360 assessments for leadership

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  

–Ken Blanchard

You’ve probably seen this quote before. It’s so popular because it’s true.

If you want to thrive and be successful, you need quality feedback. You also want feedback that’s well-rounded. This is where 360 assessments come in.

You may already be familiar with 360 assessments, but unsure how to integrate them into your present leader development program.

First off, know that it’s not a problem: 360 assessments can be easily integrated into your present system of evaluation and training of your leaders. In fact, it’s recommended that you add 360 leadership assessments to a larger development program.

Who can benefit from 360 degree assessments in your leadership development program?

Your present and up-and-coming leaders can benefit from 360 assessments. You want to continue to develop the leaders you have so that they grow and flourish in their role and step into ever-increasing responsibility and productivity.

You also want to help those employees who show potential but need to work on growing into leaders. For both groups, 360 degree feedback coupled with training designed to address improvement areas and maximize strengths will prove beneficial, and perhaps surprisingly, you’re employees will actually appreciate it in most cases.

In fact, one study found that 75% of millennial respondents (leaders-in-training) wanted feedback. Further, 45% of them wanted feedback from colleagues and customers as well. One way they can get this feedback is with 360 assessments.

What is your present system of feedback and training in your leader development program?

Your organization probably utilizes some form of top-down evaluation, followed up with professional development driven by the employee or an action plan driven by the supervisor. This traditional top-down model has lasted because it is effective, to an extent.

But, it tends to fall a little short by only providing a one-sided perspective. If you want to increase the effectiveness of your present training program then you need to look to stakeholders other than just the immediate supervisor. This is where you can add 360 assessments into your current development system.

Why you should add 360 degree assessments to your present leader development program

Research shows that 75% of workers quit their jobs solely because of their immediate supervisor. You could wager that the supervisors of that 75% of employees didn’t have a clue that their leadership was so poor that they drove their employees to leave.

In many cases though, it was through no fault of their own…

More than likely, on their top-down evaluations, they received glowing marks. There would be no way for them to realize they were poor managers in regards to their subordinates unless their subordinates gave feedback attesting to this. To add to that, subordinates are often too fearful of retaliation and harassment when given the “opportunity” to provide feedback.

So, instead they choose to say nothing or to filter their responses. They suffer in silence and the organization risks massive turnover and loss of expert talent.

The example of Mike – A new leader at “Industrial Co.”

This exact situation arose in a medium-sized organization that serviced 2,000+ people a day. For this example, we’ll call them “Industrial Co.” When an old, but beloved supervisor retired, a new person replaced him. This new supervisor, Mike, had never run an organization before. He’d always been second in command. Now, suddenly, he was the leader.

Mike felt a need to distinguish himself from the older supervisor by undoing every directive and policy the previous leader had in place. He began to run his branch of Industrial Co. with an iron fist. His treatment of his employees bordered on abuse. He threatened to ruin his employees if they said or did anything. Thus, they were coerced into silence, opting instead to leave his branch for others nearby.

The district supervisors observed the mass exodus of his expert staff in his first year and every year thereafter. They saw a once highly profitable, high-performing business quickly nosedive.

Unfortunately, they didn’t go to his staff about it. They called Mike in and talked to him. He was extremely charming and congenial. He had an answer for everything: employees were adjusting to a new leader; he was getting the team behind him; the naysayers were leaving; etc. 

The Industrial Co. executives failed to see his abusive interaction with his employees. Every once in a while, one brave employee would contact the district office with a formal complaint. However, because the corporate office failed to have a system to hear subordinates, nothing ever came of their complaints; instead, the complaints were sent to Mike who then retaliated against the employees. Over time, the employees left. 

Several years down the line, Mike’s branch failed completely. He had ruined it, and the district-level leadership had helped him. Industrial Co. headquarters had no means for hearing subordinates and integrating their feedback into a leadership program to develop supervisors who desperately needed it. 

How to add 360 degree feedback at companies like Industrial Co. (and elsewhere)

You can easily insert 360 assessments into your leader development program. Here’s a quick overview of how it’s done: 

  • Create assessments to garner feedback from various groups. These assessments must have a focus on those traits that are necessary for strong, skillful leadership. It’s recommended that you seek custom 360 leadership assessments to get the best results. 
  • Decide who will assess the present leader or leader-in-training. Under a general 360 assessment, those people who would provide feedback are:
    • The supervisor
    • Colleagues/peers
    • Subordinates
    • Clients, customers, vendors or suppliers with whom the individual works directly 
  • Those people who work with the individual are given the evaluation with the understanding that their answers are 100% anonymous. They understand that they must be honest and that it’s safe to do so. 
  • The coach of the leader (or leader-in-training) compiles the results and offers recommendations based on strengths and weaknesses.
  • The coach, the leader-to-be and the supervisor discuss the findings and create a growth plan. This plan can have one or several of the following focal points: 
    • A professional development plan to help the leader grow their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses
    • A more demanding, corrective action plan that is intended to assist the leader in making necessary improvements
    • A personal development plan to help the leader achieve what they want from life
    • Steps to help align the goals and philosophies of the individual with the goals and philosophies of the organization

Applying 360 assessments to Mike’s situations at Industrial Co.

Had the Industrial Co.’s headquarters integrated 360 degree assessments into their leader development program, Mike’s dangerously destructive behavior could’ve been identified within the first year when the first subordinate assessments came in. His coach would’ve compiled the results and flagged the fact that he had real problems with managing other adults.

Because of his profound lack, Mike’s coach and supervisor would’ve counseled him about his treatment of his employees and that he needed to be put on a corrective, time-bound action plan that demanded sustained, observable results.

Once implemented, they would’ve assisted him in growing personally and professionally, in meeting the plan and becoming a stronger supervisor. Mike would’ve been re-evaluated with 360 degree assessments in order to ensure he was meeting his plan and growing his professional relationship skills in a sustained manner.

Working 360 assessments into your leaders development program for optimal leader growth and improvement

As Mike’s example shows, 360 assessments are incredibly helpful for present and aspiring leaders to grow and improve. If they aren’t utilized, all parties are functioning under limited vision with no way of having a clear, full picture of what a leader or leader-to-be is doing and how they’re performing.

Call Edge Training Systems at 800-305-2025 to learn more about adding custom 360 assessments to your organization’s leader development program.

Further Reading: Why You Should Not Use 360 Degree Performance Feedback For Appraisals