Often when working with our clients, particularly with senior leadership teams, we help them with the one-to-one debriefs; the session where you share the feedback with the recipient for the first time.
During this session, as well as getting a balanced view of the 360 feedback, the hope is that they will begin the process of creating a ‘Personal Development Plan’ or PDP.
This will highlight any strengths that could be better deployed, and naturally any development areas they wish to work on.
Whilst this is an invaluable exercise for the individual leader, there is an opportunity beyond this to work with the whole leadership team in unison and create a ‘Team Development Plan’ as well.
By aggregating the results of all the senior managers in the leadership team, we can see the wider picture of development needs; ideally this report, should be shared just as one would share an individual’s report i.e. Face-to-face with the group.
In this way, you conduct a ‘group debrief’ and together they can see their collective strengths and development areas, before collectively agreeing how to tackle their development areas.
This is an important step, because whilst individually they could simply attend to their own development, it wouldn’t necessarily address issues that exist in the space between people.
The use of aggregated reporting with 360 degree feeback helps raise levels of awareness beyond the individual and highlight issues that ripple outwards across teams and often company wide.
On a recommendation, I am currently reading “How will you measure your life” by Clayton Christensen. Yesterday evening I came across these words of wisdom – the context was how you may have two children and they may respond very differently to your parenting. Something I think most of us with more than one child will recognise as the “how have we raised such different kids?” moment! But it immediately struck me as a wonderful summary of the blind spot we see in leaders/managers who struggle to manage a team as they apply one management style and communication to all team members.
I’m not sure the metaphor will stand up to much stretching but thinking of your team members as very different individuals who are looking for different things from you and requiring different styles of support and guidance is useful. And frankly, its a great metaphor so I’m going to use it anyway!
One of the major trends for us over the past few years has been the inclusion of feedback from a range of people as part of the performance appraisal process. From a software perspective we have an integrated system so it may be that we see more of this because competitor’s don’t have the same capability but it does look to be a broader trend in the market.
If we look back 10 years, 360 feedback was something quite specific. There were strong arguments in research and practice that it worked best when it was developmental. It was built around competencies and behaviours and was something quite different from appraisal. We continue to consult, debrief, and provide the software for “360″ but is it the same as the performance appraisal activity?
Often, as short hand, 360 feedback is used to mean any feedback that is received from a range of people. So, we too will refer to a client’s appraisal system making use of 360 feedback. But, I wonder did we lose something in the merger?
Gaining input into the performance review process from a range of people often makes sense. Organisational structures, geographical locations, team-based and project based working all mitigate against the manager having the full picture. Yet, the feedback has a different context when it is linked to appraisal and particularly when it is linked directly or indirectly to remuneration.
There is something attractive in the idea of receiving developmental feedback – that you have asked for, wish to receive, understand the purpose of and all intend to be developmental. You can set up systems, processes, people all geared to the leader/manager being well positioned to receive the feedback, accept it, and draw out actions and commit to them. You can consider all of the recent neuroscience research on feedback and set the process up accordingly.
Appraisal/performance review is a valid process considering performance at work against goals, targets, business values, etc. It is often structure to suit the organisation. As I’ve said, gathering feedback from others on that performance makes sense but it is not what 360 feedback is in its most effective form.
The answer … do them both! Gain feedback on performance annually however you see fit and in whatever way works best. Gain developmental feedback for leaders separately at a different time of the year. That way you have two conversations at different times of the year with a different focus. Of course there will be overlap but better to have two highly meaningful conversations with overlap than miss out on the real benefits of 360 feedback.