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Coaching and Multi-Source Feedback

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An appreciative approach to 360° feedback and supportive organizational coaching can help to alleviate some of this shock. The appreciative feedback that an employee receives focuses on strengths and opportunities, rather than deficits and barriers. In learning about his strengths and capabilities, as well as viewing problem areas as opportunities, the feedback recipient can sustain high self-esteem, while also facing the challenge of change and reconfigured images of self. An appreciative coaching approach can also be helpful in this regard because it is always leaning into the future. Feedback recipients are encouraged to forge an image of successful functioning that helps to guide and sustain the employee through the difficult and often destabilizing processes of personal change. Any 360° feedback process will inevitably produce some discomfort with regard to sense of self and level of self-esteem. However, appreciative feedback is much more likely to enable a recipient to turn this discomfort into learning and development than is feedback that has been infused with deficits.

The force of the data received in a 360° feedback process creates a second storm for its recipients. While it is easy to dismiss the feedback from a single source, it is much harder to dismiss this feedback when it comes from several sources and these sources tend to agree with one another. The increasing reliability and validity of the 360° feedback tools that are being used produce even greater threat. There is no way to escape from or discount these finely wrought statistics. Given the credibility of this feedback, the recipient is faced with the task of learning something new about himself. As a learner, he must be willing to seek out additional feedback to gain greater clarity about areas for further development. Feedback recipients must be willing to live outside their comfort zone and take the risk of engaging in activities that challenge their skills and abilities.

A poorly administered 360° feedback process is likely to create yet another psychological storm. This storm arises from the alternation of relationships with colleagues that many 360° feedback processes produce. In most instances, the feedback one receives comes from anonymous sources. The feedback recipient typically doesn’t know specifically who has rated him, though the recipient usually helped to create the original list of potential raters. Thus, when the feedback is received, the employee will inevitably wonder who filled out the rating form and why they rated him as they did. The feedback recipient often would like to talk with those who completed the rating; yet, he knows that this can’t be done without shattering the anonymity and confidentiality barriers. These are perfect conditions for mild paranoia and for an employee to project his own fears and uncertainties about himself onto other people with whom he works. Without adequate follow-up through use of an organizational coaching process, a 360-Degree feedback process can destroy a sense of teamwork and create a climate of suspicion and mistrust.

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