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Personality and 360 Feedback: Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this blog series, I discussed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and 360 degree feedback respectively. This final entry outlines the intersection of these two popular tools identifying important similarities, differences and how they can best be used in tandem.

Here are points every practitioner should know.

Basics:

  • Personality type assessments identify qualitative differences between people based on theoretical models. For example, the MBTI classifies people as extraverts or introverts based on Jungian psychology.
  • 360 degree feedback is a developmental process in which survey data is collected from various sources (e.g., bosses, peers, subordinates, self). This feedback is compiled into a report which is shared with the focal leaders (the one in the center of the 360 feedback circle) to guide their development. I created a visual image of this process here.

Similarities:

  • Both tools have the ability to increase one’s self-awareness, which is important since empirical research has demonstrated a strong, positive correlation between self-awareness and effective leadership.
  • Both are commonly used in coaching and neither tool is designed for selection, promotion, or performance evaluation processes. In fact using these tools for such purposes may be unethical and risks having ‘office politics’ contaminate the validity of the data gathered.

Differences:

  • Type assessments give feedback about preferences, specifically how an individual’s preferences are similar to and different from others. As such, these assessments don’t indicate ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Rather, they highlight useful differences that can be discussed in a non-judgmental manner.
  • Using behaviorally based questions, 360 degree feedback gives individuals feedback about their skills in various domains. As such, these assessments are normative: one can be better or worse at a skill such as Active Listening or Integrating Perspectives. When designed properly, 360 degree feedback provides participants with actionable feedback and support so they have the opportunity to improve. We’ve outlined best-practices in our FAQ page.

Most powerful together:

  • Getting feedback on both preference and skill is a powerful combination as these two don’t necessarily match up. For example, an introvert may be a skilled networker. Remember, preferences identify areas where people are most comfortable and energized. Skill-based feedback on the other hand identifies areas where people excel or need to develop capabilities. Taken together, a well rounded picture of the individual emerges.

Further recommended reading

The book edited by Janine Waclawski and Allan Church Organization Development: A data-driven approach to organizational change (2002) addresses both 360 degree feedback (Chapter 2) and the role of personality assessments in OD (Chapter 3). The book is clearly written, full of research nuggets, and practical examples, but I’m also particularly fond of it since Janine and Allan are graduates of the PhD program at Columbia University where I am currently enrolled.

Comments

Another difference that I'd like to add is that someone's personality is more constant over time as opposed to someone's competencies, which are always (hopefully) changing and developing. Given that an individual's personality, as measured by the MBTI, is relatively static, is it possible to use the interaction of these two tools in order to take a more long term approach to develop one's personality? For example, say I am an introvert and that's hampered me in my career thus far. Is it possible to use 360 feedback to strengthen skills (like a muscle) so that over time I eventually change my underlying personality? Regardless, thank you for the food for thought. I'll be checking back regularly for your updates.

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