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Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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Guest Post: Confidence in management

By Dominic Wake

Confidence in management is falling – can you stop the rot?”To see yourself as others see you” – that’s the general premise of the 360-degree feedback process.

Managers across the world certainly struggle when it comes to working out how well they are doing. The politics of the workplace, the lack of willingness for employees to give an honest assessment of their management style or business behaviors means that many organizations are left with ineffective managers in place. A management style unsuited to a business can do more harm than good in the long-run – yet 360-degree feedback can be a pivotal tool in inspiring positive change, letting you tailor your training to precise needs.

A 360-degree feedback evaluation uses information from peers, subordinates and supervisors to put together an overall assessment. As the feedback received by fellow peers is anonymous it promotes more of a positive performance review process. This is because the manager (or employee being reviewed) will not know who said what about him or her that may lead to unnecessary hostility and resentment in the workplace.  The input is very valuable since it gives the person receiving the input a much more complete perspective on their performance and on areas where they can improve their skills.

Unfortunately however, despite these benefits, many businesses are yet to wake up to the benefits which 360-degree feedback provides. A recent survey conducted by ETS found that employee confidence in management is falling. Almost half of the 500 workers it sampled (43%) felt that they are better people managers than their own boss and 23% say that management standards are getting worse. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of employees (22%) don’t think their boss has adequate people management skills.

Employees highlighted the need for managers to receive formal feedback from direct reports. Despite 91% saying that this would be valuable, just 42% of employees are currently invited to provide feedback to their manager as part of their appraisal or through 360-degree feedback.

Line managers play a crucial role in the success of any business by driving the performance level of teams. In the UK it’s common to see high-performing people promoted into management positions without the skills, desire or support to manage a team. Communication skills and the ability to provide constructive feedback are key development areas for managers. After all, companies that fully understand the importance of a manager’s role in driving performance prioritize training and development to help managers be more effective.

Although 360-degree feedback can go some way in providing a solution to a business management needs, it is not without its critics. It has often been claimed that the anonymity it provides means that follow-up questions or clarification on certain topics or issues raised is impossible. This lack of clarity means that some managers may not be able to make changes to their work practices. Another criticism leveled at 360s is that the politics of the workplace can lead to those people participating conspire make a manager look better, or worse, than they actually are.

What is clear though, is that 360-degree feedback offers something to managers that standard appraisal surveys don’t. With proper training and support, this system has a positive aspect in management performance. After all, providing consistent improvement in organizational production is the goal of any business – support your employees and you’ll also be supported.

Dominic Wake is Director of ETSplc where he is responsible for leading human resource projects across performance management, development and engagement.

The Product Management Perspective: As a product manager you can have important effect on the information that gets sent back to line managers and executives. Because PMs are typically “in the know” about many things that happen in the organization, you have a great opportunity to share information and do it in a way that will significantly help the organization. Don’t hold back information when you know people need to hear it. Have the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said.