Thoughts, Insights & Words of Wisdom

Day 11 | 30-Day Blogging Challenge

6 Benefits of 360-Degree Feedback

And is 360-degree feedback important in relation to leadership training?

360-degree feedback.  Three little words so powerful, they can stop a conversation dead.

Recently, I’ve been working with possibly one of the best clients – in terms of working relationships – I’ve known.  And yet, as aligned as we have been on the outcomes, style, content and expectations of their leadership training, we haven’t done any pre-workshop assessments, 360- or otherwise.  They just felt that, within the business and amongst the leadership teams, there was no appetite for yet another assessment following several unsuccessful previous attempts.

Now, as supporters and advocates of 360’s go, you don’t get much greater than me, so upon hearing this, my anxiety levels rose on a par with the incoming Firth of Forth tide.  I’m biased; I admit it.  I’ve been working with the best of the best for many years now, I’ve used robust, globally-normed, validated 360’s and continue to uphold the belief that ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’.

Day 11 | 30-Day Blogging Challenge

My reaction got me thinking; has this current project suffered by not having an assessment in place?  As much as it unsettles me to say it aloud, I’m not sure that it has!  In fact, I can comfortably site a whole list of improvement areas and priority goals the leadership teams are currently working on and towards, just from our briefings and consultations.

So, back to my original questionis a 360-degree assessment important in relation to leadership training

Despite all I’ve just said above, yes, I believe it is.  Development based on feedback is important for anyone, regardless of position, experience level or objectives: leaders and managers are no exception. 360-degree feedback surveys benefit the entire organisation immediately by providing a safe, confidential and reliable way for colleagues to provide feedback to one another. The organisation gains valuable insights into overall health of the organisation and leaders gain powerful insight into what is and isn’t working.

In a recent article featured on talentculture.com, the contributor suggested that today “major companies don’t simply want people who will listen and carry out: they want creative thinkers who will come up with innovative ideas and solutions.”  I don’t think you’d find many who’d disagree with that statement.  Rather than giving orders, leaders are being asked to find creative ways to foster engagement. Feedback helps them do just that.

We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve. – Bill Gates

While Bill has a point (and a very successful business!) when an organisation today decides to launch a 360-degree feedback program for the first time, there is still significant reluctance to participate. “Why do I need feedback?” or “Can’t I just ask for feedback instead of taking a survey?” or even “I have team meetings; I know everything I need to know” 

These are fairly typical responses and often based on prior experience of failed attempts. But the fact remains, future improvement depends on feedback. And while employee perceptions aren’t perfect indicators, they are one of the most valuable tools a leader has.

When done correctly, there are a lot of really solid benefits of 360-degree feedback.  Here, I’ve focused in on six benefits that I’ve seen:

    1. Tailor made. Self-awareness means understanding your behaviours, your tendencies, your strengths and weaknesses.  It’s especially important when it comes to leadership because leading people requires a careful balance of competing priorities. Gaining 360-degree feedback on performance can be an incredibly useful: it’s multi-directional and helps you to gain perspective from those who work closely with you and have an acute awareness of your leadership style.  Listening to their views is an opportunity to take a step back and assess yourself.
    2. The short-, mid- and long- of it. Feedback allows the creation of more tailored, specific development plans to help improve skills and performance, which, in turn, enables both teams and leaders to work in the best, most effective way possible.  Using feedback as a basis for development means that leaders can focus on the specific things required to improve both their leadership qualities and general interactions with their team on a short-, mid- and a long-term basis.
    3. The ‘how’ not the ‘what’. Which is better, doing something the right way even if it might fail or just getting it done no matter how? Nothing is guaranteed and you’re going to get it wrong sometimes.  But by accepting that and focusing on what you are doing well – more specifically what others perceive you as doing well – you are giving yourself the best chance of getting the desired outcome.
    4. Keep ‘em keen…but none of the mean!  It’s often said that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.  My own experience would fully support that.  It’s not rocket science – if there are issues within the organisation (and show me one where there aren’t any!) but people generally like their leader and are satisfied with how they’re being led, they’re less likely to leave.  So it stands to reason that if leaders are both listening to and acting on the feedback received, the team will feel that their views are being valued. Team members who feel valued are likely to be more engaged, less likely to leave and start to work more productively.
    5. Under-promise, over-deliver. The more vague something is, the less anyone can be accountable for it, whether it’s a task or a behaviour. You can’t tell someone to ‘be a better leader’ in the same way that you can’t teach someone who isn’t willing to learn.  You need some specifics for what that means. What 360’s do really well is clarify behaviours which then allow you to to hold someone accountable for those behaviours.

But all those points lead to one final, definitive benefit of 360-degree feedback: Number 6.  Performance improvement.  360 degree feedback is one of the most powerful tools to improve relationships, increase accountability and provide clarity on how to improve performance. But it’s not a magic pill. And like any other medicine, they need to be taken as directed on the box. Administered properly, 360-degree feedback assessments can be directly related to increased employee engagement and improved performance.  They can even become something employees look forward to instead of dreading.

And if you finish the course, and feedback continues after the leadership training, team members also have the opportunity to continue the conversation and provide real-time feedback on their leader’s ongoing development. And so the cycle continues…

…and I can return to my comfort zone.

First time here? Thank you for reading my blog. This is Day 11 of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge. 

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Want to find out more about our assessments, leadership development programmes or learning journey? You can email me directly or visit The Extraordinary Training Company website.