Successful 360 degree feedback using Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is at the core of 360 degree surveys that are based on Leaderskill’s Leader/Manager Model™. In essence, AI revolves around the premise that what you focus on grows – if you highlight and draw attention to someone’s strengths, they are likely to develop.

Conversely, if you constantly bring up someone’s problems and flaws, these will only compound over time. It’s clear to see then why there is such a big push towards this positive psychology approach to manager feedback, with the focus on developing leaders’ skills to outweigh their shortcomings.

The brainchild of David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva, the theory of Appreciative Inquiry is summarised by Satoris Culbertson with three key principles that illustrate just how these ideas are applied for more constructive leadership development.

Principle One: People are drawn towards the positive.

A positive image of the future is what draws us.

Leaderskill’s 360 degree feedback surveys ask specifically where we should do more of good management practices, and for positive feedback – where do you think this person has strengths?

This is the kind of feedback that encourages people to improve.

Principle Two: Thoughts and words create worlds.

It is what we can think about and imagine that becomes our reality.

The language of the surveys is not judgemental (‘good’ and ‘bad’; ‘strong’ and ‘weak’) but based on clearly stated good practice behaviours for managers and leaders. The scale asks for ‘more’ or ‘less’ of them.

Principle Three: You create the world you pay attention to.

It is what you focus on that you get. A focus on problems brings more problems. A focus on a better future helps achieve it.

The Leader/Manager surveys™ don’t judge or threaten, hence the information is readily accepted by managers and debriefing of the profile is not about past mistakes but about future goals and developments. Errors either are corrected along the way or raised specifically later.

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