360-Degree Listening and Its Role In Leadership

Imagine being able to sit across from a team member and know when they are either unsuccessful with or indifferent towards a particular project or goal, even when they aren’t saying so. It will help you lead your team to know the types of work they became passionate about and are motivated to accomplish well. Harvard Business Review called this 360-degree listening.

What is 360-degree Listening and How Does It Work

360-degree listening is the process of collecting feedback from all around an individual, rather than just from that person directly. This type of feedback can come from a variety of sources, including supervisors, coworkers, subordinates, and even customers. The goal of this type of listening is to gain a more well-rounded view of an individual's performance, rather than relying on a single perspective.

Of course, listening to the individual themselves is also critical. A tactic known as "effective-listening" can also be utilized during this process. If you’re not familiar with active listening, it is a communication tool that helps you focus fully upon the individual you are speaking with rather than splitting your focus between forming opinions, coming to conclusions, or formulating a response. The practice involves listening to and then repeating the information you just heard back as you understand it.

360-degree listening is beneficial because it allows leaders to identify both strengths and weaknesses that may not be apparent from simply talking to the individual. Additionally, this process can help build trust between leaders and employees, as it shows that leaders are interested in hearing feedback from all sides.

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The Benefits of 360-Degree Listening for Leaders

360-degree listening is beneficial because it allows leaders to identify both strengths and weaknesses that may not be apparent from simply talking to the individual. Additionally, this process can help build trust between leaders and employees, as it shows that leaders are interested in hearing feedback from all sides.

A leader who is utilizing this type of listening will focus not only on what is being said but how - as well as what been left out. For instance, asking for an update on a project and receiving a quick one-sentence response can show not only a potential lack in meaningful progress but also a lack of passion for the project from the team member. Consider the response you would receive from a team member who was passionate about the outcome. Even if the project were not going well, they would be vocal about the changes needed or in their request for help. If it were going well, they would be eager to share updates on the progress and goals already achieved. Add to this your consideration of past interactions with the team member: times when they were passionate, keystone moments when their attitude or behavior may have changed. Doing this will allow you to develop more understanding of your team members and what motivates them to perform their best work.

360-degree listening can help improve communication within an organization, as it allows employees to feel like their voices are being heard. This process can also help create a more positive work environment, as employees will feel appreciated and valued. These benefits can also guard your organization against union organizing, bad press, and even costly legal fees. An employee serving under a manager who effectively listens is more likely to feel comfortable sharing struggles and issues within the company than looking to unions, government agencies, or lawyers. Good listening skills can also help increase productivity, as leaders will be able to identify areas where employees may need more support.

Not Without Its Difficulties

360-degree listening can be a valuable tool for leaders, but it is not without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges is collecting feedback from all around an individual. This can be difficult to do on a regular basis, especially if there are a lot of people involved. Additionally, it can be challenging to encourage honest feedback if employees feel like their voices will not be heard.

This listening practice is also time-consuming, as it requires leaders to collect and review a lot of data. This data can be difficult to interpret, especially if there are conflicting opinions. Finally, it can possibly create tension within an organization if employees feel like they are being constantly monitored. 


How to Use 360-Degree Listening in Your Own Leadership Style

This listening tool can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the organization. One way to use 360-degree listening is to collect feedback on a regular basis from employees, supervisors, and customers. This feedback can be used to identify areas of improvement for the individual and the organization as a whole.

Additionally, good listening skills can be used to create action plans for employees. By identifying strengths and weaknesses, leaders can develop strategies to help employees improve in specific areas. This may involve additional training or support from other team members. Finally, you can use this skill to create incentives for employees who are meeting or exceeding expectations.

Leaders who use 360-degree listening will find that they are better able to understand their employees and identify areas where the organization can improve. 


Tips for Implementing 360-Degree Listening in Your Organization

Implementing any new type of systems or practices within an organization comes with many challenges. Fortunately, we are given regular opportunities to improve our listening skills no matter what industry we work in. The key to getting better at listening, is to steadily make incremental improvements over long periods of time. Here are six tips for implementing 360-degree listening in your own organization:

  1. Set up a system for collecting feedback from all around an individual, including supervisors, coworkers, subordinates, and customers.
  2. Make sure to encourage honest feedback by creating a safe and open environment.
  3. Use the feedback you receive to identify both strengths and weaknesses of the individual.
  4. Develop action plans to help employees improve in specific areas.
  5. Use 360-degree listening to create incentives for employees who are meeting or exceeding expectations.
  6. Regularly review the feedback you have collected to identify trends and areas of improvement

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell writes, “If you’re in the habit of listening only to the facts and not the person who expresses them, change your focus -- and really listen.” This mindset will help you better understand how to motivate your team and ultimately how to become a better leader.


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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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