February 14, 2009

Do You Value Anonymity?

I've always had the seemingly unpopular belief that, at least in the business world, anonymity is synonymous with secrecy. And it always seemed to me that secrecy among team members is a bad thing. Then why does HR seem to be all for an anonymous 360-degree feedback process?

In my job, I need to be challenged, criticized, and pushed to improve my processes, especially communication. Call me crazy, but I'm just not sure how anonymous feedback helps anyone communicate. For me, it's those one-on-one personal conversations from which I learn the most about myself and my approach to leadership.

Susan Scott, CEO of Fierce, Inc., and author of Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, agrees. Her recent article lists some "worst best practices," and puts the anonymous 360-degree feedback at the top of the list. Scott advocates the "365 Face-to-Face Feedback" process, which essentially is truly open and honest communication 365 days a year. She quotes Kevin Kelly, the editor of Wired and the author of Cool Tools.

"But if anonymity is present in any significant quantity, it will poison the system... Trust requires persistent identity. In the end, the more trust the better. Like all toxins, anonymity should be kept as close to zero as possible."

As Mitch Alegre wrote, we have to understand the ecology of our leadership; our environment and context. Do we value open honesty? As leaders, would our followers agree? And do you, as a follower, give open feedback to leaders in your organization so they can improve?

Check Scott's article here and let us know your thoughts.