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1 Leadership Assessment Tool You Need to Try

Development is essential for leaders to thrive in today's turbulent marketplace. You're either growing or falling behind. Embracing leadership assessment can build your capacity to navigate complex challenges and steer your team and organization to success. If you haven't already, you will want to try a 360-degree assessment. You might be surprised to learn that 360-degree surveys are used in over 85% of Fortune 500 companies. Feedback is the lifeblood of a high-performing team. However, a stark reality is that employees receive significantly less constructive feedback the higher they move up in an organization. If you are looking for actionable and individualized feedback from those who matter most, this is your game-changer. Here is what you need to know about leadership and the five keys to 360-degree assessment success.

Why 360-degree assessment matters

360-degree leadership assessment has been around for over 25 years. Its uses in companies range from development and performance management to decision-making purposes such as compensation, promotions, and even downsizing initiatives.

The term "360-degree" assessment is derived from where the rater feedback originates concerning the leader being assessed.

Confidentiality is a foundational aspect of 360-degree leadership feedback. Responses are anonymously collected and grouped by the rater's association with the leader.

Feedback collected measures the leader's performance on specific behaviors and provides insights into rater group perceptions. A company-wide or team view of 360-degree feedback provides talent management insights into organizational performance and culture.

While 360-degree feedback effectively improves leadership skills across all cultures, evidence suggests it's most effective in cultures with low power distance and individualistic values, such as Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Many studies have linked the following benefits associated with 360-degree assessment at the individual and organizational levels:

Individual leader value

  • Self-awareness

  • Improved leadership effectiveness

  • Increased job satisfaction

  • Role clarity

  • Employee engagement

Organizational Value

  • Improved performance

  • Improved role clarity

  • Enhanced agility

  • Decreased absenteeism

  • Decreased employee turnover

Although the benefits of 360-degree assessments are well documented, it is critically important that they are facilitated appropriately. Upfront work needs to be done to prevent potential unintended negative issues, such as closed-mindedness, rater bias, individuals using the assessments to attack a leader, or a culture that avoids direct communication.

360 Assessment Key #1: KISS

You probably have heard of the K.I.S.S. principle. If not, it means keep it simple, stupid! There is a tendency to try and measure everything when using a 360-degree assessment. While the idea is good to maximize value, you must also consider rater fatigue and the cost of rater time. Maximize value by linking behaviors assessed to organizational values and leadership style. Then, keep it short and straightforward.

360 Assessment Key #2: Debriefing

In addition to selecting the right questions for the leadership 360-degree assessment, choosing a qualified coach is equally important to help understand the results. If feedback is not used appropriately, it can lead to incorrect conclusions and potentially do more harm than good.

Typically, the more education and qualifications a coach has, the better the interpretation you will receive, but education does not replace experience. Be sure to get recommendations and learn about the coach's character before starting. Utilize a coach to debrief the feedback, delineate SMART goals, and serve as an accountability partner to follow through and maximize learning.

360 Assessment Key #3: Validity

Promote valid feedback by thoughtfully considering raters selected to provide input. Too narrow a group increases the risks of blind spots. As a general guide, having at least 5-7 raters per group is good. The exceptions are with the leader of the individual being assessed, which is typically one person, and direct reports, which should include all.

360 Assessment Key #4: Education

A lack of awareness and understanding creates confusion. Educate raters on its purpose before administering the assessment. This can be as simple as sending a memo to the raters explaining the assessment's who, what, and why. A good practice is to provide those being assessed with an opportunity for a conversation to ask questions and confirm their understanding. Remember the saying: Change imposed is change opposed. It would be best if you had buy-in to maximize the value of the assessment.

360 Assessment Key #5: Organization-wide Implementation

A good practice is to deploy 360-degree assessments as part of an organization-wide leadership development strategy. This way, the company can get additional organizational benefits from aggregating feedback data to identify systemic opportunities and feedback on the organization's culture. Another benefit is that no one leader feels singled out.


Baker, A., Perreault, D., Reid, A., & Blanchard, C. M. (2013). Feedback and organizations: Feedback is good, and a feedback-friendly culture is better. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 54(4), 260-268.

Bracken, D. W., & Rose, D. S. (2011). When does 360-degree feedback create behavior change? and how would we know it when it does? Journal of Business and Psychology, 26(2), 183-192.

Luthans, F., & Peterson, S. J. (2003). 360‐degree feedback with systematic coaching: Empirical analysis suggests a winning combination. Human Resource Management, 42(3), 243-256.

Shipper, F., Hoffman, R. C., & Rotondo, D. M. (2007). Does the 360 feedback process create actionable knowledge equally across cultures? Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 33-50.

Thach, E.C. (2002). The impact of executive coaching and 360 feedback on leadership effectiveness. Leadership & organization Development Journal, 23(4), 205-214.

Whitaker, B. G., & Levy, P. (2012). Linking feedback quality and goal orientation to feedback seeking and job performance.Human Performance, 25(2), 159-178. 8927


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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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