Making your 360 a constructive feedback process

Whatever people say, receiving feedback even constructive feedback can often be a difficult process. Just think of the lengths we go to in organisations to avoid difficult discussions in the workplace.

We know we want constructive feedback but for many people the life has taught them that the words:

FEEDBACK and CRITICISM mean exactly the same things.

Based upon the insights from neurophysiologists on how our brains function, we shouldn’t be too surprised that they elicit exactly the same defensive responses.

When you add the uncertainty, ambiguity and lack of control inherent in a full 360 degree feedback process, it is understandable to see heightened levels of anxiety in participants.

And that heighted level of anxiety is bad news for the learning process!

It is hard to think clearly and integrate new insights and knowledge under these circumstances.

So what can you do to manage these factors and get the most out of any 360 degree process?

Why not share your 360 war stories here?

More on brain based learning here

Let's look at it from two different perspectives.



What Can Managers do?

(Including: Senior Managers HR Managers, Learning and Development Managers OD Managers Etc.) How can you make the 360 degree process a constructive feedback process?

Avoid the most common mistakes of 360 processes

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Put the learner in the driving seat.

In you launch communications emphasise who owns the feedback and who decides what to do about it. Make sure your process reflects that principle for example: send the report to the learner first and then get them to send a copy to their manager.

Do not short cut the thinking process

If there is not enough thinking then there will be no change in behaviour.
Build in enough time for reflection by the participant in this learning process.
Do not make this a passive process by just sending out a written report without a discussion.

We recommend having at least a couple of sessions separated by about a week to discuss the implications of the feedback prior to meting with the persons manager.

Encourage the learner to use other informal conversations to help them crystallise their thinking

Use trained internal facilitators or external professional coaches

They are not there to justify the feedback or pressure the person to change.Their job is to initially encourage active thinking about what this feedback might mean and what some of the raters were getting at. We want this to be a constructive feedback session.They will also help the individual identify what questions it raises for them, what they might like to ask their manager and later on what the practical implications of this feedback might be for them.They can also support a priority refining process and a galvanising of action into individual development planning.Lastly they can support the finalisation of the development planning process.

Enlist the teams help and support

Build in to the 360 process the involvement of the learner’s team. This means providing some closure after they have rated their manager and peers and giving them some sense of how they have helped. It might be just saying thank you.

Ideally it might mean a full declaration of the feedback themes from the manager to their team, any apologies required and a request for support and future constructive feedback to help in achieving their developmental goals.

Follow Up

Signal the organisational importance of the 360 process by talking about the expected business benefits, arranging to check in with the learners periodically, collect feedback about the process, evaluate the initiative and celebrate and share successes.Expect learners to hit roadblocks and get over busy and provide opportunities and support to help people get on track.



More on giving constructive feedback here

How can you get the most out of your own 360 process?

It all depends on how you look at it danger or opportunity?

•In our experience 360 processes can vary from being transformational for individual leaders to a waste of time


• We know that many leaders for a variety of reasons do not receive enough constructive feedback from their co-workers.


• Over time this can result in a very one person view of the world and a lack of understanding of other perspectives
• Add to this the fact that most of us have blind spots about our own behaviour
• It is also common to be either overly harsh or lenient on how we judge our own behaviour and a 360 can provide some useful perspective
• 360’s generally don’t supply answers but can allow the leader to ask some powerful questions of themselves
• They work when leaders are open to reflect upon other peoples views and compare it with their own views.
• If we can set the conditions up so that raters feel confident about being honest there is always value to be had in a 360 process.

Clearly 360 degree feedback instruments are not statistically accurate or without bias.

In a sense that is not as important as you might think, try to think of this report as an opportunity to appreciate others peoples perceptions and views. This approach is more likely to this a constructive feedback process for you.

It is up to you what you make of them and what actions you might take.

What this type of tool is exceptionally good for is for you to check in on your own view of things and see how it might compare with others.

Are you own perceptions similar to what has been expressed?
Are there emerging themes?
What surprises are there?
What differences are there between your Manager and your Direct Reports?
What strengths are evident?

We recommend you consider this report in 3 stages and work through them at your own pace

1.The “What” phase is basically the experience itself plus your immediate observations

2. The “So What” phase consists of thinking about what has happened and noting reactions, which might be feelings, questions, insights or ideas.

3. The “Now What” phase is the most difficult; it consists of taking stock of what you have done, felt and observed, and then deciding on the significance for you in the future. It requires you to make concrete plans for the future based on the insights you have received.

There is no question that 360 degree feedback can be challenging for some. In a sense regardless of what is in the report you have the choice to decide to make this a positive and constructive feedback process for yourself.



Getting value out of a 360 degree process is like going on a mining expedition.

Can you wade through all of the WHAT and find some nuggets?

Can you pick the nuggets to refine, you know the ones that will make the biggest difference to you the SO WHAT.

Can you polish up that nugget by working on it periodically in the NOW WHAT?

Some final tips.

Notice your emotions when you are reviewing the report and be prepared to take breaks to do some reflection. This process does take little time and shouldn't be done in 1 session. It takes as long as it takes.

You can decide to disagree with the feedback but try and see if there are any half truths in it before you discard it.

If you find yourself disagreeing with everyone else then you are missing something.

It is human nature to try and second guess people’s comments so you can weigh up how much credence you should give their views.My advice is don't bother.

Good insights can come from a variety of sources even people who don't like you or people you don't have a lot of respect for.

Don't forget to recognise the positive feedback it sometimes gets lost in the drama.

There are differing views about focusing on strengths and weaknesses. Recognise they are both extreme views, and focus on:

what you want to

and what you think will give you the best return on your effort.

Talking about this stuff with others, helps you hear your own thoughts and refine your thinking.

Try these tips and get more value out of your 360 and make it a constructive feedback process that adds value for you and your organisation.

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