Over the years, I’ve been through and administered many 360 feedback surveys. The key thing about the feedback has always been about the quality of the coaching discussion that takes place with it and how you help someone think about the feedback in terms of their development.
Here’s my top tips for making sure the feedback and coaching from the report is done well.
1. It’s important for the feedback to be delivered via someone independent. That can be internal or external. It really shouldn’t be delivered by the line manager of the individual.
2. All 360 tools I’ve come across have a rating system. It’s important to understand what the ratings mean when debriefing. If that’s unclear to the individual it’s hard to interpret what the data tells you.
3. At the outset it’s important to know what the individual wants to say about the 360 process, their history to date, and hearing about any leadership development they’ve been through. This provides valuable context about them as individuals and how they’re likely to receive the feedback.
4. As the feedback facilitator, be sure you’ve read the report before you go into the meeting. You need to have a sense of what the report informs, where there are potential difficult areas to discuss as well as any strengths to draw on. The verbatim comments are helpful but only in the context of the questions asked. You can’t draw conclusions from the report alone without having met the person.
5. Although the questions are often clear in what they’re asking, they still get interpreted very differently by the individual. It’s important to hear what the person is saying and use that language and insight to help you understand what they’re thinking and what they’re making sense of.
6. Your role as facilitator of the 360 report is to help them make sense of the data. It’s not to diagnose a problem, provide expert advice or leadership, or to be their counsellor. It’s to helpfully ask questions and provide insights about the data they may not see themselves.
7. As you start to move through the report, there will be natural trends and patterns of thought emerging for the person. As long as they’re not concerning or unhealthy, let the person flow with their thinking. It’s their thinking process, not yours.
8. If there’s particularly difficult messages or insights from the data, or how the person is receiving the feedback, take your time. There’s rarely a rush or need to have the feedback over and done with at that moment. People need time to process hard messages and re-visit what they’ve heard and talk to someone helpfully about their thinking.
9. I know you’re meant to spend time at the end action planning. I think that depends on how the conversation has gone. If the person is clear about what to do next, then asking them to commit to that makes sense. But if they’re still cogitating, it’s unhelpful to ask them to commit to an action. And yes an action maybe as simple as “let’s meet in a week”, but I don’t think that’s the kind of action we’re encouraging.