Leadership Metrics


How do I know if a 360° feedback debrief meeting is successful? What are the signs, indicators, or measures of success (metrics)?


My initial debrief meetings are part of a larger coaching project. This blog addresses the initial meeting only, not the metrics for the entire coaching engagement.

In my initial meetings, I present the 360° feedback report (the client sees it for the first time), and the purpose of the meeting is to review the report in order to help the client figure out what it means, how to interpret it, and how to start reading their own behaviour in the context of what others see and expect.

Objectivity & verifiability: 

Some of the following metrics are objective (clearly observable and verifiable) and others are more subjective (based on personal judgment).

Both objective and subjective indicators are necessary and useful, and together create a well-rounded picture of what happened in the room.

(See these two blogs on the importance of subjectivity and tracking both behaviors and results.)

Metrics for 360:

Here are metrics that I pay attention to when conducting an initial debrief on a 360° feedback survey:

  1. Solid collaborative working relationship with the client, i.e., working well together. e.g.,
    • We are finding a common language, easy to communicate, apples to apples
    • Overcoming a few small misunderstandings, challenges, tough news…together
  2. Quantity of concrete possibilities for improvement:
    • Seeing in the 360° feedback report a great number of legitimate opportunities for improvement. My favorite survey is MRG’s LEA report which is extremely rich in this regard. But every survey should present several possibilities for improvement.
  3. Quality of the opportunities for improvement. This metric is based on:
    • The client’s own judgment about how important the opportunities are to his or her work and to the success of the organization.
    • My own judgement about how important these opportunities are to individual, team, and organizational success and to leadership practice in general. My judgement is not perfect, of course, but it is based on 20 years of first-hand experience and intense research. (You shouldn’t hire a consultant whose judgment you don’t want or trust.)
  4. Motivation to find good places to start rather than being overwhelmed by all the possibilities:
    • If the client is motivated to take action, then I usually see this motivation carry into our second meeting: Did the client do their homework; did he / she come prepared with good questions and solutions? (This will be directly observable.)
    • By the end of the first meeting (the debrief), I do not see signs of being overwhelmed; I see the client already focusing in on a few key issues; I see signs of motivation, interest, curiosity, and engagement in the project; the client tells you they are looking forward to reading the report in detail and to our next meeting.
    • The client does not bad mouth the project or complain that it was a waste of time. A complaint might be an act of resistance or a true sign of failure, and it is not always easy to verify which is the case. Nevertheless, if your leaders are complaining, you have to take them seriously: (i) ask them why and (ii) talk to your consultant about it.
  5. Client wants to understand the ratings:
    • The client actively pursues those discussions instead of avoiding them; the client asks questions and explores possible interpretations of the data.
  6. Client understands the content of the report (the ratings):
    • No blaming, excuses, scapegoats, etc., but a genuine attempt to account for the ratings, and be accountable for his or her own behavior.
    • The client is able to provide concrete behavioural examples that explain the ratings and variances, i.e., they are able to discover truth in the ratings with real behavioral examples. Of course, the client is supplying examples of behavior that I have not personally witnessed and therefore cannot empirically verify during the meeting. (If I suspect a problem here, I might ask the client and HR (my sponsor) for permission to do some research myself—this has to be done with sensitivity, tact, discretion, and of course, complete compliance with the confidentiality agreement.)
  7. Client did not over-react to big variances (fight, flight, or freeze), but discussed them, worked on them. It is very important for the meeting not to spin out of control (anger, anxiety, etc.)
  8. A few Aha! moments that lead to reflection / discussion, e.g.,
    • New insights (learning)
    • Or being a bit surprised by new data (e.g., discovering a blind spot). Being surprised by some of the data is a good thing—it shows they are open to feedback, it takes them out of their egos, makes them curious, and make learning possible. All good.
    • It makes me nervous, conversely, when the client claim to know it all and shows no surprise about anything. Who knows everything? And if you know it all, why aren’t you perfect yet? Big problem.
  9. Broadening of perspective: The client is beginning to read their own behaviour not only in the context of their own self-assessment (self-image) but also in the context of what others see and expect.
  10. Coaching: A few natural (relevant, timely, appropriate) opportunities for me to share value added information: some kind of teaching, training, coaching, or mentoring that is relevant to the discussion and adds value (value as defined by the client).

Setting up for Success:

To set the coaching project up for success, I find it very important to make a few key “purpose & process” things really clear to the client. Everyone does this differently. This is part of my spiel:

  • This is an important / significant investment your company is making in you. And it is one of those rare opportunities we get in life to really step back from the trees to look at the forest—an incredibly important opportunity to reflect on your leadership practices. Let’s take advantage of it.
  • This is not about mistakes and blame (the past) but about opportunities for improvement (the future). My role is not to judge or criticize but to help you improve. My only agenda is to help you take your leadership practices up to the next level.
  • There are almost endless possibilities in this report. I want to set you up to be able to get as much out of it as you want.

I also share an extremely clear and concrete set of rules about confidentiality so the client knows exactly what to expect in this regard, and I make it a point of professional ethics to never breach this trust, regardless of the pressure I might get from the client or his or her employer (who is obviously paying me).

Basic strategy for the debrief meeting:

My basic strategy for this first debrief meeting is:

  • Reduce the risk of fight, flight, or freeze.
  • Trust me enough to speak honestly / candidly.
  • Generate some excitement for the project.
  • Set the client up to come fully prepared and get to work in our subsequent meetings.
  • Empower the client to take this opportunity—and their professional development in general—into their own hands (ownership, accountability, seizing the opportunity).
  • Raise the bar in terms of ambition with respect to this project and his/her professional development in general.

Final note:

I literally say that I am preparing them to get as much out of this process as they want. I have had amazing results leaving the client in charge. People have been treated like children so often (by teachers, sports coaches, and micro-managing bosses) that when I treat them like adults, they really respond.

At the end of the day, I feel that this is the only honest way to treat professionals anyway.

It is not my role to tell someone to be motivated, ambitious, great at their job, or successful. That is a deeply personal choice. All I can do is acknowledge that they are in the driver’s seat, help them think through what kind of leader they want to be, truly understand how others are interpreting their behavior, and help them understand what world class practice looks like so that they can take their leadership practice up to the next level—or all the way.

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