Everything senior leaders do is compounded and cascaded throughout the organization. Their attitudes, behaviors, and decisions shape the organizational culture and employee experience. 360 degree feedback is an opportunity for leaders to understand what experience they are creating for others.

In this podcast episode, Matthew Wride and Christian Nielson discuss how 360 feedback can help improve leadership and in turn, the employee experience.


[00:00:00] Christian: Hello and welcome to this webinar. I’m guessing we’ll have a few more folks joining us here shortly, and we’ll find our groove here. My name is Christian Nielson. I’m part of the leadership team here at DecisionWise. I’m joined by Matt Wride, who is the President of DecisionWise.

[00:00:31] Matt Wride: Yeah, it’s good to be with. 

[00:00:32] Christian: Yeah, and we’ve both been looking forward to this discussion for a while. It’s something we’re really passionate about. We’re here to talk about 360 feedback for executive leaders. So, excited for the conversation. We’ll also be monitoring the chat throughout our conversation, looking for questions or comments from the group and of course, we’ll make sure we have some time at the end for a more extended Q and A if there is a need or interest in that. 

[00:00:55]All right. Let’s get the ball rolling. Where we’re headed today, and we’ve kind of got a loose agenda, we’re gonna keep this a bit conversational, but we wanna talk a little bit about why executives need feedback. We’ll consider the unique needs of feedback for executive audiences, and then we’ll walk through how you build the program the right way for executive leaders before, during, and after. And then of course we’ll close with some Q and . 

[00:01:18] I think we’ve got some quotes to prime the conversation here about feedback. So let’s look at a couple of these. 

[00:01:24] This is one I’ve always loved. “The greatest deception men suffer is from their opinions.” We live in a world inside our own minds and our own opinions and, we’ll talk about how executives especially, could become susceptible to this. 

[00:01:37] “Keep ignoring feedback and life will keep teaching you the same lesson.” I think this is a quote Matt and I recently heard together from James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits and someone who we follow and are fans of, but this certainly rings true. 

[00:01:50] “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” 360 and what we’re here to talk about is really to help make that unconscious conscious so that we’re aware of maybe some of our default settings and how other people experience us. 

[00:02:06] All right, and Matt, do you wanna speak to this slide just about, you know, we’re gonna talk a lot about feedback, but what is feedback? How is it different than some of the other terms we might hear thrown around?

[00:02:16] Matt: Yeah, it’s important to realize that feedback is not the same thing as commentary. And if you’re just, you’re sitting down with somebody and you’re just generally talking to them about their performance, we may think we’re giving feedback, but we just might be giving some tips or some suggestions, guidance. But feedback in the way we use it, and particularly in the context of a 360 degree assessment, feedback is different because it’s purposeful. We’re sitting down with the intent to give feedback. It’s contextual. We work with this person. We’re going to have behavioral statements in the 360 that we’re going to talk about and have a conversation around. It’s knowledgeable because those that have, if the 360 is well set up, those that are participating are acting as raters, have experience with the participant. They know the leader and they’re able to give some insights. And then finally it’s organized. So, I like to think of feedback as something different than just your general, “hey, try this,” or, “why don’t you consider this?”

[00:03:15] Feedback is a process and so sometimes I’ll refer to it as feedback with a capital F, but it’s important to realize that we’re dealing with feedback, not just general commentary. 

[00:03:25] Christian: You know, it reminds me, one thing we talked about in our coaching certification is we ask kind of the question, imagine you’re walking down the hall and I stop you and say, “Hey, could you pop in my office? I have some feedback for you.” Most of us have a pretty strong natural response because we’ve had experience with misused feedback or feedback that was only intended to harm or to be critical. And when we’re talking about feedback here, it’s this definition of feedback where it’s purposeful, contextual, knowledgeable, and organized and I think that’s a good thing to call out early in this conversation. 

[00:03:57] Matt: And it leads us to this next quote, which is a favorite of mine. If you’ll advance the slides, which is “telling people they’re missing the mark is not the same thing as helping them hit the mark.” Our objective is for people to understand themselves better, to discover their blind spots. It’s all in the context of helping people improve, and I just, I go back to this often and remind myself, in fact, it sits on my whiteboard here, just to the side of me, as a reminder that feedback isn’t just telling people they’re not doing their job. It’s about helping them discover how they can actually do the things they need to do in order to be effective.

[00:04:33] Christian: Yeah, I love that quote as well. In this broader conversation around feedback and also I love something we’ve taken from the healthcare world, which is do no harm. We don’t want things to get worse because we’ve provided feedback or we engaged in a feedback process like a 360. We want them to get better and this is a really great thing to call. And I’m happy to see our attendance growing here as we get going. We’re getting into the meat of it here. So let’s discuss a bit, why do executives need feedback? We have a little bit of a graphic to kind of get the conversation going here, but as our organizational influence increases the amount of healthy feedback we receive decreases.

[00:05:11] I’ve certainly found this to be true in terms of my experience working with various leaders as they’ve climbed in the organization, in the hierarchy, in their impact and influence. As they get more of the organization reporting to them, it seems like the amount of healthy feedback decreases and the frequency of that feedback certainly decreases. I don’t know, Matt, is that your experience as well?

[00:05:31] Matt: For sure, and the key word is healthy. I don’t know if you’ve been following the Elon Musk tweets, right, in the news, and it’s this bro culture and it’s like, “you’re awesome. No, you’re awesome.” And that happens. I mean, we’re afraid to give feedback that might offend somebody higher above us or has power over us. And so, it’s all sort of, “great job. You’re the best.” And that’s the power of a 360, is it gives us a confidential way for participants to let leaders know that, wait a second, you’re not everything you think you are. And so again the keyword is healthy. 

[00:06:05] Christian: Yeah, I’m thinking that through the folks we’ve coached and worked with and different organizations. I’m also thinking it through from my own experience. If I think through, you know, my earliest professional experiences when I was staff level at PWC, people certainly weren’t afraid to give me frequent feedback. They would tell me if I was missing the mark and in most cases they try to help me, but as I’ve moved up in my career, I like to say, a good sign that I’m not getting healthy feedback or enough of it is if suddenly my jokes became funnier than they really were, you know, as you get up, people are a little bit more inclined to tell you what they think you want to hear and there’s some personal preservation and what, real or imagined they, they feel like they can’t give you as much honest and direct feedback.

[00:06:49] Matt: And that’s where we’re headed right now, is with executives, it’s not like you can just dial up and say, “Hey, I want to give the CEO some feedback.” And that’s why it’s important to have some sort of system or process that’s somewhat regular so that there is an allowable or permissible mechanism for people to give feedback.

[00:07:05] And your job as talent management professionals is to figure out how to implement one of these and then to keep it going because, otherwise it’s hit and miss and so really consistency’s a key in having a program that will give leaders confidence that it’s okay. We can buy into this. If it’s just every once in a while, then I think there’s some skepticism around the process. 

[00:07:26] Christian: Yeah, I love that. And it kind of brings to mind this concept of structured and unstructured feedback. When you’re lowering the organization, you’re gonna get a lot more of that unstructured feedback or just more in the moment feedback. When you get up to the executive level, it’s imperative that you create that structure, that it’s on some regular cadence. But opening a channel like 360 degree feedback is so important. 

[00:07:49] Let’s go a little further. I borrowed a few of these slides from our 360 cert conversation, which we’ll probably speak about as we go through this as well. But just very quickly, what is a 360? Mechanically it’s an experience where someone takes an assessment about themselves. How do I think I’m doing across these different competency and behavioral statements in these areas? And I fill out a self assessment. My supervisor would fill that out and then we’d often get feedback from others around me and try to get this full circle 360 feedback and that’s mechanically what it looks like. 

[00:08:20] Another definition that I really love for a 360, and I think it’s helpful as we’re thinking through why this is so critical for executives or why it’s strategic for executives, is 360 is a purposefully designed disruption, which creates the opportunity for increased self-awareness and change. I’ve always loved this definition. We use it frequently in our trainings and often in our coaching conversations. This is a moment for someone to disrupt the flow of their normal cadence and just step back and say, okay, what experience am I creating for others and is it the right experience?

[00:08:49] And it really is this disruption. We stop the day to day and take a moment to look and you talk about the need to do this regularly. But it certainly isn’t every day. It’s a regular schedule, annually or even maybe a bit more frequent than that, but it’s so powerful because it’s not every day. 

[00:09:05] It’s this unique experience to step and look at, this is how other people are experiencing me. Is this going to lead to outcomes I’m comfortable with? Is it gonna lead to the outcomes that are strategic for the organization? 

[00:09:16] Matt: Yeah. And there’s nothing better than a disruptor that you can control. And if you think about it, if you’re an executive, It’s better to find out that you have some sort of style issue now in a 360 than to have it flare up in the middle of an important board meeting. So these disruptors, controlling the disruptor, having the event, but doing so with some guardrails to help you. That’s what’s valuable. 

[00:09:39] Christian: Yeah. Great point. We can plan for this moment and we’ll talk a little bit about the emotional response that is part of that, and we’ll get into that a little bit more in a bit as well. 

[00:09:51] So, we’ve got some thoughts on how a lot of what we’re talking about today applies to any 360 program, some just best practice across the board. But we especially wanna focus on why a 360 program is different for an executive or an executive audience, or group of senior leaders. So we’ve got a few of these that we’ll click through and chat about. 

[00:10:10] One, the stakes are higher. What does that mean, the stakes are higher with executives? Maybe it’s obvious, but Matt your thoughts on why the stakes are higher?

[00:10:16] Matt: I’ll tell you a story why the stakes are higher. We have here a technology company. It was the second venture for an entrepreneur that had already had a home run his first time around. Somehow 360s went through the process, he gets one, hated it and banned them, and they’ve been banned forever at this organization. So the stakes are higher if it’s not done well. You do something then that’s an example of just, there’s power, executives, members of the C-suite and senior leaders. They have the power to shape how these things are used and whether they’re even used at all.

[00:10:46] Christian: I love that. It’s is a great example. I think of that one a lot, especially when I’m working with the executive team and I think there’s also, this organizational risk because this one person had a bad experience. No one else in the organization gets to benefit from 360 feedback.

[00:11:00] There’s also personal risk, but I’m sure that executive wasn’t thrilled with the HR leader that brought up a 360 to them. And so, sometimes we see stakeholders that are a little bit tentative around “ah, our executives could sure use this, but I don’t dare try it.” So the stakes are higher when we’re working with a senior leader versus a frontline manager or someone in the middle of the org.

[00:11:21] Matt: And that’s why possibly the number one tip is don’t do senior leaders in isolation, do ’em in groups so that it’s a process. Everybody’s going through the process together. No one feels singled out. If you do just one senior leader, it’s a red flag. Sirens are going off. Everybody thinks something’s up. And so it’s really best practice if you can, to say no, we’re gonna run four or five through together. 

[00:11:43] Christian: Yeah, I agree. I agree. And on top of that, something we’ll get into in greater detail, make sure there’s coaching available. And we’ll probably talk about that 10 times as we go through this.

[00:11:54] But another way this is different, their time is at a premium. Everyone’s busy. Executives especially are pulled in many directions. Often it’s difficult to get time on their calendar. They might be a little bit grumpy about things that don’t seem completely or immediately strategic to them. And so it’s something to consider as you’re looking through, okay, we want this program to be successful. Time is at a very premium when we’re dealing at executive levels. We need to be sensitive to that and articulate a real clear case for why we’re doing this very quickly and immediately in the process.

[00:12:24] It’s often not their first rodeo. We’re here in the west where rodeos are a thing. So hopefully this phrase resonates. But many times I’ll work with an executive like, oh, I’ve done a 360 before. And that can be a great thing if they’ve had a good experience in the past or it can be a challenge if they, you know, had a bad experience and are kind of closed off to the experience here. In most cases I see there, there’s a level of executive polish, that they’re used to feedback. They’re able to engage in the process, but certainly not always. 

[00:12:52] Matt: It’s also helpful that those of us again, as talent management professionals, we help leaders understand this isn’t like a psychometric assessment where you take it and it’s often the same every time you take it. 360s are completely context, market conditions, where you’re at, who you’re working with, everything’s different. And so you should expect to take 360s regularly and you should expect your scores to fluctuate because it’s a snapshot in time taking in everything around you. And so they’re not like, “oh, I did an MBTI one time, so I’m good. I did a 360 a while back, so I don’t need another one of those right now.” We need to take the time to explain to ’em why it’s different. 

[00:13:30] Christian: Yeah. Great point. This is a measure of other people’s perceptions of you and there are things you can have direct influence over and in many tech cases very quickly influence these things.

[00:13:39] And so that’s why they are very strategic. But setting this stage, the context why it’s different. External coaching is preferred. Usually and part of that’s the stakes are high. Part of it’s building safety. Now we are big believers in building internal capability. We have our own coaches. We do a lot of 360 debriefs and coaching and it’s a really powerful part of our business and rewarding part of the work we do. But we also like to build internal capability. And I mentioned the certification we do for 360 coaches. We do that monthly often we’ll do other dedicated sessions, but even with all that belief in building internal capability, we want coaches from within the organization. We still recognize with executive audiences it’s often best to go outside. Sometimes they feel like, well, you know, I’m a peer with the CHRO or, it doesn’t make sense for someone lowering the organization to coach me and it doesn’t create an environment where I feel safe to talk about the things I might need to talk about. And so at executive levels, often it’s best to go outside for coaching. 

[00:14:36] Matt: Yeah, and we’re talking about debrief and maybe a few follow-on sessions. We’re not saying every time you do a 360, every executive gets long term, six month coaching. That could be cost prohibitive and that can be time consuming. But what we’re saying is that no one should be left alone to interpret this report. They really do someone that can facilitate a really effective discussion, help them accept the feedback, and then direct them into action planning and goal setting. 

[00:15:03] Christian: Yeah, good call out. We use coaching, but often I’m talking about just that 90 minute debrief. What we really want to call out is that nobody at any level in the organization should just have a report dropped off on their desk with, you know, best wishes. It can be an emotional experience to navigate one of these reports and it’s far more likely to lead to positive outcome if a company with a coaching session or a debrief session.

[00:15:23] Matt: Yeah. Now you should be prepared to give them follow on coaching if they want it. Yeah. But you don’t necessarily have to do that every time.

[00:15:29] Christian: Yeah, Exactly. Raters have higher expectations. I mentioned when I was a younger employee, or a newer in my career, people gave me a lot of feedback, but they also didn’t expect me to be perfect. As you go up, the expectations increase. We expect a lot of our C-suite, we expect a lot of the executive levels. And so that’s a good thing to be aware of, that they might not get straight A’s going through this experience.

[00:15:52] Matt: I’ll never forget a day I was coaching. I had two coaching sessions on the same day. One was someone just barely out of college working for a large plumbing supply company, and their scores were just crazy good. And then about two hours later I was coaching a Fortune 100 CEO and the scores were significantly lower than this young associate that had just started. And it’s because, hey, you’re the top leader and we’re gonna expect a lot of you and average means average and they really take the scale serious. 

[00:16:25] Christian: Yeah definitely. And it’s a good thing especially as a coach going in there to be able to recognize that and kind of help them process that in a healthy way. 

[00:16:33] Matt: And that’s the key, is that in 360s the absolute value of the score is less meaningful than the blind spots. The differences, the trends, those are. The things we look at, the actual value of the score is sort of irrelevant because it changes from organization to organizations. We often say if I go to an organization full of mechanical engineers, the scores will always be lower because they follow that scale quite faithfully. And if I go to a different type of company they trend higher because everybody’s nice, you know, everybody’s special.

[00:17:06] Christian: Yeah. I’m trying to think of extremes. Like if you’re Utility in the Midwest, everybody’s gonna be “kindness to a fault,” in terms of this is a false kindness because we’re giving you inflated scores that don’t really help people develop.

[00:17:18] So it’s actually a gift if we’re using the actual scale, it’s our executives. And actually Matt, while you were talking, one thing, of related to that, the stakes are higher. We talked about, kind of, the organizational risk and the personal risk. One other thing on that organizational risk is, not only, you know, could an upset or hurt executive shutdown an entire program or just rule it out for years, the stakes are higher, that if we’ve got bad behavior at an executive level, that’s compounded throughout the entire organization.

[00:17:45] And so, the opportunity is greater. If we improve a behavior at the top of the organization, then that is a model that shapes culture very quickly. And so the opportunity is also greater with executives because their influence is so great, they set the tone of the organization.

[00:17:58] And just something I wanna make sure we call out there, that when we’re dealing with executives, getting it right with the 360 program can have a huge impact on the org.

[00:18:07] Matt: Okay. That’s right. 

[00:18:08] Christian: All right, let’s go to the next one. Support staff can help with the process. This, I think, is tied to that. Their time is at a premium. You know, if you’re working with mid-level management, often you don’t have EA and support staff to help manage the process, but with executives, that’s a great way to tap into just for the logistics, you know, working with an EA or an executive or administrative assistant to say, hey, especially to your point Matt, if they’re going through as a group of executives, they might not only have their own report that are gonna have other reports, so making sure they block out time to provide ratings for themselves and others can really make the process go much more smoothly and help with that time limit. 

[00:18:47] Matt: And you touched on something so important, do not go into them and promise them, well, it’s only 20 minutes of rating. You have to factor in the time needed to be debriefed and all the other things. So be truthful in the time, but if you are, it’ll happen. But if you just say, Hey, we only need 10 minutes… that’s just not the way it works. 

[00:19:06] Christian: Yeah. Yeah. Excellent. Matt, this is one of your points, and I love this because it’s definitely true. They have the power to ignore. What does that mean? 

[00:19:15] Matt: Well, just that the higher you move up in the organization, you can just choose to say, well, that’s the way I am. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a leader say that, I could take the whole group of us to lunch. So they have the power to ignore and that’s why it’s vital to pair this with coaching, that the number one tool you have to counteract that tendency is coaching. A good coach that can say, “wait a second. Is this the first time you’ve ever heard this?”

[00:19:43] Christian: Right. 

[00:19:44] Matt: Or “what other evidence is out there that this is happening” and a good coach can guide that person to sort of an acceptance of the feedback rather than, “well, that’s just how I am and they need to deal with it.” Well, no. You know, I mean, I love, Christian, what you always say: “What experience am I creating right now for my team?” Well, there’s no better way to understand that than a 360. And it, the experience you create for others matters. And it’s a reflection of how well your team will do, but then the overall organization, it’s just, it’s vital that people don’t ignore their feedback.

[00:20:14] Christian: I love that. I love that. Another coaching question I love around that. What’s the risk if we keep on believing yeah, that’s the way you are and we don’t change anything, what are we possibly risking with that? And as well as we try to connect what we’re doing in the 360 to an organizational goal. What are you trying to accomplish? And if you ignore this, are you going to be able to accomplish that? 

[00:20:38] All right. Let’s talk about building the right program. And so we’ve heard a little bit of, executives need feedback. They’re working with 360s with executives. There’s some nuances. There’s some big differences. Let’s talk about building the right program. We’ll keep it simple before, during, and after. How do we build a good program for executive leaders? So before, we wanna make sure we’re preparing for success. It’s really hard to undo things at the back end of a program like this if you didn’t set it up right from the beginning. And you can avoid a lot of pain just by beginning with the end in mind. So we need to think through some key decisions and key decisions. I’ve just got some questions here to kind of prime this discussion, but are you running a program for an individual or a group of executives now?

[00:21:19] Matt already called out. It’s better as a group in most cases. Now, some exceptions would happen. Sometimes an executive self initiates this or there’s involved in some other initiative, but wherever possible it’s great to run the entire executive group. And if you’re thinking about running 360s for your entire organization, it’s best to start with the executive team and get it right there because they can role model healthy attitudes towards feedback.

[00:21:43] That can then be cascaded throughout the rest of the organization. But it’s important to keep that in mind. What are we doing this for: a group or one individual? What assessment instrument will you use? What are you going to use to assess them? What instrument will we use? What items? We’ll talk a little bit about that in a few slides, here actually. But will you need to design one for your organization? We facilitate both approaches. We have a great off-the-shelf executive leader assessment. We also have a competency library to leverage to build your own, and that’s a very valuable exercise as well. 

[00:22:17] Will leaders select their own raters and are there rater overlaps? That’s a key consideration, especially with that group of executives going through and their time being at a premium. Cuz if you extend this group to a huge group and I have to assess all of my peers that’s an investment in time and it’s worth doing. But you just need to think that through. 

[00:22:34] Matt: I had a scenario where the rater group ballooned because it was a nice sized nonprofit and they wanted all of the board members to provide feedback to the executive team. Well, we have 40 raters because the board itself was in the twenties. So you really have, at that point, I should have guided them better in selecting just a few of the board members or something because it was too much, actually didn’t work and we really didn’t have great participation cuz it was too many feed requests at one time for this group. 

[00:23:05] Christian: Yeah, you can go to an extreme there where it kinda undermines the whole intent.

[00:23:09] Report management. This is important. Who will see the report information? How will it be used? That’s sensitive at any level, but especially at executives. We talk a lot about how to do this, right? We need to build safety, and you can’t build safety if people aren’t comfortable with the process or if they don’t have enough information.

[00:23:26] So there’s a real need to be transparent and especially about the reports. Who will see it? Matt mentioned working with the board. A lot of times the CEO will go through one and the board will have access to that information. Well, that changes the feel of the experience for the CEO. And so just being thoughtful and very transparent about how you’re using that information and who will see it, very critical, especially at executive levels if we want them to buy into the process.

[00:23:51] Matt: Yeah this issue is where it goes sideways. Most often boards are maybe unhappy with an executive team or a CEO. They want to use this to send a message or they’re gathering evidence, if you will. And so again, what instrument you’re using, what and who’s going to see the report.

[00:24:11] And then I just wanted to put in there, if you’re going to bring a coach in, you need to decide up front, in fairness to the coach, and in fairness to the participant, that needs to be laid out, that we owe an ethical duty to the person being coached, that they understand if the coach is gonna talk to the CEO, if the coach is there and has, strict confidentiality parameters.

[00:24:31] All of that needs to be laid out up front. And I would say that if you’re doing a scenario where this board says, well, we wanna meet with the coach after you’ve had your debrief. That’s a very tough situation for the coach to be in, and you might want to consider either two coaches or something along those lines.

[00:24:48] The other thing too is a lot of times CEOs want to sit down. Let’s say you have a group of five at the C level, and the CEO wants to meet with the coach and say, well, what did you think about my four, my CRO, and Chief Financial Officer and so on. Make sure you’re transparent in how that will work.

[00:25:05] A lot of times it’s great. I’ve even done debriefs, Christian, and you have too, where we’ll be debriefing for the first 60 minutes and the last 30 minutes as a coach, we’re joined by the CEO. And we’re talking it out there. And that’s been… I’ve had that go well, I’ve had that go poorly, but more than not, it’s gone well. I don’t know. What are your thoughts, just to reinforce this point? 

[00:25:24] Christian: Well, it is great. I like that you’re painting, that there’s different flavors of this and there’s trade offs with every different approach. If you involve their leader, there’s a risk. They’ll maybe not feel comfortable saying what they need to say a lot of that depends on that dynamic. And so it’s important just to be thoughtful around, “okay, is this gonna create a safe environment?” I’m with you. I’ve had that go very well. I’ve also had it go less than very well when their leader is in the room with us.

[00:25:48] But I’ve also done those CEO debriefs where I coach the entire team or debrief the entire team and then the CEO wants kind of the lay of the land and there are really great ways to do that. And transparency’s key, as long as the rest of the team knows, or as long as the CEO knows that, I’m not going into detail around, here’s what we said in our very private coaching session. I keep it high-level. This person, they all engaged in the process. You know, here are some themes that we’re seeing across the team, those types of things. I’ve had very productive conversations there, but transparency and trust is the name of the game. You don’t want to get it wrong because you could limit the use of 360 for years after that.

[00:26:28] Debriefing and coaching. We’ve talked a lot about this, but you know, that’s something to consider. Who’s gonna debrief these executives? Do you have this capability in house? Again, at the executive level, that’s when it makes the most sense to go outside. Will you leverage benchmark information in your report now? We at DecisionWise live in the world where benchmarking and normative data is a key part of the value we provide. But it has limitations. It can be a distraction here and there. If you have a custom assessment, you’re not leveraging our library or something like that, then benchmarking might not be an option.

[00:27:01] But certainly in our executive report, if you use the off the shelf report or modify that or build something from our library. You’re gonna have that option to add benchmarks and you wanna be thoughtful around is this going to add to the discovery or potentially distract, with executives?

[00:27:16] I like to include it. And what I like to do even more, to Matt’s point, is to build a norm for that executive team so you can build a benchmark that’s across our team. How do you stack up on this dimension, you know, relative to our own landscape here, or an organizational benchmark. That is another great option.

[00:27:35] All right let’s keep going here and feel free to throw things in the chat if you’ve got questions or thoughts as we go through this. Thinking through that assessment, we’ve got this little graphic here that hopefully just animated a bit. But assessing executives are a bit, it’s a bit different than assessing the rest of your leadership population because as you move up your role becomes much more focused on strategic areas, and we wanna take the assessment that way versus tactical areas. And so we’re talking about things that are more big picture around vision and direction of the organization and the key capabilities required to lead at that level in the organization versus, you’ve got some very in the weeds tactical skill. We’re kind of assuming that’s in place if you’ve got to this point in your career and we’re focusing on some of these bigger picture items in an assessment for an executive. So another way that’s done. 

[00:28:24] Matt: And also, too, executives tend to be more people focused. They’re telling stories, they’re building buy-in, they’re culture builders and so you can consider that as well. It tends to lean that way. So again a one size fits all assessment doesn’t always work well with executives. And really taking the time to build a custom assessment is probably a good idea. 

[00:28:45] Christian: Yeah, definitely. So a couple other thoughts for preparing for success. You wanna prepare the participants. You don’t want to go to the executive, “Oh, by the way, your 360 starts right now.” You wanna be very thoughtful and transparent, no surprise attacks, so clearly communicate the feedback process and the logistics. Matt made a great point earlier. Be clear about the investment of time. If you’re gonna have them rate a bunch of people and do their own debrief and if you include extended coaching or whatever that is, make sure they’re aware of what they’re committing to before they get to there.

[00:29:18] Matt: And just to touch upon that, again, when we’re talking about using executive assistants, Those assistance can be powerful to actually say, schedule a half an hour to give feedback. If you don’t schedule time to do the feedback giving. Yeah, and you just think you’re gonna get around to it, then what happens is you keep getting these annoying emails. This will start driving you nuts and you get to the deadline and then you rush through them as fast as possible. So if your assistance can be helpful and say, Hey, I’m gonna put time on your calendar that I’m gonna protect and we’re gonna set it for two hours and you’re gonna go through all this. That’s why we say the feedback needs to be organized. That’s part of that concept. 

[00:29:52] Christian: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And it’s a lot of how, at the end, I’ve seen many teams that wish they would’ve done this after the fact. They’re like, oh, we should have had these conversations. We should have approached a little bit differently up front.

[00:30:06] Okay. Prime executives, and this applies to everyone, but it’s great to do with executives. Prime them for healthy attitudes towards feedback. Consider the SARA model and Johari window. I’ve got slides on this I’ll speak to in a minute, but the point is, let them know that, hey, what we’re experiencing, this isn’t an everyday activity and it’s a normal thing to have a bit of an emotional response or our ego defenses kick in. Be aware of that and so you can decide whether to engage in those feelings, but giving them permission to be human in the experience is very important, especially where we’re looking to executives to set the tone for healthy feedback for the rest of the organization. 

[00:30:47] Build self safety. We talked about this before. Be clear of who will see the report and how it’s gonna be used and everything again. Just communicate. So important. I mentioned the johari window. I mentioned the SARA model. I stole these from our 360 certification. I won’t go into great detail here. If you have an opportunity, especially if you’re doing a group, it’s great to do a quick pre-webinar and say, “hey, we’re all going to go through this 360 experience together.” And if it’s a leadership team, this is a great conversation for the CHRO to lead to say, “hey, we’re all gonna go through this and here’s why.” There’s things that are known to ourself and not known to ourself, things that are known to others. And to use this two by two to talk about, we’re really focusing on trying to understand where we’ve got blind spots, what’s in the public arena where we might have some facades that are a part of our approach, and a 360 there to help us explore these things. So it’s a model again, we can spend a lot more time talking about, but I use it here just to say, this is a common thing to speak about in a pre-webinar, to kinda set the tone for 360 feedback. 

[00:31:47] Another model we really love is the SARA model. Again, I’m giving you the quick version of this. But SARA stands for surprise, anger, resistance, acceptance. It’s a natural process that people go through, these different stages when they receive feedback. Might be a bit of a surprise, some anger or resistance. Ultimately, we’re trying to get them to a place of acceptance, and even though it’s a bit cheesy, there is a SARA “with an H” model. Which is hope at the end. We don’t want them just to accept the feedback. We want them to be hopeful and optimistic and dare I say, excited about what’s possible now that they’ve received this feedback. But a lot of us have to go through these phases first. And so what’s helpful, especially your coaches will thank you later if you introduce this concept early in the process, then the coach can use some of this language in the debrief, and it can be a tool that’s already been introduced and help them manage those emotions in there.

[00:32:37] But it’s great to say it’s natural and I’ll tell you all now, when I receive my own report and I live in the world of feedback all day long, when I receive my report, I still go through this, “Oh, I’m surprised at that.” And it might be just a split second. It might take me a few days to process it, depending on the feedback, but just having some language to provide can make the process a little bit more easy.

[00:33:02] All right, so those are some guidelines for the before, setting up a successful program. Let’s talk about during, and things should run smoothly. Hopefully that’s not a groundbreaking concept for you. We always want things to run smoothly, but especially when our executives are involved not only because their time is limited, but their influence is up there can be a little bit, dare I say, grumpy for things that don’t go as well as they should, and understandably so.

[00:33:26] We want to make sure their time is used wisely. So let’s talk about this. We want the whole process to run as smooth and as clean as possible. Use trusted technology that minimizes distraction. We’ve gone through great lengths to try to take out any of the extra effort for the users, for the administrative folks running these programs, but especially for those that are providing feedback and receiving feedback we wanna minimize distraction. It can be difficult enough to take feedback and take action on it. We don’t want to cause any other pain point across that, especially where executives are involved, don’t overwhelm participants or their raters. If you’re surveying executives, then executives are also providing feedback and certainly senior leaders are providing feedback. We don’t want to overwhelm them with too many emails or too many surveys at once without carefully considering that.

[00:34:15] Consider extending the administration window. Now, most of us will wait until the deadline to provide feedback. Now it helps if the EA or the administrative team is helping to schedule those windows for them to provide feedback. But just recognize when you’re building out your timelines, you may need to extend the administration window a bit longer than normal.

[00:34:34] If executives are unable to give their feedback soon enough, ensure help is available. This is critical. We don’t want them to become frustrated or give up on the process because they get tangled up in some part of the process, and so we wanna make sure they know help is there and ready to support them.

[00:34:52] Matt: Yeah, I just wanna jump in here. You might ask, well, how do I ensure that this runs smoothly? We’ve said, Hey, make sure you don’t mess this one up. Well, one thing is, don’t run other cohorts at the same time you’re running this so that you can have focused attention. Number two, probably set someone to watch it carefully and reach out proactively and check in with leaders and with their administrative staff to make sure things are going smoothly. So I would limit the other types of activities I have going on, and I would make sure that I’ve probably staffed it with someone to bird dog it, if you will, the idea that no news is good news. You can’t accept that in this context. You’ve gotta reach out and make sure, how are we doing? Oh, would it be helpful if we extended the window for another couple of days? Those will go a long way in helping us run smoothly. 

[00:35:37] Christian: Yeah, and I think that’s well said. Be proactive with the help then, you know, no news is good news or waiting for sirens to go off. That’s a really great way to say that. Use groups or cohorts. We’ve talked a lot about that. It’s great for these executives to run them through a team versus making anybody feel singled out. All right, so, during the admin window. That’s really what we’re looking for, ee want it to be clean, minimize distractions. It’s almost the white glove service we’re giving at the top of the organization.

[00:36:02] Of course, we want that experience for everyone, but it is very critical, when we have our executives involved. All right, let’s talk after the survey’s been run or the assessment rather, has been run. We wanna support success. That’s the name of the game. We want to help them get the most out of this experience.

[00:36:17] Ensure executives have the support they need following this. As I mentioned, they shouldn’t be trying to process this, their feedback in a vacuum. Send them the report. 24 hours before their debrief meeting. This is a universal practice for anyone receiving a report, universal best practice. We don’t want to give them the report a week before they have a debrief, certainly not a month before they have their debrief. They can take it to some strange places, and by they, I mean we as human beings can take feedback to some strange places if we don’t have a skilled guide to help us process that information. Now you want to give it to him before the session, but not right before.

[00:36:58] If they’re receiving their report right as they’re having their debrief meeting, it’s suboptimal. They’re gonna be reading it for the first time. They don’t have time to formulate questions or thoughts or theories. And so we’ve learned that a day, maybe two days at the most before their debrief is kind of that sweet spot to give feedback to them before they have a meeting with them.

[00:37:18] Provide a debrief for the coach they can trust. Again, I told you we are going to repeat and repeat that. Consider external coaching options. Star on that one. This is the differentiator for any of these 360s. Is a coaching conversation, a debrief conversation. And if you don’t have that capability in house, that should happen with an external coach at any level.

[00:37:38] But where those executives are involved, use those external approaches, invite executives to thank their raters, normalize healthy attitudes towards feedback. So even though we take confidentiality very seriously and we protect the rater population, we take a lot of steps to make sure that it’s a safe experience for everyone.

[00:37:55] It’s still people investing and taking a little bit of a risk to provide feedback, and we want to make sure that those that provided feedback recognize that it was received and that it was appreciated. And so a quick thank you note, we usually recommend people send a note, put to everyone in the blind copy that was invited to participate in it and just thank them for the feed . 

[00:38:16] Matt: Yeah. You also, relatedly, are hey, if you’re gonna ask your direct reports, you’re the CFO, invite them to participate in the process up front. 

[00:38:25] Christian: Yes.

[00:38:25] Matt: And say, look, this is okay. Have at it. You know, I want to know what it’s like working for me as a leader. And so, it’s really nice to have a bookend one where you invite them to give you feedback and then you say, you know what? One thing I like to say is don’t just say thank you. What’s really great is if you can say thank you and I learned this about myself, or thank you. And this was a surprise, but I’m really glad I learned this. It’s like, oh, this person really did kind of get something from. 

[00:38:52] Christian: Yeah. And if I’m one of your direct reports or someone at a different level in the organization, I see that and I think, oh, wow, I’ve been heard. They value this, and when someone asks me to take a 360 for myself, I’m more inclined to do it with a better attitude.

[00:39:07] Give them time to digest the report and create an action plan. So we talked about that window. Give them 24 to 48 hours before your debrief to get it. But also during that debrief, recognize that they might need some time for additional reflection and discovery before they create an action plan.

[00:39:22] There’s another window there. It’s not, here’s your report, what are you gonna do about it? And they might need time to go have follow up conversations. They might need some time to reflect and to process that. And that might include some additional checkpoints, but just recognize that it might need some time to breathe before a meaningful action plan can be.

[00:39:40] I mentioned this before, I invite them to hold the follow up conversations with the raters. We like to say the report is just the beginning of the value. It’s not the end. And one of the greatest missed opportunities I see for people receiving a 360 is if they just put it in a drawer, they might have a very meaningful conversation, but if they don’t go and actively have follow up conversations they’re really missing out on a lot of the value. A 360 report is an amazing license to have conversations that we might not feel like we have a license to have. Otherwise you’ve got some data, you’ve got some trends, there are some wonderful follow up conversations you can’t have without singling people out, without violating confidentiality, keeping it high level, keeping it about themes, but some amazing conversations can be had there.

[00:40:22] Matt: Yeah, just to give some context to that further, it’s really great. You can go and just say, Hey, I really appreciate the feedback you gave me. Tell me more. I wanna be helpful. You’re not saying why did you rate me the way you did, but could we have a further conversation or, “Hey, I’ve heard you and I wanna share with you my action plan. Do you think this will be helpful?” As you said, it’s a license to have a conversation and you can make the report a reason to go talk about things that we usually don’t talk about. Tracy, our business partner here, often says it’s a permission to touch upon the un-discussables, and he’s right.

[00:40:56] Christian: Yeah, that’s well put. All right. We’re getting close here. Now this is a great thing you’ve mentioned, prepare the group for feedback on a regular cadence.

[00:41:04] Matt: Yeah. It’s not something we just get through and say it’s over. I’ll never see this again. Prepare them that this is a part. We are probably not gonna do it every year. Maybe it’s every two or three years even. You can’t do this every quarter. It’s too taxing and it becomes less meaningful. But when you can do it every so often on a change of control, on a new leader coming in or something along those lines, as well as some regular cadence you should.

[00:41:28] And then the last point I have there is, create a way for leaders to self-initiate. So if they’re working on something and they make sure they know how to come to you, if they wanna initiate a 360 in between make sure that they understand that it’s okay if they choose to start one earlier than the normal cadence.

[00:41:45] Christian: Yeah, that’s a great call out. And we’re seeing more and more of that, ways to self-initiate and 360s are seen as a development investment versus some kind of remedial punishment. All right, we’re back to a quote here. “Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving one’s self.” We all do it. We all have blind spots. We all have different areas of facade that we’re putting out to the world. And so, as you move up and the amount of unstructured and regular feedback, or in the moment feedback goes down, it becomes even more critical for this structured feedback and that’s why we’re so passionate about this with an executive audience. We’ve seen it improve organizations in dramatic ways, and we’ve both had very personally fulfilling experiences on both sides of that, where it’s our report where we’re coaching and debriefing other executives and appreciate that the conversation here, it opens it up for questions. We kind of move through this fast and furious.

[00:42:40] Matt: One last point I wanna make, just to get it in there too. If you have a C-suite going through and the CEO is participating, the CEO needs some accountability too. So whether that’s to a board or something, this idea of accountability, there’s always accountability, whether it’s a stakeholders, shareholders, somehow. So just consider that when you’re dealing with someone like the CEO, herself.

[00:43:01] Christian: Yeah, I love it. I love it. It is a great call out and everyone should have some sense of accountability or tie to someone else, or they can chat about others.

[00:43:08] I want to invite any questions for the chat. If you’ll throw those in there we’ll be happy to speak to it. And also just anything around success with 360s with your leadership team, we’d love to hear those as well. But while we do that I’ll throw this on here. We do a lot of work in employee experience and employee feedback.

[00:43:24] If you want any information about this, please info@decisionwise.com. Any questions from the group? We’ve got a quiet chat box today. Tina proved that it worked by telling us she’s a big fan of coaching and of course we are as well.

[00:43:45] Matt: I think we need to do a follow-on webinar sometime, Christian, which is a baby version of what we talk about in our certification process. What we mean by certification is we do a multi-day course that teaches people how to debrief a 360 and how to help action plan around it. And we didn’t go into it this time. We didn’t have enough time, but you know, how do you help a leader not just take feedback and just put out fires wherever they are, but how do you do that in the context of their long term and short term goals? And so we may cover some of those things that we talk about with those that were getting training to become good debriefers we could share some time in the future so that you can understand what it’s like to really get.

[00:44:25] Start to effectively action plan off of 360. It’s not just, see my weaknesses and try to figure out what I’m gonna do to solve them. We talk about strengths and we talk about leveraging our strengths, all of that. So anyway we need to do that. 

[00:44:38] Christian: Yeah, I agree. I agree. Kind of a condensed version of some of that meat from our certification.

[00:44:43] Tina, I appreciate that comment around your experience with hundreds of these and the conversation here today. And we’ve got another question. Thank you. How can we get assessment tools info at DecisionWise. We’d love to talk through our assessment. We’ve got a platform that’s very powerful. Our history is managed service where we’ve done all the work for our clients and we still love doing that, but we’ve made it easy enough to do through our platform, that we love to turn that over to our clients. So, happy to do a demo. Happy to talk through our assessment tools and the resources available.

[00:45:14] We’ve tried to pack all of our best thinking in the 360 space there, including our competency library, where we’ve got 320 unique behavioral statements all there for you to build your own assessments, our off-the-shelf assessments, as well as some powerful admin tools. So happy to tell you more. Info@decision wise.com would be probably your best way to shoot us an email.

[00:45:34] Matt: Yeah. And a shout out to Tina, who was that? We’ve been interacting with Tina Robinson. She is a great external coach. In fact, we recommend her to our clients and so if you’re needing someone to work with executives, she’s a great one there.

[00:45:46] Christian: She is, certainly you know, Matt, to your point earlier about your point of connecting this to what is important to the leaders, that’s a big win from our decision wise certification, which is in a debrief session, before we even talk about the details in the report, we ask them, what are you trying to accomplish? What matters to you? What is a goal six to 12 months out that is important to you? Once you do that, it changes the whole nature of the 360 conversation. It’s no longer a competing priority, something else on their plate. It’s now in service of everything else they’re trying to accomplish, and that changes the tone of the conversation very quickly. Very important with executives, cuz in the first few seconds of a debrief, you’re showing them how this information is strategic and you’re weaving it into their existing priorities versus just hitting them over the head with it. Highly recommend our certification, but also just that technique in general.

[00:46:36] Okay. Info@decisionwise.com. Thank you, Kayley. Anything else from the group? Just got a couple minutes here.

[00:46:43] All right. I will say that, you know, another conversation that often comes up with these 360s, is this for development or performance? Typically it is gonna be for development at this level, but we would love to, and you’ll very soon hear us having more of these performance based multi-rater conversations, because getting radar feedback as part of a performance conversation is very important.

[00:47:05] Now, there’s some nuance differences that we’ll certainly get into in a future webinar, but most of these developmental instruments are different then the performance conversation, but certainly a lot of power there as well. Well, appreciate everyone’s attendance today. As I mentioned you’ll see some follow up emails from our organization here soon.

[00:47:23] If there’s nothing else, we’ll end a couple minutes early and thank you, Matt. Appreciate engaging in the dialogue with you.

[00:47:29] Matt: Yeah, you too, Christian. Thanks. 

[00:47:31] Christian: Okay, thanks everyone.

DecisionWise Employee Engagement Survey

Measure the most important factors the drive engagement and performance.