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Leadership 360° Surveys: Using feedback to create better leaders

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Leaders play a crucial role in every organisation. 

The quality of leadership in an organisation impacts culture, employee engagement and overall business performance. 

According to McKinsey research, 52% of employees will leave an organisation because they don’t feel valued by leaders or managers.  

Currently, trust in leaders is faltering as burnout rates rise and a global talent shortage continues. Manpower Group estimates that 77% of employers around the world are finding it difficult to fill roles. 

According to research by DDI World, leadership quality ratings have dropped to the lowest rates in a decade with only 40% of leaders reporting their company has high-quality leaders. 

The good news is that good leadership is not a singular trait but a set of skills that can be nurtured and improved. 

You can help leaders in your business grow by gathering feedback about their performance and then creating a plan for professional development. 

One way to assess the performance of your leaders is through a Leadership 360° Survey. 

A Leadership 360° Survey gives a voice to your people and fosters stronger teams by gathering actionable feedback on your organisation’s leadership.  

In this blog, we discuss how Leadership 360° Surveys work and how your organisation can benefit. 

What is a 360° Survey? 

To understand a Leadership 360° Survey it’s important to first grasp the overall concept of a 360° survey. 

The goal of a 360° survey is to gain a holistic view of an employee’s performance and behaviour. Survey feedback highlights an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and creates a clear path for future development. 

To gain this well-rounded view of performance, feedback must come from a variety of sources not just direct managers. 

The people who contribute to a 360° survey may include peers, subordinates, managers, senior leaders and vendors. The person being surveyed can also conduct a self-evaluation. Feedback is normally anonymous to encourage honesty. 

The data gathered through a 360° survey offers a full view of an employee’s performance. A 360° view to be exact! 

The benefits of a 360° survey include: 

  • Performance improvement as employees get a clearer view of their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Leadership development as feedback provides clear areas for growth. 
  • Career growth as individuals continue to work on themselves and improve. 
  • Team development as everyone works on their interpersonal and management skills. 
  • Organisational improvement as everyone in the company commits to improving on a consistent basis. 

Overall, 360° surveys offer comprehensive insights that help employees get a fuller view of their strengths and weaknesses. They can use this information to create development plans that will help them continue to grow and progress in their careers. 

Xref branded green graphic with benefits (above) of a Leadership 360 Survey

What is a Leadership 360° Survey? 

A Leadership 360° Survey is based on the 360° survey concept but specifically focuses on evaluating an organisation’s entire leadership team. 

The purpose of a Leadership 360° Survey is to get an understanding of how a leadership team is performing as a unit.

Leadership 360° Surveys focus on topics related to leadership like organisational direction, communication and management styles. 

Leadership surveys may include questions about an organisation’s mission and values, the way projects are managed, how employees are developed and recognised and how stress is managed individually and collectively. 

The people surveyed for feedback include leaders themselves, employees, vendors, board members, investors and so on. 

The exact number of people interviewed depends on the organisation. For example, you may want to survey a sample population of managers and direct reports or your entire organisation. 

As with 360° surveys, responses can be anonymous to facilitate more honest feedback and conversations about how an organisation’s leadership team can improve. 

It’s important to note that Leadership 360° Surveys do not exist to demotivate leaders. They are designed to help leaders grow and build stronger teams. 

Feedback from leadership surveys helps teams understand their strengths and weaknesses so they can maintain what is already working and improve on problem areas. 

Does my organisation need a Leadership 360° Survey?

Leadership 360° Surveys are suitable for all organisations. You don’t need to have an underperforming leadership team or other problem areas in your organisation to benefit from a survey. 

In fact, the highest-performing organisations keep their standards high by constantly measuring and improving performance. 

The best way to gauge if your organisation might benefit from a Leadership 360° Survey is to ask the following questions: 

  • Are we currently measuring the performance of our leadership team? 
  • Are our performance metrics taking different opinions into account? 
  • Do we have professional development plans for leaders based on hard data? 

If you answered no to any of these questions, your organisation stands to benefit from a Leadership 360° Survey. 

Xref branded green graphic with text (above) about Leadership 360 surveys

What are the benefits of a Leadership 360° Survey?

Leadership 360° Surveys can be an invaluable tool to help leaders grow. As the popular saying goes, you can’t measure what you don’t track. 

A 360° survey gathers data about a leadership team’s performance and provides a solid base to start tracking growth. 

Ideally, survey results will also benchmark leaders against industry standards. Data about how a leadership team is performing plus industry benchmarks builds a fuller picture of how well a team is fulfilling their roles and how their skills can be developed. 

By measuring a leadership team’s ability you help them lean in on strengths and address growth areas. Building a stronger leadership team leads to: 

  • Improved communication between leaders and the rest of the company. 
  • Higher levels of trust as leaders work to create stronger accountability and transparency. 
  • Increased employee engagement as leaders strive to ensure employees feel motivated and valued. 
  • Happier teams as leaders recognise the importance of stress management and prioritise wellbeing. 
  • Improved organisational performance as a more effective leadership team directly leads to higher-performing teams. 

Measuring leadership performance helps ensure your organisation is consistently working toward a happier, stronger and higher-performing work culture. 

How to conduct a Leadership 360° Survey

There are five steps you can take to create an impactful Leadership 360° Survey. 

1. Get clear on your outcomes  

First, get clear on the outcomes you want to achieve as this will influence how your survey takes shape. 

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Do you want to survey your entire workforce or specific departments? 
  • How would you like data to be presented? 
  • What is your plan for actioning feedback?

Make all these considerations in the planning process to ensure smoother survey implementation. 

If you’re new to leadership surveys or want the best results possible, seek professional guidance. This could be HR consultants with expertise in surveys as well as technology partners who specialise in designing and delivering 360° surveys. 

Outside assistance can help your organisation define goals, follow best practices and identify blind spots that are hard to see from an internal viewpoint.  

2. Choose your survey platform 

As Leadership 360° Surveys involve surveying a cross-section of people, using an online survey platform is highly recommended. 

By using an online survey platform you can: 

  • Allow surveys to be conducted anonymously 
  • Speed up the survey process
  • Enjoy instant data analysis and benchmarking
  • Access and use research-supported questions 

Choose a platform that allows you the flexibility to customise questions and present data in a way that best suits your goals. 

For example, if your organisation includes frontline workers and administrative staff you may want to design your survey so feedback from both groups is easy to segment. Your leadership team can then fully understand how two important groups with different day-to-day experiences view their performance. 

3. Conduct your survey 

Send your survey out to participants with a clear deadline for responses. 

The Harvard Business Review encourages leaders to play an active role in the survey process for best results. Leaders can assist by championing the survey to their teams and personally asking respondents to be as candid as possible. 

To further maximise engagement be very clear about how long the survey will take to complete and what you plan to do with the results. Organise a reminder message sequence leading up to your survey deadline to get as many responses as possible. 

4. Deliver and act on feedback 

Present survey results in a way your leadership team prefers (group settings or private coaching sessions) and create a clear roadmap for development based on the outcomes. 

Many organisations choose to be transparent about results by sharing them with the entire company along with plans for improvement. This is a great culture-building strategy as long as you have a solid plan for actioning feedback and reporting on progress. 

As with all workplace surveys, it’s important to act on the results you receive otherwise you risk lowering morale. 

5. Follow up with future surveys 

One of the most satisfying parts of a Leadership 360° Survey is that you can track progress by conducting another survey and comparing results. 

Conduct your follow-up survey within an appropriate time frame. Every three to six months is a good idea for supporting consistent improvement.  

Xref Engage Leadership 360° Surveys

The Xref Engage Leadership 360° Survey is a survey platform specifically designed for assessing the performance of leadership teams. 

The platform combines academic insight with technological efficiency. 

Questions are research-backed and customisable so organisations can create unique surveys that still follow best practices. 

Sending surveys is quick and easy, and the responses captured are automatically analysed, making it easier for stakeholders to report and act on results.

Xref Engage Leadership 360° Survey questions 

Xref Engage Leadership 360° Survey questions have been designed using original research findings as well as existing theories of leadership and organisational behaviour.

Xref branded green graphic with text that says a leadership team is seen to be effective if they achieve work objectives and are successful in motivating their employees

Using this knowledge, Xref Engage consultants have created five leadership factors to test how well leaders manage and inspire their organisation. 

These five factors are: 

  1. Voice: The way a leadership team expresses and strives toward their mission and values. 
  2. Organise: How leaders plan, implement and monitor approaches and strategies. 
  3. Innovate: The rate at which leaders explore, learn and engage in continuous improvement.
  4. Connect: The success leaders have in involving, recognising and developing others. 
  5. Enjoy: The extent to which leaders manage their stress, health and wellbeing and that of their teams.  

By measuring a leadership team’s ability to set a vision, organise work, foster innovation, connect teams and create enjoyment at work, you can gather a well-rounded view of their overall strengths and weaknesses. 

No one is perfect so it’s natural for a leadership team to be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. An innovative leadership team with a strong voice may struggle with organisation and stress management. 

The results from a leadership survey can help leaders improve in these areas and strengthen your organisation as a result. 

Final thoughts 

Leadership 360° Surveys are a great tool to add to your organisation’s professional development arsenal.

By asking a cross-section of people about a leadership team’s performance, you get a well-rounded view of their strengths and weaknesses. Your team can use this insight to create an improvement plan that will lead to benefits like better communication and higher levels of organisational performance. 

Leadership 360° Surveys are suitable for all organisations that are interested in performance enhancement and building stronger teams.

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