So you have participated in a 360 degree survey on your leadership skills, several people who know you well have rated your skills and you are ready to receive the feedback.
Well, are you? Ready, that is?
Maybe you’ve had feedback before and you know the drill. You’re going to sit down with a feedback coach and go over the results in your 360 report. Which of the following describes what you are feeling right now?
- “Hopefully there won’t be any surprises and I can get back to work.”
- “I need to find something to work on in time for my review with my manager.”
- “I’m intrigued to know if people think I have done well building my team”.
Whatever your thoughts about 360 or your level of motivation to receive and act on feedback, there are career-building opportunities in your report. You just have to find them!
Look for Key Themes
What trends are you seeing in the data? Do people see you stronger strategically or operationally? How’s your ability to motivate others? Is there a perception you step up to conflict or shy away from it?
- Look at the pattern of scores. Understandably, higher scores concentrated on a few skills will be evident for a linear career in one discipline, whereas a broader spread will result from a variety of diverse jobs and assignments.
- Pay special attention to the highest rated items, say your top five or six. They sum up your ‘personal brand’ and are vitally important. Having the right strengths will open doors for you to new opportunities.
What do these themes say about your performance in your current role and the implications for your next move or future career?
Are you seen the way you want to be seen? What do you need to address to get you from here to where you want to be?
Read the Data
Quantitative data, in the form of actual skill ratings, are very useful. It’s always good to see the numbers! You can compare the highs and lows and see how people view your relative strengths and weaknesses.
High ratings across the board are a good endorsement of your overall ability. If, on the other hand, you have some very low ratings, people are sending a clear message that they want more from you. Don’t ignore them!
Qualitative data in the form of written comments are invaluable. If people acknowledge your strengths and suggest ways in which you could improve, it adds real depth to the feedback.
If this option is available in your 360 survey tool, make a point of asking raters to add comments when you invite them to participate in rating you.
Seek Out Differences
Some differences in the way others see you are to be expected. After all, your raters interact with you in different situations and each one brings their own opinion and perspective. If you have significant variations though, consider why.
First, look for the gaps between your ratings and those of others. This is the real biggie! Do you see yourself the way others do? If there are significant gaps, you could be at risk of seriously over or underestimating your ability.
- Our 360 database tells us that most people have 3 or 4 blind spots – skills where they rate themselves higher than others do. What matters here is the size of the gap, the smaller the better.
- On the other hand, hidden strengths are skills others rate higher than you. It can be a nice surprise to know what people value about what you do, especially if they’ve never told you!
Next, look for gaps between your raters or rater groups. Where they exist, explore the reasons.
- Maybe you show different faces to different people, consciously or not. If people believe you favour some team members over others, think of the implications for your reputation as a leader.
- If you have big gaps in perception within a group of raters, say your direct reports, think about what you need to do about it.
360 feedback is an excellent way of road-testing your level of your self-awareness.
Lack of self-awareness will inevitably hold you back or could even stall your career. It will certainly limit your ability to coach and develop others, lowering your effectiveness as a leader.
Over the last decade we have observed that 360 feedback can have a very powerful impact on people. For some it’s confirmation that they are on the right path, with only a few tweaks needed in their management style.
For others it’s a game changer that offers a roadmap to make real improvements in performance or job prospects, or even rescue difficult relationships with other people.
We like to see 360 feedback as a GPS system for a person’s career. Used properly it will help you reach your destination. Even if it does occasionally tell you to perform a U-Turn at the next opportunity!