The short answer to this is ‘with care’ – We have had a spate of new performance appraisal projects with clients who interestingly have all requested integrated 360 degree feedback.
This is nothing new in itself but the frequency of the requests is intriguing and perhaps suggests a groundswell in the belief that assessing performance against objectives, identifying learning & development needs, and setting objectives going forward, is not enough.
Defining desired organisational behaviours and soliciting feedback on these is an essential element of any effective performance management process.
The key to success in bringing together the outputs of both the performance appraisal and the 360 feedback into a meaningful conversation is to clearly recognise what they are designed to do; appraisal on the ‘what’ and 360 on the ‘how’; appraisal for evaluation, 360 for development.
Sometimes just keeping the conversations separate and giving equal importance to both can be all it needs.
A topic we often discuss with clients is where the responsibility should lie with regard the 360 degree feedback debrief; this being the face-to-face session where the recipient explores and discusses their 360 feedback report.
We would say ideally that the debrief should be conducted by someone outside of that person’s line management; this could be someone from HR, L & D or someone external to the company, with the caveat that whomever it is should be suitably skilled/trained.
However, we recognise that this is not always practically possible; the internal resources within HR and L & D just cannot dedicate the time required to take all recipients through a 90 minute debrief, and the budget doesn’t stretch to external facilitation.
So it falls to the line manager, which prompts the question; how should a line manager debrief a 360 degree feedback report? The first answer must be again, with skill; line managers need to be effectively trained to conduct such a debrief conversation.
The challenges for line managers in conducting debriefs are numerous; their feedback is in the report, they can find it hard to switch from ‘performance review’ mode, they can find themselves jumping in with solutions to development areas which haven’t been fully explored.
Line managers need to step back within a debrief; their role is to be curious, ask questions which raise awareness not ask for rationale, listen intently, trust in the recipient and not jump to resolution.
It’s a different mode of thinking and a significant ‘gear shift’ downwards; only for 90 minutes, but it can make the world of difference to the outcome.
Here is a rather comprehensive blog post from David K Schneider which takes a balanced view of 360 degree feedback, describing the various possible outcomes as ‘Heaven’, ‘Hell’ and ‘Purgatory’; nice analogies!
I found myself nodding at numerous points throughout this piece, particularly those which picked up on how if a 360 feedback project becomes an ‘I.T. solution’ to be implemented, then something is going to awry.
It’s all too easy sometimes to put in the hard miles at the beginning of a project; taking time to design a behavioural questionnaire that is relevant and resonant, communicating the process clearly and consistently, and implementing an online system which creates an easy-to-use process, before faltering at the end with poor training of debriefers or failing to ensure that recipients are adequately supported when absorbing their feedback.
Heaven is in reach, Purgatory is avoidable, and Hell is a painful lesson.
The latest news regarding the Department of Education (DoE) new approach to underperforming teachers is slightly depressing; it is introducing measures which will allow them to be sacked within a term.
I don’t dispute that underperformance is an issue in any organisation and in teaching the effects of such poor performance can have far reaching consequences for the pupils and the school.
However, in a similar vein to the argument for ‘Protected Conversations’ (a post on this can be read here), the response of Government seems to be weighted in favour of punitive measures rather than a desire to improve the situation i.e. find a way sack employees more easily, remove the red-tape that binds employers, etc.
Michael Gove speaks of headteachers being able to intervene when there are ‘alarm bells ringing and red lights flashing’ over a teacher’s incompetence; I think it’s rare that incompetence is truly the root cause, more likely it is weak management, poor training, lack of support, systemic issues, absence of regular feedback and confidence.
A mindset which believes that there is a lot of incompetent teachers out there will reach for the solutions we are seeing implemented by the DoE, but it misses the opportunity to introduce real measures which will help teachers improve where there is underperformance, which has to be a better alternative to sacking them.
Our new website now really captures our philiosophy of what we believe makes for success in the context of a 360 degree feedback project; the idea of working backwards through 5 key steps.
1. Working backwards means starting with the end in mind; starting with the clear intention of ensuring there is a meaningful conversation at the end of the process in the face-to-face debrief above all else.
2. The debriefer needs to be skilled enough to conduct such a conversation; willing to explore and be curious, offering challenge and support in equal measure.
3. A report prompts a meaningful conversation when it displays ratings and comments in an insightful way; an individual should be able to quickly grasp what the feedback is relaying.
4. Enabling this to happen efficiently should be a simple, customised, quiet online system designed to fit your organisation.
5. A relevant, resonant and well designed questionnaire is an underlying key element; it should reflect your organisation – it’s culture, values, and strategic direction.
If you want to know more, then take a look at the new website; there are free seminars, whitepapers and system demonstrations available to help you work through the process from end-to-end and ensure the best outcome for your 360 feedback process.
I really recommend reading the following article in a New Zealand online website www.stuff.co.nz/sport/opinion/6195646/The-myth-of-team-culture . It is well written and well though through. At first read, the author is so convinced of his own view that you find yourself agreeing with him. And even on the second or third read I did find myself wondering whether 360 degree feedback really is useful for team sports.
The ultimate issue I have with the article is that it falls for a classic "either or" structure. In summary he says either you have sportsmen (forgive me following his male assumption!) taking responsibility on the field or you have people working to develop performance goals, team culture, or consider the mental side of the game. He sees these as conflicting goals. I believe you can have both.
It strikes me that regular performance reviews and regular feedback sessions (360 degree feedback in this context really is just having team feedback sessions I’d guess) are sensible parts of delivering a high performing team. That underneath this process each team member is responsible for their own contribution and performance fits well with such work not against it.
So, while I sympathise with some of his general sentiments of overly pampered sports stars I don’t subscribe to the argument that working on teamwork, having well defined goals, and working on the team culture works against high achievement.
Clive Woodward’s autobiography/book on England winning the World cup (Winning!) and the excellent book "Sacred Hoops" by Phil Jackson; coach of Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers show how great coaches and leaders balance team management, leadership and culture with letting great individuals thrive.
We would first like to wish all our readers, colleagues, partners and clients a Happy New Year and hope that you enjoyed a restful break.
With our New Year resolutions, comes a new website which offers us the opportunity to share much more about 360 degree feedback and performance appraisal in 2012.
- As ever, we have interesting free whitepapers to download around the topics of implementing both 360 feedback and performance management processes from end-to-end; our 360 whitepaper in particular has complete new sections on 360 reporting which is a critical element of the whole experience.
- In addition, you can now request online system demonstrations of both our 360 degree appraisal and performance review solutions; just register your details with a preferred date and we will come back to you with available times.
- Similarly, with the ongoing success of our seminar and webinar series, we have now provided a registration page such that anyone can reserve a place at these and be informed in advance of general release.
We look forward to speaking and meeting with many more of you this coming year and thank you for your continued interest and support; Happy New Year!