In a recent article, we talked about the litmus test for any business culture…how does your organization handle feedback? This article builds on the original, focusing on this leadership assumption:
Leaders’ attitudes and their observed behaviors with their followers will drive a business culture.
When 360 degree feedback is part of the performance system culture
In this scenario, 360 degree feedback is part of the performance system culture, completed electronically, and provided to leaders in a mass process, where reporting is anonymous and individualized.
You can postulate that this process is completed no more than once per year (twice in the more proactive organizations) and that the culture doesn’t often give “in the moment, appropriate feedback”. This business culture often becomes about how “popular a leader is” with the staff and the raters who generally participate in the online feedback.
While this feedback process helps leaders be more sensitive to the motivations and expected behavior associated with influencing followers appropriately, it assumes that “raters” can look objectively at the person receiving the feedback.
What this process robs the business culture of is…
However, what this process robs the culture of is teaching followers how to give appropriate verbal feedback, in a constructive way. The anonymity of this process often makes the data very challenge focused. As a result, it lacks balance and concreteness in answering the all-important question: “What would make you more effective with me?”
Recently I was working with a senior leader who provided me with his electronic 360 degree feedback report. In viewing the report, the leader told me, “I really don’t see much to act on here. In most questions I scored between a 3.75 and a 4.25.” The lowest items were around communication (almost always the case) and trust, with the highest items on “integrity”.
People rarely use 1s & 5s in feedback ratings
I assume that people don’t use 1s and 5s, except in extreme cases. Given this assumption, even the low scores were in the “most often” provides enough information, is trustworthy, etc. range.
Outside of a few balanced “additional comments”, he was unsure what to do with this report. After reviewing the report together, we agreed we should do a team presentation of his results to his direct reports, with a follow up individual interviewee/coaching sessions for each interviewee about the senior leader.
What we learned in the interviews was that there were some definite and specific behaviors that the interviewees wanted to see changed in the leader, that we did not hear about in the presentation.
While the electronic process has value, something is missing
This electronic process in and of itself has value, but what it misses is allowing leaders and raters to experience feedback in a productive way. It misses the opportunity to build trust- based relationships and a constructive/humanistic/performance based culture.
It often leads to a culture where leaders can be informed as to their followers expectations, but followers are not sure that anything has actually been acted upon.
Moreover, in this electronic feedback culture, leaders often feel constrained to push followers to higher levels of performance that are expected in today’s competitive marketplace, because of the lack of two-way trust.
Here’s what followers want from their leaders:
Studies show us that followers want to be trusted and want to trust their leaders who:
- Seriously listen to them more than once or twice per year
- Consider and value their thoughts and contributions
- Are open about what they’re good at – and what needs improvement
- Are confident in how they pursue success and influence and motivate their followers
While feedback is a great tactic to use in building trust (both the giving and receiving behaviors can be great trust builders), electronic feedback too often robs us of the opportunity to build the kinds of relationships that are most productive in the work environment.