Newmeasures: Insights for an exceptional workforce

Between Us: The Burning Question Leaders Have…and How 360s Help Them Ask It​

Delivering feedback is a fundamental expectation of managing people. Asking for feedback, on the other hand? Not typically part of the equation. However, after years of coaching, I’ve discovered a common burning question among leaders is “How am I doing?”. Most don’t ever ask this question of their employees. And because of the natural power dynamic that exists in hierarchical organizations, leaders are not likely to receive feedback through informal channels. If a leader is bold enough to ask, they’re not likely to receive candid feedback unless a strong trusting relationship has been built. 360s offer a way for leaders to find out how they are doing using a process that cultivates a psychologically safe environment for employees to offer honest feedback.

I remember going through my first 360° process. I had been promoted from an individual contributor role into my first management position without any formal training. Although my manager was supportive and encouraging, I had no idea how to navigate my new role. Six months after my promotion, I was offered the opportunity to participate in the company’s 360° program. I wanted to know what my team thought of me as a manager AND I was afraid of what they might say. What if my team thinks I’m no good at managing others? My curiosity outweighed my fear, so I agreed to participate.

Although that first 360° experience was uncomfortable, it led to a life-changing conversation with my manager. When discussing the results, she focused on my strengths more than my weaknesses. She made me feel seen and hopeful that I could become a strong leader. Then she said what I needed to hear: “You do a great job making people feel comfortable and safe. If you want to move into senior leadership, you’ll need to learn how to be more direct with people.” Boom…there it was. While that insight was hard to swallow, I knew she was right. Because I knew she saw my strengths and believed in my potential, I took her feedback to heart and started being more direct. It was the beginning of my personal leadership development journey.

I’ve seen 360° feedback help countless leaders change behaviors that get in their way. While some takeaways are part of a larger development process, many changes require only small adjustments. A leader I spoke to recently shared that she received feedback from her direct reports that she did not seem fully present with them during their 1 on 1’s. She didn’t think they could tell she was multi-tasking during their Zoom calls. “This is an easy thing for me to change right away,” she told me. Addressing low hanging fruit like this can have a big impact.

Another seasoned leader received feedback that he placed too much emphasis on achieving results at the expense of his employees feeling valued. During our coaching conversation, I could see he was struggling to accept these results. He admitted he had become hyper-focused on hitting the turnaround target the CEO had set when he came on board. “I know how to build strong teams and have done it well at other companies. I think I lost sight of this.” We spent the rest of the conversation strategizing how he could take a more balanced leadership approach.

Give Your Leaders the Gift of Feedback

A high quality 360° survey process provides leaders with an opportunity to find out how they are doing so they can leverage their strengths and develop the behaviors needed for greater effectiveness. Plus, when leaders ask for feedback and act on it, they are laying the foundation for a feedback culture, the kind of culture needed to foster high performing teams.

According to leadership expert Jack Zenger, over 85% of all Fortune 500 companies use 360° feedback as a cornerstone of their overall leadership development process. At Newmeasures, we see the movement toward multi-rater feedback continuing to gain momentum as more companies of all sizes prioritize leader growth and development in 2024 and beyond.

However, as with most interventions, the successful use of 360s requires careful planning and thoughtful execution. We have outlined our perspective on each critical element in our newest resource: The Complete Guide to 360° Surveys for Leader Development. This guide includes important questions to consider as you design your 360° survey program, best practices for maximizing your investment, and seven suggestions to help your leaders get the most from their feedback.

Download our free guide to help your leaders answer the question they really want to ask: “How am I doing?”

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Diane has been helping leaders listen to employees and act on what they hear for more than 20 years. She’s inspired by what’s possible in organizations where people feel seen, heard, and valued. Connect with Diane at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/diane-wismer/
Diane Wismer
Senior Consultant

Newmeasures: Insights for an exceptional workforce