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A "360" degree view for individual leadership development

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceived usefulness to participants of a particular 360-degree leadership survey process to assist an understanding of how ratees receive and respond to 360-degree feedback. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper includes a sample of eight new and emergent leaders at one university in Australia who complete a 360-degree feedback survey. Through semi-structured interviews, they are asked to report on their learning as a result of undertaking the 360-degree exercise. A constant comparison method of data analysis is used to analyse the participants' responses. Findings ‐ The research study finds from the group undertaking the 360-degree feedback process that, in equal proportion, participants report receiving: no surprising feedback but reinforcement and affirmation; and new insights, with developmental strategies identified to effect change as a result of feedback. The paper argues, from findings of the literature and the study, the importance of a measure of institutional support for the feedback process including sound facilitation. The results of the semi-structured conversations held with the small sample attest to the importance of self-efficacy (belief of capacity to learn and develop) on the part of ratees to act on feedback gained, and of the organisation's role in assisting self-efficacy in 360-degree programs. The findings support an incremental theory approach in that participants see the feedback exercise as an opportunity to improve their capabilities and pursue learning goals over time by acting on development items suggested by the feedback. It is posited that support received by participants in undertaking the feedback activity as part of a program of development contributes to the positive response. The paper concludes by providing some guidelines for conducting effective 360-degree feedback discussions. Originality/value ‐ There is a reasonable body of literature about 360-degree feedback processes from a theoretical standpoint. This qualitative study addresses a relative gap in the literature to explore how participants describe their experience of undertaking a facilitated 360-degree feedback exercise, including whether they gain new knowledge, or no new knowledge. The paper also suggests some principles that might be employed in facilitating 360-degree feedback to maximise benefit from the process.

Keywords: 360-degree feedback; Australia; Leadership; Management development

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-07-17

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