The most effective way of providing feedback in a non-overwhelming manner to leaders involves clustering feedback from different parts of the assessment survey into major themes. These theme must span across different tactical Skills and Competencies. It is critical to create a very fine balance for both strengths and development opportunities.
THE WAY TO START
Examine open- ended feedback. This is the section where respondents(raters) have the opportunity to express themselves, any themes in this section will most likely supported by one or more behavioural indicator ratings in the report. Examine highly and lowly ranked behaviours. Evaluate if they cluster under certain skill set or competencies.
Check if all respondents(raters) are responding in a similar way or different respondent(rater) group perceive different strengths and development needs.
Summarize each strength/ opportunity cluster in a non-threatening manner which is supported by different behaviours in the report. The examples can be drawn from the open-ended questions section (if provided)
Variance must be checked and considered in response patterns, such as
Between self and others
Within respondents(rater) groups
Between respondent (rater) groups
Comparison to group
Perception gap (between self and other) by each respondent (rater) group
EXAMINING OPEN ENDED FEEDBACK
Most of the 360 degree instruments have a section for the respondents to provide their opinions and perception, (Qualitative feedback). When provided with the opportunity, the respondents will express what comes to their mind first with respect to the strengths and development needs. Study the open-ended feedback to identify any themes that may emerge. If the 360 degree is being used for coaching purposes, the open-ended section may provide with deep insights about the person.
The importance of feedback:
Feedback allows the person/leader to know how he/she is doing
People/ leaders can feel isolated, much of the agenda may be confidential so there are few people with whom work can be discussed
Coaching from the supervisor/ manager/ boss may be in short supply, other than formal performance reviews
Direct reports may be too mindful of the power relationship with their manager to give a open, honest and direct feedback.
Promotion to a more senior role often may mean that the challenges increase while the support may fall away.
In case of you being the coach, before looking at the data, make sure you have reviewed the information gathered during the interaction with Manager, Sponsor, and a few stakeholders.
DEALING WITH RESISTANCE
Leaders might resist or reject feedback. Typical responses include:
“I used to be that way but I have changed”
“This was a bad time to ask for feedback”
“My strengths are right but my weaknesses are wrong”
“My respondents(raters) clearly did not understand the questions”
“Those people don’t really know me well”
“The respondents (raters) are not aware of my work”
Remember: Ask a lot of questions:
“How do you want to use the data” ?
“What is happening in your present situation”?
“Were you surprised by any of your feedback”?
“What positive themes do you see”?
“What development opportunities do you see”?
“What changes do you want to explore making”?
Common mistakes made by leaders when receiving 360 feeback:
Resisting or explaining away the results
Looking only at numbers as opposed to themes
Focusing on the boss’ ratings
Discounting the results by attributing them to personality issues
Three common situations:
If you hear: “It isn’t me- it’s the culture here.”
Your response: “What could you do as a leader to help change it”?
If you hear: “None of this is new to me- I’ve heard it before.”
Your response: “Well, why isn’t this news”? (You might learn that the leader is working on this area or you might find they don’t know how to start improving- your exploration of this will bring you in different directions)
If you hear: “This is who I am.”
Your response: “Are you getting the success you want?”
Remind the leader that good feedback is simply information. It is not an assessment of leader’s worth as an individual.
Remind the leader that they always reserve an important choice- to accept or reject the feedback given, however, if they reject the feedback they also have rejected the choice that goes with behaving differently which may yield the results they truly desire.
Acknowledge that there may be many potential sources of distortion in the data, but that does not invalidate the data.
If the leader becomes extreme in their defensiveness, you might say something like, “This process was meant to be positive and helpful. It seems to me that you are not seeing this as helpful. How would you like to proceed?”
Always keep your cool as a coach.
Remind your leader – it’s all about increasing capability, commitment and alignment.
Best Practices in Dealing with 360 degree Feedback
Don’t be afraid to seek out the leader’s respondents (raters) (if external- please seek approval), especially if disparities exist in the 360 assessment results. When you do follow-up, ask feedback providers to prioritize the strengths and development needs of the leader.
Never turn your notes over to the leader.
Have the leader summarize the discussion at various points to validate they are capturing the essence of the feedback.
Ask the leader to isolate the positive and negative themes.