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Science Leadership: Getting The Most From Your 360 Survey
Learn about potentials and problems, along with steps to plan and launch your survey.!--h2>
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“O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.”
“Are the villagers carrying torches?”
360 surveys have strong potential to improve science communications, but getting the most from the surveys requires thoughtful planning and analysis. This first part of a two-part posting outlines 360 potentials and problems, and notes steps to plan and launch your survey.
360 Survey Uses, Potentials
We like to use 360 surveys because they consistently generate useful results. Scientists we work with in leadership training, teambuilding, and strategic planning consistently use their 360 results to make meaningful gains, improving their leadership and communications performance. Their survey results help them see more clearly how their communications with others advances—or obstructs—their science.
360 surveys provide the person being surveyed with survey data about their communications and leadership effectiveness from respondents. The surveys use the “360” label because they usually elicit data from a mix of people around the person being surveyed: people who manage, collaborate with, are clients of and/or are managed by the respondent.
Once thought radical, 360 surveys are now in widespread use in most industries. Numerous vendors offer 360 survey packages online. Software like Survey Monkey makes it possible for amateurs to design their own surveys with minimal investments of time and effort. Some companies conduct 360 surveys on key managers and employees and use the results when making promotion and advancement decisions. Others enable survey recipients to control the process themselves, selecting respondents more for learning and development purposes.
Scientists in particular benefit from the 360 survey process. If done well, the surveys translate the important but difficult-to-describe competencies of “communications” and “working relationships” into data. Scientists can take the time to analyze the often-rich data in their survey results, and develop and implement thoughtful action plans. Some scientists we’ve worked with have taken their 360 results data far beyond the percentage and mean scores the survey software produces, creating scatter diagrams and exploring standard deviations.
360 Survey Shortcomings, Dangers
Of course 360 results do not reflect respondents’ opinions in ways that are perfectly accurate. Some respondents are wary of the surveys’ claim of confidentiality and so restrain their responses. Some use the surveys as a weapon, communicating long-held grudges. Others take the surveys as an opportunity to advance their own position, e.g., in open-ended comments like, “Harry is the best boss I ever had. Signed, George.”
It’s also quite possible to for 360 surveys to cause significant damage. The whole premise of receiving “objective” survey feedback one’s communications effectiveness glosses over the gravity of the personal issues 360 surveys may address. Listening skills, showing respect, working well with others—the behaviors surveys describe can be difficult to think about and discuss, entangled in respondents’ ego and identity.
Some few companies have put 360 surveys to ill use, reassuring respondents and recipients that the process is confidential but then using the data later to influence advancement and layoff decisions. More often, the harm people cause with 360 surveys is unintentional, the result of careless planning, survey design or processes to absolutely ensure respondent confidentiality.
Getting The Most From Your 360 Survey: Ten Tips For Planning and Launching
It takes some clear thinking and planning to avoid the problems and shortcomings, and get the significant results 360 surveys offer:
Next: Analyze Your Survey Results, Create Effective Action Plans
Do most people accurately predict their 360 results? What’s the difference between an “Agree” and a “Strongly Agree” response? What’s considered “Excellent” in 360 responses? Should I communicate with respondents after I’ve received my 360 survey results?
Even very intelligent people can make big mistakes interpreting their survey results. We explain why this happens and provide insights about how to work with your survey results most effectively in Part 2 of this article.
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