360-degree feedback is an ideal way to gather what direct reports need from a leader but only if the tool and the process used are well constructed. Surveys using Likert scales (i.e. “on a scale of 1-5,”) may be easy to find but may not yield the clarity and accuracy of results. Poorly defined questionnaires have several challenges:
- They make it easy to game an answer
- The scores usually reflect very recent observations or impression – not behavior traits demonstrated over long periods of time
- Rater bias (one respondent’s 4 may not mean the same thing as another’s 4, or some may never give a 1 or a 5, others may never give below a 3)
Surveys using comparative statements eliminate those challenges, but they are a little more difficult to find, tend to require a little more financial and time investment, and may yield results that are difficult to swallow. 360 leadership tools that use a semi-ipsative format challenge respondents to choose and rank their behavioral and motivational observations. This unique approach limits common forms of respondent bias, such as attempting to skew the results in a particular direction or making the same range of choices for all questions. The result is a more accurate and honest assessment.
However, once the leader has the feedback, understanding their development needs from the perspective of their direct reports can make creating and implementing a development plan a lot easier, and very meaningful.
Leaders who empower their direct reports by including them in their development plan create an environment for success.