The Boardroom Beat #4

Two children sitting at a table on a yellow background, one of them holding a megaphone


The Boardroom Beat celebrates curiosity. The Monthly format is Q&A&Q:

  • Question from a GALA member or staff
  • Answer based on experience, case study, best practice, or innovation
  • Question(s) back to push customized thinking

At the GALA Connected 2021 KnowledgeFest and in Board Room Beat recent editions we collectively made remarkable strides on ignoring or refuting "Imposter Voices” that hold us back. What about the other extreme? Do we sometimes fail to hear the voices that will help us grow as leaders?

Question: Are 360 assessments an effective way to identify and address blind spots? What are the advantages of qualitative vs. quantitative 360s?
Answer: All 360 assessments are powerful. Cost ranges from $1000 - $10,000.
Questions: What do you wish to accomplish with a 360 assessment? How many 360s are you considering and at what leadership level?

360s addresses the gap between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.  All categories and all brands are valuable because they;

  • invite purposeful self-reflection,
  • consider others’ viewpoints, and
  • lead to actionable improvement.

I advocate for Qualitative vs Quantitative 360s when feasible. Here’s how they stack up in three categories:

1. Information Collection:

Quantitative data collection refers to online rating instruments which poll respondents and pool results. Although there may be a “qualitative” comment element, the respondent mindset is “on task” and comments are typically skipped or are rote.

A qualitative 360 is interview based. The 360 interviewer creates a comfortable and open environment for thoughtful responses.  The interview I use has five questions. I press for more robust info with simple queries. “Why?” “Tell me more.” My comfort with silence encourages robust response.

2. Cost:

An entry point investment of about $1000 is possible for an online assessment and report. The feedback genre is likely new to junior staff, and real traction is possible from the report consultation. Seasoned executives, on the other hand, have often been exposed to multiple online 360s and may experience diminishing returns. Though cost for qualitative assessments is higher, the ROI is positive when an executive acts on new insights. A well executed Qualitative 360 can be transformational for executive leadership and bottom line company results.

3.  Propensity to produce insights:

All 360s bring intention to the exercise of self awareness and improvement. Qualitative 360s are better at uncovering executive blind spots. The interview format I use inherently includes an Rx for action built in to the interview questions.

The 3 Cs of Qualitative 360s

Confidentiality: Although one might think that a respondent would be less forthcoming without the anonymity of an online poll, my experience refutes this. Even before the burgeoning use of video meetings accelerated by COVID I always conducted interviews in person or by video. Eye contact, warmth, and a leaning in posture builds trust. If ever a particular anecdote or suggestion might betray the identity of the interviewee I specifically ask if I am allowed to share the info or if it should be obscured.

Camaraderie: It is uncomfortable for colleagues to critique strong leaders, mentors, friends. Comments get “watered down” or even politicized. I guide the interviewee to embrace candor as a cornerstone of camaraderie. Beyond providing a “safe place" for giving feedback, they also trust it to be passed along in a safe and positive way to their colleague.

Completeness: The 360 interview that I use ends with an unusual question #5.  When the interview is “done” it is a final curious question that often generates a key finding to ultimately unlock transformation.

Both poll (quantitative) and interview-based (qualitative) 360 assessments are valuable. I3 Coaching offers both. When it is feasible for the client I am passionate about the robust insights that  Qualitative 360s unleash.