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Careers: 4 Keys to Effective 360s

About a year ago, I completed my first official 360 review, an assessment that collects feedback from a broad sampling of sources in addition to my manager. I put a lot of time into making sure I picked people that 1) would give honest and open feedback and 2) knew me well enough that they could speak to the quality of my work. Because it was part of a formal program offered by human resources, I was also lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with someone to review the results and to develop a strategy for addressing opportunities for improvement.

About a year ago, I completed my first official 360 review, an assessment that collects feedback from a broad sampling of sources in addition to my manager. I put a lot of time into making sure I picked people that 1) would give honest and open feedback and 2) knew me well enough that they could speak to the quality of my work. Because it was part of a formal program offered by human resources, I was also lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with someone to review the results and to develop a strategy for addressing opportunities for improvement. After having a chance to address the feedback from my last review, I’m getting ready to go through the process again to see how far I’ve come. But before I do, I thought I’d share four keys to an effective 360.

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1.If it doesn’t gather feedback from a sampling of everyone you work with, it’s not a 360. I hear a lot of people talk about using a 360, but it’s probably more like an 80 because it only gathers feedback from one of the many groups the person works with. If an 80 suits your needs, that’s fine, but you might not want to refer to it as a 360. To be effective, the review should gather feedback from your boss, peers, direct reports, and any clients you work with on a regular basis.

2.360s should be used for professional development, not performance reviews. Depending on the set up, results may only be seen by human resources or they could also be seen by your manager. This one is open for debate, but the best way to ensure your employees are going to provide you with a random sample of names to complete the 360 is to make sure it isn’t tied to them being fired or missing out on a performance-based raise.

3.Different strokes for different folks. There are a ton of 360 tools out there. Be sure to evaluate which one you choose based on the needs of your employees. One that focuses on leading and managing won’t add a lot of value when the people you are reviewing don’t really lead or manage. Nothing says meaningless like a report that’s made up of “not applicable” responses.

As part of the management development program assessment, we used an assessment called a Leadership Mirror which was created by Development Dimensions International.

4.Schedule time to review the results. Without it, your employees won’t be able to talk through the results both good and bad. They won’t be able to identify where any negative perceptions might be coming from and what they can do to address them and that can make working in a tight-knit team a “little” awkward to say the least. Reviewing the results with a trained professional allows your employees to look at the good and the bad and to decipher what was legitimate and what wasn’t.

Without a doubt, completing a 360 was one of the single most important things I’ve done in my career. I learned about the importance of knowing your blind spots and how you are perceived by your coworkers. And, as part of the review process, I was able to use the feedback as an opportunity to open a dialog with my coworkers about how to work more effectively as a part of our team.

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If you don’t already do so, I encourage you to provide an opportunity for every employee to complete a 360 as a part of their individualized professional development plan. The exercise can be the single best resource for their personal and professional growth.

Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).

About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning.

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