“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?” Are you curious how others perceive your performance? Do you wonder how effective you are at what you do? Unfortunately, most people cannot accurately evaluate their performance. The truth is when it comes to performance, PERCEPTION is reality.
The 360 Degree assessment is gaining popularity as a tool to accurately measure leadership performance. In this downsized economy executives are concerned how individual performance affects organizational performance, productivity and the bottom line.
The annual performance review and other formal performance feedback methods are unreliable. As individuals, we receive feedback from two groups. On one extreme we hear from people who like us, then on the other extreme we hear from those who dislike us. Neither group is entirely accurate in their appraisal. As long as we surround ourselves with “yes” people, we will never know where we need to improve. The silent majority, the group in the middle, has the most valuable and valid feedback.
Most people compare the traditional performance appraisal process to standing on a broken bathroom scale that provides everyone the exact same weight. The annual, one-on-one performance appraisal provides biased and limited feedback. Personal chemistry plays a large part in evaluations. Studies show individuals who look like, act like, and think like the boss will usually receive a better evaluation than individuals who are different. In more cases, supervisors avoid saying anything negative, will not address shortcomings and lump everyone in the same middle-of-the-road box.
When conducted properly, the 360 degree assessment are powerful tools for helping individuals improve, grow and develop their interpersonal skills. I worked with one individual who received excellent scores from her supervisor and board members. She “walked on water.” However, when I completed a 360 degree assessment, four out of her five direct reports identified major shortcomings. She tended to micromanage, over-controlled and intimidated those who worked for her. The end result was a group of people afraid to take initiative and limited by her controlling management style. When she saw the report, she was willing to change her behavior and resolve the issues. If she had only depended on the feedback from her supervisor, she would have been oblivious to the problem.
The supervisor is only ONE person out of many possessing valuable input to the leadership performance of the rated individual. Getting accurate feedback from all the groups of people we work with is much more valuable. This 360 degree assessment gathers information about an individual’s performance as viewed by the standards and expectations of their boss, self, peers and direct reports.
The development of effective skills begins with the awareness of ineffective behavior. A 360 Degree Performance Evaluation shows an individual what others think their performance is versus what it should be. By understanding the perception of others, people can improve.
How the Process Works
These 360 degree assessment must be used with foresight and forethought. As a management consultant, I have conducted dozens of multi-rater assessments and found the input is much more helpful and objective than the standard annual performance appraisal process.
The individual that is going to be evaluated (subject) and his/her boss pick between 8-15 raters to provide input to the evaluation. These raters should have worked with the subject for a minimum of 90 days. They can be customers, direct reports, peers and the individual’s direct supervisor.
Most 360 degree assessments are completed using a secure webpage. The identity, scores and comments by the raters are protected. Once the assessment is completed, the subject receives a report that includes the aggregate scores broken down by groups. (Supervisor, self, peers, direct reports etc.)
The 360 degree feedback assessment points out blind spots individuals, team members and managers have difficulty seeing about themselves. The written comments provided by the raters can be the most helpful part of the report. The completed report should be facilitated in a way that leads to a complete process of improvement including an action plan. Providing a debriefing by a trained facilitator or coach is an important step of the process.