Written by Kate Pritchard
More than 85% of Fortune 500 companies use 360 degree feedback as a key part of their leadership development process, according to industry expert Jack Zenger. 360 degree (or multi-rater) feedback provides constructive insights to expand self-awareness, boost performance, enhance leadership abilities and improve wider business outcomes. For example, research shows a clear link between leadership effectiveness and employee engagement.
For 360 degree feedback exercises to unlock these benefits they need to be both carried out effectively and acted upon. This blog will explain some of the key challenges related to collecting 360 feedback and how to plan actions to improve your leadership performance.
The key challenges to collecting 360 feedback
The 360 feedback review process is based on evaluation from peers, team members, direct reports and sometimes customers alongside superiors and the leader themselves. That makes it vital that all raters:
- Are clear about the purpose of the evaluation and how to give multi-rater feedback
- Are trained and understand what they are evaluating
- Understand that it will be anonymous and that you are looking for constructive feedback
- Know that the aim is to drive positive improvement, evaluating behaviours and competencies. It is not a traditional performance review.
- Are clear that 360 degree feedback processes should not be impacted by emotion or any existing relationships that they have with you.
Additionally, the 360 feedback survey should be focused on the right criteria, have a mix of rating scale and open ended questions, be simple and understandable to fill in by all raters, and be focused on the particular organisation and the leader’s role. We included some sample survey questions here in our previous blog.
Bear in mind that if the exercise feels irrelevant to either the rater or you as the leader it will not get full buy-in and attention. Finally, look to carry out 360 degree exercises more than once a year – regular evaluations enable more constant improvement in leadership development and make collecting and acting on feedback a central part of overall company culture.
Taking effective action to improve leadership
Simply reviewing, understanding, and internalising the results of 360-degree evaluations can improve your performance. However, a well thought through and executed development plan can provide a clear path to even greater improvements.
Turning results into a specific set of goals and actions helps support the behavioural changes required for you to become a better leader.
Receiving feedback can be hard and change requires not only a level of personal commitment, but also an awareness of what it takes to change, and the obstacles you need to overcome. If it was easy to demonstrate all the competences of a transformational leader, you would see only strengths in your results, and it is unlikely, even for a great leader, that this will be the case. There are generally a mix of strengths and weaknesses identified in a 360 review.
Prioritising your efforts
One technique that can help you to focus on the right areas for development is to work on an ‘Impact/Motivation’ quadrant. These look to drive change in areas you are most motivated to improve upon, and that are also perceived to have the highest impact on performance.
To develop your Impact/Motivation quadrant, follow these steps:
- Ask yourself which leadership competencies you feel most willing and able to change. Rather than just going straight to your lowest scoring areas, take the time to think about what you want to improve upon, what you feel you would find easiest to improve or change.
- Ask your raters to consider these same leadership competencies and to decide which they believe would allow you to have the greatest impact on overall business performance.
- Chart all leadership competencies on your quadrant. When you build your development plan, look first at those competencies that you have rated most highly for both motivation and performance impact (be that your own, your teams or your organisations)
Pitfalls to overcome when taking action
Developing or improving upon competencies can be difficult as in most cases this means changing your behaviour. As behaviours become more ingrained, they can become resistant to change, but there are things that you can do to maximise your chance of success:
- Try not to focus on too many goals or actions at any point in time.
- Make sure that the behavioural outcomes of your goals or actions are visible and can ideally be measured.
- Don’t make your goals or actions too lengthy. Split longer goals into shorter, achievable chunks.
- Get support from others. Consider getting a coach or mentor to help you work through your action plan.
- Set up a system of accountability. This can be as simple as sharing your action plan with others or setting up regular peer or manager meetings to review your progress.
- Get regular feedback. As you work through your action plan seek additional feedback from your original raters to see if they are perceiving the changes you are making in a positive way.
- Don’t stop. There is always room for improvement. Once you have worked through your first goals/actions, identify your next areas of focus.
As we’ve outlined in our two blogs on leadership, 360 degree feedback is an essential part of developing self-awareness and underpins both better employee performance and business improvements. As with every feedback exercise, success requires a clear process, normally led by the human resources department, and buy-in from everyone involved to provide honest feedback – and to then act on it. No leader is perfect and 360 feedback enables you to take action to constantly improve, now and in the future.