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360 Degree Feedback can be one of the most essential tools for gathering behavioral feedback and performance feedback. As a people manager, In today's fast paced environments, managers often find themselves not only responsible for team coaching, but for projects, process improvement efforts, training initiatives, and the list goes on and on. Because we can't be with our teams constantly, it can sometimes be difficult to have a true feel for their individual needs and even their performance. Most managers find themselves making a number of assumptions or applying a certain amount of guesswork to fill in the gaps when they're not around. Others have leveraged the 360 degree feedback technique to ensure they stay on top of their teams while being pulled in numerous other directions.

What is 360 Degree Feedback?

The goal is to receive feedback from others who interact with our employees on a frequent basis to supplement our own knowledge of their performance, skills, and opportunities for improvement. It is known as 360 degree feedback as the feedback is solicited from the employees peers, subordinates, and mentors or other leaders that interact with them. This type of feedback ensures that you have a well rounded view of your teams performance and can often shed light on strengths or weaknesses in their skill sets that you may not have previously identified.

How to solicit 360 Degree Feedback?

Soliciting 360 feedback can be done in a number of ways. Many companies that leverage this process across their organizations have standard forms or even advanced web tools to enable gathering this type of feedback. Others simply make an informal request by email, in person, or by meeting with feedback providers. Whatever method you choose for your situation there are a few key components to ensure you include.

First, you want to have a concrete idea of what you are looking for. Many organizations have standard competencies, pillars, visions, etc. that 360 feedback can be tied to. Whether you have this luxury or not, it is essential you frame the request for feedback by providing some general areas you are looking for feedback on. You must also stress to the feedback providers that you are looking for both behavioral feedback and performance feedback and that the information they provide will be used for the employees continual development.

Let's look at an example. Mark is a manager of a team of business analysts. He is planning to solicit 360 degree feedback for one of his associate analysts. To get the process started he sat down with his associate to discuss the 360 degree feedback process and to ask for input on who would be best to provide behavioral feedback on his performance. Asking the employee to provide some or all of the feedback provider names will ensure you select people they work with frequently and will instill some ownership in the employee for the feedback process. To ensure that the feedback providers give relevant feedback, Mark asks for feedback under 3 specific areas as follows:

  1. Ability to Influence others with Analytics

  2. Propensity to get the job done, meet deadlines, and deliver an excellent product

  3. Level of Collaboration and Teamwork.

Reading each of these area should get you thinking about a specific behavior. Conjuring an image of what behavior you're looking for feedback on is crucial to receiving relevant and useful feedback. Otherwise, you may find yourself with some responses that are vague, non-specific, and not all that helpful. This is why Mark's next step was to clearly set expectations for the people he was requesting feedback of.

While there are again many ways to solicit feedback, Mark chose to send an email request. In that request he explained his intent was to gather performance feedback and behavioral feedback on the individual associate analyst on his team and that the feedback would be used for their development. You want to stress that any feedback provided is confidential but in the most effective environments, 360 feedback is encouraged to be shared directly with the employee and their manager. Finally you will want to stress that the feedback be behavioral in nature. This is possibly the most important point to get across as you are not looking for their general thoughts on your employees performance but rather specific situations where the employee demonstrated, or didn't demonstrate the behavior. Often times this type of feedback can be the most useful as it is specific performance feedback rather than generalities that cannot be easily supported.

Caveats to Beware of when Receiving Feedback

Keep in mind as you receive the feedback, the effect of recency. Most people will first think of examples that occurred this week or this month rather than something that occurred months ago. Depending on how frequently you are soliciting feedback you need to keep this in mind as you attempt to frame up the feedback.

In addition, as a coach you are looking for behavioral trends. You want to review all of the feedback with an open mind but do not get too hung up on behavioral feedback that presents itself as an outlier in comparison to your experience and the other performance feedback you receive.

How do I use the 360 Degree Feedback?

The feedback received should be used for coaching and developing the employee to meet their goals. It can be leveraged as a part of ongoing coaching, a review cycle, or as a simple check-in on a project, initiative, or activity the employee has been working on. Feedback should always be solicited in a positive manner and not used just when a performance issue has presented itself.

Leveraging the IGROW Model to provide feedback and reinforce the behaviors you are looking for will ensure the feedback is received in a positive manner.