Don’t Fall Into The New Leader Trap

You’ve been promoted! After working hard to master your workload and impress your colleagues with your talent and dedication, you’ve been tapped to lead a team. Congratulations! Before you leap into your new role, though, take a minute to think about what a big transition this is. You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot, right? The impression you make on your staff and on your new peers in your new role is going to form the core of your future effectiveness. Here are 5 mistakes that new leaders make and how to avoid them.

  1. Keeping it too casual. The higher you climb up the ladder, the higher the expectations get. Everything from your appearance to your language will be judged for appropriateness, by people who want to be reassured that you are up to your new responsibilities. That’s not to say that you have to show up for work in a suit every day or never crack a smile. It does mean, however, that you need to make sure that you understand the culture where you work and that–because you’re the newest face in the leadership room–you make a little extra effort to exceed the mark, rather than falling short.
  2. Not cutting the cord. If you are now the leader of a team made up of your former peers, this applies to you. Although it may feel awkward at first, your job now is not simply to work beside them to achieve a common goal. Now it’s up to you to provide the vision and strategy for reaching that goal, and to provide whatever feedback is necessary to keep everyone focused and doing their best. Your first act of leadership must be to establish a new kind of relationship that allows you to remain accessible and open to your staff, while also prioritizing the relationships with your new boss and peers.
  3. Acting like you know it all. Even though you just got this promotion, and probably had to compete successfully against some pretty strong candidates to do it, you are still a newbie, and you have a lot to learn. Make sure you approach your new role with a student’s mindset. Ask lots of questions (and write the answers down or record them). Ask for feedback, and accept it gratefully even when it’s not what you want to hear. Make the most of your organization’s resources for management, on your intranet, in your HR coaching department, in books or online. The more learning you can do in these early months, while everyone around you knows you’re new and wants to help, the better.
  4. Being a perfectionist. It’s natural to want every detail to be just so when you start a new job. It can also make you crazy, which is not a good mindset for a leader. You will make mistakes. You will forget things. You will zig when you should have zagged. All of this is natural too, and dealing with it is part of leadership that no one likes to talk about. Be honest with yourself when you realize you’ve messed up, and look for the learning opportunity so you don’t make the same mistake twice. Be honest with your boss and with your team, too. It shows them that you hold yourself accountable and that they can trust you. You were promoted because you have the potential to succeed, which means accepting a learning curve and the challenges that go with it.
  5. Taking on too much too fast. Leadership is a many-layered project. Forming functional, healthy relationships with your team, learning the details of the goals and expectations you’re responsible for meeting, seeing the scope of the big picture and how your team/department/division fits into it, this adds up to a lot. In most organizations, leadership involves not only day-to-day management but additional engagement in special projects or cross-disciplinary or inter-departmental initiatives. Give yourself some time before volunteering for these, even if they sound fascinating. If you haven’t been assigned to anything beyond your day-to-day responsibilities after 6 months in your new position, have a chat with your boss to see where you could be most useful.

Being a new leader is exciting. You’ve earned the right to celebrate your achievement. Now the challenge is to conquer this new arena and become an effective part of the management structure in your organization. Avoiding these early pitfalls will make your journey far easier and more enjoyable.

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Avoid Rater Fatigue in Your 360 Feedback Programs

People are constantly being asked for feedback – from engagement surveys, to 360 feedback, to what type of coffee to stock in the breakroom – and this can take a toll on their willingness to provide feedback. Rater fatigue can lead to unfinished surveys, inconsistent ratings, refusal to provide feedback, and angry raters. If you’re considering any type of 360 Feedback initiative, make sure you’ve removed as many obstacles to providing feedback as possible before assessment invitations are sent.

Here are a few suggestions for preventing rater fatigue:

  • Make sure the raters have been properly prepped before you ask them for feedback. Let them know what they can expect, why they were chosen to provide feedback, and how their feedback is going to be used.
  • Only invite relevant raters. If the purpose is to receive feedback on a person’s work behaviors, make sure that only raters who have exposure to and have actually worked with the person are invited. It’s easy to invite raters from a subset of an organizational chart, but you might not be inviting the most relevant raters.
  • Be aware of rater overlap. If an entire team or department is taking part in a feedback initiative, there’s a high possibility that individuals will be asked to provide feedback for several people. For example, if a team with 10 members is asked to complete a 360 feedback initiative by providing feedback for each team member and a self survey, each person is being asked to commit time to complete 10 surveys within a short time period. Consider staggering feedback invitations so that people aren’t bombarded with 10 surveys at once.
  • Use a “right-sized” survey. Make sure the survey is long enough to cover the concepts to be measured, but short enough for raters to be able to make time to complete it. Using surveys that are too long will result in incomplete responses or no response at all. You must respect the time commitment of the raters to receive useful, complete feedback, and to avoid complaints from raters.
  • Use “role relevant” surveys. If an individual contributor, let’s say a software engineer, invites raters to provide feedback about their people management skills, raters might feel that the survey is not relevant, since the person is not currently a manager of people. You want to ensure the concepts being measured are tied to the person’s level in the organization and responsibilities they perform. One size does not fit all. Asking raters to answer questions about concepts that have nothing to do with the day-to-day role of the person being rated is just wasting everyone’s time.
  • Use high-quality surveys constructed by expert psychometricians. This helps ensure that the survey questions are easy to understand and easy to answer. Poorly written survey questions containing multiple concepts will result in rater frustration, lack of rater responses, and unclear feedback. Think bad data in, bad data out.
  • Leverage feedback results. The organization must be committed to leveraging the 360 feedback results through development plans, coaching, and training. Raters put forth time and effort to complete surveys, and when they see that nothing has changed as a result of previous feedback they have given, they will be reluctant to spend more time to complete future surveys.

These are just a few points to consider when trying to avoid rater fatigue. You can ensure program success with up-front planning and thoughtfulness toward the desired outcomes and the raters’ time.

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Researching 360 Degree Feedback Solutions


Choosing a 360 degree feedback vendor should be a deliberate and well-researched process. Today many 360 degree feedback companies are popping up overnight and creating 360 surveys with little experience in the field. Such companies may not offer sound products and services, resulting in a poor ROI and leaving a bad impression of 360 Feedback. This is unfortunate because 360s were created to generate positive change within an organization by focusing on confidential career development of its leadership talent. 360 degree feedback

Facilitating an environment that encourages self-development leads to job satisfaction and better performance for the company. This also minimizes turnover and the costs associated with replacing employees. Overall, 360s help assure that managers and leaders are being responsive to their teams and colleagues – uncovering needs that they otherwise might not have discovered without an effective 360 degree feedback program.

Consider the following as you begin your research.

  • Confidential development: To achieve a successful 360 feedback program, 360s need to be conducted for the right reasons. It should be used for developmental and not appraisal purposes. The two purposes are incompatible.
  • Quality 360 degree feedback tools: It can take years to develop and test a 360 that truly measures what it intends to measure. Assessments should be reliable and clearly focused, targeting the roles of organizations today.
  • Customization should be expected: The majority of organizations have their own unique needs whether it’s company culture, terminology, or a unique set of competencies. A quality 360 degree feedback vendor should be willing to customize 360 feedback assessments and processes to meet your organization’s needs, all while following best practices to ensure a successful 360 feedback program.
  • Experience does count: The old adage is often true, if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur. 360 assessments and the multi-rater process requires a unique set of variables that are best handled by a company that has experience with the many facets of 360 feedback and best practices.
  • Training and development: Make sure that follow-up training programs accompany the 360 program. This can be done through one-on-one coaching, or group facilitation. 360 feedback without training is seldom, if ever, successful. A good training program will increase the likelihood of a solid return on investment.
  • Guidance and Support: Consider seeking out a vendor that will not only give you the level of control you desire, but also help guide you through the entire process from beginning to end. A support team should be available to help manage the process, field questions, and address technical issues at any point in the process and in a timely manner.



A quality 360 feedback vendor should have subject matter experts on hand that specialize in competency building & analysis. Oftentimes, these individuals have a background in industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology, and can help ensure that the competencies being measured are relevant to the leadership roles being evaluated, as well as align with the client’s values and vision statement.

360 assessment items to consider.

  • Survey reliability: 360 degree feedback instruments need to be tested for reliability and validity. This means the 360 should measure what it proposes to measure, consistently and accurately. A well-researched instrument will also be normed against a statistically valid database
  • All questions are not alike: Survey questions should be clearly focused and specific around a particular set of skills, competencies, or behaviors. Competencies can be improved through proper training and coaching; personality attributes can be changed only through long-term counseling.
  • Anonymity: Rater anonymity is key to the success of a 360 feedback program. Ensure you are choosing an instrument that guarantees confidentiality (including the open-ended comments). Anonymity will lead to more honest and open feedback from the raters.
  • Don’t choose on cost alone: Low-cost is a false economy when purchasing a 360 feedback instrument. It takes years to develop a good one. There are many instant “experts” on 360 degree feedback that generate custom questionnaires overnight. View 360s as an investment in the organization’s future performance.
  • Reassessment: As useful as it is to take a 360 the first time, it’s the 2nd and 3rd times when progress can be measured. Choose a 360 program that allows you to compare scores over time, knowing that continuous improvement requires constant measurement.
  • Order is important: If competencies are randomly ordered there is a missed opportunity to capitalize on the importance of the work process sequence which is how competencies are commonly practiced. Organizing competencies based on a work flow sequence can help the participant prioritize development.
  • Customization should be expected: Assessments should be customized to meet your organization’s unique needs. Customization can be as simple as adapting an existing assessment, creating one from a library of competencies, or authoring one from scratch. It’s important to note that customization is common but it should be done while maintaining reliability of the assessment.




The PDF report has served the 360 degree feedback industry exceptionally well for decades. They can be full color with stunning visual displays of 360 feedback data and can also include development plans, resources and links. However, the length, density, and static nature of PDFs can sometimes present challenges to coaches and participants. PDF 360 feedback reports are linear, creating limitations, and sometimes sacrifices what should be shown in order to reduce length and file size.


360 feedback report dashboards give you the ability to sort and toggle between different types of scoring, and turn on or off data, giving greater control to the user and more data views than a PDF can allow. Having the ability to choose the data you want to focus on is one of the most important features that is usually inherent with reporting dashboards, giving way to a dynamic experience that is unique.

Consider the following dashboard features.

  • Drill down into score details from a summary level data view by simply clicking on data points
  • Easily turn rater groups on and off to tune out the noise and focus on specific sets of data
  • Toggle back and forth between scores and sort Highest to Lowest, Lowest to Highest, or by Competency order
  • Easily spot YOY development trends. Compare current scores with previous scores for each rater group, both at a summary level and question level
  • Many data views possible while the perception of length or size of the report is not affected.



There are many types of survey software available on the market. Some excel at performance management, while others focus on market research or customer satisfaction.

Choosing software built specifically for the 360 degree feedback arena will ensure you’ll have all of the flexible and robust features needed to support the administration and participant related tasks that are typical of managing development 360 degree feedback initiatives.

Administrative Features to Expect

  • Easy project setup and kick-off.
  • Deadline control at the group level or for individual participants.
  • Various ways to track participant and rater survey progress through the software or by email.
  • Rater approval by a supervisor, coach, or administrator, if needed.
  • Report delivery control by an administrator, coach, or facilitator.
  • Integrated credit system if you want to prepay without the hassle of invoicing.
  • Rights managed software, allowing for hands-off or hands-on control depending on your needs.

Participant Features to Expect

  • Each step of the feedback process is clearly defined through an intuitive interface.
  • Real-time return rates of rater completion to track progress and remind raters.
  • Online development planning to help ensure goal completion.
  • Development resources, if available, are easily accessed to help with development planning.
  • Custom “pulse check” surveys can be created focusing on competencies most important to the participant’s development goals.
  • Interface is translated in the most common languages.
The 360 assessment solution you choose should allow you to focus on your core business while the vendor focuses on theirs: serving up a reliable platform in a secure environment. The vendor should stay on top of the tech so you don’t have to. If you already have an existing Talent Management Platform, integration services should be available to provide seamless integration with the major platforms, as well as offer “Single Sign On” (SSO) capabilities.
The 360 survey software used should be fully secure and preferably in an environmentally controlled facility with enterprise grade network & application security. A comprehensive Security Management system should be in place that addresses all aspects of data privacy and security, including encryption, Intrusion Prevention & Detection (IPS/IDS), access control, and regular vulnerability testing.



When launching a new 360 degree feedback program, many companies focus solely on the 360 content and the technology (both critical factors) but too often fail to place sufficient attention on the actual design and implementation of the program itself.

Regardless of the quality of the assessment, the way in which a 360 program is designed and implemented will have a direct impact on the overall success of the initiative.

To ensure your 360 program provides maximum value, it’s important to focus on a few key components.

  • Agree on the fundamentals: The first step is to determine the key tenets of your 360 program. For example, what is the goal of your 360 degree feedback program? Will the 360 be required or optional? How will the results be used? What support or coaching will be provided to participants?
  • Find the right 360 feedback assessment: The focus here should be around reliability and relevance. Think: “One size fits none.” In the world of 360 feedback, custom surveys tend to perform best and at the very least you should look for level or role specific assessments. Ultimately, you want an assessment that is highly reliable and one that measures behaviors that are relevant to a given role.
  • Communication and Change Management: Preparing your population for a 360 is extremely important to ensuring the feedback is accurate and is acted upon. The goals of the program, the process, what the participant is accountable for, all these should be addressed in a communication plan.
  • The 360 Degree Feedback Process: It’s important to consider how the process itself will be rolled out and supported. For example, identifying process owners, key stakeholders and administrators helps structure the ownership of the program. The rollout itself should also consider other areas, like coordinating rollout volume with the availability of coaching resources, or to consider scheduled stages to avoid rater fatigue.
  • Leveraging the results: Perhaps the most critical component of a 360 degree feedback program is how the results are leveraged. Ideally, each participant receives one-on-one coaching either through an internal or external coach. Also consider requiring the participants to build an action plan and share it with their direct manager/supervisor. The organization should also review aggregate reports to identify broader trends and development opportunities.

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Managing Employees You Can’t See

Walk into any Starbucks or Panera and you will see people working, gazing intently at their laptop screens or talking animatedly on a conference call that no one else can hear. Working remotely–sometimes called telecommuting, teleworking, or working from home–has become enormously popular, and with good reason. It saves organizations the expense of pricey real estate and operating overhead, and it allows employees to work more flexibly, without long hours of commuting.

These advantages are significant enough that a Gallup poll in 2015 reported that 37% of American workers have worked from home. As with any workforce model, however, there are potential downsides that require careful attention from leaders who hire and manage these employees. These include compromised productivity, misuse of company resources like cars and computers and decreased employee engagement as a result of isolation. Professional development can also be difficult for a remote worker, who may not have robust networking and educational opportunities. If you lead a team of remote or partially remote staff, here are some suggestions for making your team productive, motivated and engaged.

Hire Wisely. If you are lucky enough to hire your own staff, focus on candidates who take pride in their initiative, problem-solving and ability to work effectively with minimal supervision. These are the qualities that define a successful remote employee. Candidates who need a lot of hand-holding or repeat explanations may not thrive in a remote environment.

Be Available. Leading a remote team requires a (virtual) open door from the beginning to the end of the work day. Tools like email and instant messaging allow you and your staff to communicate in real-time from your computers. Texting and phone calls allow you to stay connected even when you’re away from your desk or the wi-fi is down. Paradoxically, once your staff can trust you to be available when they need you, you are likely to hear less from them as they use that confidence to solve their own problems.

Talk out loud. It is more efficient, more fun and more effective to have a 15-minute team huddle every morning on the phone than to chase each member of your team individually, or try to get the whole day’s agenda into an email. Many organization’s networks now support video conferencing–some teams love this as it makes them feel more present and interactive, others can’t stand it. Either way, it’s a useful option. Platforms like WebEx make it possible to share documents and other screen content for your team and for them to interact by adding comments or asking questions. It’s easy to feel detached from your staff when you rarely see each other; a daily touchpoint is the simplest way to make sure everyone gets a chance to hear and be heard by the people they work most closely with.

Manage lightly. People want to work remotely because it allows them to integrate their personal and their professional lives. Whether you–the leader–work at home or in an office, remember how important this integration is to your staff. Team members who are highly productive, deliver high-quality work and are fully engaged should not feel that you are counting their keystrokes or monitoring to see how often they get up from their keyboard. As permitted by your organization’s policies and procedures, encourage your team to enjoy the advantages of working remotely while taking full ownership of their performance. Remote leadership is all about the quality and timeliness of the work, not micro-managing the worker. The time to focus on intensive staff monitoring is when spot checks reveal a problem.

Managing a successful remote team requires strong communication skills, clear vision, creativity, and flexibility. Using the tips above will allow you to model the behaviors you want to encourage, while bringing out the best in your staff.

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How to Communicate Effectively

You’ve probably heard about the magic that is supposed to happen when you practice Management by Walking Around. This is a term coined by management guru Tom Peters in the 1980s when he noticed that good managers communicate a lot better with their teams than do bad, or even average, managers. And they do it in informal ways, like hanging around in the office and chatting with team members instead of having formal interaction sessions in their offices or boardrooms. Strong communication between manager and staff tends to lead to strong productivity.

The idea of Management by Walking Around is to listen more than you talk. Listening to the people who are doing the work—and struggling with a problem of one sort or another–provides you with a level of understanding that you probably wouldn’t get any other way. Steve Jobs used to respond to a huge number of customer complaints and questions so he could understand what problems people were having with Apple’s software and hardware and do something about them.

Listening is the first part of effective communication. Then, after you hear and understand what others are saying to you, you will need to speak or write back to them. These communications should be clear, to the point, and focused on the goals your team is trying to achieve.

Communicating effectively is at the heart of good management. Good managers can communicate goals and other instructions so clearly that their team members understand what they are expected to do and, if necessary, how to do it, as well as when the project is due and how their work will be evaluated. Good managers are also able to listen to problems or concerns and respond appropriately to help team members achieve their goals.

If communicating effectively is not your strong suit, here are some tips you might consider:

  • Find opportunities to listen to people from all levels of the organization. The higher up you are in the hierarchy, the more difficult this could be. But it’s worth the trouble. Chat with people, ask them what kinds of problems they are having at their jobs, and listen carefully to what they say. Work on not thinking about your reply while they’re still talking, but wait until they are finished before you decide how to respond.
  • If speaking in front of a group is a problem for you, consider enrolling in a class in public speaking or even taking an improv class. Your aim isn’t to be funny, but to be able to respond in the moment to questions or comments without getting flustered. Practice your speech in front of a mirror, or get someone who will be kind to critique it before you present it. Good speakers are not born, but made, through practice practice practice.
  • If writing is a problem for you, ask someone who is good at it to help you craft your written messages. These, too, will get better with practice.
  • It’s a lot more effective to deliver difficult messages in person, or even on the phone, than through email. When you communicate directly with people you can judge their reactions, respond immediately to any concerns, and convey the exact tone that you want. While it might be faster to send out an email, your message may not be as convincing or effective as it would if you took the time and effort to communicate it in person.
  • To make sure that your audience understands your message, ask them to summarize, in their own words, what they thought they heard you say. Use this opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings. The people to whom you were speaking might have been thinking about how they were going to respond instead of listening carefully to your words. When they realize they may need to repeat the message back to you, they will listen even more carefully in the future. And you will reap the benefits.

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