Emotional intelligence and 360 Feedback – is Thailand ready?

The Brief. Magazine of the British Chamber of Commerce Thailand.

Ian Claffey

At a recent meeting in Bangkok with the CEO of an international bank conversation turned to 360 feedback and whether corporate Thailand is ready for this method of managing ‘talented staff’. There are concerns about how feedback might be given, and taken, in this culture where keeping face is so important. This is a topic worth exploring in more detail especially in Thailand and Asia Pacific.

Most of us are aware of Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, the scoring system derived from one of several different standardised tests designed to assess intelligence. However, the new arrival in the corporate world is Emotional Intelligence or EQ, a system used to identify and develop individuals on an emotional, interpersonal and communications skills level; it is mostly being delivered through coaching and training programmes. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the correct term is EQ or EI – in this instance EQ is the term favored.

EQ is important to me as a coach because it offers a benchmark for the client (the coachee), to help them understand areas that need to be targeted as part of their coaching and personal development programme.

An EQ overview:

Perceiving emotions is the ability to identify one’s own emotions. This comprises the foundation or building blocks and is the fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence; in short it is the operating system that makes all other processing of emotional information possible.

Cognitive accessing of emotions is the ability to harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, such as productive thinking and problem solving abilities. The emotionally intelligent individual can quickly process their mood and separate fact from fiction, allowing them to move on with the important challenges at hand.

Managing emotions in ourselves and others. This gives the emotionally intelligent individual a chance to harness emotions, even negative ones, and manage them in a way that allows them to achieve intended goals – in other words working with advanced empathic understanding; to put their own feelings aside as they seek to understand the needs of others in a given situation.

I have worked with many organisational leaders, and seen how top leaders develop managing emotions as a way to get the best out of staff. Look at international business leaders such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson – it is easy to see how they manage themselves and others – they have a calm and reflective approach even under pressure.

Areas for consideration with the EQ model can include: communicating with international business cultures; communicating with foreign leaders/managers; G.R.O.W. (Smart) for solution focused thinking; listening skills and assertiveness training; dealing with difficult conversations; making the most of conference calls; behavior in meetings and effective email communication.

One of the key methods for finding our blind spots is through 360 feedback questionnaires. Before explaining how a 360 works it is worth considering Thai culture and the method of giving and receiving of feedback. As mentioned there is a fear of ‘losing face’ when it comes to receiving feedback in Thailand and in other parts of South-East Asia.

I believe this behaviour holds talented people back. If we think about the implications of losing face, we can see that in fact no one likes losing face, in any culture. Most people who learn to deal with constructive criticism will quickly learn to see feedback as a fast-track way of understanding how others see them.

In my experience ‘losing face’ will only happen when feedback is handled badly. An example was brought to my attention earlier this month of young teacher in Chon Buri identified by the Principal of the college as not performing at his best. However, the first mention of this was at the weekly staff meeting. The teacher was left embarrassed and demoralised in front of colleagues, and later that day with self-esteem and self-confidence at an all time low spent several hours distributing CVs to other colleges in the region as he looked for a new job.

This is not only a Thai issue – recently a company in England had a policy of naming the person who made the biggest blunder that month; the opposite of the employee-of-the-month award. This created a culture of fear with few willing to take risks or offer suggestions. Happily they have since changed this policy. Feedback needs to be handled respectfully, if it becomes part of the corporate culture it opens up a new world for employees. Working in a business where everyone is trying not to make mistakes can only create an atmosphere of insecurity and workforce of low-risk takers.

The 360 degree process is simple

The individual assesses him/herself and is also assessed by groups of colleagues – managers, peers and direct reports and even customers or external suppliers. It is completely anonymous and all identities are protected.

Once the assessments are analysed, the individual is provided with a rated report and feedback delivered in the privacy of a 1-2-1 coaching session. Outcomes are shared with the line-manager or human resource manager as part of the individual’s personal development programme (PDP). Usually additional questions are used to encourage verbatim feedback on chosen areas and the completed 360 includes an area for the client to make notes in order to create an individual action plan.

Sample 360 Questions

The table shows some sample questions. Individuals and their nominated assessors will chose A or B and when the data is processed it offers unique view through their own eyes and contrasts it with those of others.

Delegates & empowers Does not delegate or empower
Respected Isn’t respected
Open to new ideas Closed minded, fixed in their views
Avoids unpleasantness & confrontation Will take tough decisions
Excellent all-round business knowledge Limited, just own area of expertise
Seems uneasy with position Self-confident and secure
Gets people thinking about what’s possible Unable to instill self-belief
Has an organisation wide focus Has functional silo focus
Pushes hard for resolution of difficult issues Hopes difficult issues will go away
Has little experience of our business Has good experience of our business
Has charisma & presence Unimpressive

360 Outcomes

  • Shows us how others see us
  • Highlights both strengths and development needs
  • Establishes a focus for subsequent training and coaching
  • Can be used to measure changes in behavior over time
  • Enables self-directed professional and career development
  • Increases communication between team members
  • Identifies causes for breakdown in team trust and performance
  • Improves the team environment as people discover how to engage in more productive interpersonal behaviors
  • Supports teamwork by involving team members in the development process
  • Highlights the organisation’s managerial and leadership potentional
  • Perhaps most importantly it supports talent management and succession planning requirements for the organisation going forward.

Talent management and succession planning

Increasingly this is a key business imperative. Often one of the key challenges faced by organisations in their approach to talent management is how to identify talent and accurately match it to long-term business strategy, whilst taking into consideration day-to-day business needs. The 360’s blend of competencies, traits and behavioural preferences offers an unrivalled view of the individual that allows organisations to benchmark against front line leaders who are thriving in today’s complex business world.

Next steps

After the 360 feedback session the individual should focus on their goals and building on their commitment to change. They are invited to work out for themselves the important messages from their 360 feedback under the guidance of their coach (rather than just telling them what it says). This helps them to identify their goals and to come up with realistic, short-term and long-term action plans. Key targets are agreed and put into the context of what is expected of them, and what development areas need work in order to achieve their goals as part of their (PDP).

The question was ‘Emotional Intelligence and 360 feedback – is Thailand ready?’ In my opinion, the sooner the better.

Ian Claffey.

Oxondon provide a wide-range of programmes in communications skills training. We offer both short and long-term certificated training courses for staff who are working with foreign companies and foreigners working with local business leaders. We operate in Nigeria, South Africa, Tokyo, Singapore and Switzerland; the majority of our corporate clients are in the ‘City’ of London business district.