Does training actually work? The only way to answer this question is to do research. Boring, I hear you groan! Try this.
Recent Study – the relationship between 360 feedback and CoC Profile scores
The Challenge of Change (CoC) training programmes are strongly evidence-based, and much of the research that began at the University of York in the 1980s was aimed at developing the eight scales in the pre-training CoC Profile: Rumination, Emotional Inhibition, Toxic Achieving, Avoidance Coping, Perfect Control, Detached Coping, Sensitivity, and Flexibility. Each of the scales took several years to develop, and the evidence based on cardiovascular and immune function has been widely published in the scientific press. However, in addition to the lab research, several more applied studies have been done. The earliest looked at the impact of the training on sickness-absence, which I'll return to in the next blog, but this blog describes a very recent study of the relationship between the 360 feedback given to managers and their scores on the CoC Profile.
Analysis of the dimensions
This study included 28 managers in a large NZ company who had an average of 10 direct reports providing 360 feedback across 31 different dimensions, each on a scale from 0 to 5. The more elaborate a measure of behaviour becomes the less simple it is to interpret, and psychometric techniques are aimed at reducing the wide range of potential items to a meaningfully interpretable number – each scale in the CoC Profile, for example, yields a single score ranging from 0 to 10. To reduce the enormous number of ratings on the 360 protocol, an initial study was done on a separate sample of managers in which the dimensions were analysed to discover how they grouped together into common categories, called factors.
Emergence of two factors
Just two factors emerged, the first containing 6 of the dimensions and concerned with Relationship Skills (such as Peer Relationships, Integrity and Trust, Listening) and the second containing 5 dimensions and concerned with Task Skills (such as Business Acumen, Action Oriented, Drive For Results). Ratings were averaged to provide a single score on each factor for each manager, which were analysed together with their scores on the eight Profile scales. Two of the scales – Detached Coping and Sensitivity – were merged to provide a ninth index of what is called 'detached compassion', which is similar to empathy and assesses the extent to which people can relate to others' feelings without becoming identified with them.
Key CoC Profile scales
What we wanted to know was which of the CoC Profile scales predicted more positive 360 feedback, and the results could not have been more clear-cut: managers who scored low on emotional inhibition and high on detached compassion received significantly more positive feedback on the Relationship Skills factor. In other words, managers who express emotion appropriately and can pick up quickly and accurately on how people feel but still keep issues in perspective, attract significantly more positive ratings than those who can't do so. The analysis also showed that managers who scored high on Perfect Control attract much less positive ratings. These are the micro-managers who want every 'i' dotted and 't' crossed and try to control the universe, which in fact represents a lack of trust in direct reports. The Task Skills factor was not related to the CoC Profile scales. We thought that this behaviour might be related to the Toxic Achieving scale, since task-oriented managers tend to be more aggressively driven than relationship-oriented ones. The lack of a relationship between task orientation and Toxic Achieving in the study is encouraging, indicating that in this company, task-focus is not necessarily associated with the more toxic features that sometimes go with it.
The most effective team leaders
There is an ongoing debate about the distinction between task and relationship orientations amongst managers, but it is generally agreed that those who are able to use both styles appropriately make the most effective team leaders. Although no direct performance measures were available to compare the managers and their teams, the results offer exciting evidence that CoC Profile scores correctly identify what managers need to change; the CoC Resilience programme provides the strategies for how they should go about it.
The next blog will provide more evidence for how the CoC training programme can enhance not only resilience skills but also impact on team engagement.