Trust - the Key to a Positive Outcome with 360 Degree Feedback

When an organization undertakes a leadership 360-degree feedback initiative, who "owns" that feedback? What best practices will an organization commit to,
and what is the best way to utilize the feedback? 360 feedback is a valuable tool. How it is introduced and implemented is key to a positive outcome.

For any assessment to be of value, setting the stage for optimal participation and trust is a top priority. This is never more important than in designing and delivering a leadership 360 process. Time after time, organizations have failed to get the wanted outcome and participant buy-in as a result of poor organizational history with its use, or distrust from an individual leader who has had an uncomfortable experience in the past. For example, one of the most common reasons for lack of trust in the process is leader and observer not knowing who has access to the information, or how it will be used.

Five steps organizations can take to instill trust in a leadership 360 degree feedback process:

  1. Start with the end in sight
    Increasing leadership effectiveness is the wanted outcome of using a 360 assessment such as The Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI). Many organizations have encouraged leaders to have a meeting with their managers before launching the process of a 360, for appropriate selection of observers and setting a time to follow-up on a leadership development plan. This meeting not only encourages support and collaboration, but engages the workgroup in creating buy-in and building trust.
  2. Commit to honest communication about the intent and value of the process
    A leadership 360 assessment is a tool used by an individual leader to enhance leadership effectiveness - not for performance reviews or any disciplinary process. Organizations who commit to building a learning and feedback friendly culture will be more successful at creating opportunities for a leader's development.
  3. Make Confidentiality a Priority
    Clear communication and practices that protect the anonymity of the observers ensure that feedback will be honest and useful. Over-inflation of ratings and other non-productive feedback is minimized when both the leader and observers see evidence that the information is confidential and the purpose is for the leader’s development. Best practices suggest that the leader be encouraged to take personal ownership of the feedback and make thoughtful decisions about sharing their leadership development focus with their team.
  4. Provide support and resources for leaders in this process
    Receiving feedback in an effective way is a process, not an event. Much is to be gained for the organization and the individual leader with ongoing support in the form of development planning, coaching, workshops, and managerial support for any wanted resources or new experiences.
  5. Choose an evidence based tool
    There are many 360 degree assessments in the marketplace. Choosing an assessment that is research validated, such as The Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) to measure leadership behaviors and effectiveness not only ensures that the assessment is indeed measuring what it says it does, it also serves as a benchmark and guide for wanted leadership behaviors.

Holly Seaton, Ph.D., is a Coaching Practice Leader and Leadership Challenge® Workshop Facilitator with FlashPoint—Platinum Sponsor of The Leadership Challenge Forum 2013. The in-house coach for all Open Enrollment Leadership Challenge® Workshops, flashpointleadership.com/eventsshe focuses on LPI feedback, leader follow-up, and leadership next-steps and best practices. She can be reached at hseaton@flashpointleadership.com.

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