I’m a fabulous leader: I work hard, stay late, meet deadlines and am great at motivating my team.
Well, I think I am anyway. I suppose there’s a slight chance I could be wrong. The trouble is, it’s very difficult to view oneself objectively. Nobody can see him/herself as others do, and asking your colleagues for their honest opinions of you can be rather awkward to say the least.
However, if you are aspiring to be a better leader, it’s essential to get a feel for the way others perceive you.
Whilst there are genuine benefits to knowing what others think of you, it’s not always easy to acquire such sensitive information. As part of your next performance management meeting, a 360 degree feedback programme can help.
What is a 360?
A 360 is a developmental tool which collates feedback on your performance from your manager, your peers, your reports, and sometimes includes customers and suppliers.
A great benefit of the 360 programme is that, when implemented correctly, it can provide a truthful, accurate picture of what those around you think. It’s a confidential process as no individual’s responses are revealed, but are instead amalgamated with other people’s. In this way it encourages truly honest feedback. An external supplier often runs the programme and good briefing by them helps people to appreciate that if they provide honest feedback, their boss will be better able to support them. It’s win-win.
The Ann Landers newspaper column once advised, “don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful”. There’s a great deal of truth in that. As a leader, you frequently wonder whether people are telling you the unvarnished truth on any issue. A 360 degree feedback programme, however, is unbiased. As it collects the views of many people, you can conclude that there are no hidden agendas in the feedback. Great leaders need to be able to listen to opinions about them, but such opinions are only valuable if they are unbiased.
In a typical appraisal, you may receive feedback from your boss and, if you’re lucky, his/her boss too. However, a 360 brings unique perspectives.
When implemented professionally and accurately, it includes feedback from all the people who interact with you. It’s a truly comprehensive approach. In addition, the process can cover a broad range of leadership topics.
When it comes to receiving results from your 360 programme, you won’t just be provided with an overall score. Feedback is detailed and, importantly, specific, helping you to identify which particular areas of leadership you excel at and which may need improvement. This, in turn, informs your personal targets and helps you to focus your efforts on improvement.
Of course, for such a programme to be effective, you need to be proactive about a few things. You should:
- Tell the people who are commenting on you that you’ll be using their feedback in order to become a better leader and support them more effectively.
- Give yourself the most honest feedback you can so that you may compare your opinion of yourself to that given by others.
- Take the feedback on board, without being defensive or dismissive. If your colleagues see that their feedback is ignored, they’ll be reluctant to give you any in the future.
So, if you’re aspiring to be a great leader, or even just a better one, having an awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses is a must, and your next 360 could provide a golden opportunity for self-discovery. John F. Kennedy once remarked that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” and perhaps more specifically, it’s learning about oneself that is the most useful lesson of all.