360 degree reporting – because its not always game day

Ask my in-laws what type of person I am, and they’ll tell you I am a respectable man who looks after their daughter and grandchildren. Ask my wife what type of person I am, and you will likely get an expanded answer ;-). You see, she knows me better than anyone. She knows my faults, my weaknesses, and what keeps me awake at night. She knows me. She knows my character. She sees me on the training ground and not just on game day.

Now ask my boss what she thinks of me, and I’m hoping the answer will be along the lines of what my in-laws would say, of course within a different context. And that’s it. For the most part that is how we are evaluated as leaders in our professional fields. Which, by the way, is absolutely absurd, because our bosses are not the ones we have the privilege of leading.

Of course, any good leader will use other strategies to find out more about the characters of their staff and their leadership abilities, but they will be heavily influenced by their own interactions. And even though good bosses should have an understanding of what our team thinks of us, this understanding comes from their own lens, and not through the direct lens of those we lead.

So ask my co-workers, peers and direct reports about me. Do you think the answers will be the same as my boss? Or do you think they see me on the training ground, were the daily grind and pressures of work and life are more transparent? They see me interact when I’m busy and pressured. They see me in the lunchroom; they see how I treat support staff. They see me, and they know me, way better than my boss. They know my character, my flaws and most importantly how much I actually demonstrate the values and vision of the organisation.

But you see, here’s the problem with traditional performance reviews. Our boss decides what type of person we are, and what we are worthy of. You might argue that they are in a better position to judge performance against strategic goals, and you’d be right. But this misses one crucial thing: character trumps competence, every single time, and true character is what 360 degree reporting will show.

I understand the importance of being competent. My previous career meant that if you were not on top of your game someone could get hurt or worse. But who wants to work for the superstar who is ruthless on the training ground. Great leaders do not need to have the most knowledge and competence. But great leaders do need to have great character. Character trumps competence.

So my point; 360 reporting. Embrace it. Embrace it if we want to learn about our flaws and how we can improve. Embrace it if you want to get rid of toxic employees, those light bulb people who only worry about being the superstar on game day and steam roll over the rest of the players on the training ground. Embrace it and tell our in-laws what type of person we really are and our bosses when we’ve met our best before date and it’s time to move on.

In the meantime, leave a comment and challenge my belief, and together we will all learn. How has 360 reporting worked out for you and what key factors need to be present for it to be effective?

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