Hercules Against The Moon Men

Rating The Boss: If Donald Rumsfeld Were CEO

Donald Rumsfeld defended George Bush policies, conceded no errors, and said the nation needs patience. And from day one, he alienated top military brass and powerful congressional figures with his brusque manner and confusing decision-making process.

If he were a corporate CEO, president or top executive, would he have lasted as long?

Not likely you say? Don’t count on it.

A recent survey by independent polling and research firm, Rasmussen Reports LLC, found that

Fully 92 percent of those managers surveyed said they are an excellent or a good boss.

But ask their direct reports and you get a different story. Only 67 percent of employees surveyed gave their managers a favorable rating, and 10 percent said their bosses do their jobs poorly.

Since only a quarter of individuals are given the opportunity to formally review their manager’s performance (and 73 percent of that group say they believe their feedback is taken seriously), it may not be surprising that

Think 360 reviews, and gamers think Microsoft’s Xbox 360–the popular video game and entertainment system. (They may also be thinking Sony PlayStation 3.)

But in the business world, there’s another 360 review. The 360-degree leadership assessment survey. And in lots of organizations, it’s that time of year.

Many organizations use it to gather feedback from peers, managers, direct reports, and other internal and external sources; including self-assessment, customers, suppliers and other interested stakeholders. It’s executive development feedback, and it

Participants receive feedback on a comprehensive list of leadership and management competencies. Feedback on hard to measure soft skills, setting priorities, suggested skill building exercises, individual development plans, and quantifying progress.

Managers gain a new perspective on their areas of strength, opportunities for development and blind spots. And

What you get is not only information necessary to assess those leadership and management skills–

This can provide better objectivity and confidentiality. Often these third parties will also have sophisticated survey delivery and analysis tools that can often be hard to find internally in most organizations.

One such company is Profiles International, Inc. of Waco, Texas

–an employment evaluation and human resource management assessment firm. (Wonderlic is another.) They offer a comprehensive, three-part 360-degree feedback program for professional development that focuses on 8 major skill sets and 18 universal competencies:

Listens to others, processes information, communicates effectively

Instills trust, provides direction, delegates responsibility

Builds personal relationships, facilitates team success

Adjusts to consequences, thinks creatively

Works effectively, works competently

Takes action, achieves results

Displays commitment, seeks improvement

Cultivates individual talents, motivates successfully

Putting it in context, a recent Harvard Business School study suggested, that in one organization they worked with, many employees recommended that (a) “openness to input from below” should become a key component of each leader’s 360-degree performance evaluation; and (b) a cut-off score be set for this component, and that those below the threshold could not be promoted.

This would have been a fairly radical change for this particular company, where technical excellence was seen as the primary basis for promotion. Although senior management did not act on this suggestion, which would have been very difficult in their well-established culture, it points in the right direction.

The study states: “It’s worth remembering that this is not about being ‘nice’ or creating a ‘nice’ workplace.” In fact, those organizations where voice is more natural and welcome can be pretty tough places, in the sense that people are direct! Not all news is good news! But people also have learned to expect the good and the bad, and know how to process it.

You might be thinking at this point, given how difficult it is and given that it’s not necessarily going to be fun, why bother? Their response is that no news is not good news, from the point of view of senior management, or even bosses all the way down.

While 360s may not solve all management shortcomings or be a productivity panacea, they do focus attention on leadership, style, and implementation problems. What’s more, they may also help you confront a certain degree of institutional dishonesty along with unrealistic expectations.

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