Squeezing the lemon; 360 Degree Feedback and Coaching

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This brief news article on the British Psychological Society website highlights how coaching has a greater impact on performance than does training or 360 degree feedback – instinctively this feels right, but perhaps is arriving at an incomplete analysis.

Coaching has the ability to create focussed action on the part of an individual; it sets out the desired goal to achieve, explores the reality of where someone is, challenges the individual to consider different routes to achieving this aim and then bears witness to what they finally decide to commit to by way of action and change.

This change however, is rarely achieved without some catalyst; effectively handled, 360 degree feedback is an excellent method to act as a catalyst – it raises self-awareness and builds acceptance of what needs to change, and in doing so, enables individuals to form more measured goals to pursue in the first place.

So whilst coaching may have a greater impact on performance than 360 degree feedback (or training, but I will keep that for another post!), I suspect if they extended the research and analysis, they would find that coaching AND 360 degree feedback has a greater impact on performance than does coaching alone.




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End of Year Review – Top 10 Blog posts from 2013

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As we approach the end of the year, we thought we would mirror those myriad of ‘Top 50 countdown’ shows you find on TV about now, reminding you of all the reality shows, scandinavian thrillers, and period BBC dramas you missed.

Here is the top ten countdown of our most popular blog posts over the last year, ranging from tips on what makes for a successful 360 degree feedback process, to embedding values within your organisation, through to how to design a performance appraisal form.

So, put those brussel sprouts to one side and tuck in…

1. Busting some ‘Urban Myths’ with 360 degree feedback

2. How to take a strategic view with 360 degree feedback

3. How to keep values and behaviours alive…an employee’s view

4. Be careful what you wish for when it comes to Performance Reviews

5. Values, employee behaviour and your brand

6. How the design of your performance appraisal form affects the appraisal conversation

7. Using social proof as a means of embedding your organisational values

8. What’s your Achilles’ Heel?

9. What single thing would most improve your performance appraisal process?

10. 360 degree feedback; objects in the mirror are closer than they appear


And with that, we are signing off for the year with our blog posts; we look forward to sharing our thoughts, insights and our new look  website when we return in 2014!

Merry Xmas and a peaceful New Year from all the team at Bowland Solutions






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How to have a meaningful conversation about 360 degree feedback – Part 5 of 6

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In the previous part 4 post, we presented a structure for the debrief which began with framing the session for the individual recipient, followed by them reading the report for the first time, and then opening up the debrief conversation with a series of questions; these questions were:

  • What is your overall impression of the report?
  • What does the report suggest are your key strengths?
  • What does the report suggest are your key development areas?

Taking these in turn, the first question is useful for gauging their instinctive reaction to the feedback: what are the broad themes they have identified? Any surprises? Have they had such feedback before? Does it meet expectation? Pleasing or disappointing?

 The next question then has them first focus on what they take to be the positive aspects of the report; recipients often try to skip quickly through this step or find themselves drawn back to the ‘negative’ ratings and comments – your skill is to hold them to evaluating their strengths for almost as long as you might their development areas.
It can be helpful to explain to the recipient why you are doing this; two reasons you can offer are:
  • It’s psychologically good to receive positive feedback!
  • Strengths can often provide insight into development areas; often you will find that there is a flipside to something someone does very well i.e. Someone too focused on tasks may be neglecting the ‘people’ aspect of their role.
The last question then leads them in to the areas they perceive as ‘negative’ and which highlight any obvious development needs.
In both discussion around their strengths and development needs, you can add your own observations on the feedback, pointing to comments which help emphasise their own discoveries.
Ultimately any development needs which emerge should always be measured against the criteria of what impact addressing them will have for both the individual and the organisation; you can simply ask, “Will tackling this make a difference for you and the business?
Our final post in this series will look to concluding the 360 degree feedback debrief and helping the recipient move towards action.
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Hitting the target but missing the point – Why bother with 360 degree feedback?

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There has been a lot of discussion of late in nearly every sphere of public life and government policy with regard to the concept of performance targets; those set within education, policing, the NHS..the list, as they say, goes on.

In each instance, the phrase ‘hitting the target but missing the point’ has been used to highlight the perceived madness, whereby organisations and institutions are so focused on achieving a performance target, that the very core of why they exist is lost i.e. to foster learning, to solve crime and promote safety, to care for patients.

There is a separate post to be written (a long one!) about how in these instances, the values which should underpin the behaviours of said organisations and institutions, are forgotten; they fail to provide the moral compass they should do to individuals and management teams – poor decisions are made for children, citizens and patients.

There is a parallel to any organisational process which is put in place, which ‘ticks the boxes’, but fails to deliver on the real reason it is there; in the case of 360 degree feedback, the point is that it prompts a meaningful conversation between a line manager and an employee, about values, behaviours, and development – it isn’t an end in itself.

If running a 360 programme simply serves to churn out a colourful report, which is left to the individual to try and decode without discussion, then the value of the process is very much lost.


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What is a ‘meaningful conversation’?

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We talk a lot about ‘meaningful conversations’ in our discussions with clients; as you can see from the home page, it sits at the centre of what we are all about.

But what do we mean by ‘meaningful conversation’ and why is it so important?

We believe that a key skill of a line manager is the ability to deliver on the stated purpose of a performance management conversation i.e. Set objectives, give feedback, coach or conduct an appraisal, whilst maintaining a high-trust relationship with the individual concerned.

To deliver on both these dimensions, is not as easy as it sounds, but is critical to effective performance management.

Often we see line managers in our training programmes who are excellent at getting the objectives set, or reviewing the performance of an individual at year end, but their approach is coercive, it isn’t a two-way dialogue, it’s imposition.

Employees come away feeling ‘done to’ and disengage; the relationship between them and their line manager suffers as a result.

Alternatively, the line manager is very sensitive to the relationship with their team member and overcompensates in not delivering on the purpose of the conversation i.e. perhaps some ‘difficult’ feedback which needs to be conveyed.

Here the line manager drifts into ‘friendly chat’ area and this can leave the employee somewhat confused and unclear as to what has been said and/or what they are expected to do.

Suffice to say, any conversation that fails to address either of these dimensions becomes meaningless in every sense!


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