In our peer forums, one of the participants shared that some of the employees reporting to her find her “intimidating.” “How can I get the feedback I need to build trust and rapport?” she asked. The group began to discuss the importance of being self-aware. Once you are aware of how you might be coming across and want to make changes, what can you do?
There are a variety of ways to expand awareness so that you can take relevant action. I’d like to discuss one that is simple, valuable and difficult at the same time. In our executive coaching work, we often start a coaching assignment with conducting an on-line 360 feedback survey. We use it so that the “coachee” can get a composite of how s/he is perceived at work. However, when you’re not formally receiving feedback and employees might be reluctant to take a survey, an effective and economical way to gather more information and build rapport is to conduct your own informal 360.
First, it’s important to set the context. An example would be to say something like, “I’d like to grow as a leader and I value your input. May I ask you a few questions to help me out?” Next pose some simple questions in a private setting:
- What are some of the things that I’m initiating that you like? Dislike? (Agree with? Disagree with?)
- What do you see as my strengths?
- What do you see as my blind spots?
- What can I do to make your job easier?
- What’s one thing that if implemented, would make the biggest difference for our team/company?
The difficult part of this conversation is to stay open to the feedback. Only ask clarifying questions and don’t interrogate or get defensive during the conversation. Take notes and look for consistency in the responses across the multiple conversations you have with others. To make this process a true 360, modify the questions and ask some peers that you value and also your boss. If you are the CEO, ask your board of advisors as well as your direct reports.
Conducting an informal 360 is not easy. You may hear things that surprise you or that you don’t agree with. You may start feeling like some of the comments are unfair. You may also feel good that others see positive things that you didn’t realize. The important thing is to actively listen and suspend any judgment. You will receive perspectives that may help you be the best leader you can be. Once complete, the next step is to develop an action plan to show that you’ve listened.