A tool that several of my coaching clients have been using lately is called a 360 evaluation. This survey asks questions about various leadership practices from the boss, the peers and the direct reports. The feedback gives the participating leader a full picture of how she is “showing up” with a broad range of people. While 360s can illuminate blind spots and opportunities for growth, they also need to be managed very carefully so as not to totally discourage someone with the feedback. In addition to my own coaching clients, I am also an executive coach for the international firm, Lee Hecht Harrison, which uses an excellent 360 tool called the LEA 360. I also use this tool in my work with the leadership development program, The Fit Leader’s Program. The LEA 360, offered by Management Research Group, provides descriptive feedback of a person’s behavior on 22 independent practices. Examples include Innovative, Strategic, Persuasive, Restraint, Communication and Delegation. The unique questionnaire design is semi-iterative, forced-choice which eliminates the “halo” or “horn” effect of a traditional Likert scale. (“I like her so she gets all high scores.”) I have also used the Everything DiSC 363 Profile for Leaders. This tool looks at eight approaches to effective leadership and 24 individual leadership practices. The eight approaches include Commanding, Pioneering, Energizing, Affirming, Inclusive, Humble, Deliberate and Resolute. Whichever tool I use with clients, we always have a 1-1/2 to 2 hour debrief session on the results. What feedback pleases my client? What was a surprise? Where are the opportunities for improvement or change? I get concerned when I hear of companies putting managers through a 360 process, but then offer no one-on-one interpretation time with an outside coach or consultant. Leaders need the opportunity to privately review the feedback with a neutral source who can help them make sense of the responses and help devise a plan going forward. Both the LEA 360 and the Everything DiSC 363 offer specific suggestions on actions to take to shift a score. For example, one development area for one of my clients was “Creating a Positive Environment.” She is very smart and analytical. Because she loves details, she asks a lot of questions. The feedback was that her questions can be perceived as skeptical and thus create more of a negative tone for the discussion or meeting. In our coaching sessions, I actually had her practice asking questions with a lighter tone and from a place of curiosity instead of judgment. Another client received feedback that she was low on Strategic, low on Achieving Results and high on Excitement and Outgoing. As we talked about the company culture and her department in particular, she had the realization that because she was the only woman on the team, she had unconsciously taken on the role of “Den Mother.” While she still wanted to be perceived as approachable to the new trainees, she also could see where she needed to focus on providing them with more structure and more focus on results to achieve the deliverables for her department. In both of these cases, my clients were able to hang on to their strengths and bring out other leadership practices. The 360 tool can be a very powerful development tool for leaders if used in the proper manner. It takes courage to ask for this kind of candid feedback and even more courage to see the results and craft an action plan from it. It is the wise leader who continues to be open to learning and seeing the full picture.
Susan Combs, MBA and Professional Certified Coach, works with coaching clients to create fresh starts, enhance their leadership skills and increase their confidence. She is an authorized licensee of the Fit Leader's Program. Susan provides one-on-one coaching, DiSC team-building training and manages corporate mentor programs. She lives in Lansing with her son, Max, and their golden retriever puppy. Visit SusanCombsCoaching.com or MentorRoadmap.com for more information.