Leadership is one of the most important aspects of any business, and as such, companies spend thousands on leadership development. In fact, the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board surveyed all 1,500 members to find that 8% of organizations spend over $10,000 annually per person in leadership development, while 6% spend $7,000–$10,000. Given how impactful leadership is on employee productivity, turnover, and organizational productivity, that expense is understandable. Good leaders can make or break your business, and the right leadership feedback tools can build great leaders.

Understanding how those leaders fit into the organization, including their competencies and capabilities, can improve your business for optimal productivity and growth. 360-degree feedback is an incredibly helpful tool in that endeavor, as it provides a comprehensive picture of your leaders while working to build their self-awareness by comparing their personal performance reviews with external perspectives. Further, you can map competencies and leadership performance to team performance and act on team feedback to maximize the benefits of 360-degree feedback. 

How 360-degree feedback works

360-degree feedback is a multi-point evaluation where each employee receives constructive criticism from the people they work with, even at different levels. That includes: 

  • Peers
  • Superiors
  • Subordinates
  • Self-assessment

So, a team lead would receive an assessment from other team leads, their managers and perhaps Scrum masters, and their team members. They’d also have to fill out a self-assessment.

This perspective is valuable because it identifies performance gaps in individuals and teams. It also reveals how self-aware people are, their competencies, and how much they want to improve their shortcomings.

Identify potential leaders

360-degree feedback is a useful tool for finding people who exhibit potential to be good leaders, such as displaying managerial competencies. It can also measure other desirable traits like self-awareness of gaps, a drive to continue learning, and a motivation to improve their performance.

To identify strong candidates, start by benchmarking your leadership competencies. Here, 360-degree feedback can highlight which abilities are common among leaders with happy and high-performing teams. 

It’s great for mapping gaps as well so you can easily weed out the people who lack the prioritized competencies. In turn, the results of the tool can be used as a learning opportunity. For example, letting your current and prospective leaders compare their personal assessments with those of everyone who gave them feedback could help improve their self-awareness.

Once you’ve honed in on employees who show promise in prioritized competencies or soft skills, you can then offer extra development and training to boost their capabilities for success in their present role, as well as expand their opportunities for movement within the company.

Map feedback results to leadership skills gaps

As previously mentioned, 360-degree feedback enables you to map performance and competency across leadership, but it also extends to your teams. It hones in on issues like lack of direction, misalignment between leadership expectations and actual performance, and even specific problems like poor communication between a team lead and their members. A skills gap analysis is especially beneficial in this regard, as it matches problems found in 360-degree feedback assessments to existing skills gaps so you can see their impact.

For example, if you’ve identified one of your leaders lacks in emotional intelligence, you can use the 360-degree feedback results to assess the impact of that gap on their team, which will show you how to remediate the problem.

Keep in mind, however, that people may score badly for reasons beyond their control. For example, a software change may have resulted in an unhappy team while the leader is doing everything they can to smooth out the transition.

Introduce training for leadership

Use 360-degree feedback surveys to create broad group profiles that highlight what a good leader looks like. You can then work on nurturing those skills in promising candidates by giving direction, offering mentorship, and providing other means of direct help with developing the hard and soft skills needed for leadership.

Coaching and mentorship

Asking leaders to mentor new prospects shares knowledge linearly, promoting greater absorption and understanding. Note: Your leaders should be available to mentor everyone, not just the people in the line of succession. Also, make sure the people delivering coaching have the ability and the skills to do so properly. For example, if someone on your team excels at conflict resolution, you’d want to ensure they can teach those skills before asking them to educate others.

Developing hard and soft skills

Digital learning, workshops, and training programs are great options for teaching specific skills. However, these are usually expensive and difficult to deliver on a one-off basis. If you have a potential leader who would benefit from learning soft skills pertaining to people management, for instance, delivering that training to that one person would be more expensive and less impactful than offering that training to everyone on the team or the business.

Diversifying experiences

When you identify someone who shows promise as a leader, it’s extremely beneficial to their development to rotate them within the organization and expose them to different leadership and work styles. This allows them to work directly with leaders who show the competencies you want them to acquire.  

In most cases, you’ll need all three of these approaches to introduce new skills and develop new leaders. You must also define not only what makes a good leader but also the specific gaps your prospects have individually so you can direct them toward the programs and training they need. Once again, 360-degree feedback comes to the rescue by helping you pinpoint key attributes and areas of improvement.

Invest in leadership feedback tools for comprehensive improvement

By embracing 360-degree feedback, you’ll find it easier to develop leadership capabilities across your organization. This approach helps you understand what strong leadership looks like, promotes greater self-awareness in your leaders, and assists in identifying and developing people who show potential for upper-level positions. Because 360-degree feedback is a data collection model, it’s up to your organization how you store, process and validate, and implement that information. Once you’ve established processes to do so and introduce this feedback system into your company, you’ll be well on your way to harvesting your next crop of leaders.