» Deconstruction of the 360 degree leadership development process?



Anonymity  equals unaccountability


Noted Yale surgeon and author Sherwin Nuland has written a new book, The Uncertain Art, which challenges the pandemic of unreflective reliance on technology in medicine. Dr. Nuland hopes that the human connection — interaction between doctor and patient — will be restored to its former position as the center of medical practice.


Sometimes I believe the same unreflective reliance on technology has engulfed corporate America. The technology employed in talent management replaces the more penetrating and valuable human connection. The knowledge that can be culled when coach, client, and key stakeholders interact far exceeds the bounds of a written report.


Unreflective reliance on leadership survey instruments has become pervasive. These surveys are usually based on stated core company behaviors or competencies identified by executives in conjunction with HR. (Both the instruments and the concept of core competencies seem to be losing their luster. I will cover more on this subject later this week.)


While these survey instruments are comprehensive in scope, they are, by necessity, rigid in design. Like a large meal that just won’t digest properly, 360-degree leadership surveys often offer the client more data that can possibly be absorbed in a single (or even double or triple) sitting. To compound the challenge, the data is often contradictory and confusing. And it can easily evoke defensive responses from the client, who sees only the written word. (If the stakeholders who evaluated the client were there to explain their perspectives, and seek the client’s understanding of those perspectives, the client would probably find stakeholders’ comments much more digestible.)


Over the years, I have been involved in 360-degree feedback projects using these rigid, standardized instruments. The client and the coach are given one to three sessions to review the computer-generated report and create an action plan for the client’s development. In the majority of cases, at least half that time is spent trying to understand the major themes of the survey, and often another 20 percent is spent on the client’s defensive responses to the report’s scores and stakeholders’ comments.


One can argue that having the coach meet only with the client, without feedback from peers, supervisors, and subordinates, limits the value of any development plan. Since this is probably true, why not ask key stakeholders to meet with the client, reframing the activity as a leadership learning interview, with the coach acting as facilitator? I have tried this several times, and it has worked wonderfully.


More to follow…