedback - that oft-stated, oft-misunderstood grail of organizational life - is simply information provided to a person about his/her behavior and the results of that behavior.
360 feedback is a unique type of feedback that is often used for leader development. Basically, the leader is asked a series of questions about his/her behaviors (e.g., setting a vision or encouraging teamwork) and the results of those behaviors (e.g., fostering trust and team performance). Then, people who know the leader well and have observed his/her behaviors answer the same set of questions. These raters typically consist of the leader’s boss, peers, and direct reports, as well as internal and external customers. It is this feedback from all sides that results in a 360 degree “view” of the leader’s actions.
Why do we use it?
The answer is very simple: Leader self ratings alone tend to be unreliable and sometimes inaccurate “scores” of a leader’s actual behaviors.
This is not to say that leader self ratings are devoid of accuracy; to the contrary, in certain situations they can be quite accurate. Likewise, ratings supplied by other people should not be considered the absolute “true scores” of leader effectiveness.
The point is that we need both the leader self rating and the ratings of others to get the most accurate view of the leader’s behaviors and effectiveness.
How do we use it?
The power of 360 feedback manifests in two main ways.
First, by comparing his/her self scores to the scores of others, the leader can develop greater self-awareness. Sometimes, the leader can discover a hidden strength be realizing that others see something that the leader may have missed. For example, perhaps the leader does not see herself as engaging others at an individual level. However, her raters report a high level of individual consideration. As she reflects on some recent incidents, she realizes that she has done a pretty good job of relating on an individual basis. This realization gives her greater confidence in these situations.
Second, by using benchmarking data, the leader can identify areas for improvement. In other words, the 360 data is best utilized when the leader sets specific goals for improvement. This is one area in which an experienced leadership coach can be helpful. An experienced coach can help the leader to craft clear goals, find resources to help meet those goals, and act as an accountability partner.
Concerns about 360 feedback
In our research and consulting, we see three common concerns with 360 feedback
1 - Leaders believe that it is a waste of time
The answer to this concern is straightforward: it all depends on the leader. If the leader is motivated to learn and grow, he/she will find something useful in the 360 feedback. We have found this to be the case Every Single Time.
2 - Feedback will not be confidential
This concern manifests in two forms.
First, raters are concerned that their answers will not be confidential. We address this concern by assuring anonymity, with the following caveats: a) if the leader only invites one person to a particular category (e.g., peer), then the leader will likely know who you are [the exception to this scenario is the direct report category, in which at least two raters must participate in order for feedback to show].
Second, the leader is concerned that others will see his/her feedback. To counter this concern, we stress that the data belongs to the leader, and the leader decides who sees what. Even when we conduct a 360 in an organization, one of our rules of engagement is that senior management will only see data in aggregated form.
3 - Feedback will be used for evaluation instead of development
We cannot stress this point enough: 360 feedback should only be used for developmental purposes. When used for evaluation, it is too easy for people to “game the system”. Our suggestion is to require participants to identify 2-3 goals based on their 360 feedback, and to have senior management hold them accountable for goal achievement.
Have more questions about 360 feedback? Contact us and we will be glad to help