Blog Post 9-25-14

Don’t Make These Mistakes with Your 360 Data

We’ve all heard the saying, “Feedback is a gift.” No matter how much we believe in the truth of the statement, it can be hard to live consistently by it. Sometimes we get a gift we really like, and sometimes we wish we could politely return it for a refund.

A 360 assessment, also known as a multi-rater instrument, is a tool for soliciting feedback from multiple sources in order to identify behavioral strengths and weaknesses. It can be helpful at any point in your career, but particularly when you have taken on new roles. There are many types of 360 instruments available, including those that focus on leadership competencies, specific job skills, emotional intelligence, or behavioral/personality style. What makes a 360 assessment so effective as a tool for growth and development is the comprehensive nature of the feedback we get from it. Bosses, direct reports, peers and colleagues, and even customers can be included in the survey, along with your own self-assessment. When it comes to identifying blind spots and unrealized strengths, there is perhaps no better way to get a well-rounded view of how others view our behavior and the impact we have on the people we work with.

It’s important, however, to view 360 feedback as a starting point rather than an ending point for learning and growth. It’s not a performance appraisal, but rather an invitation for further dialogue and exploration, and a catalyst for change. It’s also just as much an opportunity to identify and explore strengths as it is a tool for uncovering areas that need development. Sometimes we can get more return on investment from leveraging an unrealized strength identified through 360 feedback than from picking a weakness to “fix.”

Here are some common mistakes to avoid with your 360 data:

• Disagreeing or agreeing too quickly with the data. Remember, it’s a starting point for further exploration.

• Disregarding feedback you disagree with. You may disagree, for example, that you need to improve your handling of conflict, but that perception is important to address nonetheless. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to change that perception?

• Jumping immediately on areas of weakness without looking at areas of strength.

• Picking too many weaknesses to work on and becoming overwhelmed. Pick just one or two; what’s holding you back the most?

• Getting defensive rather than remaining open to the feedback. As hard as it may be, don’t take the feedback personally and don’t argue with it.

• Trying to identify who said what amongst your peers and direct reports. It’s important to protect their anonymity so they feel comfortable giving honest feedback.

• Not meeting with your boss to discuss his or her feedback.

• Not thanking people for taking the time to respond to the survey.

• Not using a well-rounded list of raters. Don’t just pick your people who will speak well of you. You’ll learn more by soliciting feedback from those you have difficult relationships with.

Once you have your feedback report it’s important to spend time with it. A one-on-one session with a feedback coach can help you make the most of the report and create a development plan to address the focus areas you have identified. It’s also a good idea to share the feedback with your staff and let them know what you’re working on, so they’ll continue to be willing to share their insights with you. Most importantly, make sure you have a plan for continuing to solicit feedback as part of your leadership development strategy.