By Louise Green


At some stage in your professional career you’ve probably come across the 360 (three-sixty) review. It’s basically a collection of other people’s perceptions of your behaviour, so in theory there should be no surprises. Yet still for some people, this process can be perceived as daunting and challenging.

It’s called a 360 because feedback is accumulated from your immediate work circle. You are required to rate yourself in certain areas, and then a sample of other parties will also rate your behaviour in order to produce some comparative data. This usually includes a mixture of your manager, direct reports and your peers. Sometimes external stakeholders such as clients or suppliers will also be involved.

Certainly, 360-degree feedback can be done well or poorly. We’ve seen it go wrong when the process is administered internally and confidences aren’t kept; when senior managers don’t support the programme (sometimes not even participating themselves); when the results are used to discipline somebody; and when reports go to participants with little or no explanation of how to interpret them.

It’s important to realise that 360’s are designed to be used as a development tool, not a performance management tool. And as such the 360 should focus on the leadership competencies that will really make a difference to the performance of your business.

In our experience, if the process is implemented well the participants will find it invaluable.   Here are some tips to do 360’s well:

  • Ensure the feedback is interpreted and facilitated by a skilled Consultant       
  • Ensure the survey measures identified strategic leadership behaviours essential for your organisation
  • It’s important for participants to have an open mindset. Remember that no one is perfect and every manager, no matter how seasoned, has room to improve
  • After you receive the feedback, let the results sink in before you do anything. Sometimes people want to respond too quickly before they have sufficiently reflected upon it
  • The outcome should be an Individual Development Plan to be used for the participant’s development
  • There must be no breaches of confidentiality
  • The feedback is conducted as a tripartite where the participant and their line manager are present, along with the Sheffield Consultant. This encourages buy-in from the line manager and a commitment to the development plan being actioned
  • The process is best repeated annually in order to measure improvement.

Often participants receive a nice surprise – that’s when people rate you higher in certain areas than you rate yourself. On the flipside, the 360 may reveal some potential blindspots – that’s where others may rate you lower than you rate yourself. One of the most valuable aspects of this tool is that the opinions are voiced anonymously, which encourages a higher level of honesty than you might normally get. Either way, this is valuable feedback that is being offered in a safe environment.

Key to interpreting this report is in deciding what to respond to. Remember that the 360 is made up of many opinions and you don’t have to react to everything. Look for 2 or 3 key themes that emerge and be selective about what you are going to work on developing. You can look to further leverage and develop areas you are already good at and/or you can look to plug performance gaps that are identified. When analysing your results, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this a consistent theme? Has it come up in previous reviews and has it also been identified using other feedback tools?
  2. Is the issue a fatal leadership flaw? Does it point to lack of integrity, authenticity, or honesty?
  3. Is this behaviour critical to develop in order for you to perform well in your role?
  4. If you are ambitious, are there executive level behaviours you need to start developing?

Many feel nervous about doing a 360, as it can be rather nerve wracking knowing upfront what your peers, manager, direct reports, and other stakeholders think of you. But keep in mind that this is genuine feedback in its most practical form – its gold! For most it’s a positive experience that feeds into the performance appraisal process beautifully.

So next time you’re asked to participate in a 360. Don’t worry – embrace it! It’s your chance to look in the mirror, get a feel for how you’re perceived in the workplace, set a plan for development and commit to change.

More information on Sheffield's assessments can be found here. Louise's original article on LinkedIn can be found here.


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