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Five facts about 360 feedback surveys

Used in the right way, 360 feedback tools are very powerful in helping leaders improve self awareness. Insync’s 360 Feedback Survey compares leaders’ own perceptions of their leadership behaviours against those of their manager, peers and/or direct reports.

Many people have, however, been burnt by the process due to their own or their organisation’s misunderstanding of the purpose and/or poor delivery of 360 feedback. It’s important that 360 feedback is conducted for the right reasons and handled sensitively, preferably through a third party. Here are five facts about 360 feedback.

1.  A customised 360 tool is more effective than off-the-shelf

Although it may be tempting to buy an off-the-shelf 360 feedback tool, keep in mind that it probably won’t reflect your organisational culture. A customised 360 survey is more beneficial as it can focus on your unique organisational behaviours, values and competencies. Feedback can then be aggregated across the organisation to focus the efforts of HR, OD and/or L&D to address gaps and problem areas.

2.  360 feedback is a great tool for personal development

The primary aim of 360 feedback is to enhance an individual’s understanding of how their perception of their own behaviour differs from others’ perceptions. In identifying these gaps, the individual can address issues and close gaps through targeted personal and professional development. It helps to align behaviours with values and competencies of the organisation. The individual can also track improvement over time by repeating the exercise 12 to 18 months down the track.

3. 360 feedback is best used for performance and leadership development, not performance management

While 360 feedback is and ideal tool for performance and leadership development, it should not be used for performance management purposes. A 360 feedback survey is a tool for improving behaviour and not for formally addressing unacceptable behaviours. Such behaviours need to be dealt with factually and confidentially through a formal investigative process. Also, if organisations use 360 feedback for performance management they will never successfully use it for performance development programs as people will be too afraid to participate for fear of retribution or termination.

4. People can have a 360 even if they don’t manage others

The traditional approach for 360 feedback involves seeking feedback from the individual and their manager, peers and direct reports. However, recent literature and research now highlights that leadership is no longer solely about managing others; a 360 feedback process can be equally useful for someone who does not have direct reports but might have internal or external clients or stakeholders who can offer insight. The opinions of these people are equally important in guiding the individual towards improving or enhancing certain behaviours.

5. 360 feedback is most effective with a debrief

Digesting feedback on your own performance can be challenging; even if the large majority of comments are positive, women in particular, will focus the most of their attention on the minor negative comments. To be truly effective, it is suggested that the 360 feedback process involves a face-to-face debrief with the individual. A person trained in this area can draw out the highlights and lowlights of the report and shape the conversation to challenge biases, enhance understanding and focus improvement efforts. The individual is also more likely to read and digest the comments more thoroughly if they know they are accountable to participate in a debrief discussion.

Want to know more about implementing a 360 feedback process? A discussion with us about your leadership framework and people development needs is the best place to start. We also have a range of sample reports that demonstrate how 360 feedback is measured and communicated to participants.

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