Abstract: 360-Degree Feedback and Coaching for Successful Leadership Development in Child Welfare (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

360-Degree Feedback and Coaching for Successful Leadership Development in Child Welfare

Friday, January 17, 2020
Independence BR G, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Shauna Rienks, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Deborah Reed, Project Lead, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute
Robin Leake, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Amy Grenier, MPH, Research Associate, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background and Purpose

Organizations have increasingly begun implementing coaching and mentoring programs to support professional development and enhance program effectiveness by accelerating the learning process and facilitating the transfer of skills into the workplace. To bolster the impact of its leadership academies, the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) developed a coaching model that includes pre-training preparation and post-training support. In addition to leadership training, NCWWI offered child welfare managers the opportunity to improve leadership by participating in a 360° assessment and feedback process to promote self-awareness about their workplace behaviors. Participants received a report that compared their self-assessed leadership competencies with up to nine colleagues’ perceptions of their leadership behaviors. Coaches helped participants understand the feedback and address challenge areas through a professional development plan. This study explores managers’ typical strength and need areas, the extent to which training participants found coaching helpful, and whether the combination of feedback, training, and coaching led to changes in leadership behavior.


This study includes data from 203 participants in the NCWWI Leadership Academy for Middle Managers who completed a pre-training and 12-month follow-up survey measuring participants’ self-assessed leadership competencies (e.g., How frequently do you lead with a results-oriented approach? Cronbach’s alphas = .92 and .95), and colleagues’ assessments of their behavior. They also reported on coaching frequency, helpfulness, and satisfaction (e.g., The coaching sessions helped me improve my job performance. Cronbach’s alpha = .94). After receiving coaching about the feedback, participants attended the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers, and most (52.7%) received five or more post-training coaching sessions (approximately one hour each).


At baseline, managers’ self-reported greatest strength was fundamentals of leadership (such as treating others well and setting an example) while their greatest challenge was in leading agency change. Colleagues agreed with those strengths but reported that managers’ greatest challenge was leading people. Approximately 59% of the post-training coaching time was spent discussing development or implementation of a change initiative, and 22% was spent developing leadership skills. Participants characterized the coaching sessions as “a good use of my time”, and 89% reported being satisfied overall with coaching. Participants especially appreciated the 360° feedback, with 90.2% agreeing that it was helpful for their leadership development. Results show that participants experienced a significant increase in leadership competency from pre- to 12-month follow-up, t(101) = 4.31, p < .001, with the greatest self-reported gains in leading in context while colleagues reported the greatest gains in leading people.

Conclusions and Implications 

Successful implementation of effective child welfare interventions requires behavior change on the part of the child welfare workforce. Training is essential, but not sufficient to encourage behavior changes. Evaluation of NCWWI’s coaching efforts indicates that managers who self-reflect on their behavior, seek feedback from others, and are supported by coaching are more likely to practice new leadership skills and behaviors, even one year after training. Discussion will further describe the key components of the NCWWI coaching model, efforts to incorporate coaching around race equity issues, and its impact on training participants.