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10 Tips To Conduct A Transformational 360 Leadership Assessment Initiative

A nervous laugh. Raised eyebrows. An audible sigh in the back row. All typical reactions to the announcement of an upcoming 360-degree feedback initiative across the senior leadership team of an organization.

And who would blame those leaders? After all, straight-forward and honest feedback can by itself be enough to get our heart rates going. But the thought of opening ourselves up to anonymous ratings and comments from people on our teams, our peers, our supervisor(s) and potentially even our clients can be truly anxiety-provoking.

Nevertheless, 360 leadership assessments are among the most powerful developmental experiences a leader can go through. They are also one of the most helpful tools for true and lasting transformation, paradigm shifts, and behavior change. If it is done right, that is.

Here are our ten tips for running an effective, helpful, and transformational 360-degree assessment initiative for your leadership team.

(1) Timing: For the feedback to be representative of how the leader shows up consistently, make sure you choose a time frame that lends itself to objective feedback. Stay clear from times of unusual high-pressure project deadlines and sensitive communication challenges. Make it as easy as possible for raters to take uninterrupted and focused time to provide their feedback.

(2) Communication: Make sure to communicate with both leaders and raters clearly and transparently at all times. This includes the reasons for the initiative, the time frame, the anonymous nature, and the request for honesty and transparency. Underline the fact that feedback will be most instrumental if it is given with the intention to help the leader improve and if it is supported by clarifying comments wherever possible.

(3) Agency: Invite your leaders into the driver's seat. Feel free to give them advice on who to include, but let them choose their raters. Ask them to own the communication with their raters, relaying to them how important it is for them and their own development, and asking them for honesty and transparency. The more your leaders can feel in control of the process, the more open they will be to the learnings ahead.

(4) Confidentiality: If possible, allow your leaders the choice to keep their scores confidential. It can be a rewarding experience for a close-knit leadership team to compare and discuss individual scores, but for most leaders, this is a vulnerable moment where they need more space than usual. You might even allow them to decide if they want to share and discuss the results with their direct supervisors or not. Stay attuned to the needs of the team and the moment.

(5) Tool: A lot of damage can be done by 360 feedback tools that force raters to make assessments about skills or competencies that they're not equipped to judge. Furthermore, many tools don't acknowledge that every rater is as much in the rating as the subject itself, and on top of that, the relationship between them is always a factor as well. Neglecting these facts and presenting the results as objective truths can do more harm than good. It is important that you choose a tool that measures the right things in the right ways and communicates the results in ways that are accessible and don't invite resistance.

(6) Debrief: Timing the debrief is crucial to get right. You don't want to simply send the report to your leaders without equipping them with a general understanding of how to read it. But on the other hand, it is also important to give them some time to digest before reacting to it. Generally, we have found that a quick group debrief right after receipt of the reports can be helpful to deliver guidelines and insights, answer any questions, and provide some ideas of how to process the learnings. After 1-2 days, individual debrief sessions will be helpful to process first reactions and start diving into some learnings.

(7) Vulnerability: Open, honest, and transparent feedback is a gift that needs to be embraced and accepted to be transformational. This can be helped by inviting your leaders into a space of vulnerability and psychological safety. As a senior leader, make sure you, too, tell stories about how past feedback experiences might have been hard to digest at times and how you were able to overcome that and integrate past learnings into your own development. You might even choose to share all or some of your own feedback with your leadership team to create a sense of safety and team spirit. It is important that your leaders understand that the goal of these assessments is not to show their perfection but to give them a chance to explore opportunities for their development.

(8) Accountability: It is easy to run an assessment, go through the feedback, take notes of some action steps, and then forget about the whole thing as the day-to-day creeps back in. Make sure you communicate your expectations of how your leaders integrate the learnings. Ask your leaders to come up with a personal development plan that includes the resources and help they need to execute on it. Ask for progress and new insights in upcoming performance meetings. Make it an ongoing conversation.

(9) Coaching: For some leaders, there will be new and deep insights into the way they're being perceived and into how that differs from their own perception or intentions. In most cases, significant learning and development can take place as a result of a well-designed coaching and development initiative. This can be done either by internal coaches, by the direct supervisor, or by an external coach that specializes on that developmental initiative and can provide the outside perspective needed.

(10) Re-run: Many 360 tools are set up to provide additional insights about a leader's development upon a re-run. It can be helpful to integrate this process as an annual development tool that can incentivize leaders to see and understand if their development plans have resulted in tangible differences.

We hope that you have found the one or the other helpful idea about how to integrate 360s into your leadership development toolkit. With these in mind, our clients have been able to run incredibly successful initiatives that some of their leaders deemed the "best development tool they've ever used."

Withiii's Relational Leadership 360 is designed around this process and measures the relational abilities of leaders. Across seven different relational competencies, leaders get an in-depth view into their ability to create and nourish the relational fabric of their teams and their influence and contributions across the enterprise.

If you are interested in learning more about Withiii's Relational Leadership 360, we would love to discuss further. Check out our website, schedule a call with us, or send us an email to We look forward to hearing from you!


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