• Scott & Jen

Am I Effective as a Leader?

Updated: Jul 5, 2018

While 360-Degree Feedback is a tool to gather data on effectiveness as a leader, it has its pros and cons.

We rely on our rear view mirror to assist us when we drive. However, if we only look in that mirror, our scope is limited. Blind spots exist. Advances in technology, like backup cameras and lane assistance, help provide a larger perspective while driving. But, even with mirrors, backup cameras and lane assistance, blind spots exist and we can’t see the full 360-degree picture.

How Does This Relate to My Role as a Leader? 

We are all leaders! Whether we are leading a corporation, a non-profit, a team, a classroom or a family, we are all in a leadership role. And let’s face it, we all have blind spots. We can see what’s in front of us, much like when we drive, but blind spots exist in ourselves we cannot see. Our scope and perspective of our performance is limited by our own perception. And our personal scope and perspective of ourselves may be different than the way someone else sees us. How can we gain a larger perspective, limiting our blind spots, as a leader?  

360-Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback has become a popular way to give us a clearer picture of our blind spots. How? 360-degree feedback is a systematic process in which a leader receives confidential developmental feedback from the people who work around them (i.e. boss, peers, employees, vendors, customers) to gain a better understanding of strengths and areas for growth. With multiple perspectives on our performance, though, feedback may be positive and/or negative. Therefore, 360-degree feedback does have its pros and cons.

The Pros of 360-Degree Feedback

  1. More Holistic Assessment. By combining the multiple sources of feedback, a more complete picture on performance can be gathered. Reoccurring themes or patterns may show up that allow us to better understand our strengths and identify areas for growth.

  2. See How Others See You. Learning about oneself from the perception of others can be eye opening, however; being open to feedback is key. If we see the feedback as an opportunity for growth, the information gained is invaluable.  

  3. Feedback is Good. Regular feedback is one of the most powerful tools in improving performance of employees. Recent numbers suggest that 65% of employees want more feedback than they are getting, and companies that provide regular feedback have a 15% less turnover rate. When we use feedback properly, there is great potential for growth.

The Cons of 360-Degree Feedback

  1. It Can Create a Negative Culture. If feedback received is negative, it can create resentment within a team. If your culture already has an issue with trust or your team isn’t getting along well, this might only worsen the problem. 

  2. It Might Not Be Accurate. Some of us may cringe at the thought of having to give honest feedback on a survey about a fellow employee. Therefore, information might not be accurate. Colleagues might be nicer than what they really feel, or maybe they will be dishonest out of fear. 

  3. Too Focused on Weaknesses. If we're gathering this information to gain a better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, remember to focus on both.  While obviously we want to improve in areas of weakness, if we focus too much on weaknesses, it can be discouraging. Make sure to keep a healthy balance.

Designing Assessments

When it comes to designing customized 360-Degree feedback assessments, I have learned a few best practices:

  • Pair 360-degree feedback with developmental purposes only. Don’t tie it to performance pay and compensation. The tool is meant for growth only.

  • Use 360-degree feedback by a trained and skilled facilitator that is objective of the situation.

  • Recognize feedback tends to elicit one of the six D’s: defend, deflect, deny, diminish, defy or delay. I tend to see one of these six reactions from leaders when they see the feedback for the first time. Expect one or more of these reactions because, honestly, receiving feedback takes intentional and serious preparation.

  • Where possible, pair the survey with an effective coach to help make healthy sense of the feedback. Plan for your coach to ask you interpretative questions based on the feedback received, and make an action plan around the results.

  • Circle back to those who completed the survey (if you know). Thank them for being honest and inform them as to what you plan to do with the findings.

As a leader, gaining insight from others can be useful to our professional growth. However, I strongly believe that for the feedback to be most beneficial, it needs to be desired by the individual. Before beginning any 360-degree feedback process, there needs to be a clear understanding of the purpose of the feedback, why it’s being done, the timing of the process and what we want out of it.  

360-degree feedback does have its pros and cons, but when used with the right heart and for the right reasons, it can be a useful tool to challenge oneself for growth. Want to assess the growth? Consider repeating the survey in 12-18 months. Knowing the survey is being repeated pushes us to grow and allows opportunities to celebrate accomplishments.