How to get the most of your 360-feedback?
Updated: Apr 24, 2022
Success in certain leadership areas can obscure needed development in other ones. Everyone, even successful leaders, has blind spots. Being aware of them and acknowledging them is always a positive thing. 360-degree feedback allows each individual to understand how his effectiveness as an employee, co-worker, or staff member is viewed by others.
What is 360 feedback?
360-feedback is a tool used to provide managers with feedback from key stakeholders groups on how they are seen as leaders. The feedback provided online is confidential. It is based on behaviours that other employees can observe.
The evaluated managers become far more aware of their strengths and development opportunities and how their self-perception differs from how they are viewed by others.
How does it work?
Evaluated manager will fill in an online survey answering questions on how he/she sees himself/herself leading people. There is no "official" version of the survey. Each provider designs its own according to the needs of the customer. Questions will then differ if the focus is communication, emotional intelligence, leading change, vision, or any other leadership skills you want to assess. Typically, it involves rating different statements with “Strongly disagree”, “disagree”…
In the meantime, a group of stakeholders will fill in the same survey indicating how they perceive the feedback receiver. Usually, the manager, direct reports, and peers take part in the process as well as any other relevant group who can make an evaluation (customers, functional manager,…).
After that, all results are compiled in a report showing data per category and question.
How can I read the report?
The first thing you should remember is that our brain is wired to focus on what could be perceived as “bad” results. This is why it is highly recommended to debrief the report with a trained coach who will help you identify your areas of development and also your strengths. It is important to see the big picture. You might improve some of the skills thanks to your strengths.
Basically, you will compare your self-evaluation to the one from other groups. You will then get either a confirmation or a surprise (a nice or a bad one).
Even though answers are anonymous, you will know their number for each rating. It can be a good indication to see if there is an agreement there.
Below are examples of common configurations with the results:
When your self-evaluation differs from the one from others, it can reveal blind spots meaning that you thought you were doing pretty good in an area but all stakeholders replied to say that it’s not the case. The opposite can also happen when you rate yourself very low but other participants think that you show strength. That’s a nice surprise!
When you agree with what others replied, it highlights areas of development (everyone came to the conclusion that this is an area where you can improve your skills) or a strength when all ratings are high.
In case a difference is highlighted, ask yourself which group it is coming from and if it is really important or impactful. For example, if your team rated you much lower on managing change, that can be a big issue. If it's the stakeholder group, let's say people from another department, it becomes a lower priority for you.
How can I use the results?
The coach will help you to analyse the results and have a better understanding of your strengths and blind spots. He will ask you probing questions to push you to reflect and understand the situation.
When you have identified your areas of development, the ones in which progress will make a big impact, decide which action(s) you are going to take. You cannot improve everything in one shot, so you should choose 2 or 3 actions you want to implement first. Remember the Chinese proverb: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". Once you have a feeling that the situation has improved, you can build on it and make up a new action plan. You can also launch a new 360-feedback after a few months to see if there is an improvement. Of course, you don't need to wait for the next survey. Ask feedback from your boss, team, and colleagues. Be transparent. Let them know that you are in the process of developing yourself and improving your skills. They will probably support you.
A few tips
The 360-degrees feedback is not a tool that can predict if a person is suitable for a promotion. It shouldn’t be used to evaluate performance either. It is a development tool for managers who want to improve their leadership skills. The report is confidential. For this reason, only the coach and the participant will read it. It is then up to the evaluated manager to share it with other people. Of course, I strongly recommend sharing the results with your manager to have an open discussion about your development.