360 Feedback as a Catalyst for Team Growth

360 Feedback – there is so much written and spoken about the uses and benefits of a 360 Feedback program – as well as horror stories about misuse and pitfalls when not used appropriately.

At Spark we have been circling around (haha pun intended) this topic and reflecting on experience working with client companies. In our discussion we returned most often to the context of teamwork. In any circumstance 360 Feedback works best when…

    1. Rooted in the unique context of the corporation and population. This ensures that individuals will be assessed against meaningful and relevant measures. Not just any individual’s judgement of what is important or makes a good leader but rooted in –
      • Values of the Organization
      • Leadership Competencies defined by this organization
      • Specific strategic objectives
    2. Focused on growth and development of individuals. Rather than being used as an annual appraisal of performance and connected to regular compensation or bonus.
    3. Everyone is briefed and educated on the process, uses and outcomes. This requires a systematic approach and time.

So how can a 360 feedback process be a catalyst for team success?

A team – no matter the size, composition or purpose – presents a magical combination of a defined environment, known business objectives and an existing requirement for cooperation and interdependence.

Enhancing an individual’s understanding of their own style while learning, working and communicating with the observations of team members builds self-awareness and supports intentional behaviour. It highlights that people have different styles and communication needs and that communications and actions can be tailored to meet the needs of others. Combining 360 feedback with other team effectiveness tools can accelerate results.

Let us share a story to bring this alive

We ran a workshop recently designed to optimize teamwork in an environment where the strategic focus of the organization had changed. We were using LEGO Serious Play techniques as a way to unlock new insights. One of the exercises was to identify strengths of each individual member of the team. Once a collection was amassed for each person there was an identification of the most under-used strength for each person. This turned out to be one of the most valuable take-always from the session.

Once you’ve been around the sun a few times most people are quite aware of their own primary strengths. And get into a pattern of leading with (or relying exclusively on) those strengths. But we all have a suite of strengths though over time some are less used and become forgotten. It was energizing to see the reactions of individuals when reminded of those strengths which they already have but use infrequently. Like finding a $20 bill in a jacket pocket from last year!

Enhanced self awareness fuelled by 360 feedback supports growth in leadership strengths and skills. Deciding how you wish to be seen in a team or more broadly in your organization is enabled by intentional behaviour rather than unconscious performance. Not only does the individual grow and develop – the team and the organization benefit too. One-on-one coaching is an ideal way to support the development opportunities and goals that come out of a 360 feedback process. More on Spark’s coaching practice later.