360-degree feedback is a multi-rater feedback instrument and process to collect performance and behavioral feedback about employees (more specifically used with mid to senior level managers and leaders) from their various stakeholders – peers, manager, customers, vendors and direct reports. By getting feedback from various sources, an objective view about the manager or leader can be created which further helps in reducing blind spots and help the leader develop in specific areas.
Like any other tool, even 360-degree feedback assessments for leaders and managers is considered to have its own set of pros and cons.
Let us mainly focus on the issues first.
- Subjectivity: This is the most common issue highlighted for 360-degree feedback. Often, the raters give subjective feedback as personal attacks instead of areas of improvement. This makes the process biased. Additionally, a study by Ostroff, Atwater and Feinberg in the year 2004 found that the raters provided feedback based on their performance appraisal. If they received favorable feedback from the manager, they would give favorable feedback to the manager. This increases the chances of bias within the group.
- Time and cost: Since it is a multi-rater feedback, collating feedback from the raters, sensitizing them and then creating reports take a lot of time and that limits the feedback instrument to be used with only limited leaders and managers, on a one time basis.
- De-focus from strategy: It is additionally pointed out that the competencies and skills focused on during the feedback is often not aligned with the organizational strategy which therefore, makes the managers and leaders go out of the way to work on feedback points. This extra effort required makes the managers and leaders lose focus on the development and give up soon.
- Incomplete application: It is also highlighted that once the feedback report is collated, the same is conveyed to the ratees and not much efforts are put into using that feedback report to best use. Lack of follow up adds on to this leading to incomplete application of the feedback results.
In the context of these disadvantages and various other advantages of 360-degree feedback assessment for leaders, one very powerful, tried and tested tool is the Everything DiSC 363 for Leaders assessment by John Wiley & Sons. It is a feedback tool based on 8 leadership dimensions and used extensively for senior leadership teams.
The assessment tool has the following advantages which helps to cover up on the disadvantages listed above.
- Reliability and Validity: The tool is based on a well-researched model that lists 8 leadership dimensions which makes the psychometric properties of the tool excellent.
- Comprehensive: The assessment has two parts – a self-assessment and a rater feedback. Both the responses are collated in a cob-web kind of a graph that indicates how the manager or leader see themselves against the 8 leadership dimensions and how the raters have rated them against those same dimensions. This graph helps to identify gaps and blind spots that are selected as areas of development. In case, the manager and leader need to know more details, the report also gives a break-up of how many stakeholders / raters rated them against a certain leadership behavior.
- Objectivity through CommentSmart: A highlight of this tool that reduces the biggest issue of subjectivity is the CommentSmart feature. The raters are not permitted to give long-winded, subjective responses. Since it is a behavioral feedback tool, the raters are given leadership behaviors and are expected to select the most appropriate behavior for the person in question
- Saves time: The tool is online and automated and therefore, reduced the cost in terms of time taken to generate the reports etc. Each rater spends about 25-30 mins and complete the feedback. Prior to the feedback starts, the raters are huddled together to sensitize and educate them about the process which further reduces the chances of biases and error in feedback
- Development-focused and complete application: The report, additionally, highlights top 3 areas of improvement and for each, provides 3 strategies for development. Precisely, the reason why the name of the tool includes 363 and 360. The areas of development and its related strategies are then used by the trainer or coach to help the leader start the journey of progress and development. The coaching sessions will have a set structure, follow ups on action points and progress reports that makes the use of the report complete and useful for the leader.
The need is to ensure that we take some time to choose the right instrument to conduct 360-degree feedback so that the outcomes expected are achieved successfully.