While reading Kolp and Rea (2009) regarding 360-degree performance evaluations, I began to think – do I really want to know? If one of the keys to being a servant leader is openness to followers feedback, wouldn’t I want my employees to evaluate my performance as a leader? A variation of the 360-degree evaluation tool was conducted last year in my agency. I can recall how uneasy I was as I sat with my supervisor and studied the ratings and the comments I had received. In the end it was a beneficial experience, giving me a reality check. For the most part I had achieved the impact I intended. There were a couple of individual criticisms that initially stung and then assisted me in my growth as a leader. In a June 2002 HR Magazine article, Pfau and Kay emphasize that 360-degree evaluations are not effective and may even be detrimental to the employee, as well as the company’s performance, unless people are trained in how to give appropriate feedback. It is also important that the results are used to develop an action plan that includes follow up. My agency did not use the 360-degree feedback to create professional goals. I, however, felt compelled to make my own adjustments based on the feedback I received.
Kolp and Rea (2009) suggest that it is prudent for leaders to be informed about how others see them. Ideally we would learn what others appreciate and also what areas need improvement. Would this type of evaluation tool also cause people to be on their best behavior, not knowing who may be writing an evaluation on them? I know the year that we used this tool in my workplace; it was a little nerve racking to think that there were a few people taking notes on me. Then I started to think, all of the 18 people I supervise probably feel that way every day, as I document my observations and conversations with them. Many of the staff that works with me have various specialists and consultants giving feedback on their performance as well. Supervisors, directors and specialists are rarely observed by their supervisors on the job, as they work with line staff. This type of disparate treatment is easily spun into an “us versus them” mentality, which can result in low morale. As I take the time to reflect on this subject, I am struck with the realization that in order to be a true servant leader, I will need to have the courage to accept open and honest feedback in regards to how I am doing in my work. Who better to evaluate me than those whom I am serving? I can handle the truth!