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The whole truth

Your career Career development

' O wad some power the giftie gie us, tae see oursels as ithers see us'.

Helen Drake talks about the benefits of 360 degree feedback in answering the question: how am I doing?

In July I talked about why feedback on traits, competencies and behavioural practices is important and gave some tips for giving and receiving feedback. This month we explore the increasing use of 360 degree feedback, its background, purpose, the process and the results.

One of the critical elements of a performance management system is providing meaningful employee feedback coupled with systems and development programmes that develop and stretch employees. Successful people continually want to raise their standards and optimise their performance. They recognise that inter-personal relationships and business results are improved when people are able to include the perspectives and needs of other stakeholders.

One of the most powerful ways to help you find out how you are perceived at work and get some direct, honest feedback about your effectiveness, without putting others on the spot is provided by 360 degree feedback. Generally it provides answers to the vital self-management question 'How am I doing?'. Often it helps leaders validate their self-perceptions and it provides a mechanism for continuous improvement. For leaders to serve as models, they must have reliable, valid and timely information on how they are perceived.

While most companies have a hierarchical structure at some level, most projects are designed and delivered through a matrix structure where a number of professionals come together in a team to deliver a client solution.

I am regularly asked to conduct client satisfaction interviews on behalf of client organisations at different points throughout the project life cycle.

Not surprisingly, what clients value most and what affects their decision to repurchase is almost exclusively related to their observable experience.

Strong technical ability needs to be complemented by highly developed skills in the areas of effective communication, leadership, ability to influence, initiative, conflict resolution and problem solving. And increasingly, genuinely client-focused organisations are including their clients as part of the 360 process.

There are many different ways to introduce, implement and use 360 degree feedback. Critical to the integrity of the process is being clear about its purpose.

Check out why it is being done and how the results will be used.

Is it an integral part of personal and professional development training, does it form part of a succession planning programme, is it for career development and what will it cover? Is it competency based and if so where is its focus? Is it around leadership, communication, customer service, performance management, initiative, innovation, conflict or a mixture of several of these?

The 360 degree assessment is, as the name says, feedback from those around you. An assessment is created which allows other people to rate you on various job-related competencies. It begins by the subject undertaking a written selfassessment. Most assessments have some form of rating scale against a list of predetermined questions. Copies of the assessment template are then given to pre-selected peers, clients and subordinates for them to complete. Once completed, the assessments are returned anonymously to an independent source who compiles the data and prepares the feedback for the person being rated.

Feedback can be given in many different ways. Typically, results are given in a confidential feedback session by a consultant or coach, often from outside the company. Confidentiality is key.

That means it is important to be clear about such questions as:

'Where will the assessment be processed, who will see the feedback results, how will the results be used, how will feedback reports be distributed and by whom?' before beginning the process. No-one should see your assessment unless you - the subject - decide to show it to them.

It is the differences between the profiles which provide a rich source of discussion for performance enhancement.

Typically, these differences help to identify the gaps between selfperception and the perceptions of others. This is why 360 is often a great starting point for furthering professional development and is frequently supported with one to one coaching working with executives helping them to stretch further into getting more from themselves. Whatever feedback mechanism is chosen, feedback should always be constructive, positive and supportive.

In summary, 360 degree feedback is a great way to develop a personal action plan for yourself and those for whom you are responsible. It is a powerful tool for helping to build a strong and successful organisation and is often the platform for a one to one coaching relationship with an experienced external executive coach.

INFOPLUS Helen Drake at Point Taken tel:

(0208) 995 2864 Email helen@pointtaken. com

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