360° feedback - What does the data tell us on the second glance? New light on rater disagreement.
New research reveals that there is more to be discovered in 360° evaluations than what is widely known.
The 360° feedback is widely popular since its results can help identify tipping points in order to accelerate development. Yet in practice, leaders often report that only few new insights are gained. Why is this? First, understanding the results is a skill not everybody masters. Second, new research reveals that there is more to be discovered in 360° evaluations than what is widely known.
The interpretation of the 360° evaluation results is frequently perceived as being straight forward, a fact which might be true for the most obvious conclusions to be drawn. But a 360° feedback reveals far more than a mere image of the leaders, their styles, possible strengths and weaknesses (or, more popular termed: "development fields").
The 360° approach is based on the different perspectives of the different sources within the organization. And here is the key word: perspective.
My research (Puckett, 2016; http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783658137984?wt_mc=Internal.Event.1.SEM.BookAuthorCongrat) shows that the rater groups (superiors, peers, subordinates) do not only observe partly different behavior and thus rate the leader based on this partly different information. They also define the concept of leadership performance in a different way and rate the leader based on partially different criteria and scales.
"Rater disagreement is not a measurement error but a unique source of further information gained about the leaders and their environment."
Two important implications:
Different competencies can be rated more accurately by one source than the other. This insight should help us identify the leaders’ true performance.
Different raters view leadership in different ways; the same behavior has varying effects on peers, superiors or subordinates. This insight should help us educate leaders in detail about how their behavior affects not only their reputation with others but also their leadership impact within the 360° radius.
For instance, the very same behavior which is categorized by the leader as being results-oriented might be perceived as rather people-oriented by the subordinates. This means that leaders might fail to have the desired impact on their employees not because they are not trying hard enough but because they are applying the critical behavior in a wrong context.
With these insights....
...we can show leaders how to apply existing strengths effectively in a different context
...or how to adapt their behaviour to the different target groups in order to have maximum impact.
...this way leadership success can be improved without the necessity of learning new behaviours.