360 Reaction

plasmaClergy often have a difficult time getting genuine feedback on their leadership style. Some members of the congregation just want to shower love on their pastors. These people offer platitudes and compliments that are at best benign, and at worst misleading. Other members want to deposit all of their dissatisfaction at the feet of clergy, so they dish out big servings of criticism and critique. What’s a clergy leader to do, to get meaningful, growth producing feedback?

 I often challenge senior clergy to engage in a facilitated process of 360 degree feedback. When done well, facilitated 360’s provide a safe, open and healthy environment for clergy, their staff and their lay leaders to talk about effective leadership.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Center for Creative Leadership  to become certified as a facilitator of their Benchmarks 360 instrument.  In order to become certified I had to personally experience the tool. So, I invited 5 of my peers, my supervisor and 3 other colleagues to provide me with feedback on 16 dimensions of my leadership style. All of their work was done online and they were promised anonymity (with the exception of my supervisor).   I decided to pay close attention to my own reaction to the feedback process so that I could better coach clergy leaders on their reactions. Here’s what I noticed:

 Day 1: I’ve been trained in how the instrument works and I’m getting ready to receive my own results. There is an anxious pit at the bottom of my stomach. Once I take this report into my hands and open it, there is no going back. I will no longer be naïve about my leadership style. What people really think about me is going to be there in black and white.

 On Getting the Results: I open the front page…Phew, the overall results are strong. I can relax. This isn’t going to be a disaster.

Day 2: I’m feeling good about the overall ratings and start to engage some of the more subtle nuances…and now I’m getting disturbed. I’m pretty sure I know who said that about me (even though we’re told not to try and guess who said what). Some of the more subtle feedback is not stuff that I really want to hear. In fact, I think that some of this stuff isn’t valid at all. These people don’t know what they are talking about and some of these categories just don’t apply to my work. I’m prepared to dismiss big chunks of the feedback.

Day 3: Okay, on further reflection this does seem pretty valid and I can even imagine the circumstances that some of my colleagues called to mind while answering these questions, but I’m a little angry with them for thinking these thoughts of me.

 Day 4: Acceptance. I begin to imagine conversations that I might have with my colleagues to get clarity on this feedback. And I’m beginning to imagine developmental steps that will help to strengthen my leadership presence. I like my colleagues again, and I’m grateful for the risk they took in giving me honest feedback.

 In retrospect, the whole experience is like a mini-grief process. There is loss in letting go of a previous self-image, followed by denial, anger and finally acceptance that leads to something more.  Note to self: remind clergy leaders to allow 4 days to let the feedback sink in before taking action.

Photo Credit: dmmaus


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