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How Stars Win Redemption after a Painful 360 Review


During a coaching call about a year ago – the kind we have in CSuite Accelerator – a client was telling me about the follow-up to a difficult conversation he had to have with his direct report, the Chief Information Officer. The CIO – a Star performer, in general – had alienated a lot of colleagues and staff.

The substance of the critiques was from multiple sources and was atypically uniform. So, it didn’t feel like a few stray opinions or politically motivated gossip. At the suggestion of HR, my client, the CEO, drew up and delivered a 360-degree feedback report to the CIO.

My client had dreaded it. In fact, we’d spent the better part of a session strategizing on how to deliver it in a straightforward yet non-wounding way. He couldn’t afford to lose or even alienate this star. The role had been so hard to fill.

Even Star Performers Are “Lopsided”

Let’s get underneath this.

Even if you’re a star performer, you’re probably still lopsided as far as your strengths are concerned. We all are.

At some point you will probably get a 360 that says you’re too far over to one side or the other:

  1. On the one end you’re Micromanaging, or on the other, you’re overly distant;
  2. You jump too quickly into solutions, or on the other hand, you take too long to make a decision;
  3. You’re too firm, versus you’re too malleable; or
  4. Others see you as too serious and cold, or alternatively, too informal and warm.

The list can go on from there. And I don’t know what yours is going to look like. But, there will be a list.

How You’ll Probably React:

There are predictable reactions people have when they hear this from their boss or see it in print:

  1. Feel exposed – “I thought I was hiding that”
  2. Feel dumb – “People think I’m an underperformer”
  3. Feel betrayed – “I can tell who said what in this document”
  4. Feel disoriented – “This stuff used to work for me; it doesn’t anymore?”

And, then there are the predictable things people DO once feeling this way:

  • They Quit and Leave. They assume it’s over, call the headhunters and hit the streets.

Or, worse …

  • They Quit and Stay. They get angry, defensive, and disengage.

And that’s a big mistake with a heavy cost. Namely, any hope for an executive career in the current organization.

How Stars Win Redemption

By contrast, here’s what stars do: They nurse their wounds, correct their course, seek redemption, and win.

Here’s how they do that:

  1. Shift Mindset

They shift their mindset. They unsentimentally accept the feedback. You know Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief? Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They go straight to acceptance. This isn’t a tragedy. It’s a minor setback.

They don’t assign blame. They truly live by the NLP maxim: “There is no failure; only feedback.”

  1. Plan

They plan. They go about their rehabilitation as they would any project. They scope the goals and milestones, ask for resources, and hold themselves accountable.

  1. Execute

They Execute. They just do it. They block the time and they work the plan.

  1. Close Feedback Loop

Finally, they come back for more Feedback to see how they did.

Modeling the Behavior:

And that brings us back to our Chief Information Officer.

As I mentioned, my client was dreading delivering the feedback. And so imagine how stunned he was at his CIO’s reactions. While embarrassed, the CIO never denied or defended himself. He listened. He took it in. He thanked his boss. And, he then proceeded to redeem himself with the steps I just laid out. It’s been a year now, and he’s one of the most respected leaders in the organization.

So what I want to know is, in light of what we discussed today, what are you going to do if and when a painful 360 is delivered to you. Leave me a comment.

I hope you’ve found this useful. If you like it, share it with your colleagues or someone else you believe might benefit.

Corporate VP’s: If you want to learn more …

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