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10 Ways to Get the Most from a 360 Degree Leadership Assessment

10 Ways to Get the Most from a 360 Degree Leadership Assessment

November 05, 2009

A 360 degree leadership assessment is one of the most effective ways to get feedback from your employees, peers, and managers against a set of pre-defined leadership competencies.

Having debriefed these for hundreds of managers, and taken a number of different 360s myself, I’ve discovered some best practices that have worked for me and others.

Here are 10 tips for getting the most value from a 360 degree leadership assessment:

1. Mentally prepare yourself. You have to go into these things with the right frame of mind. Don’t get all worked up dreading the results and hoping no one says anything bad about you. Instead, go into it with the objective of unlocking the secrets of what you need to do to become a better leader.

2. Don’t try to figure it out yourself. This is critical. Any responsible program or organization wouldn’t implement a 360 degree feedback process without offering assistance with making sense of the data. Even though I may know the instrument inside and out, I still will sit down with a coach, a colleague, or my manager to review it with me. When you’re too close to the data it’s way too easy to miss something. It’s human nature – we sometimes see what we want to see, are too hard on ourselves, or make assumptions that others would not make. If anything, having someone to talk through it with just provides emotional support.

3. Don’t play detective. Don’t waste time trying to figure out who made a comment or who rated you high or low. Unless it’s your manager’s rating, the reports are designed to protect the raters. Too managers make assumptions – and I’ve done it myself – and have been wrong. Just take each comment and rating for what it is – data – and focus your energy on what you’re going to do about it.

4. Holistically of systematically? There’s two ways to sort through all of the ratings and comments. Some managers take a more holistic approach – they take it all in, let it marinate, and come up with themes, patterns, connections, and trends. It’s like an art to them.

Other managers prefer to take a more analytical, systematic approach. They focus on the statistically significant differences (and I can barely explain what that even means) and their own complex algorithms in order to make sense of it all. There is no right way – they both work. Use whatever method works for you, and don’t let someone force you to use a method that doesn’t fit your style.

Also – while comments are important – don’t get too hung up on a single comment, especially if the ratings and rest of the report don’t support the comment. It’s this tendency to overreact to a single comment that has caused some 360 providers not to use them. Personally, I find value in them, when taken for what they are – a single data point.

5. Pay attention to and celebrate your strengths! No, really, this is not just a cliché. I’ve had managers completely dismiss what I thought were some awesome strengths. That’s another reason why it’s better to have someone go through the results with you. Unfortunately, leaders don’t always get to hear about what they are doing right. These strengths can also play a part in figuring out how to overcome or work around weaknesses.

Poll: How do you feel about crying at work?

Poll: How do you feel about crying at work?