I’ve just come across a Forbes article called ‘Why 360 programs fail’. Of course, much of the time they are highly successful development tools – but it’s always useful to understand why sometimes a project works when at other times it fails. Can Forbes help us here? Here’s the top of their list:
“The Boss doesn’t get involved or discounts the program’s importance. 360 programs that get driven by HR without much attention from the boss are not effective… The boss has to be a believer that this stuff helps the team.”
My view is that this is spot on. When I am helping a company plan how to roll out 360 feedback effectively, line managers are critical for its success. In recent years we have become aware of how crucial the employee/line manager relationship is. The 2008 Macleod ‘Engage for Success’ report (http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file52215.pdf) gave us a good example of this when they discovered a strong correlation between employee engagement and the relationship with the line manager; in a nutshell, it is much more likely that staff will sleepwalk through the day if they do not feel they have a good relationship with their boss – the commitment and motivation just isn’t there. If you want to get the most from your people, you need a good relationship with them.
This is never more true than when staff are feeling exposed, vulnerable or challenged, and of course these are possible outcomes of a 360 process. Even if there is nothing but good news in a 360 report, the individual is still highly likely to want their manager to discuss implications for their role or career.
What do we need from managers in the 360 feedback process?
- To provide honest, constructive feedback when answering questionnaires about their team members – this should go without saying
- To be aware of the challenges facing their staff, and alert to their ability to cope
- To ensure that their team are given opportunity to absorb and understand their 360 report, ideally helped by trained and experienced coaches
- To provide supportive line management, such as discussing action plans emerging from the 360, helping staff be objective about the feedback and ensuring there are opportunities for learning and development.
- Visible commitment to the process of growing and developing the team.
Is this asking too much? My favourite definition of management is ‘Getting things done through people’. To do that, they need that vital good relationship with their team.
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace