Weaknesses focused or strengths based 360 – what does yours measure?

Many frameworks used in 360 feedbacks are not much more than wish-lists of characteristics that a well-meaning consultant or HR professional has said everyone should possess.

The result is usually a ‘deficit’-based approach where, at best, equal weight is given to strengths and weaknesses; at worst weak areas are highlighted. Without guidance the weaker areas are what people end up focussing on.

However, a deficit-base approach really is wasted effort – and therefore wasted money.

When being given the results of any psychometric intervention, it’s human nature to go straight to what you are ‘no good at’. Immediately that’s where we direct our attention which means there’s less energy or time left to focus on our stronger attributes. This is so demotivating. 360 feedback should be a positive experience – a chance to understand where our strengths lie and to further enhance our strengths.

The reality is human beings are hardly ever good at everything. But it is extremely powerful to understand what we are good at because we can then put those strengths to work for us to create the greatest impact on performance.

My360plus is a  strengths based 360 that uses the Schroder framework which focuses on a person’s strengths. If we are already good at a behaviour – or are starting to develop a strength in that behaviour – research shows that a) we will tend to use that behaviour more frequently and b) we will get better results. Therefore the my360plus approach is to recognise your strengths – and play to them. Develop them even further perhaps.

If by contrast we focus on developing a behaviour where we are weaker, it may be some time before we are competent enough to use that behaviour at a level at which we can make any significant positive impression on performance. All that effort… for an average performance. Much better to put that effort into an area where you already make a positive impact and see your performance really go through the roof! Now THAT is enough to energise and motivate anyone – and never mind what it can do for the overall bottom line.

All the Schroder behaviours used in the my360plus framework can be developed, but people will find some behaviours easier to develop than others. And clearly we have to consider the payback an individual, team or department will get for their developmental efforts.

It is true that any ‘limitations’ in a person’s profile, ie the negative incarnation of a behaviour where the limiting behaviour has a detrimental effect on a person or performance, should be stopped as soon as possible. But if a profile shows a behaviour is simply ‘not developed’ it doesn’t mean it is immediately necessary to start developing it. It may be more effective (in terms of time, effort and results) to focus on developing Developing Strengths into Strengths, or a Strength into a Strategic Strength.

Here’s a question though: what if an individual really NEEDS a particular high performance behaviour for their role… and it is not a Strength? Well, if they have a Developing Strength in the behaviour, working on it to make it a Strength should be their focus. But if the behaviour is Not Developed or has a Limitation, perhaps that person is in the wrong role…

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Why so much 360 degree feedback is fundamentally flawed

Most 360 degree feedback surveys we come across have a fundamental problem – they say more about the observer than the delegate seeking the feedback!

The reason is that many 360s have statements that ask the observer to ‘rate’ a particular quality in the delegate. For example observers might be asked, “Please rate this statement on a scale from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’: John makes clear presentations”. In simple terms, the observer is asked to state how good they think someone is at something.

The problem is that this creates a very subjective comparison in the observer’s mind. If the observer is a great presenter and they consider the delegate to be good, but not quite as good as themselves, there is a tendency for the observer to disagree with the statement – ie to imply the delegate does not make clear presentations.

It works the other way round, too. An observer who is appalling at making presentations may select ‘strongly agree’ for someone who is an average, but not outstanding presenter, but who they consider to be better than them. They’re therefore implying the delegate is better at making clear presentations than they really are. In neither case do we get an accurate picture of the delegate’s true ability.

Of course a range of other factors can also influence how one person rates another – hierarchy, personal agendas, grudges, fear, embarrassment and friendship are just a few. But they all make it hard for a 360 degree feedback tool to reveal robust, useful data.

my360plus is different. Using the objectively-defined Schroder framework, it asks ‘how frequently’ the observer sees a very particular behaviour. For example, “How often do you observe Fred facilitate discussions to ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute?”

They are asked to rate on a scale of ‘Never seen’ to ‘Always seen’. This approach makes the feedback from my360plus much more objective and therefore more accurate.

Ratings (‘Strength’, ‘Developing Strength’, ‘Limitation’ etc) are then created by assessing how consistently all the observers report seeing that particular behaviour at its variously-described levels. And as the Schroder behaviours have been shown in multiple studies to correlate with superior performance, we also know we are creating ratings about behaviours that actually matter when it comes to performance.

The result? Far more accurate and meaningful 360 feedback which creates more value and gives proper value for money.


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Banking Leadership – Schroder framework recommended by the Walker review

With the recent LIBOR scandal currently in the news, once again the spotlight is on the quality of leadership in Banking and the Financial Services Industry in general.

In 2009 the UK Government commissioned a review of leadership and corporate governance of the Banks. The report by David Walker made a number of useful recommendations, including, in Annex 4 on the Psychological and behavioural elements in board performance.
In this section it states in its findings:

Leadership behaviour is considerably more predictive of success in complex roles so should be given more weight over industry experience in the decision-making process. The assessment report should be used not just as a decision-making tool for selection, but also as a key part of building an induction and gap management plan to integrate new members and reduce the risks inherent in groups that work together for long periods.

It then goes on to list the well-researched and validated Schroder framework as a recommend leadership model suited to complex and volatile leadership challenges

We couldn’t agree more, which is why my360plus is based on the very same model.

You can download a full copy of the Walker review from the HM Treasury website. You can find the relevant section from page 139 onwards.

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Is your 360 framework robust? The Schroder Framework

Or Is it measuring what you want it to measure?

We come across literally hundreds of ‘competency’ frameworks used within organisations. While some are great, many are not. Most have little or no rigour behind them.

Many describe a mix of outcomes, values and outlooks as well as behaviours. All of these jumbled together make it hard to work out what the messages are for the individual or organisation, or what action to take. Making strategic decisions based on flakey data is a costly business…

The underlying framework used in my360plus is the respected and validated Schroder model, which describes objective behaviours that have been shown to lead to superior performance.

As well as having literally decades of research and testing behind it, the model has stood the test of time, across business sectors, geographies and cultures.

The Schroder framework objectively measures behaviour, ie what people actually say and do as opposed to ‘outcomes’ which often pepper frameworks. The problem with outcomes (eg ‘meets or exceeds targets’ or ‘builds strong teams’ ) is that knowing you met or did not meet the expected outcome is interesting, but gives you no insight into HOW you delivered that outcome and therefore how to replicate it, transfer the skills to other tasks or help others to do the same. Measuring behaviour allows you to understand what you do now AND what you should do if you want to develop your performance.

The Schroder framework also expresses tightly-defined negative manifestation of the behaviours. This is behaviour which actively erodes value. Crucially, my360plus measures and reports both positive and negative behaviours simultaneously so that complex ratings (such as a ‘strength with some limiting behaviour’) can be reported and explained, together with appropriate coaching advice.

We can, and do, modify behaviour and cluster names, and behaviour descriptors to reflect corporate language and other requirements where necessary. This is always done my our experienced consulting team and cross checked to ensure question validity is maintained and that we are in fact still testing for the underlying, validated behaviour.

Practical benchmarking and use of the Schroder framework over four decades has shown that no one has strengths in all areas. (It could even be argued that no single leader needs strengths in all areas.) However, as a leader deals with increasingly complex and dynamic business challenges, they develop (ie strengthen) their profile. The keys to success are to:

  • understand your profile – really understand what it is telling you about how you work and interact with others
  • stop any negative behaviour immediately
  • work on developing behavioural strengths that are important to your role
  • work with colleagues with complementary strengths.

For more information on the Schroder framework contact us at info@my360plus.com.



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