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Trainer’s Tip: Masterclass – getting 360 right


Lumus's David Cooper provides the community with this month's Trainer's Tip - a thorough analysis of how to get the most of 360 feedback.
Lumus's experience over the last 12 years shows that whilst many organisations embark on the 360-degree feedback journey, few manage to really maximise the opportunity.
The following guiding principles for successfully implementing 360-degree feedback are based on the experience of supporting hundreds of organisations to develop and integrate 360-degree feedback as a key component in their organisational development strategy.

Principal one: Lay strong foundations 

Whilst there are lots of things to consider when designing and implementing 360-degree feedback, these foundation pieces provide a sound base to build from:
  • Get the right fit – be clear about where 360-degree feedback fits in the organisation's strategy, culture, values and future aspirations and then ensure the questionnaire and approach supports and enables those things to happen
  • Engage the top team and the 'organisation's voice'– the tipping point for overcoming organisational apprehension typically occurs when senior managers, and those 'key voices' around the organisation, talk it up. Enable the senior team to get their hands on, and shape the 360 early in the development process and then support the rest of the organisation to understand the why, how and what, before it goes live
  • Start at the end – the success criteria for using 360-degree feedback for appraisal/performance measurement purposes are a world away from using it to support management development interventions. Be clear about what you expect out of the process and then design it, to meet those needs
  • Get the basics right – work out early on how you will measure individual and organisational success, how participants will be supported to make the most of their feedback reports and a follow-through mechanism that will ensure feedback reports drive positive improvement change


Principal two: Ask the right questions

"You only get out what you put in". Never has a quote been so true. Taking the time to develop a questionnaire that is fit for purpose and will provide participants with insightful development feedback against the organisation's expectations of them is a fundamental part of getting 360-degree feedback right.
Whilst there are many factors to consider when designing a great questionnaire, we believe the following to be key:
  • Use the leadership/senior management team to define the behaviours that will enable the delivery of the organisations needs today and in the future
  • Don't re-invent the wheel. Use a standard database of tried and tested questions as a start point (drop me a note if you haven't got access to one)
  • Ensure each question has a single focus and clearly captures the desired behaviour
  • Identify 65 - 75 questions, split into five to six competency areas
  • Provide three to five free text (qualitative feedback) boxes spread throughout the questionnaire and a summative comments box at the end
  • Do a face validity test. Invite feedback from potential feedback responders on the understandability of each question and feedback from the top team on the relevance of each question

Principal three: Inform and engage 

The 360-degree feedback process only works if key stakeholders, participants and their feedback responders are fully informed and engaged in the process, which can be achieved by taking the following approach:
  • Exec/SMT - involving the top team from the outset enables them to: share their concerns and have them answered, shape the process and have input into defining those behaviours/competencies that the feedback process will measure
  • Participants – run a launch briefing so that by the end of the session, participants will: know how the 360-degree feedback report will be used, the context and fit to the organisation and their development, understand their journey through the process (what will be required of them, what they will get back), have had an opportunity to put into context any feelings of anxiety and apprehension, and have any questions they may have had answered
  • The organisation (potential feedback providers) – whilst formal briefings would be the ideal, the reality is that the majority of organisations can not achieve this. We therefore advocate that all employees receive a generic introductory email (possibly sent from the CEO/project lead) that includes things like - What 360 is; the reasons for doing it; how the reports will be used; confidentiality/anonymity; the importance of completing a questionnaire if they are invited to do so

Principal four: See it through to positive change 

In our experience the biggest differentiator between organisations that leverage the power of 360-degree feedback and those that simply go through the motions, is the support participants receive to convert their feedback into meaningful development actions and how those goals are subsequently delivered against.
  • 360-feedback coaching – to get 360 coaching right, follow this sequence: place the initial coaching emphasis on supporting the participant to 'really listen' to what is being said, drawing out the key development messages and their current perceived strengths; cluster/group key feedback messages together to gain a clear picture of the underpinning developmental themes; steer the participant towards identifying no more than three development areas, and one key strength that they should leverage further; shape the outputs of the conversation into a clear (dare I say SMART) development plan
  • Following through – measuring development and holding participants to account for implementing their development plan is the step that most organisation talk up but rarely do well. Those that get it right: ensure participants development plans are shared with their line manager; insist on key messages (not the whole 360 report) and development objectives being shared with the participants team/direct reports; use 30-, 60- and 90-day implementation measures and diarise catch-ups for each of those dates; seek further feedback to gauge changing perceptions

David Cooper is a director of Lumus and has had the privilege of supporting hundreds of organisations throughout the U.K. and mainland Europe to develop and implement 360 degree feedback tools 

For further reading on 360 degree feedback coaching – follow the article links below.
  • 11 Mini Coaching Articles – Supporting you to take your 360 coaching from good to great
  • 360 Degree Feedback Coaching - Why is 360 feedback coaching so important? What do people expect? How should the process be structured? What are the underpinning coaching principles? How does a 360 coach and their coachee get it right?
  • Making the Most of 360 Degree Feedback - Feedback into Action - This article explores the transition steps involved in successfully converting feedback into performance improvement

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