Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Q: I've been doing 360-degree feedback with my team and having debriefing meetings with them. The problem is my deputy. His feedback from several colleagues was that he's abrasive and tends to upset people. This didn't surprise me, but he refuses to either believe it or act on it. He needs to change his style, but I'm not sure how to make him.

A: 'They're lying,' cried one participant in a recent European leadership programme on being presented with critical feedback from his colleagues. Such was the fragility of his ego and his need to be right that he found it almost impossible to take negative comments.

Like your deputy, this person exhibited one of the most frequent reactions to receiving critical feedback: denial. Other typical responses are defensiveness ('Why are you picking on me?'), justification ('I can explain') and distrust ('Someone's got it in for me'). These are awkward responses to deal with, but they're less tricky than the resistant reaction, 'That's just how I am, I can't change', and the defeatist 'You're right, I'm useless and not suited to this job'. At least with the rejections you can counter with the data, the feedback you've collected.

Much as we'd like 360s to be objective, the inputs are, in reality, always subjective and a reflection of the state of the relationship between the giver of feedback and the recipient. However, this doesn't negate the value of the process - quite the reverse. Since effective working relationships are the crux of good management and leadership, information on current perceptions is highly important.

Of course, 360 feedback that takes the form of numerical scoring appears objective: giving someone a score of 4 out of 5 seems much more rational than a qualitative comment, though the judgment it represents is every bit as subjective and just as susceptible to office politics. In practice, the personal comment is often more illuminating: 'David works hard but his communication style needs to be more succinct' is more specific - and more useful.

Since the purpose of appraisals is to improve performance, the role of the appraiser is to create the context in which the subject is a willing participant in the quest to find ways to excel. The most successful feedback sessions start with the positives: what does this person do when they perform at their best? …

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