People can get very nervous about feedback so it is important to hold your 360 feedback session in an environment that will put the individual at ease. To do this, you should:
• Plan to meet somewhere that is private or away from other work colleagues
• Make sure you schedule the feedback session in advance
• Allow at least an hour for discussion
• Prepare for the session
• Use a coaching style
Take a look through the report before you meet with the feedback recipient. Identify very high or low scores, read through the comments and consider how the individual is likely to respond to the feedback. You may want to prepare some open questions in advance of the session e.g. What stands out to you about the report? Where do you see your particular strengths? Does anything surprise you about the feedback?
Don’t just dive into the feedback session. It is vital to lay the foundation at the start of the session to set you up for success. As a manager or coach, it is important to start by positioning the 360 feedback with the individual. Agree that it is for their development and ask them what they are expecting. Ask about their choice of respondents, their state of mind/what was happening in the organisation around the time that people gave feedback. All these points are important because usually there is a lag between feedback giving and the actual feedback session. Then position the following points with the individual before reviewing the actual feedback report together:
It is important to position the fact that feedback represents the ‘perceptions’ of others about you. Perception is not the same as fact although it can lead to a judgement which may or may not be true. However, it is usually based on something that the individual has said or done. When delivering 360 feedback, the value is in helping the individual to consider which of their behaviours typically generated favourable or unfavourable perceptions or judgements from others. This increased self-awareness allows the individual to choose whether or not to repeat these behaviours in future, giving them choice and control.
There may have been a lag in the time or an incident around the time of the survey that meant that respondents were disproportionately likely to rate behaviours particularly high or low. There could have been an argument or the recipient may have just delivered an amazing presentation. Either of those experiences could introduce bias, particularly if they represent a high proportion of the interactions that a respondent has had with the individual.
We all remember the tough marking/lenient teachers at school, workplace colleagues are no different! One person’s score of 5 may be another person’s 4, or even a 3. Therefore it is important to look at the trends over a feedback report, to identify the relative highs and lows, as opposed to focusing on the specific scores. The biggest risk with 360 Degree Feedback can be with the line manager, who is generally the only individual whose response can be directly attributed. They need to be able and prepared to substantiate their opinion.
Whether we agree or not with the feedback that we receive, we should recognise that people have taken the time and effort to provide us with feedback for our benefit. Therefore, we should always treat it with respect. It is our choice as to whether we accept or act on the feedback. After having received the feedback, it is good practice to thank those who went to the effort of contributing to a 360° report and ideally share a couple of the insights or development points that are being taken from it, building a positive learning culture.
Having gone through the report identifying themes, it is helpful to coach the individual to identify 2 or 3 ‘takeaways’ or development actions that they are committed to putting into action. This doesn’t have to be an area of perceived weakness – particularly if the gap isn’t important to an individual’s job or future. It could be about further developing or utilising a strength. The key is to turn the feedback into some specific actions that the individual considers of value to them. We would also recommend that the individual discusses their feedback and actions with their line manager after the session – but it should be emphasised that it is their choice.