One of my favorite leadership lessons from John Maxwell, guru in leadership development, is that we all have blind spots. According to Maxwell, a blind spot is “an area in the lives of people in which they continually do not see themselves or their situation realistically.” Blind spots usually refer to areas where we misinterpret our ability and are “blind” to the negative implications that has on others. All of us have blind spots…thinking that we don’t is a blind spot!

This reminds me of driving a car. You become keenly aware of blind spots when a vehicle ahead of you starts veering into your lane, unaware that your car is within inches of his back tire. On the road, we can alert a driver who is caught by a blind spot by tapping (or pressing compulsively) on the horn. Too often, though, in our careers, we do not receive this kind of immediate and auditory feedback.

One effective way to identify our leadership blind spots is to conduct a 360 Leadership Survey. This is a powerful professional development tool, designed to positively impact a leader’s growth and the organization’s overall performance. The most effective 360 degree surveys are customized to measure the leadership competencies most important to achieving your unique strategy. The best ones also allow you to choose/edit survey questions to reflect your organization’s values and priorities. A customized 360 degree survey tool is one of the most impactful and beneficial developmental gifts you can provide to your leadership team. Recipients gain insight about how others view both their strengths and their leadership gaps.

We want to share some of the benefits of conducting a 360 degree survey:

1. Identify strengths leadership effectiveness. The multi-rater report provides 360-degree feedback regarding the capability and strengths of those assessed. Participants learn what they do well and should continue doing within the organization to achieve success.

2. Identify development need. Anonymous and confidential 360 feedback provides a safe haven for management, colleagues, direct reports, and customers to provide developmental feedback. Positioned within a safe environment, feedback helps grow awareness and performance.

3. Provide anonymous and confidential feedback from those above, below and peers/customers of the leader. Often leaders are perceived well at one level of the organization, but less favorably at another. For example, the boss may evaluate a participant very well, but direct reports or customers may have a less favorable impression of the participant’s leadership ability. 360-degree information grows and develops balanced and well-rounded leadership capacity.

4. Align corporate goals and individual capacity. Individual performance drives organizational success. A well designed 360-degree survey defines the key attributes required for leadership success in your organization. When participants get accurate and honest feedback about their leadership effectiveness, they are better equipped to leverage their strengths and develop any performance gaps. A 360-degree survey alleviates blind spots and gives every team member a fair chance to thrive as a leader.

To get off to a great start in 2011, we recommend that you conduct a 360-survey with the leaders in your organization. This process is not complex or costly, but it results in a much more effective leadership team and organization.

Copywrite protected January 2011, Diane Brown, TJ Associates