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Hello everybody! This is Human Capital, a GoalSpan podcast, and I'm Jeff Hunt. Human Capital is the place where I interview top business thought leaders to uncover the deeply human aspect of work. I'm excited to introduce my guest today Dale Rose. Dale is the president and co-founder of 3D Group. 3D Group is a consulting firm with deep expertise in improving workplace effectiveness, using employee feedback for leaders.
They recently celebrated 25 years as a company and also publish the sixth edition of current practices in 360 feedback, which is a comprehensive, benchmarking study on industry practice. Their impressive client list includes PepsiCo Abbott, Shutterfly, GAP, Cardinal health, and Dale is author and co-editor of the new handbook of strategic 360 feedback from Oxford university press.
And he is a proud al nus of DePaul University, where he received his PhD in industrial-organizational psychology. Dale regularly coaches C-level leaders and supports organizations by designing effective feedback processes that align with business goals. Welcome Dale.
Thanks, Jeff. Excited to be here.
It's great to have you here. And, as we get started, you know, we're in the midst of the holidays and I, for those people that are listening, our listening audience, instead of our viewing audience, I have to point out your amazing shirt because you've got an incredibly festive holiday shirt on.
'Tis the season, you know, you got to have a little holiday cheer.
Topic 1. What inspired you to go into business? (01:57)
Exactly. Well, that says it all. So for those of you that are interested, you can pop over to YouTube and take a look there. So, Dale, once again, thanks for coming on. I'm going to get us started with a common question. I like to ask all guests that come on the show and it's who, or what inspired you to go into business way back when.
Way back when indeed when we were putting 19 in front of the year, well, it was interesting. I think it was, uh, kind of a combination of things. One of the biggest factors was, my manager, actually two managers at the time that I had in work that I was doing, inspired me. One was they were kind of opposites in many ways.
One I'll just use a fictitious first name, but one's name was Steve and Steve was a really interesting, IO psychologist, very committed to high-quality work. I remember vividly one point where there was someone being a little flippant in our team about some decision that was being made and. He was just dead set on the fact that what we were doing impacted lives.
He was very clear that when you're hiring people, people. People are getting jobs and people are not getting jobs and you needed to take it. Really. I was just very inspired by the commitment to the impact and the meaning of what we were doing. And I was really, I worked many 70 hour weeks for him and didn't think twice about it.
I had another, boss hall, I'll call John who maybe was the other direction. We would frequently be, and it was a consulting firm and he would, we would frequently be in client meetings where he would promise things that couldn't be done, he was often looking for sort of shortcuts, and it was really clear to me, which of these two, I was more interested in.
And I didn't want to follow a career in which I didn't have a lot of control over that. So, I knew that I wanted to kind of do my own thing in that regard. I had my own sense of direction, and then I got a lot of referrals. From my, professors, when I was in grad school, actually I started this business when I was in grad school.
I kept getting referrals to do outside work and it was ended up being a lot of data-oriented stuff in 360 feedback and employee surveys. I really loved it, and it would just sort of emerged when you mix that together with, my father who is an accountant, so of course he was very good at helping me file my taxes and pointed out quite quickly that I had a business.
And I thought I was just paying rent, you know? It kinda got set up that way and it just became really easy to kind of fall through, just follow my passions and, you know, one thing led to another, and here we are 25 years later and doing surveys around the globe.
Yeah, it's really impressive how you've grown the business over that time and the impact that you've had on the organizations that you've, that you've worked with because it is very, very significant. So, you must be proud of that.
I am. Yeah. It's gratifying to know that the work we're doing is high quality with the kind of impact that, that Steve inspired us toward.
Topic 2. The 3D Group. (5:17)
Well, tell us a little bit more about the 3D Group and sort of, you know, your practice, how you work with your clients, etcetera.
Yeah. So, the 3D group is focused on fueling leader success through employee feedback. So our kind of core mission, if you will, is to help, in that space between a manager and the people that work for him or her and around him or her. To understand the impact they're having on those people.
And we're very good at so 360 feedback is one of, kind of our core practices, but it's a lot of, a lot beyond the data, right? So the DS and 3D Group are data-driven decisions. The idea being that. A leader should be using data from their employees and the impact they're having on employees to guide their development and their growth and the decisions they're making about how to move their unit, their division, their organization forward.
So it sounds like, you know, the core offering is really empowering leaders to make better decisions based on the feedback. That they've received and really doing it in an intentional way that is founded and undergirded by data.
Yeah, that's right. I think you know, really leaders often don't know the impact they're having on the people around them.
And so learning that, but not just understanding it right. That's always the first. Oh, wow. I didn't think I was micromanaging, but apparently, I am. Okay, great. Well, that's not enough. Now we work closely with that leader to understand it, but then also to create a plan around how to change the behavior and, an opportunity to be accountable for changing that behavior over time.
So, it's gotta be more than the desk drop you can't just get some feedback and then go, okay, great. Now I get it. You really have to, you know, 360 feedback is really about change. It's about changing leader behavior for the better.
Topic 3. What is a 360 and why is it used? (07:22)
Yeah. Okay. And for those listeners that are really less familiar with three sixties because my business is in the performance management space and I'm still amazed at how frequently I find people don't truly have a sense of what a 360 is and why it's used. Can you sort of take us down to the lowest common denominator and give us. Sort of a thumbnail description of the 360 and why, why it's used.
Yeah. So we've got a really long definition, our book, the handbook that you mentioned, but I'll boil it down a little more simply, 360 feedback is really about getting leaders, honest, behavioral feedback, on behaviors that link to strategic the strategic direction of the company.
So in the best scenario, the company creates a leadership model that lists out here are the behaviors we need our leaders to exhibit. And then leaders are getting honest feedback on a rating scale. Usually, one to five based on our research. That gives them an idea of how well they're doing and where they might prioritize their development to be more effective.
And also to understand where their strengths are. A lot of times leaders don't understand their strengths and that's a common misconception is that it's just about the gaps. This is really more about understanding your impact as a leader and then making adjustments accordingly. But again, and the key components I would say are.
Content that's relevant. You gotta have ratings, people talk a lot about interviews being 360. I've. Written and talked at length about how that's not the case. Interviews are not 360 feedback. They're valuable stakeholder interviews are valuable, but it's a different thing, and I could go at length, but again, the writing might be a better source.
And they need to be able to allow you to compare different Raider groups. So one of the things we know is that your boss sees you differently than your direct reports sees you differently than your peers. Sees you differently than yourself and understanding those different perceptions is how leaders get better.
Topic 4. How rater bias informs 360 feedback. (09:41)
Got it. Okay. And so one of the things that immediately comes to mind for me as you've shared, is the challenge that comes up in performance management processes, which is around bias. And so can you talk for a few minutes about. How organizations can prevent bias from creeping into 360 processes.
Yeah, so interesting, one of the chapters I wrote is about whether three sixties are a criterion or a predictor. And at the core of that is, is an interesting notion of, you could argue that in 360 is what we're trying to do is actually capture bias. We're actually, what we want to do is understand the perception of others.
Walt wrote a really great article on this in 1994, about the notion is that when you look at the data, if you see data well, I'll use the example of micro-managing. So, I see the data that says, okay, I've got six direct reports and two of them say are micro-managing okay.
Am I micromanaging or not? Right. Well with two people I am maybe right. They at least perceive it that way. From a leader's perspective. I need to understand that in order to be able to figure out how to dial that delegation correctly, it could be that those are two poor performers that need close handholding, and they feel like they're being micromanaged.
And don't understand that they're poor performers, which is why they're getting so much attention. It could be that I'm actually over-controlling them and they're doing great. And I need to understand that and get better at it. So, what we're really trying to do is to capture people's perceptions and then work with a leader to understand that and shift their behaviors.
I think in performance management, you're tending to want a more objective view, you know, is this person micro-managing, globally and what judgments do we make about that? And so that's on the assumption that there is a quote-unquote true score of whether they're a micromanager or not. I think a 360 feedback process is typically going to be.
Looking more at it as a situational sort of a moment in time. That's an interaction between, the people that are providing the feedback and the people about whom the feedback is related. So it's a slightly different purpose which shifts the interpretation. I will say that bias in the sense of, retribution or, you know, raiders trying to kind of do a gotcha on a leader, that kind of thing.
We do work pretty hard to, to educate, raiders about making, you know, wide-ranging using the whole scale and being honest. And, we’ve got some mechanisms to kind of detect when leaders, I remember one leader, it was actually the CFO of a company, provided ratings that were all ones or all fives. So, we caught it and we went through and looked and. Sure enough, he, in this case, had rated all of his peers either as a one or as a five on every single behavior. Well, clearly this is not an authentic, honest response. He's trying to manipulate the system, he wasn't too happy when I called him and let him know that he was going to need to do his surveys over.
Topic 5. Implementing a successful 360 process. (13:14)
Yeah, that makes sense. And I think one of the things I'm, I'm reflecting on as you share that, is there are really a lot of subtle nuances that exist with the 360 and the nuances being the example you gave of the two employees that may feel like they're being micromanaged, but the associated reasons which may or may not justify the manager's behavior in that particular case.
So it seems as though there's some complexity and I guess one of the things I'm wondering is. Do you advise, like in your case, you're working with organizations on both the consultative capacity. So you're coaching these leaders. You're also working with them, to produce the reports and the data that help them make these decisions.
There are thousands of organizations worldwide that run 360s without any consulting assistance and so, is that problematic? Can you do that effectively? Does it require certain training? Share a little bit about that?
Yeah. So, the scale is the tricky part, right? So at the executive level, You're going to end up with someone, from our farm talking to you and walking you through the data, frontline supervisor, at Pepsi, is not going to get that experience.
So I think one of the things, just as an example, of one of the things that are important, is, that when you recognize you're going to scale there, you need supporting tools. So interpretation guides. You need, simple, clear behaviors. It shouldn't be that hard to read your report. Really some, 360s you see. It's just unbelievable.
I mean you spend an hour and a half just explaining how to read the report, let alone what it actually means. And so simple reports, clear, you know, and then guidance on here's what to do with this, with maybe some resources. We can put development suggestions, for example, in the reports.
There are some advice and guidance right there. So, you just have to think about that follow-up process and do some things that are a little bit more scalable. You know, not maybe as high impact, but at scale, if you're doing thousands and thousands, you know, the net ROI is going to be quite strong for the organization.
And it's still a valuable resource for those leaders. I think the one thing that I see as a resource or an opportunity, for just to say that frontline supervisor is really to let their manager who's maybe a director or something like that. Be that resource for, Hey, I'm trying to figure this report out and what do I do with it?
I'm being told I'm a micromanager, but I kinda need to, it's an opportunity for their manager to actually have some structured conversations around developing talent with their, with their direct report. So that's often the way, instead of an external person, that's either going to be their manager, maybe an HR person who's been trained, that sort of thing.
That makes sense. I was just going to suggest that HR, it seems as though HR could play a very supportive role in making sure managers are educated and have those tools and resources that you described to run a process that's really effective.
Yeah, your frontline HR partners are absolutely critical, and they can make a huge difference and it can be a great opportunity for one of those managers to pick up some skills on coaching and developing and some of the soft side of HR. I will say again at the top of the organization, not recommended so much, I've talked to many CHRO. Very clear that they didn't want to be coaching their peers.
That makes sense. Yeah. That would be a little complicated.
Topic 6. Two excellent case studies. (17:11)
Well, Dale share with me a couple of case studies. If you will, around 360s, can you share one that had obviously removing names, but one that had an excellent outcome that was extremely, valuable change-oriented, improved the situation, and maybe one that did not go so well and why?
Got it, so the first one's easier to get than the second one, but I think I can come up with a couple. So, one that comes to mind, is a, very well-recognized university. Kind of, you know, a household name. We worked with their, their IT department. So for four levels of leadership within their IT department, from the CIO all the way down to frontline managers. And when we got there, they're very collaborative.
They were very, it was a university setting, they would kind of go-to the customer. They were not very business-oriented and the way they were set up financially, it was a recharge kind of set up, into, for internal, fees, and stuff. It was, they were really struggling from a business standpoint, they were burning a lot of money and not getting enough results. And they wanted, and the CIO wanted to shift them into a more sort of business-oriented perspective, where they were more the experts. And so we started working with them and built out of 360 to give their managers feedback at all levels. And it was a typical process where we customize the content to meet the goals.
We implemented the survey with an introduction to the process. So the managers knew what they were getting into. There's some Raider training, they met with a consultant, a coach for an hour, after they got the report and then we met with the CIO, once we worked from the bottom all the way to the top, met with the CIO on his feedback, and then could talk to him about what was going on in the leadership group. Still very confidential. We weren't sharing details of any conversations, but we could point out where there were pockets of resistance, where there were parts of the organization that were really holding onto the old way. Some that really wanted to move forward. And so, we were able to help him craft a bunch of solutions.
Now we ended up working with them for 12 years running. He was such a fan. We worked with them until he retired, 12 years running. And, and what we ended up doing is over those 12 years, iterating the content and ratcheting things up. So the bar kind of kept getting more business-oriented, less collaborative.
And it really changed the culture of their organization and many, many individual leaders, a lot of promotions, many individual leaders, grew a ton, but as an organization, they got a lot more, a lot more business-oriented and it just had some huge successes in the organization. So that was really a lot of fun. Great, great project.
The one that didn't work, fortune 50 retailers, In the early two-thousands. And, there was some turnover at the very top of the organization. New CSRO comes in and, he didn't like the fact that the survey was 50 questions. These are, these are 50.
Like, I mean, we've timed it, it takes like four minutes. They're short focused, but he didn't like it. There were eight competencies, 50 questions. We had actually correlated those scores to the retail sales. So we had shown that managers who scored higher on this, we're getting like, you know, millions, tens of millions of dollars, more in revenue personnel with adjustments and the whole thing.
So we were like, look, this stuff is, if you get these leaders working on this, you're going to drive sales. It's clear, yeah, but I don't like the items too long. Can't we just aggregate them all and just make one rating. So I just have to answer eight questions, one for each competency. Seems logical.
There's a lot of measurement reasons and books about, why you shouldn't do that, that we tried to explain to him and he didn't like it. Cause he had like 20 to fill out. He wanted to have everyone report to him. And so long story short, he ended up winning the day we built it the way he wanted. And then we ran the same correlations, that next year. And, there was zero correlation between that. And then we also, parenthetically on a few folks, had an opportunity to coach them and it turned out that nobody knew what to work on because there were in each of these competencies, there were like six behaviors and they got a low score on it, but they didn't know it.
Was it all six behaviors? Was it just one? Was it three? Uh, I don't know what to do. So yeah, it was a bit of a mess. We did not, we did not end up working with them for much longer because their orientation toward data was different, different than ours. And we parted ways at some point.
Yeah. It's almost as if the resistance to, or lack of openness to the process itself could be an indicator, a red flag. You know, if I don't have a willingness to allow the expert to guide that could be initially a kind of a red flag to go into it. I would guess. So,
Yeah, a bit of a red flag. I think also the work we've got a phrase we use called the best practical solution, so we know kind of how to do it best.
We're always really attentive to what's going to work in the organization. So, but at the same time, it has to be valuable, right? I mean, In the end, the solution he ended up with was a solution that took a lot of time and money and had no impact at all. So, but an organization, that's not going to look at those data and say, Oh wait, I should get it right.
They don't have to believe us because we're the experts. But when the data tell them, you know, you'd think that would drive things in this case, it didn't, I will say that he and his boss got fired by the board three years later.
Topic 7. Advantages and disadvantages of personality testing. (23:41)
I'm sure you probably weren't surprised. So let's shift and talk about personality testing for a minute. It seems like personality testing is very ubiquitous. It's all over. And I'm curious, given its popularity. Why have you chosen not to focus on that in your practice?
Yeah, so, well, a couple, a couple of things on personality. It has, I mean, personality is important, right? It's what we bring to the conversation is what we bring to any situation. So undoubtedly, it's really critical, to understand those underlying factors that we bring with us that are kind of constant. I will say that if you look at the personality testing, you know, horoscopes are popular too.
And they tell you, but they're not predictive in any way. And so when you look at personality testing, there's personality testing, that's predictive and there's personality testing that might be more like a horoscope. So, you want to make sure that you, the personality testing that is, has got some nice predictive components and good solid research behind it.
Really helpful. The other stuff, not so much. So given that, I would say that, you know, we kind of made the decision to focus on the behavior side of things. So if you think about personalities, what you bring to the table, it's not going to change your personality really does not change after about you're about 22 right around there.
And so, It's useful to understand it in a way to mitigate the areas that are problematic and leverage the areas where there's a good fit for what you're trying to get done. But there isn't a ton you can do other than coming up with mitigating strategies for what you bring to the table. And it's very kind of me focused.
Leaders are successful to the extent that they influence the people around them. And so we feel that understanding that dynamic relationship in a moment in time with a particular set of people is a bigger key to success for leaders than simply taking, you know, looking at themselves and their own characteristics and coming up with mitigation strategies
For a lot of people, it can generate. Especially people that are going to receive feedback, it can generate anxiety, they can be fearful about the process. And I'd love for you to share any words of wisdom you have for people that are really kind of afraid, you know, that. They think, well, what is everybody going to say about me? And then.
Yeah, it is ignorance bliss,
I mean, I think that's the interesting question for me. I always describe it to leaders as look, there are headwinds and tailwinds and crosswinds out there. That you can't see and what this does is show them to you and it's better to know what they are and be able to deal with them than it is to be impacted by them and not know they're even hitting you.
And so, if a leader can really look into that fear a little bit and understand why they're afraid, you know, it's, it's a developmental process it's intended to help you gain some insight about yourself to improve. And if you embrace it from that perspective, there's nothing to fear.
If you think about it, as you know, your new 3b60 is not going to get posted on your LinkedIn page.
Right. It's confidential.
It's confidential, right? It's an opportunity to take an honest, look at yourself and to see something that, that you can't otherwise see, you know, yourself you can guess, on your personality, but you really don't know what's going on out there in other people's heads.
And to give them an opportunity to honestly tell you. What you're doing well and where they see you could improve. It's a gift. And people talk about feedback, being a gift. We actually refer to it. I have to give my friend Dave Bracken credit for this quote. I use it all the time. That feedback's really an investment.
If you look at it, as people are investing in your development, they're giving you an investment and you've got a responsibility to give them a return for that investment. You've got to use it effectively. And when they tell you, Hey, you're micromanaging me and you look at it authentically and go, Oh God, maybe I am.
That's an investment they're making in you, the Bay out to get the return of you changing your behavior.
Topic 8. Is company culture and size relevant? (28:22)
It's a great way to look at it. So two-part question, are there types of company cultures that are really not ready to do a 360? And the second part is, are there also size companies that it's not really applicable to my too small or. Talk about those two things.
Yeah. So, I'm going to do them in reverse so size, not really from a company standpoint, I think you can do 360s anywhere you've got leadership that the only caveat would be that you really it's very difficult to do a 360. If you don't have enough direct reports in a group.
So if you have two direct reports, you really need our benchmarks data to show, at least three people from a group to create anonymity. If I've got one EA and you know, he fills the survey, I'm going to know what he said. So, you need that. But small companies absolutely can do 360. It's going to be different than at, large companies where it's going to be at scale. And then I'm sorry, I've lost the first part.
Well, the other part of it is a company culture that really would need to do some tilling of the fields. If you will, before they jump into that process, they're just not culturally ready, whether, I mean, you probably have seen a lot of it, but the first thing that comes to mind for me is maybe low levels of trust or.
Yeah. That's the n ber one, the base you need a baseline trust, it reminds me of, I remember, talking to, it was actually a CEO of a large, large company who had one of his direct reports had, had gotten some really negative feedback written and it was one of his favorite people and he was insistent on, I mean, he threatened to sue our firm.
If we didn't tell him who it was that wrote it. I said, look, it can take you 10 years to build employee trust and three seconds to lose it. The minute you do that, you'll never have the trust again, that you need to be able to do this. So trust is critical. In the end, I went to him, I explained it to him.
He actually backed off and was like, thank you for not letting me put my foot in that. So, it worked out, but, trust, basic trust. And the purpose is really, really important. If you think about, again, the space we're trying to focus on, which is between employees and their manager, if there's no trust there, people will freeze up.
So there's a baseline trust that you need to have. And if so, if it's a really toxic culture, where it isn't what you do, but it's who, you know, and no amount of, you know, positive behavior can overcome that you've got some work to do. You can tiptoe into a 360 process to start creating some of that. But those are the cases where you just, you really have to be careful. And then the other one is history. Sometimes there's a history of, using 360s for gotchas and stuff. That history with 360 can be something to overcome it's possible, but you have to be mindful of it for sure.
Topic 9. Lightning round questions. (31:41)
Sure. Makes sense. Okay, great. Let's shift into some lightning round questions. So I'm going to ask you some quick questions. Top of mind answers is all we're looking for. As we are starting out the new year. What are your top goals that you're hoping to accomplish this year, whether it's personal professional, whatever you want to share.
I'll give you two. So one goal, I've written a couple of books, two books, and I've had a couple of others in mind for a while. And so my goal is not to write one of those ideas, but to write the proposal by the end of next year, so I at least have a kind of a commitment to a direction I kinda keep playing around with which one they might be.
And then the second one is, I'm a very amateur painter. I enjoy the process. There's a great book by Winston Churchill on, a painting is a pastime. So it's called and it really talks about how it's just a great discipline and good for your mind and stuff. So I'd like to do four paintings next year it takes a little time to think them through and stuff, but it'd be great to get to the end of next year and have four paintings to show for it. Then a plan for a book.
That sounds really admirable. I love that, speaking of books, what's your top book recommendation?
Oh boy. , the book that I would grab in a fire is the social psychology of organizations by cats and con, but it's out of print.
And, so that's a tough one, but that's, that's kind of, you know, I live by, I, you know, there's, it's a little bit of an older book. , now I imagine, and, and whatnot, but there's a book called, how Google works. It's really interesting. And I wouldn't necessarily say Google is kind of the. Let's just say there are people practices that may not be as developed as some of their search tools.
However, that book does a really great job of making the case of how people tools can be used effectively. There's a ton of IO psychology in there, but it's written in an accessible way. I love that they put some references in there and you can see all the rigor and that's behind it. And so it was, uh, yeah, it was a few years back now, but I really, I really liked that book for thinking through how to lever science to do, effective, uh, people, people strategies.
Okay, great. What are you most grateful for?
Family, uh, and no question. I mean, uh, especially in, you know, in the current pandemic, the Dyrness of family and being able to be with them, I was very fortunate this year to be able to create a lot of effort, went into creating a safe way to spend some time with, uh, with my parents, with my daughter and a wife. And so, yeah, family is, is King.
And what's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
When I was in undergrad, I was sort of playing around with whether I would be, uh, uh, going into academia or not. And, uh, Elliot Aronson was my mentor then. And still, someone I hold dear. And, and I asked him about, well, gee, you know, what about this whole publisher parish thing?
It seems kind of tough. And he laughed, of course. I mean, if you look at his publication record, you could see why, but he said, uh, he said, ah, you don't worry about that stuff. He said, you just do great work in the publications naturally come. And I thought that was really great and it showed up again.
You know, the manager I talked about, Steve kind of had that same mantra of just, just focus on quality, focus on doing quality, quality work that makes a difference and everything else takes care of itself. And that's very inspiring to me. Perfect.
That's great. That's a great piece of advice.
He also said don't ever go to staff meetings.
Another good piece of advice. What's if you had to sort of distill our conversation down to one, you know, what's the single most important takeaway for the human capital listeners from our talk today, the one thing would you want to leave people with.
I guess I would just say, you know, there's the, if you're going to help improve leaders, do it well, invest, invest in fewer better rather than more, less.
Great piece of advice. Well, Dale, thank you for coming on the show today and sharing all of this fabulous wisdom with our listening audience.
Well, thank you, Jeff, for some great questions. I've certainly enjoyed it and I hope you have a great holiday.
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