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Leading by Listening

#eqfit #leadership #leadership360 #listening Jul 24, 2023

"Wow! I had no idea that is how people saw my leadership!" This is a statement made by a leader I recently worked with after we did his Leadership 360 survey/assessment feedback session. For the first time, he received real feedback on how he was "showing up" as a leader to different groups of people. His supervisor, peers, direct reports, and others were the groups that participated in this important leadership assessment.

What is a Leadership 360?

If you are not familiar with a leadership 360, it is an assessment (or some call it a survey) where many people have the opportunity to answer questions about a specific person's leadership. The best Leadership 360's also include multiple places for comments and are completely anonymous. Why anonymity? Because we want people to be honest and transparent, providing the most accurate feedback possible.

You may have heard of these types of assessments, maybe even been a part of one in the past. The tool that I use for this (Leadership Vital Signs - Six Seconds) has been highly validated and provides actionable data (more on this later).

Why do a Leadership 360?

Doing this assessment is not just about gathering data, which has value in itself, it is also about creating the best path forward for the leader to grow their leadership skills. That starts with self-awareness. If we are honest with ourselves, we all have a perception of how we are showing up as a leader.The problem with this is it is one sided and most likely impacted by confirmation bias (thinking more positively about ourselves than may be accurate). So how do we get a real view into our leadership? Ask other people.

By the way...I see leadership as leading yourself first, then leading others. That means everyone is a leader. Leadership is not positional, it is functional. Being in a position of authority does not guarantee you are a leader. Leadership is a combination of soft skills, hard skills, EQ skills, influence, trust building, relationship building, navigating conflict effectively, and much more.

What should a Leadership 360 measure?

I mentioned "actionable data" earlier. A Leadership 360 must provide key measures that can be turned into KPIs to achieve. What are key measures for a leader? They are critical success factors: Trust, Execution, Teamwork, Motivation, Change (leading through change). These are the drivers of success, but we can't stop there. There are critical outcomes as well:

Here is what that might look like in the assessment:

(Leadership Vital Signs - Six Seconds)

Think about what you could learn from measures like these. The report goes on to break each driver of success and outcome down into specific measures by group. You as a leader can see exactly how you are showing up and having an impact in each of these areas with each group of people. Even more impactful, each question on the assessment allows for comments and there is a STOP, START, CONTINUE section at the end for more in depth comments, giving the leader a wonderful view into a "leadership mirror".

Value of Leadership 360

I have used this tool for:

  • Improving leadership when performance is a concern
  • Developing leaders
  • Coaching leaders through specific challenges
  • Starting important conversations
  • Enhancing collaboration
  • Creating leadership development plans
  • Skill development
  • Tracking growth and development
  • Annual planning
  • Succession planning

When you have good data that is actionable, there is so much you can do with it.

One of the key outcomes is to provide the leader with a clear insight into how people see their leadership. Yes...sometimes this can be uncomfortable and even eye opening, but that is where the real value is generated. As much as we may not like to dwell on our gap areas, if we want to get better as a leader, then that awareness is critical.

 Leading by listening

A Leadership 360 is really an invitation for people to speak to the leader in a psychologically safe environment (anonymous input). The real value comes when the leader chooses to listen. I had one leader take great offense at what people were saying about his leadership. He went on and on about how they did not understand, they did not realize the pressure he was under, they were the problem, not him. So I asked him, "Do you still have to lead them every day?" Of course he said yes. That is when I suggested that their perception of his leadership is the reality they operate from.

If you ever get the opportunity to do a well validated Leadership 360 with truly actionable data...grab that opportunity! Then learn to be a better leader by listening to what people are telling you. The way you show up to them as a leader matters. What you do about that is up to you.


For more, check out our other resources:

EQFIT® YouTube Channel


EQFIT® Podcast

 Copyright © 2023 EQFIT® - Author: Steven Goodner. All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact: [email protected].

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