360 feedback

Open with Caution...Do You Trust Me?

“I just don’t know where they are coming from” lamented Julie. “Of course I am trustworthy. How could they think I am not?” The tension in the room was rising as she was reading the summary of her leadership 360 feedback report.  

“I take good care of all of the people on the team, walking around asking about how they are doing. I ask about their kids and what they did fun over the weekend. I mean I work hard at showing genuine concern for them.”

Julie continued with simmering anger underneath her words. “I mean I don’t question them at all when they have to leave in the middle of the afternoon when the school calls and one of the kids are in the principal’s office sick and needs to be picked up immediately. In fact, I am actually proactive and tell them, ‘Go we will cover whatever you have to do, just go and take care of your family.’’’

As I listened to Julie struggle with the feedback, I sat back and said to myself, you know she does sound like she has care and compassion and a genuine concern.  But the 360 is saying that there are those on her team that do not trust her.

Where is the disconnect?

I reflected back on previous clients who also received feedback revealing trust as a potential issue in their leadership.

My thoughts turned to Tim whose team said that he was the most dependable manager anyone could ever have. If you ever needed anything all you had to do was ask Tim and he was there for you. Tim got great accolades for being reliable, whether you were in crisis or just needed to talk something out. Tim struggled when he was reading his 360 feedback and trying to process the disconnect between being dependable and reliable, yet being seen as not being fully trustworthy.

How is it that two leaders, one who is seen as showing concern, care, and compassion and the other who clearly demonstrates reliability and dependability both be seen as not being able to be trusted?

Well, it turns out that trust, or what those in our organizations perceive as trust, are rooted in two parts of our brain; our cognitive thinking, and our emotional feeling abilities.

Trust has, as a component of its formation, something called psychological safety. In order for your team to trust you, they need to both KNOW and FEEL that they are safe. Psychological safety is the portion of our being that says all is well. You can be free to be yourself. No harm is going to come to you, this is an open and judgment-free zone.

Experts have found this psychological safety is built on a couple of important foundations. The first is that the leader is able to develop cognition-based trust. This is the type of trust that Tim was giving himself such high marks for demonstrating. Tim indeed received excellent marks for being dependable and reliable. But something was missing.

And the second type, like Julie, who was perceived as not fully trustworthy by her team even though she was demonstrating strong affect-based trust abilities. These strengths are based on emotional bonds of care, compassion, and concern between people. Even though she demonstrated affect-based trust, Julie was missing something.

Well by now you have guessed it.

Julie was missing that cognitive-based trust from her team. While she was great at caring and demonstrating compassion, she was unreliable. She was often triple booked on her calendar and members of her team would need her support in meetings or presentations and Julie was nowhere to be found. Julie could not be trusted to show up.

And while Tim was a dependable manager who had an open door policy, walking into his office was another matter entirely. Tim, being an intellectual and (literally) the smartest guy in the room, would give people on his team the feeling they were insignificant by intimidating them, never asking questions, or showing empathy, just quick with an opinion on what should be done. Tim could not be trusted to care.

So what about you as a leader? Are you able to display both aspects of trust, cognitive and affective? Do you find yourself relying more on one and apologizing for the other?

Trust is a really big deal in leadership (blinding glimpse of the obvious here). Most leaders I meet would never say they are not trustworthy and they often will cite one aspect or the other of the psychological safety equation.

Which side do you lean toward? Cognitive or affective? Is it time you gave full consideration to what goes into driving trust with your team?

How Would You Answer This Great Question?

“How can I help my boss get better as a leader?”

This straightforward question was asked by a direct report of one of my clients as we were wrapping up our Leadership 360 interview (a series of open-ended leadership questions that help my clients get a clear picture of how their leadership looks to those around them). 


A First For Me

Now, I have been doing these structured Leadership 360 interviews for about 15 years,  over 700 of them in total.  No one, not one person, has ever asked me that question.  

It’s nothing against the other 700 folks, I just found it really interesting that this one dear person cared enough about her supervisor that she would want to know how she could be involved in her boss's development.

My Response

All of my coaching sessions are confidential, including the 360 report and development planning.  I wanted to answer her question, but I needed to be tactful as to not disclose what my client was going to work on.

So, I thought to myself, how do I respond in a way that is really helpful for her, without breaking any confidentiality I must maintain with my client?

Here's how I responded...

“I think the best way you can help your boss is by helping him be more self-aware. Now, this is going to require a level of trust on your part, and there could be some risk, so you need to ask yourself if you are willing to take the risk. If you are, then your boss has probably already in some way declared strengths, and things he would like to do better.”

She agreed, so I continued...

“Then help him see when he is doing it. Let's imagine he has told you he is a micromanager and wants to change. Perhaps in the midst of a project, at the appropriate time, you then say to him, 'You know, Jim, it feels to me right now like you are micromanaging me. Is that something you are intending to do?'”

She sat in silence on the phone for a seemingly endless pause.

“I can do that." She finally broke the silence. “Good,” I affirmed her. “Don’t feel like you have to change him, don’t feel like you have to coach him. Just help him see the times where he is doing something he wants to change.”

Helping leaders SEE the change they want to make is perhaps the biggest gift you can give to them.

What About You?

So many of us get caught up in our own development, but I’d like to encourage you to begin looking for ways you could support someone else with their development. Perhaps it’s shifting your focus from helping them solve the problem, to inspiring their awareness of the opportunity right in front of them.

If you feel encouraged and motivated by this post, try asking your leader how you support them in their development. Their response may surprise you and revitalize you in your own self-development journey.

Using Leadership Assessments with a Virtual Team

This article is the first in a four-part series for those who develop leaders to have more confidence and credibility.

Over the past 9 months at Livingston Consulting Group, we have been working on something pretty cool that I think many of you might find interesting, and possibly applicable to the leadership work that you do.

Here is Our Story

It all started with some conversations I was having with both my coaching clients and a few of the university students I teach in leadership development and executive coaching. At the end of my classes, I would get at least 3 emails from students saying something like, “I am getting a great education and will have a firm foundation for the direction I want my life to go. However, I feel like I am lacking the tools and resources to be successful.”

After having many phone conversations with these students about coaching, which often involved questions of process and procedure, coaching skill, sales and marketing, and practical development tools, I quickly saw needs and desires for leaders of all types:

  • those who coach others
  • those who shepherd others
  • those who counsel others
  • those who train others
  • those who consult with others
  • those who facilitate groups of others

The main message I heard as I talked with students and clients alike is that they desire to increase their credibility with those they serve. However, budgets are tightening, travel is becoming more restricted, virtual meetings are becoming a reality, and yet the leaders I talk with still lack quality tools to develop their followers.

Fast-forward to October of 2016: I am meeting with my virtual team (Brandi lives in Tampa, Angela lives in NYC, Michelle lives in Grand Rapids, Gretchen lives in Madrid, and Madison lives in Indianapolis,) and we are discussing Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. In the book, Christensen outlines his "theory of jobs" that details how organizations should decipher what job it is that they actually do for their customers.

As we are discussing this book, someone on the team asked, "So, what job are our customers really asking us to do?"

This was an easier question to answer in regards to the training and executive coaching that I do. But when it came to providing tools and resources to those who develop others we felt like…we were missing the boat.

So we worked on it.

And we decided that our mission and the job we perform is: to provide confidence and credibility to those who develop others.

The Next Step

I will not bore you will the details of launching this new endeavor, but the real highlight is that we will be offering certification in 4 new leadership assessments starting in April of 2017! Over the next few weeks, I will be giving you a peak into what these tools can do for you as a leader, as someone who develops leaders, or someone who is interested in becoming a leader.

Emerging Leader Profile 360

This week I will be highlighting an assessment called Emerging Leader Profile 360 Feedback (ELP 360.)

This assessment is an electronic 360-degree assessment for those in an organization who are showing leadership promise and want a development plan that takes them toward this vision. This tool allows their superiors, peers, and subordinates to give the emerging leader competency-based quantitative and qualitative feedback.

Click here to download a free sample of the Emerging Leader 360 Report!


Brandi’s Experience

Brandi has been on my team for about 18 months now. She is responsible for all of our internal operations. While she has been in leadership roles in the past, the experience she had was not as positive as one would hope. So we decided to provide her with the ELP 360 as she is quickly emerging as a real leader on our team.

I asked Brandi a few questions that I thought you might enjoy her response to:

What was your overall impression of the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

I was pleasantly surprised by the comprehensive evaluation of my leadership that the Emerging Leader Profile 360 provided. Not only was the feedback I received from my manager, peers, and direct reports insightful and helpful, but I also found the self-evaluation to be incredibly valuable as it forced me to slow down and really think about how I interact with my work responsibilities, my colleagues, our clients, etc.

How did you initially feel when I approached you about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

When I was approached about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360 I was both excited and a bit nervous. Self-evaluation of my leadership is one thing, but to open myself up to the evaluation of others on my team was a bit intimidating. Feedback is often the catalyst for growth, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn about my leadership from the perspective of those who work closely with me on a day to day basis.

What is the most significant thing you learned about yourself from this feedback?

The most significant thing I learned about myself from this feedback has to do with my confidence as a leader. Both my self-evaluation and the feedback I received showed that I tend to “panic” when confronted or challenged by others. In the workplace, there will inevitably be times of unavoidable confrontation. As a leader, it is important that I develop the confidence necessary to express my thoughts in a healthy way, even in challenging times, rather than shutting down or avoiding the conflict entirely.

How do you see this feedback accelerating your leadership abilities?

The insight from the 360 feedback has given me clarity around a few key areas where I can focus on maximizing my strengths as well as developing areas where improvement is needed. The feedback I received has given me a fresh and energized perspective and I look forward to the ways I will grow and develop my leadership as a result of this experience.

Brandi, thank you for your transparency in sharing what you learned about yourself and this process.

How about you, leader?

Do you need to have confidence and credibility with those you develop? If so stay tuned, we have more stories coming over the next few weeks, and in April you will be able to register to get certified in these exciting leader development tools!

What Is Your One Thing to Change?

My family loves to play games, and we have found a new one that everyone can play called Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride is a fast pasted game where you try to connect cities by building railroad routes. What I love about the game is its underlying premise. When it is your turn, you can do one thing and one thing only. You can:

  • Draw train cards
  • Draw route cards
  • Lay down trains
  • Discard route cards

The winner is the one who has a firm strategy to connect their cities with train routes, then implements this strategy by doing the best “next one thing." The ultimate goal is to gain the most number of points by completing route cards and trying to get a bonus for being the player with the longest train.

It is Nine Arch Bridge near Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

Sometimes it is in your best interest to draw train cards and sometimes you find yourself wondering if you should “waste” a turn by discarding a route card, which will count against your point total if you do not complete the route.

I receive no commercial endorsement from the publishers of the game, but if you are looking to build some family time this is an excellent game to do it, as long as the kids can tell colors and read cities they can probably play. (I will leave it up to your family culture as to what level of competition the game should take with young kids).

Application to Leadership

I love the idea of thinking about leadership as a game. Games change all the time. Different players have different strategies that constantly have an impact on your strategy and implementation.

With games in mind, I really like the Ticket to Ride approach of focusing on the "one thing" you will do that will make the most impact and be the most strategic that moment. What would be that one thing, one move, or one change? Let me give you an example of what I mean by telling you Bobbie's story.

Bobbie was a participant in a recent Emotional Intelligence 360 training program I facilitated.

In this program, Bobbie received feedback from

  • Her manager
  • 4 of her peers
  • 3 of her direct reports
  • 4 vendor partners she works with on a regular basis
  • 4 family members

Bobbie's feedback was centered around the Bar-On EQi 2.0, which is a trait assessment of emotional intelligence with 5 structured domains, each with three sub-competencies. (Domain: Sub-Competency)

  1. Self-Perception: Self-Regard, Self-Actualization, Emotional Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Expression: Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, Independence
  3. Interpersonal: Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, Social Responsibility
  4. Decision Making: Impulse Control, Reality Testing, Problem-Solving
  5. Stress Management: Optimism, Stress Tolerance, Flexibility

Here are the major takeaways from Bobbie's assessment:

  • Her strength was her interpersonal relationships and the level of empathy she shows.
  • She rated her level of self-regard much lower than her manager or her peers did.
  • The rating she gave herself showed that her self-regard was much higher than her assertiveness.
  • Everyone, including herself and her family, rated optimism as her lowest competency.
  • Her level of stress tolerance was significantly below where most leaders are, which is putting her at risk for derailing as a leader.

What To Do

Like most people who get any kind of 360 feedback, a feeling of being overwhelmed quickly came over Bobbie. In our one on one debrief of her assessment, she lamented what most do when trying to digest 360 feedback, “I don’t even know where to begin!"

This is a very common feeling when a leader is faced with feedback. Many times this feedback can be paralyzing, and not knowing what to change the leader will just “freeze” on the development and default to doing what they always do.

I said to Bobbie, who was pouring over the pages in her report trying to make sense of it all, “Let's put the report aside for a moment. Take a deep breath….and another one…and another one...let's just breathe for a minute and relax our minds."

As we did this, a sense of calm came over the room. Bobbie relaxed. (I even relaxed!)

I then asked her, “From all the feedback you received, what is the one thing your heart is telling you that needs to change?"

Why the Question

This becomes the fundamental question for leaders who get feedback and want to develop. What is your next step? What skill do you need to enhance or develop or initiate? How do you need to balance Emotional Intelligence competencies like self-regard and assertiveness?

Finding the one thing out of the myriad of options can bring a settling calm and a real peace about being able to achieve the objective.

In their book on change, It Starts With One, Black and Gregersen make the case that the individual must SEE the change before the change can ever happen.

Way too many people who get feedback never process what the feedback is saying or take the time to SEE it. They move right into action and never really embrace the change.

Do you know what your “one thing” is to move on in your leader development plan?

Note to my family: Look out! I have my Ticked to Ride strategy in place and plan on winning this weekend.


What is the “one thing” you are working on in your development? Have you taken the time to process and SEE the change you need to make? Are you actively working on intentionally developing yourself as a leader? Change is intentional and it takes one step at a time to win the game.

*If you want to know more about doing an EQi 360 feedback in your organization, or you want to do one for yourself, click here for more information and contact us today!