For decades, companies have flip-flopped on the issue of 360 feedback. Some do it a few times then drop it. Others use it only as part of targeted developmental programs and still others just don’t believe in it. The one area of near consensus is to use 360 feedback for developmental rather than evaluation purposes.
I’ve been given 360 feedback on a number of occasions, in each case, using a written instrument. I found it helpful, but less than compelling. Then, when I began coaching senior executives, I started doing 360 interviews, using an interview guide that allowed me to get deep impressions of the executive’s leadership style, reactions to stress, pressure & criticism, communication style, gravitas, etc. What I learned was just how profound 360 feedback can be when combined with personality assessments and targeted initial perceptions of developmental needs. The feedback from the 360 interviews gave my clients a transformative level of self-awareness. It played a big part in setting coaching as well as future business goals.
Since then, I’ve worked with companies that train coaches specifically to deliver 360 feedback. They call these coaches 360-feedback coaches. Then, one of our clients asked us to develop and deliver a program for training internal 360 feedback coaches based on the principles used in broader executive coaching certification programs. When we did this training, we worked with professionals who regularly delivered 360 feedback. It was fascinating to see how their styles changed as they practiced coaching skills over a multi-day training program. We were so impressed that we added this type of program or our list of offerings that already included an internal coaching training program.
I’ve also learned for some leaders 360 feedback can be so powerful that it enables major change without the need for coaching. I saw this recently where I gave an executive 360 feedback and, based on the feedback, she was able to make adjustments in her behavior that were observable by her peers and her boss. For this to happen three things need to be present:
- ● A leader who is actively seeking the feedback and is emotionally ready to embrace it and change
- ● A 360 assessment approach that’s based on actual interviews with the right people
- ● An experienced coach who knows how to deliver the 360 feedback in an impactful way tied to the leader’s personality assessments
The lesson: assessment, feedback, and action planning can be a powerful tool under the right circumstances, with or without broader coaching.