I’m on a mission to have better 360 discussions. It’s top of my priorities right now. As part of my own experience of asking for feedback from colleagues, I’ve discovered just how easy it is (or not) for people to give feedback; to have those 360 discussions, and how easy it’s been for the HR and L&D teams to manage the 360 process.
Why is this important? Well, I want to improve my own performance and leadership, but also I want others to see how easy it can be for us all to improve – by helping each other – so we can grow together.
We claim that the my360plus 360 team development data is better than the rest. How outrageous! How can we say that?
360 team development data: the challenge
We’ve all seen team reports created from 360 data – you know the ones – they say your team scores 2.8 on a 5 point scale on a particular behaviour. If you are lucky there will be some ‘norm data’ so you can see how you team ‘compares’. The problem is that these reports average a bunch of statements around an individual team member’s behaviour. They then take a further average of all these averages to come up with the ‘team average score’.
All this averaging averages means that the really valuable information is lost.
We think this is a little bit like averaging all the notes in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, so you come out with a single “daaaaaaaah”! Pretty meaningless.
my360plus team reports are very different, which means you get better business insights.
Leadership trends help us focus on better leadership development, so understanding them enables organisations to prioritise investment in the right leadership qualities and talent management. Leadership development is still a hot topic: ‘bad’ leadership may be under the spotlight at the moment, but the demand for transformational leadership continues. Leaders and managers need to receive better, and more constructive feedback. It’s important to understand the leadership qualities and, as a result, the practical skills people need to be successful in this environment.
At a recent International Leadership Association Conference, one of the keynote speakers talked about the “four global revolutions”: leadership trends in IT, Energy, Manufacturing and Life Sciences. It’s now clear how these affect our lives more generally, but let’s focus on how they affect leadership development and talent management, as global and individual trends.
Feedback is my focus this week. I’m taking a deep dive into 360 multi-rater feedback tools, because I want to give the best possible support to my leadership and coaching clients. Reflecting what observers have said in their feedback. But given that it’s experienced leaders and managers at the receiving end of 360 feedback tools, I have a burning question: why do we call the people who give the feedback ‘raters’?
I’m sure you’ve got more experience than me, and your comments are most welcome. But hear me out:
‘Raters’ can’t be the right word, can it?
Quick dictionary definition (thank you merriam-webster.com) of rater: “a person who estimates or determines a rating”. So far, so clear. But there’s also ‘rater reliability’. Yes, it’s a thing apparently. It’s the degree of agreement, or consistency between raters.
We’re not talking Olympic skating, or Strictly Come Dancing here. Those judges are experts in their field. If they hold up the score they also get to explain why they’ve given the mark they have, based on years of experience in the subject.
My point is that we have little or no confidence in the knowledge and experience of ‘raters’ in the subject matter about which they’re being asked, unless they’ve been prepared, or had training, first. We certainly can’t expect consistency without it.
Participants are going to get feedback which may be challenging. They’re going to be asked to invest time and effort in a personal development plan. The least we can do is improve the experience for them…
my360plus doesn’t call them ‘raters’; because they’re Observers.
Let’s take presentation skills. Sure I know if my colleague bores me when s/he stands up and speaks to a powerpoint. Phrases like “I know you can’t see the detail here but….” are the kiss of death.
I remember a presentation where the boss stood up dressed in a hi-vis jacket to make a safety point. But if the question asks how good a communicator my boss is, does a rater base their response on that one memorable time?
In the my360plus behaviours, based on the Schroder high-performance model, presentation skills are about getting your ideas over. Showing you’ve done the research. Presenting different options. Influencing, not just railroading, the final decision.
So asking how often we see these behaviours makes perfect sense.
And that’s why “Why do we call them raters?” was my number one question when we invested in the my360plus feedback tool. I’m grateful that no-one mocked me for it. And I learned three things:
- The first was that my360plus don’t call them ‘raters’; they’re Observers
- The my360plus questions are about how often a behaviour is observed
- They’re Observers because the questions ask them about what they observe in others;
not how they rate others.
Let’s reduce bias
‘Observer’ reduces bias, and it takes out pre-conceived notions of what’s ‘good’. It makes you think. From an objective viewpoint it reduces reliance on rater reliability. It’s a shift from how we rate people, what we think about them, to what we observe about them.
My first step is to experience my360plus from a participant’s point of view.
I answered the questions, and colleagues are giving me feedback right now. Then I get to see the report and experience someone giving me feedback, before I plan a year’s leadership development goals supported by the my360plus social feedback system and some 1-1 coaching. As I say: scary and exciting.
Let’s prepare observers
From a customer point of view, this experience will lead to training programmes for observers and my360plus administrators, so that everyone feels confident to give reflective feedback based on observation, and the participant experience can be better. We’ve got videos dotted around this site to support the ongoing development plans, and other ‘how to’ content, but I know we can do better.
So if you’ve had similar experiences, whether from being rated, or giving coaching and feedback to leaders using these 360 multi-rater feedback tools, or you want to help create the best possible training programme for my360plus participants and observers, I’d love to hear and learn from you.
You’ve invested in your 360 degree feedback tool; set up the process and briefed the participants on how it all works. Your HR team stand ready to coach your leaders and managers on their reports. So what could possibly go wrong?
Let’s be blunt. With any 360, it’s rubbish in, rubbish out. So it’s important to get the best from your observers and coaches, not just the participants themselves.
The Sunday Times recently published an article about the major problems conflict can cause in the workplace, especially if avoided by managers and leaders. Studies have shown that up to 40% of an executive’s time is spent dealing with conflicts. Another study shows that more than 65% of performance problems result from difficult employee relationships. The ability to manage conflict can define a good and a bad leader.
We are all, by nature, emotional creatures, and it would be impossible to conceive that all differences between us could be avoided. The workplace breeds a climate rife for blowing conflicts out of proportion. It brings together so many different aspects of society – be it through differences in age, experience, upbringing or culture – and mixes them together in a close environment. To use a cooking analogy, rarely do recipes succeed when ingredients are randomly chosen and combined without forethought and careful planning! The resulting dish can certainly be unpalatable!
So how to do we ‘choose the correct ingredients’ and ‘mix them’ together for a successful recipe?
- Recognise that conflict exists and seek it out. By addressing it early it is possible to avoid an escalation. However don’t look for arguments for argument’s sake – analyse what is important and likely to impact on performance.
- Set the ground rules. There should be a clear understanding of what is acceptable behaviour.
- Effective communication. Clear, concise, accurate and timely communication of information will help ease both the number and severity of conflicts.
- Use empathy (a Schroder High Performance behaviour) to understand individual motivations and attitudes. Involved parties often have personal agendas that may conflict. Also remember what might seem trivial to one person, might be a source of stress to another.
- If possible, approach conflict from the perspective of taking the action that will help others best achieve their goals. Always look for a win-win solution if possible.
- Identify the strengths of his individual team members and clearly communicate their roles and contributions towards a common goal.
- As we often discuss in our my360plus blogs, regular feedback is essential towards creating a more open and constructive working environment, with increased self-awareness. Openness in the workplace is a vital ingredient, essential for encouraging creativity, improving systems and making team members feel valued. If fear of conflict is acting as a barrier to this then productivity will be impacted. Recognise that differences in opinions are not always a negative.
- Have relationship and team building events. These are always valuable whether you are building a new team, integrating new members to an existing team, or need to refresh relationships within more established groups.
- Don’t put your head in the sand. Conflict rarely resolves itself and will normally escalate if not dealt with proactively and properly.
- Don’t get involved in the ‘drama’. Maintain neutrality and don’t tolerate self-serving behaviour.
Back to the cooking analogy – by quickly recognising when an ingredient is damaging the taste, it needs to quickly be removed, or counteracted with a remedy that removes the bad taste. Ignoring it may result in burnt offerings.