|Written by: Renée LeMoine
Photo by: Lubomír Fuxa (1-3), Tomáš Kubeš(4)
Project director, New Day Activity Marketing
My most interesting experience with 360-degree feedback was as part of a senior management development program, whereby my employers wanted to make a thorough assessment of performance and training needs, towards devising a development plan for staff.
In this case, as a “ratee”, I found the feedback fair and informative, and felt motivated by the prospect of a beneficial outcome. The “raters” appreciated the chance to be involved, seeing it as indicative of the company’s desire to build an open, participative culture. However, some raters admitted to nervousness about responding entirely honestly for fear of negative repercussions. Furthermore, for financial reasons, the company was unable to deliver on the development plan, and the project was shelved.
360-degree feedback can be a useful tool in helping individuals understand how they are viewed within the organization, but companies should be aware of why they are doing it – is it to evaluate someone’s promotion candidacy, or is it a development tool to identify key improvement measures? Trained professionals should conduct the process – in confidence – and raters trained to reduce false responses and avoid genuine rating errors. Finally, companies should be genuinely prepared to evaluate results, and to follow through with an action plan.
The multi-source aspect of 360-degree feedback seems to provide more comprehensive and accurate information about managers’ leadership skills, as well as possibilities for his or her improvements. Results help managers to be more aware of how their performance affects others and to pay more attention to their communication with employees.
In many of my cases, 360-degree feedback positively influenced managers’ motivation, performance and job satisfaction. However, without a clear explanation of a purpose of 360-degree feedback to all employees who are part of the feedback system, employees may feel threatened by a new assessment method and hesitate to participate in it. It has to be clearly communicated whether the process is going to be used for developmental or evaluation reasons and what is going to happen with report results. I am strongly convinced that the assessment style is an outstanding tool for helping to make better decisions in assignment selections, enhancing team effectiveness, and conducting better training and development methods.
Operations director, central and eastern Europe, Logica
“Logica’s rapid growth relies on the effectiveness of its managers; key to this is their ability to influence others and, through this, effecting change. Our managers ask colleagues – taken from “360 degrees” – to complete a questionnaire about how they see that manager’s influencing skills. Those managers then complete a corresponding questionnaire about how they see their ability to influence each of those colleagues.
Away from the office, our managers compare the results in graphical form and, with the help of a psychologist, try to understand and learn from them. There are often surprises – a manager might discover that, for example, a staff member they thought was in sync with their thinking was in fact hearing a very different set of messages. It’s all about increasing the managers’ self-awareness, and about making them think about how others see them.
I’ve seen the evaluation effect significant changes in individuals who are open to change – itself a measure of a good manager. Some others have found it painful to face up to their own limitations or the need for change.
Human resources director, ČSOB
I consider the 360-degree feedback of personnel to be one of the best sources of information, especially for developing management skills, through reflection and self-reflection. It reveals the possible discrepancy between what the manager thinks about his managerial style and methods and how they are perceived by the employees with whom he is in contact.
Based on experience that I had gained during the application of this method at Pepsi-Cola and US West, we at ČSOB prepared our own questionnaire covering four basic dimensions of managerial work: strategic thinking, business (client) approach, team management and characteristics of personality. It was clear that a questionnaire had to contain precisely-formulated questions that were based on the local or the corporate culture. The questionnaire was distributed to the evaluated person, his supervisor, three managers of the same level, and five subordinates. In total, this evaluation was done by 180 managers.
It was discovered that managers are perceived much more critically by their supervisor than by their subordinates. Usually at least one dimension brought a big surprise to the managers who had no idea that they could be perceived so negatively. The analysis of the results served as a source for the selection of management training that focused on some of the weaker managerial skills.