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Personality and 360 Feedback: Part 2

Brief overview of 360 degree feedback

Part 1 of this 3-part blog series discussed the basics of a personality tool called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Now we turn our attention to another powerful and popular tool called 360 degree feedback.

360° feedback is a developmental process in which survey data is collected from various sources (e.g., supervisors, peers, direct reports, self). This feedback is compiled into a report which is shared with the person “in the center” to guide their development. I used PowerPoint clip art to create the following illustration:

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What exactly gets fed back to you? Well that depends on the competency model that is being assessed. Each job and each organization requires different ingredients for success. Regardless of the context that 360 degree feedback is used in, success requires the following four guidelines. First, protect the anonymity of participants so they can give honest and productive feedback. Second, use 360 feedback for developmental purposes only. If used for evaluative purposes, some raters may maliciously give poor ratings to others due to “office politics,” thereby spoiling the validity of the data and limiting its usefulness. Third, make certain that people understand what will and will not be done with the data, and what actionable steps can be expected following data collection. At a minimum, personal reflection and feedback meetings for people is recommended. Creating action plans is another way the data can be utilized. Meetings with coaches or mentors, leadership trainings, and other support activities may also be useful.

Finally, use behaviorally-based questions for 360 feedback campaigns. The example below illustrates this final point, and is a nod to Joaquin’s recent blog on leadership via storytelling.

Illustration: The wisdom of targeting behaviors

In my last blog entry I described how Joaquin’s style of being very direct hurt my feelings during our interactions. This was creating conflict in our relationship. Using the MBTI helped us understand the root of this conflict, which lay in our different styles of communicating. However, this understanding was not sufficient to resolve the conflict. In order to effectively communicate, Joaquin and I both had to listen well and explain ourselves – what I like to call the yin and yang of effective communication. As everyone knows, these conversations can be difficult. Fortunately tools like 360 degree feedback can help.

360 degree feedback can identify specific behaviors of competencies that people need improvement in, such as Active Listening or Giving Feedback. Pinpointing actionable-behaviors lets people know how to improve. For example, Joaquin and I demonstrated the following four behaviors during our conversation:

  • We communicated that this meeting was an opportunity for growth
  • We gave each other feedback on specific behaviors
  • We indicated with our body language that we were listening to each other (e.g., nodding, eye contact, open posture)
  • We allowed space for the other person to finish their thoughts before responding

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Rather it demonstrates that skills can be broken down into observable behaviors. Effective 360 feedback technology relies on this fact to help people systematically develop competencies essential for successful performance.

Additional free resources about 360 degree feedback including best-practices can be found on LeaderNation’s FAQ page. I also run a free Special Interest Group with Joaquin called “Leadership Competency Modeling and 360 Degree Feedback” on the ORGDYNE’s Global Village. Happy to have you join the conversation!

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