Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Impact of Multi-Source Feedback on Leadership Competency Development: A Longitudinal Field Study

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Impact of Multi-Source Feedback on Leadership Competency Development: A Longitudinal Field Study

Article excerpt

Multi-source feedback interventions have become widespread in many organizations around the world (Brutus et al., 2006). It has been reported that multi-source feedback is used by 90% of the Fortune 1000 companies in the United States and 85% of Australia's top 500 corporations (Carruthers, 2003). The popularity of such a human resource practice has stimulated much research enthusiasm in the academic field. According to Morgeson, Mumford, and Campion (2005), more than 100 multi-source feedback related articles have been published since 1990. In general, the practice of providing multi-source feedback is viewed favorably, with researchers espousing the potential benefits for performance improvement at both the individual and organizational level (Bailey and Fletcher, 2002; Edwards and Ewen, 1996; Fletcher and Baldry, 1999; London and Smither, 1995). However, empirical research demonstrating the effectiveness of multi-source feedback is sketchy and mixed. For example, Kluger and DeNisi (1996) asserted that the link between providing feedback and performance improvement is not uniform. In fact, it has been shown that multi-source feedback can have a negative effect on performance (see Pfau and Kay, 2002). A recent meta-analysis reported an overall positive but very small effect size of multi-source feedback effectiveness (Smither et al., 2005). Based on this research, these authors have argued that practitioners should not expect large, widespread performance improvement after employees receive multisource feedback. This article focuses on a specific type of multi-source feedback--a competency-based feedback program--and examine whether it helps managers develop their leadership competencies through a longitudinal study.


Evaluation of the Effects of Multi-Source Feedback

Researchers have investigated the impact of multi-source feedback for decades. For instance, Seifert, Yukl, and McDonald (2003) identified 14 field studies dating back to the 1970s (e.g., Hegarty, 1974). The criterion in these studies usually was a change in ratings of managerial behavior or skill. However, a review of the extant literature revealed that virtually all research studies investigated the performance improvement by comparing the average or composite performance or skill rating at Time 1 (before feedback) to the one at Time 2 (after feedback; e.g., see Johnson and Ferstl, 1999; Reilly et al., 1996; Seifert et al., 2003; Smither et al., 2003). Smither et al. (2005) suggested that this comparison may be too crude of a measure of behavioral change. Many organizations use managerial performance multi-source feedback for leadership development. Such developmental programs generally recommend that feedback recipients should focus on no more than two or three leadership areas for improvement (Antonioni, 1996). Indeed, in many feedback programs, managers select a small number of improvement goals. For example, many organizations provide managers multi-source feedback on a whole host of leadership competencies. As such, managers usually select to work on only a few bottom-ranked (but important) competencies for development. These managers might make substantial improvement on these selected leadership competencies, but this gain likely would have little effect on overall leadership as indicated by a composite score. Hence, the amount of improvement observed in the literature may not accurately reflect the true success of developmental multi-source feedback. For this reason, the primary purpose of the current study is to investigate the improvement on leadership competencies recipients specifically selected for development following multi-source feedback. It is predicted that feedback recipients will make significantly greater gains on the selected leadership competencies than on the other competencies or on their overall leadership score.

Longitudinal Effects of Multi-Source Feedback

The cost of implementing a multi-source feedback program tends to be quite expensive. …

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