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Coaching and Multi-Source Feedback

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Linking 360 Degree Feedback Processes to Executive Coaching

One of the challenges facing anyone who designs and implements 360 Degree feedback systems concerns the complexity of the information that is collected. If there is to be no follow-up from the 360, other than one or two hours of interpretation, then the data that are gathered must be kept relatively simple—both conceptually and the way they are presented. There usually are no more than ten to fifteen categories and the data are presented in graphic form (with no more than 2 or 3 data points per category). This restriction is not required if executive coaching supplements the feedback. One can gather rich data that represent many different categories and perspectives. The coach and client can readily work with statistics (such as standard deviation scores rather than just points on a graph) and qualitative data (such as quotations, thematic analyses, metaphors, and vignettes).

Given that Sam and I were going to engage in executive coaching, I suggested that the 360 feedback process contain several unusual components. First, I recommended that the standard categories focusing on Sam’s competencies (360 feedback processes are inevitably normative in nature) be supplemented with four items (brief case studies) that would yield information about Sam’s interpersonal style (a descriptive rather than normative approach to 360 feedback). Second, I recommended that Sam complete a self-assessment version of the 360 instrument. This version invited Sam to rate himself with regard to both competencies and interpersonal style. Third, I made an unusual request of Sam: I invited him to fill out a third version of the 360 instrument which asked Sam to predict how he thinks his colleagues will rate him with regard to his competencies and interpersonal styles. Sam agreed to all three of these modifications.

The Outcomes

Data were gathered on Sam’s competencies and styles from 22 people. There was an impressive 100% rate of return. In addition, Sam completed the Self-Assessment and Prediction versions of the 360 inventory. I assembled all the data (along with written comments made by many of the respondents). Sam and I reviewed the data over a period of two months (two-hour sessions every two to three weeks). Upon completing this intensive review we decided to keep meeting once a month in order to engage in a formal executive coaching process.

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