On a a reasonably long car journey yesterday I was flipping between radio channels. As I’m of a certain age Radio 2 and Radio 4 were featuring more prominently than they would have previously done. On Radio 2 was a discussion on the dangers of sledging and on Radio 4 was a discussion on levels of inequality.
Initially the sledging discussion was with someone from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Other than a slight concern that we had lost the plot (bicycle helmets for sledging!) the discussion has data and insights built up from some expertise in the subject.
On Radio 4 I was later into the debate and already into the public contribution.
It was at this point that I became a little exasperated. On both channels the public were calling in with their views. And while their views were stridently held and even at times interesting I couldn’t help but wonder what was the point of me listening to views of non-experts on the subject. Invariably both discussions included one anecdote that the opinion giver extrapolated wildly from. That opinion was of course valid and honestly held but it wasn’t possible to tell whether this was an isolated view or one more generally held. It was the equivalent of a pub conversation. At times fun but not overly illuminating on the subject.
In 360 feedback we often say that everyone’s opinion is valid. In collating the narrative comments we ask the recipient to take on all of the feedback. But it is of course important that the respondents are useful reviewers of this recipient. Though not expert feedback givers, they should through exposure to the recipient over a period of time have built up a balanced view of them so that they can give balanced, useful feedback. The selection of respondents is going to be critical to how the report is formed and its content. A good reminder to all of us to spend longer explaining who makes a good respondent in 360.
Seen the same problem before? Thought through how the conversation is going to go already and can’t see why we don’t just shortcut to the end? Unable to see why someone is seeing such a difficulty in a situation? You already know the answer.
Anyone who has performed a management or coaching role; or, more often for me now, debriefed a 360 feedback report, will recognise the burning instinct to give someone the answer. People with problems or questions themselves often wish to get that answer too and it can feel great to give them what they are looking for.
If you are biologically predisposed to provide solutions as I appear to be then holding back, listening, exploring, asking questions can be very difficult. Yet it is critical. While there is no need to overcomplicate unnecesarily, the temptation of the simple answer leads to false starts and moves responsibility onto the coach. The proponents of the GROW model of coaching will recognise how hard it can be to explore and clarify the Goal, understanding the Reality and explore a variety Options rather than simply leap to the solution / Way forward.
360 feedback reports often provide a fantastic input into a conversation. But the recipient of the feedback has so much history, experience, capabilities, challenges, know-how on the ground that as a debriefer you cannot know the answer to what the feedback is saying or what should be done. It is really worth trying very hard to not know the answer.
An Introduction to the Meaningful Conversations