I’m sure I’ll continue it with other thoughts soon, but for now I’m wrapping up the series on highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students with a review of the major point from it, particularly on 360-degree feedback reports.
First, I commend Columbia for offering coaching to all MBA candidates. When I went there we got the reports and reviewed them overall in class but didn’t get personalized coaching. Giving them coaching adds tremendously to understanding the feedback process, how to read the reports, and how to use them to improve their leadership skills. Especially for students who don’t choose the big corporate route, many students have few other opportunities to get such reports or coaching.
The structure alone of the 360-degree feedback process teaches a lot about leadership, even before reading the reports. It reinforces how leadership results depend on how others view you — that is, they are subjective, not objective.
Separating Leadership in categories helps you understand the field and approach it from different perspectives.
The first step of using the reports is to read and understand them. They’re usually fairly detailed and deep, so reading and understanding them may take time. Also, practice helps, so if you haven’t read many before, so having someone used to reading them helps.
Charts, especially, may be densely packed with information and trends not obvious at a glance. Giving them appropriate time and attention will likely pay off. Most reports will contain the raw data on which the charts are based. If so, the raw data will help refine or challenge your understanding of trends you found on the charts.
Acting on the reports
Separating leadership into categories helps you focus your attention in what to improve.
While you could just pick any area or areas to improve, I and coaches I know recommend working on one area at a time. Working on just one area helps you improve in other areas later because working on any functional skill also develops personal improvement skills.
You can pick any of many potentially useful strategies for developing yourself.
Some basic tips once you’ve picked an area to work on:
- Create and do exercises to experience and practice the improvements you want
- Create accountability to increase motivation and quality and decrease obstacles
- Use feedforward
- Use qualitative feedback from your evaluators
- Try to foresee problems and prepare for them
Not that what you think of as weaknesses may be strengths misapplied, possibly because of different values.
If you coach others, remember to focus on the client.
Finally, be sure to consider the costs, shortcomings, and weaknesses of 360-degree feedbacks.