It is well observed that how we see ourselves is, well…. distorted. To some extent. All of us. While there are degrees of self-awareness we can never really see ourselves the way others see us. It doesn’t even mean that the view of ourselves is less accurate than how someone else sees us. It is just different because we all filter the world differently and life is complicated. Given that, it would be interesting to be in someone else’s head and look at you. Warts and all. Scary, but probably massively illuminating. A privilege even. And of course, that’s what a 360° review attempts to do. Provide us with a look at how others see us.
In our world, this look is mainly from a world-of-work perspective. Are we good listeners? Do we assert ourselves? Too much perhaps ? Can we build relationships? Show empathy ? Think in complex ways ? Sure we can answer all these questions about ourselves, but do they align with the views of our peers, reports, customers, and manager ? It’s a fascinating exercise. But this blog is not about the merits of the 360° review. It’s about the experience of hearing the results of a review. In our business, we follow up the 360° feedback with a short questionnaire. We ask essentially “How was it for you?”. This is what we found.
With very few exceptions people are overwhelmingly positive about the whole experience. There are gripes about not being enough time and lots to take in, but people tend to emerge from the sessions with a useful and heightened awareness of the impact they make on others. In a similar vein, almost without fail, people are anxious going into the feedback. They fear they are going to get outed, exposed and humiliated. But just the opposite happens. Interestingly there is normally alignment in, say 80% of what they hear. Most people would agree wholeheartedly with almost everything that emerges, good and bad. Another 15% is mildly surprising. These suggest small changes people could make to enhance their functioning, for example, talk less, argue less, speak up more, consult more etc. Then there is the 5% that truly shifts things. It’s the blind spots that suddenly become clear, for example, you gravitate towards being operational because it’s comfortable, but at your level that needs to be delegated downwards and your focus needs to be 2 years down the line. Or, you set such high expectations that your team spends valuable time perfecting things that add little value. You need to stop sending the message that people must do it just like you. Obviously, there are infinite variations in what can emerge.
The 360° feedback facilitator needs to be skilled in creating a safe space for honest talk to occur without papering over the cracks. No one needs a sugar-coated version of themselves to be aired. They need an honest appraisal to honour the moment and the efforts of the participants who shared their views. In my experience, there is far more to celebrate in every review than there might be hard truths to hear. The skilled facilitator won’t let the person get stuck on the throwaway comments that may wound the person, but help create a perspective of the gestalt. What does it all mean taken in its entirety ? What are the two or three key themes to focus on? In a well-conducted session, the person will leave with lots to think about, perhaps ever so slightly bruised, but massively and insightfully enriched.
Author: Dr Hilton Rudnick