Getting So Much More from 360 Feedback

360The use of multi-rater or 360 feedback is now common practice within many organizations. Whether it be an online survey-based format, narrative interview-based approach or some combination of the two, leaders are utilizing this information to inform their development, improve performance and move to the next stage of leadership effectiveness.

In my work conducting 360 feedback with executives and leadership teams, I’m often reminded of the overwhelming emphasis placed, within the questions, on leadership style, behaviour and actions. Of course, that’s the typical focus of gathering feedback from a diversity of stakeholders – getting insights on how an individual is performing as a leader in the team and organization.

What isn’t so obvious is the undercurrent of organizational dynamics and issues that are displayed within the collected feedback. While the questions are primarily focused on leadership presence and voice – the truth is that ‘real world’ realities are clearly providing the backdrop for specific leadership behaviour.

focus groupGiven the fact that leadership occurs in team and organizational contexts, it’s not surprising that these organizational and business-related issues emerge during the feedback process. The ability of leaders to change behaviours, improve performance, and enhance their effectiveness is dramatically affected by the world they inhabit, so these broader elements must really be considered if leaders are to grow and improve. I’ve had too many debrief/interpretation discussions with leaders where their own desire and ability to improve and make personal change is clearly hampered by the broader business or organizational context in which they live.

So what are these organization and business dynamics? They include things like clarity of direction and priorities; organizational design and structure; roles and accountabilities; key processes and practices; and group protocols around things like decision-making, participation and communications.

So, how best to extract more of this organizational ‘gold’ from your 360 feedback? Try these five suggestions:

  • Include questions in your multi-rater feedback survey that relate to the context of your leadership 360 participants. (clarity of direction, role boundaries, decision-making). For example, you might ask a question regarding the ability of the leader to clearly differentiate their role and accountabilities from other leaders.
  • Consider adding additional open text questions to specifically get feedback on key issues that this leader faces in realizing their business goals. For instance, it may be helpful to ask, “what constraints, within the business, hinder the ability of this individual to become more effective as a leader?”
  • leadership developmentLook more intentionally for team and organization challenges appearing within the 360 feedback results, from both the quantitative and qualitative feedback. While some of these issues may indeed be related to leadership performance, others clearly reside within the teams or organizations in which they inhabit.
  • During the 360 debrief, have participants identify key team and organizational issues and dynamics that are affecting their leadership behaviour and performance. This is not an ‘out’ to avoid change or improvement, but rather an acknowledgement of the challenges that exist in the workplace. Subsequent conversations can then focus on ways to address these key challenges.
  • Host facilitated conversations with 360 participants, after the feedback has been gathered and synthesized, to explore common organizational issues arising from the feedback. Go deeper to better understand the nature of these challenges and identify ways to support leaders in addressing these issues.

The bottom line is simple: by utilizing the rich treasure trove of contextual information emerging from 360 feedback, you’ll enable your leaders to be far more successful in their own personal development and performance improvement efforts.

If you’re interested in learning more about survey-based or narrative 360 feedback, or would like to explore how your existing 360 process can be strengthened, drop me an email – I’d be happy to share my perspective.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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