The Seven Golden Rules of 360 Leadership Assessment

This principle that underpins all we do – the success and psychological safety of the leaders we coach is our number one priority. Therefore, we live by these golden rules when coaching with 360 leadership assessments.

1. Voluntary participation– Leaders undergoing the 360 must fully be informed about the process and be a voluntary participant. Even when a coach may be taking a leadership team through the 360-assessment process, who participates in this must be voluntary. The pressure to participate must be skilfully managed by the coach. Leaders who do not want to participate must not end up being assessed to appease others.

The coach after consulting with the team may conclude the team lacks sufficient psychological safety to allow some leaders to opt in and some to opt out. If potential negative effects such as not being viewed as a team player or being overlooked for promotion are a risk, 360 assessment is not recommended in these situations.

2. Confidentiality– All effective coaching relationships are built on a foundation of confidentiality. Leaders undertaking 360 assessment must fully understand the process and know that their confidentiality is always being protected throughout the process. This must be well documented and agreed and signed off in the coaching agreement by all involved parties.

If leaders cannot trust the 360 process, they will not participate openly. This means missing out on the benefits and wasting time and money. Confidentiality is a crucial element of success in this process. The unwavering of the coach regarding confidentiality cannot be stressed enough.

3. Ownership of the 360 Assessment Report– In many organisations, internal or external coaches administer 360 assessments. There must be a written coaching agreement which is signed by all involved parties. It must clearly state that the 360-assessment report is the sole property of the leader being coached. The report is for the eyes of the coach and that leader only.

If the organisation is unwilling to agree to these terms, ‘ coaches should not provide 360 assessments. Like a blood test, your employer may have paid for, the 360 report remains the sole property of the leader being coached.

Just because the organisation paid for the assessment, it gives the organisation no rights of access. Coaches must have a written agreement in place to assure leaders that coaches will defend confidentiality without compromise.

Coaches who hand over 360 reports or provide ‘highlights’ to third parties should not be engaged. (I am being polite here; other suggestions include the use of rope).

4. The intended purpose of the 360 Report– The specific purpose of the report must be documented in a written coaching agreement. 360 assessments are used for formative purposes only, meaning they must only be used to develop leaders. A 360 assessment is not summative; it must not be used to measure leadership effectiveness. 360 leadership assessment tools must only ever be used for developing leaders. No ifs, no buts.

360 leadership assessment tools must never be used as part of any performance management process.

5. Debriefing 360 feedback Reports– Debriefing should only be undertaken by a professional coach who is accredited to administer the licensed 360 tools being used.

The report should be shared with the leader in the presence of the coach at the time of the assessment debrief. The report must not be provided to the leader in advance of the debrief.

Your doctor would not send medical test results to your home address to prevent you from consulting with Dr Google. Your self-diagnosis might conclude you have only days to live. A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous and cause much undue distress and anxiety.

360 leadership assessment should never be a stand-alone event. It must always be used with continuing coaching. Coaches who provide the assessment only and walk away I compare with surgeons who leave their patients on the operating table and who walk away without closing the incision.

360 assessment can bring many issues into the present for leaders. Ongoing coaching must be provided in the best interests of the leader, no ifs, no buts.

6. Choice of 360 Tool– There are many 360 assessment tools available to coaches. Some are well researched and built using a reliable evidence base and provide valuable insights. Many tools are poorly built and not well designed, your coach should know to avoid such tools.

If a 360 report advises you are an old soul from Atlantis who enjoys talking long walks alone in the rain, it is unlikely the tool will deliver what you need to develop your leadership. You are not red, yellow, blue, or green either.

Assessment tools used in coaching must be valid and reliable. Valid, meaning they must measure what they say they measure, an integrity scale must measure integrity. Reliability, if you were to take the assessment in a similar time frame, you would get the same result.

Well-constructed 360 tools built on peer-reviewed research will deliver superior insights that help to move you forward. Home built 360 tools and surveys should be avoided at all cost because they risk doing more harm than good can seriously undermine any future developmental efforts. 

Your coach should be skilled and experienced to be able to select the best 360 assessment tool to suit your leadership context and experience level.

7. Choosing Evaluators– Your choice of evaluators is important in generating quality feedback which is useful to help you develop your leadership. You need to select evaluators whom you can rely on to provide candid feedback of their experience of you as a leader.

We do not want ‘fans’ or evaluators who have an axe to grind. We need good quality feedback to help you see you from another’s perspective. These are the hidden insights you do not yet see yet. These are the golden nuggets of feedback which can accelerate your leadership development forward to where you want it to be.

Talking over with your coach or your manager which evaluators you choose is a good idea to ensure you solicit a good range of responses. You may have blind spots in who you even request feedback from. This would only serve to amplify and accentuate the blind spot further. 

Armed with this information, you should be better informed to get the most from working with a coach through a 360-leadership assessment.

Remember 360-leadership assessment is about you taking charge of your leadership development. It is not something done to you, nor should it ever be.

If you need any further support, we offer 360 Leadership Assessment services. Get in touch to learn more.

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