First developed in the1930s by a military psychologist looking for a way to select officer candidates, the concept of collecting feedback on individuals from the people they work with every day started to move into the commercial sector in the 1950s. Today, around 85% of US Fortune 500 companies have some form of 360 degree program in place for their managers, executives and other leaders.
A huge benefit of the system is that it focuses on subjective aspects of a leader's performance; it's straightforward to measure someone's ability to manage budgets or to hit targets and deadlines, but could they and their team be doing even better? How is the morale and teamwork? Are projects well planned and communicated to everyone?
360 feedback programs provide answers to the questions raised by standard performance monitoring; it tells you why a team or leader is over or under performing, and the areas of behaviour and competency which can be improved through leadership development and coaching.
Designing a 360 degree program for your business and needs
Some businesses have had bad experiences with 360 leadership feedback programs, suffering from information overload or adopting a one-size-fits all standardised system which hasn't been designed around their business and sector. This is the most crucial part of implementing feedback programs; making sure the data gathered can be efficiently analysed, and designing the feedback questions and focus very specifically for each business and individual leader.
For our programs, feedback is typically gathered through an online form connected to a data analysis and collection system so that we can very rapidly produce reports highlighting perceptions of strengths and weaknesses. Considering which leadership competencies and abilities matter most to any role or company is essential, developing the feedback from accordingly to focus on what matters most in any given role.
It's also important to think about who will be providing the feedback; typically it will include someone's direct seniors, some of their peers, and a mixture of other employees and even suppliers and customers. Typically this list begins quite small, but we often find leaders themselves looking to expand it once they see just how useful the feedback can be; how often do you think about how your approaches to work impact on other departments? A good 360 degree program creates new lines of open communication between leaders and the people their work impacts every day.
Creating positive change from 360 feedback programs
Another common mistake with feedback programs is to set them up in isolation, providing leaders with lots of useful feedback, and no guidance on what to do with it. Tying a feedback program closely to regular leadership coaching sessions provides a true support and development foundation, letting the feedback guide the coaching and measure it's progress.
360 degree feedback programs are a superb tool for leadership development, bringing in feedback from a wide variety of sources, focusing on key skills for the task of leadership, and improving communication and teamwork between everyone involved in bringing a product or service to market.
You can speak to us to learn more about 360 degree feedback programs, how we design them specifically for your company, and how they can work hand in hand with ongoing leadership coaching and development programs.