The individual feedback report you just received from your 360 feedback process is a healthy dose of leadership advice awaiting action. As I wrote in my previous article, 7 Tips for Getting the Most out of Your 360 Degree Feedback Process, the results that you achieve are directly related to the actions you take in response to your feedback. Be aware - digging into such a treasure trove of data can sometimes result in a bit of anxiety– particularly when the feedback is at odds or large discrepancies exist amongst different reviewer groups. 360 feedback has been designed to provide a complete picture of performance, multiple perspectives are sought during the 360 feedback process. With so many varying opinions, you are likely to receive some inconsistent feedback. So, how do you pull all of this divergent feedback together into something useful?
What is Crowd-Sourced Feedback?
Continuous, Open Performance Feedback is Becoming the Norm
Gone are the days of the top-down, annual performance review. Organizations continue to open the performance feedback and evaluation process to invite participation from employees at all levels in the organization. This is now becoming the new normal and it offers a variety of benefits to employees and leaders. At the same time, it makes skills in providing helpful performance feedback a requirement for the entire talent pool…not just managers. Without these skills, the quality of the feedback will be limited and employees won’t get the feedback they need to develop and enhance their performance.
Bad Bosses Hide in Dark Corners
Why do bad bosses seem to go undetected or acknowledged by everyone except those who work for them? These menacing managers seem to hide in dark corners. It is extremely frustrating for anyone who is suffering under a bad manager that this person's poor performance or bad behavior is overlooked and tolerated by the organization. In my experience in working with senior leaders, these four reasons seem to top the list:
The next time you have a moment to spare and have grown tired of reading online news and checking social media, do a search on "characteristics of a bad boss". The lists, articles, stories and images that will surface will likely make you laugh. There is no shortage of examples of what it's like to work for a bad manager. One of my favorite lists of characteristics was published on Forbes.com - 31 Telltale Signs You Are A Horrible Boss. Great list - but my guess is that if you are a horrible boss you will not likely see these telltale signs in yourself.
Integrating upward feedback into the performance appraisal process can transform the traditional review process. In a recent article, Improve Performance Appraisals with Upward Feedback, I recently wrote about the powerful benefits that can be achieved, including:
- Increased accuracy of leadership performance ratings,
- Improved leadership performance through targeted feedback and development plans,
- Early identification of great/problematic leaders through objective insight, and
- The development of a feedback-rich organizational culture.
Despite the effectiveness of upward feedback, many organizational leaders still express concerns about including feedback from direct reports in the process of evaluating leadership performance. The 3 greatest concerns that I have heard expressed by upward feedback critics are:
- Employee Fear of Identification – Employees will be nervous about providing candid feedback about their managers for fear that their manager will be able to identify what they said. As a result, the feedback offered by direct reports will be less than truthful and positively skewed.
- Lack of Skills - Most employees do not have the requisite skills to accurately rate performance and provide objective and constructive commentary. As a result, the feedback gathered from direct reports as a part of upward feedback is not accurate or helpful.
- Gaming the System -Managers will naturally feel anxious about receiving feedback from their direct reports on their performance and will therefore take steps to influence their ratings. They may take action to make a recent positive impression on direct reports or even offer something in exchange for ratings.
5 Tips for Effectively Implementing Upward Feedback
If implemented properly, organizations can avoid the 3 concerns described above and take full advantage of upward feedback.
- Build Support for the Upward Feedback Process. Provide orientation and communication to help people managers understand the benefits of upward feedback. We cannot expect people managers to be open to the process if they do not connect with the ways in which it will help them to be better leaders. When managers are open and convey a positive outlook about the process, employees will feel more comfortable in offering their feedback.
- Target Feedback - Employees are best able to evaluate very specific aspects of their manager's performance. As such, ask employees to offer feedback on performance criteria or competencies that they have the opportunity to observe, for example providing direction, communication, coaching, and managing performance. Read more about the specific leadership behaviors that influence employees in Leadership Competencies Impact Employee Performance - Making the Connection.
- Ensure Anonymity - In order to optimize the accuracy of upward feedback, employee anonymity must be protected. As in any change process, steps should be taken to communicate and reinforce anonymity in every phase of the process. Online performance management systems can make it easy for organizations to limit access rights and ensure the anonymity of data.
- Offer Feedback Tools - Prepare employees to offer feedback that is professional, helpful and constructive during the upward feedback process by giving them the resources they need. Consider offering training webinars and just-in-time job aids to assist employees making ratings and crafting comments. This orientation should include tips for making accurate ratings, avoiding rater biases, and guidance on how to write objective comments.
- Make Sure Managers Use Their Feedback - While gaining the support of people managers for implementing upward feedback is a critical first step, organizations must also equip them to understand and take action on the feedback received. If leaders do not take it to heart and work to address potential performance issues, employees will be less likely to offer helpful feedback in the future. Organizations can approach the upward feedback process in the same way they would a 360 degree feedback process. The steps outlined in 7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your 360 Degree Feedback is a good place to start.
viaPeople's Performance Management software can make it easy for you to implement upward feedback in your company. Click below to see it in action!
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Traditional performance appraisals that simply rely on manager ratings tend to focus on outcomes or individual achievements. This type of performance appraisal offers limited perspective on the wide range of performance factors that are important for leaders. The integration of upward feedback into the performance appraisal process not only helps to build a complete picture of individual leadership performance, but also offers 4 other key benefits.
Leaders Should Engage to Retain and Drive Employee Performance
According to a recent survey conducted by Right Management, an astonishing 83% of the North American employees polled indicated that they plan to actively seek a new position in 2014. In addition, Harvard Business Review published a research report in 2013 which indicated that 71% of the 550 executives surveyed, placed employee engagement as a key factor in their ability to achieve organizational success. However, only 24% of these same executives indicated that they believe their workforce is highly engaged. These two sets of findings provide a great deal of insight into the job satisfaction levels of employees, as well as point to a need for organizational leaders to make employee engagement a priority.
Employee engagement is not just important for retention; employee engagement has consistently been linked to employee and business performance. While senior leaders play a major role in creating a culture that facilitates employee engagement, the employee-manager relationship is even more critical - specifically, the way in which managers continuously manage the performance and development of employees. Unfortunately, recent research by Dale Carnegie found that 80% of employees who were disengaged were also dissatisfied with their current manager.
Employee Performance Management is a Key Leadership Competency
The dust seems finally to have settled regarding the recent firing of Yahoo’s reigning queen, Carol Bartz. Most of the reactions in the business press, blogosphere, and twitterverse examined how her brazen words and emotional reaction to an unceremonious termination (i.e. over the phone, with a lawyer’s script) will impact the company and her own career. There were few it seems, who sympathized with the termination decision itself, citing Yahoo’s declining marketshare, stagnant stock prices, and rampant turnover of top talent.