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Appraising the CEO: 360⁰ profiling

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An introduction to 360⁰ profiling of the chief executive or senior management team and instructions on how to do it.

Many new chief executives comment on how isolated they feel and how difficult it is to judge their impact on people as they find that colleagues can be very guarded.  It is however very important that the CEO does receive feedback, both positive and negative.

Traditional performance appraisal for the CEO consists of a dialogue between the CEO and the chair of trustees. Whilst this format can be very productive, it does not leave room for any input by other people who may have close contact with the individual.

To rectify this gap, so-called 360⁰ profiling can be used. 

What is 360⁰ profiling?

The idea is to achieve an all-round perspective on the person’s performance, including comments from above (the individual’s immediate manager), below (direct reports or even people two levels down), internal colleagues at the same level, and external people such as key stakeholders.

Who is 360⁰ profiling for?

360⁰ profiling  is most common at chief executive and SMT (senior management team) level, but it can be applied at any level.  Most schemes deal with leadership issues but other versions can be used.

Features of 360⁰ profiling

There are several schemes on the market but their common features tend to include:

Selection of relevant behaviours

This usually consists of an inventory of 20-40 behaviours which are appropriate in the individual’s work. For example “Responds quickly to customer requests”, “Chairs meetings well by involving all participants”, etc.

Structuring the questionnaire

Issues to be assessed must be described unambiguously. A questionnaire will offer a spectrum of responses for each item from very poor to outstanding. It is important that there is also a “No comment” box, to be used when the assessor has insufficient opportunity to make a considered judgement on an aspect.

Selection of assessors

Typically 5-9 people are invited to be assessors. They need to have sufficient contact with the individual to make a useful comment.  They will include direct reports, colleagues at the same level, and perhaps one or two external people such as managers from partner organisations, key customers, etc. Good advice to the individual being profiled is “Do not involve either your best friend or your worst enemy!”

Briefing of assessors

It is crucial that all participants in the process understand how it will work, and that their anonymity will be respected so that they can be really constructive.  The briefing will be best carried out by whoever will coach the individual about the results – usually an external consultant who is an experienced coach.

Analysis of questionnaires

The completed forms will be analysed by an external agency who are able to summarise the results and to set them in the context of hundreds of other individuals who have gone through the process. The consultant/coach will do their homework and prepare detailed feedback.

Debriefing of results

The individual will have a private discussion with the consultant. This will focus on aspects where there is a significant difference in marking amongst  the various respondents, and between the individual and their assessors.  A personal development plan will be drafted which will address key findings.  Not all of the feedback will be negative!

Acknowledgment of the respondents

The individual should obviously thank all respondents and should give some indication of aspects on which they will concentrate. Some people like to go through the whole process again after a year, to establish what progress they have made. If a whole SMT have undergone the profiling, they may find value in drawing up a team development plan as well as their individual plans.

Useful links

Some providers of 360⁰ profiling include:

Page last edited Jan 15, 2019

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