360 Assessments can be one of the most powerful tools for an individual leader’s development. Yet for a variety of reasons, these assessments are often maligned and misunderstood. As the developer of a 360 Assessment and as someone who has coached leaders on the results from several different tools, people often ask me about these tools and their use.
To make sure we are all on the same page, let me first define what I mean by a leadership 360 assessment:
A 360 Assessment is a process where people assess themselves and get anonymous feedback from others using the same assessment questions. Typically, for a leader, the feedback would come from their boss(es), their peers, and those that report to/work for them. The assessed leader then receives the feedback, giving them a 360-degree view of their performance.
With that common understanding, here are some questions I have received about the tools and this process in recent months.
If an organization decides to use 360 Assessments, how should leaders be selected for inclusion?
While 360 Assessments can be very powerful, they do require a time investment for the raters and the specific leader. For these reasons, be strategic in your decision. Typically, this tool yields the best results when implemented in one of three ways:
- As a part of a leadership development process;
- As a part of a leadership team development process, assessing an entire group of leaders individually;
- For high potential leaders as a part of an individual development plan.
While these can help a leader who is struggling, be cautious using them as a bandage. When they are only used to “fix” a leader, they can gain a negative stigma in the organization, branding the assessed leader in a negative light.
And a related question, can leaders opt out and not do one?
Generally, that wouldn’t be my recommendation. While there could be many reasons for a leader wanting to opt out, the two most common are a negative past experience or being fearful of the feedback or its use.
Ask open ended questions in a conversation to understand the person’s reticence. Help them see the tool in a different light. Show the leader that the process will be helpful and that your intent is positive. When you do, the resistance will be overcome, and the leader will at least go into the process with an open mind.
What is the best way to get senior leadership onboard from implementing 360 Assessments?
Since these tools are the means to the goal of more effective leaders, focus more on why effective leaders are important to the organization than on the tool itself. Senior leaders might also have some negative past experience which causes their concern. Create a clear picture of the purposes and goals for more effective leaders, then make sure the senior leaders understand how the 360 process will work to support those goals. Focusing on the overall goal is far more likely to get senior leadership acceptance for implementing 360 Assessments.
What is the best way to assess whether they are being helpful across an organization?
This is a good and complex question. Rather than thinking about one specific measure, look for a positive change in the leadership behaviors and results of those assessed. Consider questions like:
- Are teams more successful?
- Has turnover reduced?
- Have employee engagement scores (related to leadership) improved?
- Are there positive changes in results including safety, productivity, and more?
- Are there positive changes in organizational culture?
Questions like these will point you in the direction of assessing the results and return on investment of your 360 Assessments.
This isn’t the first time I have written about 360 Assessments. If you want to learn more check out these additional blog posts:
- Questions I’m Asked About 360 Assessments
- Why Leadership 360 Assessments are So Smart
- Why a 360 Assessment is Far Better Than Steroids
- 4 Reasons to Conduct a Leadership 360 Assessment
If you want to talk to our team about other questions you have, about our approach to making 360 assessments most useful, or if you would like us to work with you or your organization on implementing 360 assessments, contact us here and we’ll schedule some time to talk about it.