We’ve led about 60 coaching calls these last few months with senior leaders throughout Latin America, as well as on both the East and West Coasts of the U.S. The purpose of the coaching is to support those leaders in considering the meaning and implications of their 360-degree assessment results. As you know, a 360-degree assessment is when individuals who work (hierarchically) above, below and beside a person all provide feedback to provide a full “circle” of perspectives on the person’s performance and/or impact.
In one debrief, I spoke with a leader who had received a number of critical comments from her raters. She said she was absolutely certain who the author was. As we discussed the situation, she admitted she had actually stopped inviting this senior person to her meetings because he was so difficult. In fact, before meetings with him, she would brace herself for a fight. When I asked her which emotion she experienced as she “braced herself”, she realized that she was experiencing rejection and dis-empowerment. As we continued, she realized she was allowing herself to avoid difficult conversations, enable dysfunctional behavior in the organization, and was ultimately not be the considerable leader she had the wherewithal to be. She recognized this fact almost immediately and was ready to engage again. This is the tale of a fast learner — someone who can get feedback, make sense of it quickly, and take action to break the cycle.
We often undermine our own success by not tackling difficult conversations. While sometimes avoiding a conversation can be entirely appropriate (when you perceive no chance of satisfying your concerns or when the potential costs of confronting a conflict outweigh the benefits of its resolution), we usually can be agents of positive change in our environments if: (1) we are aware of our own behaviors, (2) we take time to reflect, and (3) we are sufficiently motivated towards change. The 360 assessments and coaching are processes that enable the first two elements. The motivation, however, is up to each of us.