Reports from the EONS Leadership Summit 2017

A special mindset – 360-degree leadership and feedback

EONS Past-President Birgitte Grube explains a method of improving one’s leadership style that takes honesty and courage but which can bring great rewards both for the individual and their organisation.

Birgitte Grube

Birgitte Grube

A 360-degree leadership is a form of feedback for leaders in which their skills, effectiveness and influence as an executive, leader or manager are evaluated. You need to have a special mindset to do this: You find yourself in a leadership position and, as any good leader, you want to grow and improve, and you want your ward and your organisation to grow and be successful.

You understand that if you, as a leader, don’t keep growing then your organisation/ward won’t keep growing. So, you’ve committed to developing yourself and/or other leaders in the hope that it will benefit your department.

One of the best ways to grow as a leader is to receive feedback about your performance and productivity in your capacity as leader. Research shows that, contrary to popular belief, asking for feedback from others in the organisation is strongly correlated to a leader’s overall effectiveness. In fact, the top-ranked leaders in terms of effectiveness were also ranked in the top 10% in terms of their willingness to ask for feedback. Conversely, the leaders who ranked the lowest in terms of effectiveness were also ranked in the bottom 10% in terms of effectiveness as a leader. This shows just how much your openness to receiving feedback is linked to your effectiveness as a leader.

What is 360-degree leadership?

  • It is about Leading Up
    • How to lead and support your boss so s/he is able to make the best decisions. Be aware of your boss type and target your communication.
    • Leading up is also being able to do what others won’t, knowing when to push back, and when to back off.
  • It is about Leading Down
    • Motivate, inspire, interact, observe, listen, be visionary, and acknowledge – delegate with trust, and be careful not to do too much yourself to protect your staff!
  • It is about Leading Across
    • Constructive alliances, inter-professional approach, always be able to let the best ideas win, help and complete your peers, do not compete with them.
  • And the most important thing is Leading yourself
    • Be aware of how you feel – Do you like what you do? Do you like your own leadership, being in charge? Are you a role model? How do you best work with yourself, and how do make yourself better – look in the mirror – are you the leader you would like to have?

What are some of the problems with receiving feedback about your performance as a leader?

One problem that arises is that your organisation may be set up only to administer assessments and feedback in a traditional, top-down manner, from supervisor to employee. The problem with receiving feedback from a supervisor is that it's a biased, one-sided perspective. There is so much that a supervisor misses in terms of your influence and effectiveness as a leader.

There is another possible problem with receiving performance feedback using the traditional assessment model when you're the executive. Under this model, you're at a loss if there's no one above you to give you an evaluation. In this scenario, you could be left with no feedback. This can also lead to a third problem.

The third potential problem is the ability to obtain a fair and honest evaluation when you're the executive. The reality is that the higher one rises in a company, the less honest feedback one receives.

Unfortunately, the higher a leader is positioned, the more likely individuals only say what they think the leader wants to hear. This, in turn, limits your ability to grow because you’re not receiving honest feedback about your strengths, weaknesses and areas you need to grow. Instead, you need a means of obtaining feedback that is honest, fair and well-rounded. This is where 360-degree leadership assessments come in.

What are some of the benefits of a 360-degree leadership assessment?

  • Increases self-awareness
  • Solves the problem of receiving biased feedback from peers and subordinates who say only what they think their leader wants to hear
  • Addresses the issue of receiving one-sided feedback from superiors (if there are any)
  • Resolves the conundrum of having no-one to evaluate the leader if they’re the head of the organisation
  • Can be a great tool for transforming and improving leaders, their teams and their entire organisations
  • Can improve an organisation's culture and spirit
  • Is helpful in expanding the learning process for all employees
  • Increases trust between individuals and opens opportunities for crucial conversations in the future
  • If the assessment is executed properly and received well, the executive is sure to gain the respect of colleagues
  • If the assessment is done and received well by the executive, the effect is contagious. Colleagues and subordinates, and possibly superiors, take the cue and strive for continuous improvement
  • You should choose a leadership assessment that is in line with the roles and responsibilities of your leaders. A great way to ensure that your assessment is hitting the key areas is to opt for a customised leadership assessment.

Birgitte Grube

Birgitte Grube

Avoiding failure

The 360-degree feedback will fail if it does not get the dedicated commitment of top management resources (time, financial resources etc.), planned implementation and follow up. It requires a special mindset!

In good feedback practice, it is clear what is a good achievement and this can be judged in relation to a goal, a criterion or an expected standard. It is important to know what has been agreed and what is being measured. A huge challenge is the language that is used. It can be too vague or inaccurate. It is important to clean up any mutual misunderstandings, and that takes courage and trust. It is important to distinguish between feedback directed at a person and at a performance.

Conclusions

The key question to ask is – has the feedback led to changes in terms of improvement? Do not force it on people. Decide the 360-degree programme or feedback system, or develop your own and explain what it is, what it does, how it’s used, and how it benefits all concerned, continually. It is important to provide information on its purpose and process and that all involved should know the instrument they are using thoroughly. And most important, disconnect it from any compensation decisions (raises, bonuses, etc.) – make it developmental. Before starting, remember to conduct structured feedback workshops, so everybody is 100% ready!

Birgitte Grube is Chief Consultant at the Danish National Center for Grief, Copenhagen, Denmark.