The beginning of the year is often filled with performance review evaluations, promotion assessments, bonus and compensation payments as well as goal setting exercises both for individuals and organizations. Leaders at all levels often cringe at this time of year as it is filled with tasks that are heavy in people matters. Hours and days spent on their teams and those employees whom you want to reward, provide feedback and set forth expectations for a successful quarter and eventually, a year. It sets the tone for the rest of the year across the board.
What is equally important is assessing the leadership in a similar way. Leaders themselves are swamped with tasks pertaining to managing their team’s performances and end up being overlooked themselves. It is crucial for the executive leadership to be assessed, have their goals set and receive constructive feedback. To clarify, when I say leaders, I mean all the way to the top.
Assessing leaders the right way
There are numerous ways that leaders can be assessed, but one of the more successful ways that probe into areas that many aren’t aware of are 360-degree assessments, embedded in performance reviews or development plans. I would submit that 360 is one of the most important ways of evaluating a leader. Understanding how he/she interacts with some of their closest advisors, their direct reporting managers and people who see them as who they are and how they actually lead. How is this person under pressure? What is their decision-making process? Do they get a buy-in from stakeholders or make decisions on their own? Do they play favorites? And, can they be trusted? All of these and more are points of consideration for board members, CEOs, and functional heads. Even they need to be evaluated for the health of the company and based on critical competencies needed for the job and all too often they are not evaluated and unknown to people above them.
Successful companies know this and have this as part of their annual DNA in evaluating leaders. They know that people are creatures of habit and many people work well with people with higher job titles or “above them,” but they are like bowling balls to colleagues and direct reports and plow right through morale and destroy departments, thwart initiatives and often deflect their own poor performance onto others. Only confidential 360-degree feedback tools will get to the heart of these issues. Even in open feedback cultures, there is apprehension to say something negative or to coach someone who is in a position of authority. People have been burnt and they feel there will be retaliation in some capacity so confidential ways of evaluating people do have a place.
Using tech to get realtime feedback
As more and more tools come to market that bring unique and transparent ways to develop people within an organization, the pressure to convey what leadership scores and evaluations area will remain. Social media based development tools are often real-time and engage with users who can comment on anyone’s posts internally amongst colleagues. Whether it be that someone has completed their development plan, or received the highest number of “thumbs up” or “Kudos” for completing a task, there are many more opportunities for organizations to see and hear what people are thinking about when it comes to developing themselves and building skills within the company. Those leaders that are at the forefront of this and “walk the walk” with their team members in showing what areas they themselves need to develop and how they will get there will reinforce the critical nature learning and developing oneself is critical to success.
If there are no issues to get to the heart of, an accurate assessment will only be to commend their management style and reward the truth. I have seen leaders send their completed 360 report out to their entire team to show what areas of strength and areas of development they have in place. That’s a mature approach, but one that works well. What doesn’t work well is evaluating a leader’s goals, assessing them and not getting direct feedback from those who work with them the most. This aspect of asking the leader’s team members to give feedback is often overlooked, and most importantly, are areas of feedback often hidden within colleagues.
With organizations going global, or even if they are region-focused, there are now five generations in the workplace. It is precisely why multicultural and gender differences and feedback is key to development and organizational health. Whether that feedback is given in real time or used within an application that uses a 360 approach, those places that embed this into their promotion and performance evaluation criteria will likely be that much more successful, mitigate risks and retain high performers.