360: Friend or Foe?

February 14, 2013 · by Michele Berry · Filed Under Choices, Previous · Leave a Comment

Most of us do not have a clear or complete picture of ourselves. We know how we MEAN to act, what we INTEND to say… yet we know very little about how people actually experience us or what they REALLY think. Even great leaders and the well-intentioned are not naturals in assessing their own behavior. We all have blind spots. Some of us are shy about our achievements, and others greatly overestimate our impact.article-new_ehow_images_a08_55_vu_weaknesses-360-degree-feedback-800x800

As a result, in the past twenty or so years, there has been an increase in the use of input from colleagues in measuring performance and identifying strengths and areas for development. When such an appraisal includes feedback from people “above” in the structural hierarchy, peers, and people who are managed and/or “below” in the organization, it is often called a 360 degree assessment or simply a 360. The information is usually collected from 8-10 people in a confidential online survey.

The purpose of a 360 is usually to provide you with helpful information to assist you in your professional growth. If individuals and organizations leverage a 360 properly, it can be a powerful tool for this purpose. Mishandled, a 360 can be a waste of time or worse, it can undermine its intent.

360s can help you do the following:

  • Raise your awareness of your impact and what matters to others
  • Eliminate bias by incorporating the feedback from a range of perspectives
  • Identify strengths that you may not fully appreciate
  • Inform and help you prioritize your goals for your development
  • Overall, increase your emotional intelligence and improve your results

360s may be a waste of time or undermine their purpose if:

  • They are initiated by the supervisor to avoid giving direct feedback
  • Raters distrust the process and give insincere or superficial feedback
  • They are manipulated, politicized, or used to punish or reward people
  • They are overly long and complicated, providing way more information than can be acted on, and taking up a disproportionate amount of time for raters and participants
  • You spend all your time focusing on your deficits, and ignore or dismiss your strengths

360s have the best chance for success when following these guidelines:

  • Planners are very specific and transparent about the purpose and how the data will be used
  • The purpose is developmental
  • Raters are trained in how to give useful feedback
  • Data is provided to recipient only [it is the your prerogative who you share the data with]
  • A coach or leadership development expert helps support understanding the information

So, a 360 the way we suggest using it is a “friend”… both for you as a leader and for your organization. When at its very best, a 360 promotes meaningful and productive dialogue between staff who collaborate and influence one another, about contributions and tapping into future potential. It elevates and expands the possibilities of individuals, teams, and organizations.


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