Use a 360-Degree Approach to Get Feedback on Leading Change
By Jon Lokhorst, CPA, PCC
Leading change has always been a high-risk, high-reward proposition. That’s become even more true throughout the significant, unplanned change of the COVID pandemic. This rapid, constant change also makes it difficult for leaders to gauge their effectiveness, especially when many of their team members are working remotely.
The best leaders address this challenge by obtaining feedback from the people they lead. Getting feedback is like asking someone to hold up a mirror for you to see how others experience your leadership. In my new book, Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions, I suggest using a 360-degree approach to obtain this feedback.
360-degree feedback assessments
Conducting a 360-degree feedback assessment is a great way to get input from others. These surveys are typically completed anonymously online, with your work relationship being the only identifier (i.e., boss, peer, or direct report). Most of these instruments include a self-assessment which can be used to compare how you rate yourself with the ratings of others. I use the LQ360 from RightPath Resources, which groups feedback by leadership competencies like delivering results, building relationships, developing others, and emotional intelligence.
The anonymous nature of this feedback can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the ability for your colleagues to share their experiences without fear of judgment or reprisal. That’s the curse, too. Without clear direction, the 360 survey can be used as a tool for retaliation or other punitive motivation. The administrator of the survey, typically an HR professional or external coach, should emphasize that it is for developmental, not disciplinary, purposes.
The DIY 360
Another downside to the typical 360 assessment is its cost. For that reason, many organizations limit this tool to senior leaders. Don’t let that stop you from seeking feedback on your own. I call it the DIY (do-it-yourself) 360.
In a popular Harvard Business Review article, Kristi Hedges suggests the following approach:
- Select five colleagues (I suggest your boss, two peers, and two direct reports).
- Arrange face-to-face meetings (which could be done via Zoom in a remote work setting).
- Stay open and resist the urge to become defensive (take a deep breath and remind yourself that this conversation will help make you a better leader).
- Ask two simple questions:
- What’s the general impression of me in the workplace?
- What could I do differently that would have the greatest impact on my success?
To obtain specific feedback in a certain area, consider modifying the second question. For example, if you sense a need to improve the way you lead meetings, you might ask, “What could I do differently to make the meetings I lead more successful?”
You don’t need to wait for a structured 360 exercise to obtain feedback. You can use the two questions above at any time, with any person willing to share their experiences with your leadership.
With this feedback in hand, create a plan to develop your strengths and address gaps that hinder your effectiveness as a leader. Share your leadership development goals with those who provided feedback, trusted colleagues, and mentors. Build an ongoing feedback loop with them to monitor progress as you seek continuous improvement as a leader.
Jon Lokhorst, CPA, PCC, is a leadership coach, keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and author of the new book, Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions, published in April 2021. He works with organizations to develop leaders everyone wants to follow, build teams no one wants to leave, and deliver exceptional results. Before launching Lokhorst Consulting LLC, Jon enjoyed a 30-plus year career as a CPA, CFO, and organizational leader.
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This article was first published on the LeadChange blog.