360: Getting leaders feedback from all angles

Our clients often ask for recommendations on what they can do to identify individual professional development possibilities and priorities. While there are several options, we believe a 360-degree feedback assessment offers an ideal starting point for professionals ranging in tenure from emerging leaders to senior executives.

A 360-degree feedback assessment (360) gives leaders the opportunity to receive anonymous feedback from the people with whom they work, typically including people to whom they report, peers, and direct reports.  The goal of this multi-directional approach is for leaders to pinpoint their strengths, then to identify, accept, and act on the most pressing developmental opportunities. Subjects gain insight into how others perceive them, which creates an opportunity to adjust behaviors and develop skills that will make them more effective.  This has implications for not only improved personal performance but also that of the organization around them.

It’s important to note that an exercise like this shouldn’t be one size fits all; a custom process works best. When I facilitate 360s, I collaborate with my clients to confirm their objectives, then select the approach and scope that seem best. 360 assessments can take several forms, from online surveys to personal interviews. Kenning uses instruments such as Korn Ferry 360 and The Leadership Circle Profile for quantitative competency assessments. To supplement these, we also routinely customize a series of interview questions for open-ended, qualitative data gathering interviews.  We appreciate the opportunity this format provides to explore the leader’s unique goals and discuss them in the context of the broader organization in which they serve.

While leaders can occasionally feel vulnerable in this process, we work hard to make clients feel safe and supported throughout.  For example, I always take the extra step in feedback interviews to ask interviewees what they can do, specifically, individually, to help the subject of the 360 grow, develop, and thrive – which often takes the form of the interviewee removing obstacles, changing their own behavior, or in some other way paving the way for the leader’s growth. By pointing out that each interviewee can play a supportive role, I encourage a sense of shared ownership for the leader’s success, creating a team-oriented approach to development. We know this balanced approach resonates when, as often is the case, interviewees ask how they can get this kind of 360 for themselves!

As I synthesize findings, I often find a disconnect between what leaders think their strengths are and what participants have to say. However, in organizational cultures where communication is strong, feedback is routine, and everyone values collaboration, there is usually less of a discrepancy. Often, it’s helpful for the leaders to complete the 360-feedback interview themselves to see the differences and similarities between their responses and those of the participants more tangibly.

The output of our work is a report that translates themes into actionable feedback and development ideas, which we then review with the 360 subject, focusing both on strengths to continue to leverage as well as growth opportunities. With that said, it’s a mistake to simply leave a client holding a report. The most critical step in the process is the follow-up developmental planning.

For help charting the path forward, many clients choose to begin working with a Kenning coach after the assessment.  The 360 provides a good understanding of the starting point, but is the leader clear about where they are headed, and how to get from here to there?  Together, we define specific goals with corresponding action plans and metrics that are results-oriented, resource-enabled, and time-bound. We design low-risk, high-impact ways to develop and apply new mindsets, skills, and approaches, and schedule recurring coaching sessions to ensure accountability, track progress, and celebrate successes.

I have yet to see an instance of where a 360 has not had a positive impact. Every leader with whom I’ve worked has grown and developed as long as they had the focus and organizational support to act on the things learned from the review process.  Might a 360-degree feedback assessment be right for you?

To learn more about Kenning’s approach to 360-degree feedback assessments, please contact Laurie Burkland Waller.