Identifying your strongest and weakest leaders

The idea of a 360 degree performance appraisal is to survey those around an employee to gather information about their performance from the perspective of different individuals they interact with at work. Feedback is typically provided by subordinates, peers and supervisors, the individuals themselves (self-assessment), and may include feedback from customers or clients. “360” refers to the 360 degrees in a circle, with an employee figuratively in the middle of the circle.

360 degree performance appraisals provide comprehensive, balanced information, i.e. they reveal how the individual operates in a range of roles and with a range of individuals; as a manager, as a member of a team, as a subordinate and, if applicable, with their clients. Reviewers typically remain anonymous, thereby reducing the likelihood of inaccuracies such as the ‘halo’ effect.

Studies have shown that 360 degree appraisal programs help individuals improve their performance in the short-term (Reilly, Smither, & Vasilopoulos, 1996) and longer term (Reilly et al., 1996; Walker & Smither, 1999). They have also been shown to be useful predictors of future performance (Maylett & Riboldi, 2007).

Specific benefits that have been outlined by organisations that have used 360 degree performance appraisals include:
– Accountability and team development: multi-rater systems make team members more accountable to each other as they will provide feedback on each member’s performance. This can enhance communication and team development.
– Career development: the comprehensiveness of the information provides a great opportunity for individuals to learn from it to enhance their career. Ratings may also be used as an opportunity for personal development.
– Reduced discrimination risk: rating systems completed by only one rater run the risk of being too critical or overly lenient, depending on the individual’s relationship with the person completing the survey. Canvassing a range of views can reduce the risk of personal issues influencing performance appraisals.

While they can be used for all employees, these appraisals are typically used to assess managers and senior managers, and include factors known to be associated with good leadership. Identifying strong leaders and developing the leadership potential of those in positions of responsibility is important for the whole organisation as it is known to increase team satisfaction, reduce turnover and improve productivity.

However, because it is a complex process involving a fair degree of administration and technical knowledge, 360 degree performance appraisals, more so than other performance evaluation systems, require a well-designed program and well trained individuals to assist with design and implementation.

As stated by one Human Resources expert:
“Implemented with care and training to enable people to better serve customers and develop their careers, 360 degree feedback is a positive addition to your performance management system. Started haphazardly.., or because “everyone” else is doing it, 360 feedback will create a disaster..”.

Many of the problems that have been identified with 360 degree performance appraisal systems are directly associated with a lack of expertise in their design, administration and interpretation. Research has shown that factors such as the type of response scale and nature of the relationship between the rater and person being rated are important considerations when designing the performance system (Bracken et al., 2001; Eichinger & Lombardo, 2004; Kaplan & Kaiser, 2003).

So it can be difficult to know how to design and implement a 360 degree ratings system. Luckily, RightPeople has already done the hard work for you!

RightPeople’s Leadership Mastery Evaluation Inventory (LMEI) is a 360 degree performance appraisal tool for managers designed to provide explicit feedback on key leadership competencies compared to the job’s ‘ideal’ level. Ratings are obtained from the individual being evaluated, supervisors, peers and subordinates – the system allows for unlimited number of respondents so it can be adapted to any organisation’s requirements.

The LMEI identifies which competencies a leader needs to act on to improve his or her performance and whether more or less of a given competency is required relative to the individual’s current level. Advanced statistical modelling identifies the most critical competencies.

A detailed report is prepared which outlines these key competencies. Further, disparities among different raters are identified to provide a snapshot of current strengths and development needs.

The system has been developed by individuals with expertise and a proven track record in employment testing and our report includes interpretation of the results to assist you in using the ratings to help with decisions about training needs and promotional potential.

So contact us today to find out more about how RightPeople’s LMEI can be used to assess and develop your management team.

References and Further Reading
Bracken, D.W., Timmreck, C.W., Fleenor, J.W., & Summers, L. (2001). 360 degree feedback from another angle. Human Resource Management, 40 (1), 3–20.
Eichinger, R.W., & Lombardo, M.M. (2004). Patterns of rater accuracy in 360-degree feedback. Retrieved 25 July, 2011, from:
Kaplan, R.E., & Kaiser, R.B. (2003). Rethinking a classic distinction in leadership: Implications for the assessment and development of executives. Consulting Psychology Journal: Research and Practice, 55, 15-25.
Maylett, T.M., & Riboldi, J. (2007). Using 360 degree feedback to predict performance. Training & Development, September, 48-52.
Reilly, R., Smither, J.W., & Vasilopoulos, N. (1996). A longitudinal study of upward feedback. Personnel Psychology, 49(3), 599-612.
Walker, A., & Smither, J.W. (1999). A five-year study of upward feedback: what managers do with their results matters. Personnel Psychology, 49(3), 393-423.