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Our musings on making 360 degree feedback fantastic
The previous excerpts from the book “360 Degree Feedback: A Transformational Approach” described the easier first steps in managing resistance. First – listen, make safe and question; and second – allow them to feel the impact. If these do not touch the person or team you are wanting to influence, then you can try again with these earlier techniques or it may be time to move on to the next level as follows.
Hopefully you will not need to use this too often as it is very powerful but not for the faint-hearted. I would estimate that about 5% of my 360 degree feedback sessions reach this level.
They understand the data and you have explored the potential consequences on them, their goals and on others. You have tried all you can to get them to see how this really is for them and you think there is something here they are not seeing. You can tell they are resistant as either they are making this extremely obvious via body language, from what they are saying about the process or because they are continuing to “talk about” their 360 degree feedback data in the same knowing way as they started. Be wary of those who are supremely friendly and “nice” through the whole conversation – it can be a huge cover up to protect their insecurities and their fears of losing status etc so be very gentle but also clear. Be sure to keep yourself in the space that there is nothing wrong with them, their data or how they are being. How they are responding is totally in line with who they are and their needs – it makes total sense. But at the same time, you can look for observations of your own.
Start looking for observations and data about their behaviour right at the very beginning – how they responded to initial invitations, emails, setting up the meeting, greeting you, introducing themselves, dealing with your needs or requests, managing their personal space, dealing with interruptions and of course how they respond to you all the way through your conversation. If you suspect you might be having to go to this stage (you usually have a sense early on) then start to take particular note of things that they do that do not work that well for you. Look out for examples of what the data is saying. Pay attention to how often they interrupt you, how well they answer your questions, how much attention and respect they show your ideas, note the specific words they use. In addition to noting what they do, notice how you feel and respond to these behaviours. Pay particular attention if you feel put down, unmotivated, ignored, put out, small, a lesser being etc. Be sure you do not get hooked by these reactions but notice them before you put them to the side and get back and present to being a powerful coach.
You may need to make a physical note of specific words they use. You may want to simply jot down a tally of how many times they interrupt you. It is important not to forget what they are doing and saying and then to pick your moment to present this evidence in the most powerful way. Try to gather evidence of specific behaviours so that you can be really clear how many times they have done X thing or have not done y thing. Look to find more than just one example. Two or three is much more powerful as one example can be excused. Keep a note in case your Level 2 fails.
Let’s assume you are coaching at Level 2 and it is not working that well. Several attempts and they are still justifying their poor data and excusing it. Look at the time – if you are approaching half time now is the right moment to go to Level 3. You wait until the next bit of pertinent data and here is how it might go:
You calmly and clearly say: “ Here is some more data on your listening and respect of others. This is really interesting because I have noticed that you have interrupted me three times in the last 20 minutes. I’ve noticed that it has left me feeling more and more demotivated to speak up in this conversation – as it feels like you don’t really want my input. That’s OK of course but I’m not sure if this is what you really want from this session and this may be what is happening with your team… what do you think?”
You need to leave lots of gaps through this conversation as they will hopefully be thinking hard about what you have just said. They are likely to be shocked. People will not usually give them this sort of direct feedback and they will unlikely be called to justify themselves when the other person is not upset with them. You are simply sharing your experience of them with the intention to support and empower them through this exploration. You need to take care not to leave them with a sense that they have done something wrong. Any reaction you may have to them has a positive and negative side and set of consequences – make sure you clearly highlight what these might be. Make sure they know you are ok with them and you are still committed to them and their development, make sure they feel safe.
This is often all you need to say at this stage as this usually opens up a whole other level of exploration and coaching for them. However, the real tough ones will take the feedback on the chin (or pretend to) and hold on so you have to go to the next stage”, described in our next article which is the last in this series.
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