360 degree assessment

A 360 degree assessment tool gives you feedback on your business leadership skills from people around you. Used properly, it will help you as a leader to remove hurdles that may be blocking your career. A 360 degree assessment tool can even help defuse major conflicts in a management team if it is employed in the right way.

There's no doubt a 360 degree assessment tool has the potential to give you powerful insights into how the people you work with perceive your leadership styles, while underlining areas where you may need to further develop leadership skills. But if it is used badly it can backfire, leading to divisions that can be destructive and self-defeating. The key is to ensure that this form of leadership assessment is carried out professionally, with support and follow-through from the top.

What is a 360 degree assessment tool?

This kind of tool allows you to get a more comprehensive view of yourself through feedback from your colleagues, people you report to, your boss and other stakeholders — even customers and suppliers. This multi-source leadership assessment literally comes from all around you — hence the reference to 360 degrees.

Online surveys have facilitated the use of such tools, which have a demonstrated track record for boosting the performance of senior business managers and executives when done right. But implementation of 360 assessment should be handled with care. Look to top business schools that specialize in executive education for the best results. Such institutions are best placed to know what questions to ask, how to interpret the responses and how to propose solutions, typically through the use of executive coaching.

What can a 360 degree assessment tool do for you?

360 degree assessments offer opportunities for you as an executive to discover without confrontation the views of people you regularly deal with. You can learn more about your relationships and how you can improve them to drive personal and organizational performance.

You have to be prepared to take it on the chin without being defensive, because the feedback may not all be positive. What you need to keep in the back of your mind is that leadership assessments to be effective should involve more than kudos and pats on the back. The point is to underscore areas where you need to change your behavior and how you can get the advice you need.

Follow-through is essential

Once a company has done a 360 degree assessment of an executive it is important to get counseling, ideally from one of the top business schools, on follow-up action. This could involve an executive leadership development program specifically tailored to address your issues.

Such a program can introduce you to different leadership styles through an online learning program, while proposing actions you can try out while working with your team. Leadership workshops and one-on-one leadership coaching provide you with more tips on how to be a better leader. It is essential that this kind of training be followed up with mentoring from a professional coach and a further 360 assessment to find out if the feedback has changed.

The goal from all of this is for you to emerge as a better leader, instilled with greater confidence from developing leadership skills that you didn't have before. That's the kind of positive outcome you can expect from the right kind of 360 degree assessment tool.

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