360-Degree Evaluation and Leadership Growth Plan

In order to evaluate my recent performance as a leader, 360-degree feedback was sought from coworkers, supervisors and direct reports.  Below I analyze the results of this evaluation and outline specific strategies for improvement.

Review and Evaluation of Feedback

In pursuit of a comprehensive reaction to my leadership, 26 individuals (1 supervisor, 8 direct reports, and 16 coworkers) with whom I regularly interact were asked to complete the evaluation.  Nineteen individuals participated for a completion rate of 73%.  While the evaluation software did not provide a distinction between the responses of supervisors, coworkers, or direct reports, unsolicited testimony from several individuals verified for me that reactions to my leadership were provided within all three categories.

By Behavioral Category

Cumulatively, response to my leadership through this evaluation was positive.  Borrowing from the survey analytic concepts like a Net Promoter Score or a two sample t-test, I considered category totals and individual questions by combining responses given in the two lowest ratings (“unacceptable” and “needs improvement”) and in the two highest ratings (“exceeds my expectations” and “outstanding”).  Considered together, 67% of responses categorized my leadership behaviors positively, while 9% of responses categorized my leadership behaviors negatively.  Further categorical analysis revealed my lowest rated area as communication behaviors with 53% of responses positive and 14% negative.  The four questions receiving the highest ratings and the four questions receiving the lowest ratings were also identified.  This review reinforced the categorical conclusions with two of the lowest rated questions appearing under communication behaviors, and three of the highest rated questions appearing under leadership behaviors.  Precursory interpretation of these results might indicate that I am excelling generally as a leader, and could improve in my communication strategies.

Affirming Results

In response to each of the following four questions, 15 individuals indicated that my leadership was outstanding: (1) Perseveres despite organizational obstacles, (2) Displays energy and drive to accomplish personal and work goals, (3) Is trustworthy, and (4) Shows genuine concern for team members.  Subtracting the low ratings from the high ratings yielded the largest positive remaining scores for these four questions.  Finally, there were zero negative responses given to each of these questions, further reinforcing these four items as highly effective aspects of my leadership.  Figure 1 shows how these aspects may be related to leadership categories and the areas for growth explained below.

Challenging Results

For 16 of the 24 questions, the occurrence of negative responses was between 0 – 2. Therefore, a simpler approach was employ for identifying the most significant items for needed growth.  The following four questions had the highest volume of low ratings: (1) Maintains a balance between “people” issues and “business” issues – 6 low ratings,  (2) Encourages others to express different ideas and perspectives – 5 low ratings, (3) Deals with issues that need to be addressed – 4 low ratings, and (4) Willing to change her position when presented with compelling information – 4 low ratings.

In addition to having the largest number of low ratings, (1) also had the smallest positive margin between negative and positive responses.  Therefore, interpreting these responses seems pertinent for my leadership growth.  To this end, I asked my supervisor for his input, and considered various work scenarios over the last year that might lend a respondent to answer “needs improvement” because of a perceived over-emphasis on one type of issue or the other.

My supervisor suggested it might be that I appear so full with “business” items that it seems like I do not have time for “people” issues.  Based on various interactions over the last year, I can imagine participants drawing reasonable conclusions on either side.  For instance, one direct report who regularly talks with me about the team dynamic issues she perceives might say I focus too much on business issues and do not give the people issues enough time.  Conversely, a coworker in another department and I agreed we should take action in a matter that was negatively affecting services provided to students.  However, out of concern for the relational intricacies of the confrontation, my response was slower than my coworker preferred. Conceivably, he might conclude that I focused on the “people” issues more than I should have in this matter.

Perhaps it is seeking a neutrality between these areas that would strengthen my leadership.  Because of my strategic and relator strengths, I tend to dive heavily into both sides, depending on the issue at hand and my role with the individual(s) before me.  What if I was a bit more detached from each?  Could this allow me to develop a more natural balance between the human and functional aspects of leadership?

Considering the four questions with lowest ratings, I found it challenging to interpret the complete aggregation of data.  As described in the two examples above, response to my leadership from direct reports may vary significantly from that of my coworkers.  I have an experienced and opinionated staff of Millennials, while most of my coworkers are Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers.  In another year of financial challenge, budget cuts, lay-offs, and an anticipated change in pay structure for my staff, I was mindful of how I could adjust my leadership approach to the people and circumstances before me.  Scenarios I have navigated with ease in the past, were exacerbated by role confusion, policy debates, and system errors.  Naturally, I can imagine where some negative perceptions on items (2), (3), and (4) could have emerged, and where I have the opportunity to grow even more during these trying times.  Finally, four comments were provided, three positive ones and one pointedly negative. The negative comment mentions a disregard for others time which is a pertinent item for further consideration in the improvement plan below.

Improvement Plan

I identify three themes that run through both the positive and negative responses considered above.  These themes are expressed hereafter as areas for focus in my leadership development.  Between the categorical conclusions and the question-specific ones, these three themes compromise actionable growth domains considered below.  Stoplight colors are used in this section to denote areas which are needing immediate attention (red), wise to caution (yellow), and positive to build upon (green).

Time

Summary.  A lack of awareness of time is one of my most significant personal and professional derailers.  Regardless of how I plan, I always seem to be late.  When others perceive my tardiness as a lack of respect for those involved or disinterest in the subject or people, my leadership is stunted and relationships can be damaged.  This issue with time is a derivative of the “needs improvement” responses I received related to the balance between people and business matters, as well as an item directly noted in one comment. Unawareness of time is a shadow side of my relator strength.  I am deeply present with whatever and whoever is in front of me.  So much so that I have a difficult time leaving the present.  My presence with others and commitment to a topic before me is one of my leadership assets.  In order to harness this asset, I will begin to employ the following practical strategies for increasing my mindfulness of time.

Strategies.

Scheduled Buffer Zones – In order to compensate for travel time, unforeseen extensions, or my own opening of a new topic, I will pad meeting times by adding to the needed length.  I will commit to entering 15 minute buff zones (labeled as travel/debrief time) between scheduled meetings with others.

“Last Call” Notifications Through Watch – I have an apple watch that I wear sometimes, and have set for a variety of notifications.  I will commit to changing my watch setup to send schedule tracking notifications exclusively.  These notifications will indicate the need to close a conversation or finish a thought.  Because these will be the only notifications I receive via the watch, I will not even need to look down at my watch to take in the prompt.

Prioritized Creative, Work, and Relational Time – As I juggle school, family and work life, tyranny of the urgent can pervade my schedule, and getting behind inevitably results.  Though I have creative and rest spaces scheduled in the week, I easily give these times to the latest fire or distraught employee that dons the door of my office.  I know I am sharpest when I have moments to decompress and moments to think about the big picture.  I will commit (through scheduled meetings with myself, reoccurring for one year) to 90 minutes a week for creative space and 15 minutes a day to pause and refocus.  If necessary, I will allow these meetings to move within the week or day, but will not allow them to be skipped.

Determining Significance

Summary.  One of my leadership strengths is the ability to quickly discern situations and human tenor.  However, when not calibrated, I can act on that discernment without involving others or allowing individuals to draw their own conclusions.  Some “needs improvement” ratings for the deals with issues that need to be addressed question are likely due to hasty actions where I had not established common understanding with others on whether a given issue did or did not need to be addressed. Some disagreement on what is significant will always exist.  I can work to minimize the times when that disagreement is based in misunderstanding.

Strategies.

Ask Better Questions – When I find myself in a conversation where I suspect another person values the issue at hand more or less than I do, enough to expect a different response, I will ask a question like: How important to you do you think this will be in a week? How important might it be in a year? If the issue seems particularly important to the individual, I may follow up in a week to say, “You spoke with me about _______ last week.  I would love to hear an update on how you feel that’s going at present.”  Such questions may lead the individual to conclude on their own that it was not as big of an issue as it may have originally seemed. Alternatively, it may prove to me that the matter is more significant than I originally concluded.

Open Mindset

Summary.  When volume and stress invade life, my strategic strength can take over and I can miss the ideas and concerns of others in pursuit of conclusions and finished products.  Some low ratings on encourages others to express different ideas and willing to change her position would indicate that maintaining an open mindset in my leadership has been challenging over the last year. This could become a significant derailer if I do not build regular patterns to keep the value of other perspectives in the forefront, especially during work-saturated times.

Strategies.

Role Play as Divergent Thinkers – During the creative spaces described above, I will commit to reading from authors and stances that I may not otherwise choose, and then consider how that author would challenge my current decisions as a leader.

Coworkers From Other Corners of Campus – Finally, I will also commit to spending regular time with coworkers whose work or perspectives are farthest from mine.  Even the difference in institutional foci can aid my openness to other ideas and priorities as I lead in the workplace.

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