If you have a leader within your organization who’s genuinely interested in growth and development and who values constructive feedback, then you’ve likely explored the option of a 360-degree feedback tool. This is great news – you’ve got engaged leaders who are invested in their own development, and you’ve identified a process to facilitate that development!
But this great news also comes with some bad news: a lot can go wrong if you don’t approach and administer a 360 correctly. You need to have a plan of attack before starting the whole process, and once you’ve got the results back it’s a good idea to facilitate a conversation with your leader – the subject of the 360 assessment.
Sometimes this feedback debrief is a dialogue between HR and the leader, sometimes it’s with that leader’s manager, and sometimes it’s with a third party consultant or coach. Regardless of who’s involved, this conversation is one of the key outcomes of the 360. The results should inspire a thoughtful dialogue and some meaningful self-reflection for the subject of the 360. And while debriefing a 360 report is crucial to the whole operation, there's more to the next-steps process.
You would never evaluate the efficacy of a companywide training program based solely on the feedback forms that your employees fill out at the end of a session. Why? Because while the initial reaction is important, it does nothing to support the actual effectiveness of the training. Likewise, if you conclude your 360 with a debrief discussion, your leader might leave that session feeling really positive about the experience because of all the insight gained. And that’s good – 360-degree feedback tools should inspire development and get leaders excited about how they can become even better at what they do – but all of that insight isn’t directly actionable, which means you’re losing out on the actual value of the 360. In fact, that’s one of the biggest complaints about 360s in general: people don’t know how to take action as a result of the feedback. To make sure you don’t fall into this trap, here are 3 steps you need to make sure you take after the 360 results are in:
Pro Tip: Check out these 5 key reasons why your company should do leadership development.
Step One: Focus On Planning, Not Just Interpreting
The feedback from a 360 is extraordinarily valuable, and it’s usually the comments that inspire the most revealing and powerful conversations. But ultimately, all of that discussion isn’t the point at all. The point is what happens next. Make sure that your debrief session allows for plenty of time to plan next steps. The participant should leave the meeting with a clear and concise action plan for moving forward – or at least leave equipped with the tools needed to build one!
Step Two: Zero In On 2-3 Vital Areas
A lot of information comes out of a 360, which is great for discussion, but too much information can make action planning tricky. Hopefully you’ve selected a tool that gives you clear, concise feedback to help illuminate the path to an action plan. It’s impossible to take in the feedback and commit to improvement in all areas all at once. It would be overwhelming to do so and it just isn’t realistic. Instead, bring a facilitator in to mediate discussion and ask probing questions, zeroing in on 2-3 essential areas that can make the most impact. Remember to create specific goals and objectives that relate back to those 2-3 items.
Step 3: Measure Progress
Just like with any action plan, there should be some sort of process set up to measure progress. Generally, this would be done with the participant’s manager or coach. The manager/coach should be ready to offer whatever support is necessary for the participant to implement his/her action plan, and the part of this support should include assisting with the creation of a schedule. Use this schedule to monitor progress; if all goes well, the next 360 should show signs of improvement in those vital areas identified above.
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360-degree feedback tools are extremely powerful, but they do require some preparation to reach their full potential. Once you’ve set up your debriefing session, remember to go over these three items to ensure you’re ready for what can be, not just discussing what is. Your leaders will appreciate it, and their teams will benefit too.