I found myself trying to answer the question "should we use a rating scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 5 for our 360 degree feedback. Trying to be helpful, I started thinking through the merits of both approaches. Easiest route to answer this type of question is to think about it from the respondents perspective. And that is when you spot the problem. I don’t know what being a 3 out of 5 or 10 at "delegating" or "client service" means. It just doesn’t work.
We often encourage clients to not use numbers in their reports – our belief is that averaging at an individual level usually loses more than it gains. Using numbers for the respondent is almost impossible to implement. So, the answer is use a worded rating scale. 5 points normally works with a not applicable/no evidence option.
Despite vast improvements in technology, ‘best’ commercial practice and tomes of knowledge from business management ‘gurus’, 360 degree feedback is often still the preserve of the few.
We will often work with clients and find people who have never been through a 360 degree feedback appraisal in their entire career.
This is not to say that they have ‘suffered’ as a result of this, however, it makes for an interesting 360 feedback debrief when they see for the first time in black and white how others perceive them.
They are sometimes shocked, pleased, saddened and overjoyed (sometimes all at once!) to read this type of feedback for the first time, but it always re-inforces to us at Bowland Solutions, just how powerful 360 degree feedback can be whether it is a new experience for someone or not.
A topic that often comes up for discussion with our clients which is what the remit is of a 360 degree feedback debrief; the session where you share an individual’s 360 feedback report with them (ideally for the first time).
We favour that it only goes as far as highlighting the key strengths and development opportunities for the individual; moving into ‘coaching’ mode and seeking to start creating actions or ways to resolve things in the report is often premature.
Coupled with this is to go at the pace if the individual concerned; sometimes they may well be able to contemplate development actions and begin planning ways to act upon the feedback, in which case you can follow their lead if the report has been fully explored.
Similarly, we often find individuals who need to ‘go away and think about it’ and this is equally valid.
My wife has recently started a business, part of which involves writing a blog that provides hints and tips on deals or discounts for days out in the UK. It is a very new venture and this week one of the people reading the blog (a complete stranger of course) left a comment …. "Hi, wicked blog. Keep up the good work!".
We sometimes forget how great a feeling it is to get positive feedback. Performance appraisals often concentrate on "how to improve" and most 360 degree feedback reports have "top 10 areas for improvement" or similar. But, being encouraged has an uplifting effect that leads us to want to continue. For someone starting a new venture it is particularly supportive.
One other salient point. Starting a new venture is like being a new employee. It is filled with uncertainty. In performance appraisals we often exclude new starters – a mistake for sure. They may not need the same performance appraisal form but they will welcome positive feedback and encouragement.
I watched the end of Wednesday night’s Champions League game in the UK between Lyon and Liverpool. Liverpool conceded a goal in the last few minutes which made their chances of progressing in their favoured competition most unlikely. Within 10 minutes of the end of the game, their captain Jamie Carragher – a rare scouse in the Liverpool team – was asked a series of questions on what had happened in the game.
The question that threw him the most (he was admirably cool while looking devastated) was "was it a loss of concentration that led to the goal being conceded?". The question would have assigned fault to two of Carragher’s colleagues. Carragher answered after a brief confused look with "it looked like the ball was just bouncing around and then it the next thing I knew it was in the net. We’ll have to look at it later to see what happened".
In the midst of a standard well-oiled interview by a great professional this answer demonstrated the folly of trying to work out what went wrong so soon after the event. We are often encouraged as managers to ensure that performance appraisal occurs at the time of the event, while everything is fresh in their mind. But here the "manager" (captain) was ill-equipped to give feedback.
You can take "in the moment" feedback too far. I recommend a day or two after the event, when the emotion has subsided yet memories are fresh. A short period of reflection allows for a considered performance appraisal rather than a reactive one. If you were one of those central defenders devastated by defeat you would not have been receptive to your captain pointing out your fault 10 minutes after the game. But after a day or so, that same performance feedback delivered well would allow you to develop and avoid the same mistake twice.
Performance appraisal and feedback can be difficult. Timing of the feedback really matters.
My apologies if you now have images of ‘poodle permed’ rockers strutting their stuff and a distinctive fanfare intro going round your head. The Final Countdown I’m referring to is the final week of a managed 360 degree feedback programme and how we work with our clients to get those final completion rates as high as possible.
As a managed 360 degree appraisal programme progresses we give an overall completion rate at the end of each week – we also alert our clients if we think this completion rate is lower than we would expect. We discuss with our clients possible strategies to combat low completion rates and implement the most effective solution.
In the final week, depending on completion rates, it maybe necessary that we
- provide a daily update on completion rates
- highlight recipients who have key feedback missing
- generate a detailed breakdown of respondent’s incomplete feedback
The final week also brings an extra urgency to reissue login details to respondents that haven’t completed feedback and realise that they have ‘lost’ them.
To get those completion rates as high as possible we provide our clients with facts, figures and equally important our guidance and experience. After all ‘The Final Countdown’ (even without the involvement of spandex) has the potential to be a stressful time without full backing and support.
A more common request now when implementing performance appraisals has been the desire on the part of our clients to incorporate multi-rater feedback (typically from other managers) in the appraisal process.
Taken to it’s logical extreme, there would be 360 degree feedback from all individuals who could offer valid feedback on that persons behaviour.
However, sometimes it is a good step forward to introduce the idea of multi-rater feedback into an organisation but making it a natural part of the appraisal process; it contributes to a more rounded view on an individual, it creates familiarity with the concept and offers the individual some useful insights, albeit still short of peers and direct reports offering feedback.
When this is coupled with that multi-rater feedback centering on competencies or qualities, then the foundations being laid to phase in 360 degree feedback is even stronger.
Just read a short and concise blog post which made a really great point of what can be an empowering starting point with any 360 feedback debrief; namely, highlighting someone’s strengths and see how it highlights their weaknesses as well.
An overplayed strength can become a weakness as can an underplayed one; very often this focus on strengths can help someone consider their development areas with a more open frame of mind.