360-degree feedback is a common method for evaluating employee performance, gathered from many different confidential sources. The information gained from this exercise provides the recipient with areas to capitalize on as well as areas for growth.

It usually includes around 8 people – the employee’s manager, peers, people they directly manage and other key stakeholders, as well as the employee themselves. Many 360-degree feedback exercises use feedback forms and include questions that are measured on a rating scale with an option to add comments.

As an external coach, I prefer to engage selected contributors via a short interview, with specific questions designed around the coaching objectives – what the client wants to achieve for himself/herself in relation to his/her leadership growth.

Information from the 360-degree process provides a great insight into how the person is viewed from a range of perspectives, which can ultimately help to build their strengths and identify their development areas.

It is especially useful in increasing self-awareness and provides more detailed feedback than a traditional manager led appraisal.

When done well, it can often lead to an immediate and dramatic positive behaviour change and embarking on a plan to increase skill-sets and performance.

How to do 360-Degree Feedback

  • Use employee job descriptions as a basis for carrying out your 360-degree feedback. Consider the key aspects of the employee’s role and areas both the employee and you want to gain feedback on.
  • Identify around 5 ‘skills clusters’ – for example, team or project management, prioritisation, strategy, presentation skills, goal-setting, listening and also more subjective areas such as teamwork, character, leadership.
  • Design a set of questions focusing on the core elements of what you and your employee want to gain feedback on. For example:
  • How would you describe (employee’s) team management skills?
  • How effectively does (employee’s) communicate his/her strategy?
  • How does (employee) add value / contribute to you and your team/business area?
  • How would you describe (employee’s) listening skills?
  • What could (employee) do more of in this area?
  • What is the one thing that (employee) should stop doing?
  • What could (employee) focus now to develop his/her potential further?
  • Don’t attach outcome of the feedback to pay, promotions, or appraisal process. Make it a stand-alone developmental tool to get the maximum benefit, without fear of reprise or being a short-lived motivational tool.
  • To avoid biases related to the ‘halo effect’ (where it may be deemed that if a person is fantastic in one area, they are great across the board on all skills), simply make the people giving feedback aware that there is a potential for bias and be mindful to be objective about each separate skill.
  • Be careful to select appropriate feedback contributors – make sure they have enough experience and understanding of both the job and skills and the person and also don’t have any reason to be overly biased – neither a good friend of the employee or a potential competitor for promotion, for example.
  • Consider whether to provide the feedback on a non-attributable basis or whether the participants are happy to have their comments made public. Consolidate the contributor’s comments to provide valuable insights as to how the employee is perceived both in terms of his/her areas of strength and areas when he/she can focus to achieve further his/her potential.

Leadership effectiveness is crucial for being able to give useful 360- degree feedback that adds value to your organisation and leads to positive change.

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