Peer Feedback Around Assertiveness, Attentiveness, Authenticity, and Accountability Can Cohere Executive Teams

Peer feedback around authenticity, attentiveness, assertiveness, and accountability can cohere executive teams. And peer feedback can create the conditions required to clarify roles, align priorities, and ultimately drive higher performance.

The challenge facing most teams is the crisis of trust

When there is trust, there is creativity, innovation, and inspiration. People have each other's back. They provide feedback - and I'm not referring to the often gratuitous annual performance review. Trust is built on a culture where feedback is welcome. This may be daily or monthly, but an always accessible, always welcome conversation to drive higher performance. 

The simple fact is most teams lack a safe and effective way of giving and receiving feedback. Triangulation, rescuing the victim, avoidance and other pathologies emerge simply because teams have not agreed that it is ok to provide feedback. 

The key to unlocking this problem is to set up some rules

My colleagues and I call these rules the four ways-of-being, or the Four A's. This post is about how apply the Four A's to provide direct developmental feedback to others and to yourself.

Feedback Can Stabilize Teams

I was recently working with the senior leadership team at a very successful medical device company. Their business was going great. The problem was that the team atmosphere had gotten so bad that even the CEO didn't enjoy working with his team.

During an alignment workshop we had team members give each other direct peer feedback using the Four A's. As a result, we were able to transform the working atmosphere of the team from de-energizing to energizing. One team member later described his experience with peer feedback as "deeply moving." He later wrote us an email saying that the experience had created a new team.

The approach was to have peers give each other direct feedback on the following scales. For example, a team member might receive these scores from her peers:

  • Authenticity Level = 2
  • Attentiveness Level = 3
  • Assertiveness Level = 3
  • Accountability Level = 3.5

Notice, that in this approach peers are giving each other direct face-to-face feedback. In the room. Together. This is not 'safe,' not feedback filtered through a 360 form where people can avoid taking accountability for the development of others. There is a place for anonymity, but not if the goal is to create a culture of effective feedback.

Some guidelines:

  • In general, leaders who score higher on the Four A's have greater influence, are able to more quickly reestablish trust after set backs and bring out the best in those around them.
  • Think of these scales as cumulative. For example, you cannot get a three on a scale unless you are also competent on levels 1 and 2.
  • Avoid grade inflation. Leaders that get all '5s' from their peers are rare and exceptional. Think about leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.
  • A useful question to ask as you try to assess someone against these scales is: at what level on this scale is an individual's developmental edge?
  • A person's developmental edge is the competency that they most need to work on in order to get to a higher level of performance.
  • Use the Four A's to measure your team as a whole. This can be particularly powerful in driving a conversation around Accountability.

The Four As

There is a lot of depth to each of the scales below so read them carefully.

Levels of Authenticity

Authenticity is the ability to act with integrity towards your deepest understanding of yourself through the role(s) you play. 

Lowest

  1. Protects Themselves from Feeling Vulnerable
  2. Communicates Their Feelings and Discomfort
  3. Communicates Their Hopes and Aspirations
  4. Is Able to Depersonalize and Take Responsibility for Own Limitations and Blind Spots
  5. Lives Courageously Always Expanding Their Developmental Edge
Highest

Levels of Attentiveness

Attentiveness is the ability to think beyond one's self and role(s) to understand the world in ever-broader contexts.

Lowest

  1. Sets Goals to Be Successful In Their Role(s)
  2. Measures Tangible Results To Avoid Mistakes
  3. Seeks to Understand Other's Intentions and Experiences
  4. Helps to Make Collective Goals More Clear
  5. Is Sought to Explain Emerging Possibilities

Highest  

Levels of Assertiveness

Assertiveness is the ability to advocate and create a compelling way forward.

Lowest

  1. Prevents Solutions that Endanger Their Interests
  2. Creates Solutions that Work for Them
  3. Helps Others to Create Solutions
  4. Innovates Solutions that Resolve Constraints in Larger Contexts
  5. Embodies a Worldview that Inspires And Transforms

Highest  

Levels of Accountability

During the workshop, we did not have team members give peer feedback around "accountability", the fourth of the four-As. We have learned that unless a high level of trust has been established, peers may not be able to effectively give each other direct feedback around accountability. Accountability is just too potent or implicating as an assessment dimension. Instead we had the team members assess the accountability of the team overall. Here is that scale: Accountability is the competency to play roles as expected.

Lowest

  1. Accountable for Self  -- Not to Role(s)
  2. Accountable for Keeping Commitments as Defined by Current Role(s)
  3. Accountable for Playing a Role as a Leader, Who Is a Source of Results
  4. Accountable for Playing a Role Developing Others as Leaders
  5. Accountable for Playing a Role in the development of a Larger Context
Highest  

Next Steps

To apply these scales to yourself ask these questions:
  • Do I believe that that people who rate higher on the four-As are more effective in their lives?
  • Do I believe that I would be more effective in my life if I were to rate higher on the four-As?
  • Where do I think my developmental edge is on each of these scales?
  • Where do other's tell me my developmental edge is?
  • What choices would I need to make in order to increase my effectiveness?
  • In order to implement these choices, what help will I need to ask for from others?
  • In order to implement these choices, what would I need to risk?

Please post comments about your experience giving and receiving feedback. And, please provide you thoughts about the Four A's. 

If you are interested in taking your team through this, contact us. There are pitfalls to avoid in all team development work. We'll help you navigate.

Here are some links:

5 Ways For Leader To Listen Harder

A New Approach

Why 360 Feedback Doesn't Work