At The John Maxwell Company, we commonly refer to the idea of the 360 degree leader.  John has helped people realize everyone is a leader because each of us has the opportunity to lead up, lead across and perhaps lead down. All month, we have been discussing the value of assessment.  I want to take a moment and consider what it looks like to apply the 360 degree concept to assessments.

The discipline of assessing is huge.  Assessments provide a realistic picture of our strengths and weaknesses.   They allow us to see potential pitfalls, address them and intentionally live out of our strengths. Intuitively, we understand the value of assessments – think about how we have our houses assessed for safety before moving in, or how we assess the value of a car before making a purchase. We want to know what we are getting before purchasing – this allows us to know what to expect and offers perspective on how we can leverage that asset in a way that aligns with its strengths. In the same way, we need to subject ourselves to assessments so we can learn from them and become more desirable employees, co-workers and leaders.

To get the best overall picture of my strengths and weaknesses, I try to be systematic in my assessments, and have people provide feedback who are at different levels of influence in my life – peers, direct reports and supervisors, to name a few. My family also provides insights that when combined with my colleagues’ responses; provide a greater overall picture of my strengths and weaknesses.

In order for us to be willing to seek and respond to the feedback from those around us we need three things.

1) We must appreciate and respect people if we are going to ask them to provide feedback on our skills, abilities and personal characteristics. If we do not respect the people around us – whether it be across, up or down – then we will not be able to constructively receive their feedback.

2) We must be secure in ourselves, while acknowledging room for growth. This is foundational to being  able to go to those whom we work with and ask them to honestly share what they see in us and then receive it.

3) We must be intentional in asking for individuals to participate in the assessment.  We must also be intentional about giving them permission to share freely.  Understandably, most people are a bit reluctant to share anything that could be perceived as negative about a person who is in positional authority over them and will need clear permission to provide honest feedback. Your friends and family may also struggle with openly sharing what they perceive as your weaknesses. Participants must be given the freedom to share openly for you to receive the most realistic picture of your current leadership and relational skills.

More importantly than getting feedback from people is applying that feedback in a way that makes us better leaders and people. If we have made an intentional effort to gain the perspectives of those around, under and above us, then we also want to be intentional in applying what we have learned in a 360 degree manner. Improvement in our leadership skills may take different forms when applied to different groups. We need to take the time to think through this.  What will improving my listening skills (or any particular weakness) look like when interacting with those who are under my authority?  What does it look like to those whom work alongside of me? How will I apply what I learned in my interactions with those whom I report to? The changes we make as a result of what we learn through assessments should make us better employees, co-workers and leaders. 

Feel free to comment and share with others how you effectively use the discipline of assessing yourself.

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