An organization’s goal should be to provide the most helpful, personalized guidance possible, given the practical limits of time and budget.
To ensure that leaders get value from feedback (and turn it into action), most organizations provide professional guidance when delivering feedback reports to leaders. This guidance is particularly important given that leaders have been known to sometimes respond destructively to feedback; for example, by overreacting, becoming angry with raters, or simply ignoring the feedback. An organization’s goal should be to provide the most helpful, personalized guidance possible within the practical limits of time and budget. Following is a range of options to consider when planning a 360 initiative:
If leaders are distributed geographically or there simply is not the budget to support meeting with leaders personally, a webcast can be an excellent choice. In 60 to 90 minutes, the facilitator can provide background about the rationale for 360 feedback, discuss the unique challenges of leadership in the organization, create the right frame of mind for accepting feedback, explain how to read and interpret the report, talk about how to get value from 360 feedback, and even provide some coaching on common leadership challenges.
In a typical webcast, leaders can type in questions and the facilitator will periodically pause to check for questions and answer them. For one project with a large client in Europe, we conducted several webcasts with leaders scattered across the continent, working with as many as 100 leaders at a time. Attendance in the webcast was tracked and mandatory (leaders needed to attend before receiving their reports). Our experience with this method for providing 360 guidance has led us to believe that the webcast will become the predominant method for delivering professional guidance to large groups of leaders as they receive their feedback reports.
Group Feedback Session
The most affordable feedback method that still allows for individualized help and in-person support, group feedback sessions typically involve a presentation from a facilitator (on the same topics that are covered in the webcast) followed by delivery of paper reports, a time to study the reports, and then an opportunity for leaders to work together (often in subgroups of 3-5 people) to talk about leadership challenges and to provide each other with “light coaching” or guidance. We have been asked to conduct group feedback sessions countless times – it is a popular approach – but we find these sessions to be somewhat impersonal because participants hesitate to ask question or fully reveal their emotional reactions to feedback in a group setting.
Group Feedback with Professional Coaching
A cadre of professional coaches is brought in to work one-on-one with leaders after the group presentation (and after the leader has studied the report). Typically, the coach has studied the report before meeting with an executive and is prepared to guide the leader in a discussion of challenges and goals. Although this is a relatively expensive solution, there is simply no match for the authentic support of a skilled coach working closely with the leader in a confidential setting. Coaches can gauge the emotional reaction of leaders, answer questions about how to interpret the report, assess the leader’s commitment to change and leadership excellence, and engage the leader in an open, constructive discussion of how the leader can be more effective in the future.
This is the most economical way to provide individualized support to leaders. In a 60-minute call, the coach can typically address all of the topics they would discuss when meeting in person with the leader, but also can reach leaders who are geographically dispersed, often at a reduced cost to the organization.
One drawback to phone coaching is that coaches cannot read non-verbal cues from the leader, and it is more difficult to develop rapport (and maintain the leader’s attention) without face-to-face contact. Also, from the coaches standpoint, a lot of work goes into just getting on the leader’s calendar and leaders can be prone to rescheduling the phone coaching because it is not seen as a high priority to the leader.
Although phone coaching can be a stand-alone method for debriefing feedback and helping leaders extract value from the feedback, this method is best used for providing long-term support for leaders who have had the opportunity to meet personally with the leader. The coach can talk with the leader on a monthly basis to keep the leader focused and committed to development, and to help the leader with new challenges that they encounter.
In summary, organizations have a number of options for providing leaders with the professional support they need when receiving feedback. Although organizations are usually most willing to invest in support for their top leaders, all leaders at all levels need some form of support, and we believe that simply giving leaders access to written guidance is insufficient – leaders need to be engaged and actively guided in the process of turning feedback into constructive action.
Work Effects is committed to building trusted leaders and purposeful cultures to help organizations achieve lasting results and competitive advantage. Visit our LinkedIn article at Options for Supporting Leaders Who Have Received Feedback for more information.