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02.06 – 360 Degree Feedback

02.06 - 360 Degree Feedback
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I’m sure a lot of you have heard of 360 degree feedback. It’s a feedback system that’s wildly popular in organizations. If you haven’t done so yet, I predict that sooner rather than later, you will either receive 360 degree feedback yourself or will be asked to fill out a form for somebody else’s 360. And given its popularity, I’d like for us to talk about the nature of 360 degree feedback and its uses. First of all, what is 360 degree feedback? It’s systematic feedback on your performance, behaviors, skills, and/or competencies collected from you and a number of different types of stakeholders who interact with you at workplace.
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Now, 360 here refers to the full spectrum of evaluation, the full circle, meaning that you get feedback from all the stakeholders with whom you interact at workplace.
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The first recorded use of 360 degree feedback comes from the Second World War, from the German military, where German officers were among the first ones to recognize the value of seeking feedback from multiple sources. It started to be used at scale in organizations in the 80s, and it continues to be very popular.
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I think the unwavering popularity of 360s owes in part to changing organizational design where, with proliferation of matrix-like structures, team boundaries becoming more fluid. We interact more and more with people from different verticals, different geographies, different business units, and companies value that feedback coming from multiple sources. So the standard structure of a 360 is that you’re evaluated by your managers, your peers, your subordinates, you’re given a chance to evaluate yourself. And depending on your role with the company, other types of stakeholders can get involved. For example, if you happen to be in a customer or supply facing role, feedback can also be solicited from customers and suppliers. So what do you think is the value of 360 degree feedback?
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In other words, how could you benefit from 360 in a way that you wouldn’t from a more traditional form of feedback which predominantly relies on your primary manager’s input? Think about it for some time. Now, the key purposes and the motivations behind 360s is that it offers new, diverse perspectives on one’s skills, behaviors, and performance. For example, as your primary manager, I might not always see you in a developmental role with your peers and your subordinates, and, as a result, I may not be in the best position to give you feedback on how good you are at developing others.
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360s provide a greater number of feedback data points, which can increase the accuracy of feedback. 360s offer feedback that might not be typically shared, and here I wanna emphasize that protecting confidentiality of respondents, of raters, is a critical premise for successful 360s. And finally, and to me this is the most important feature of 360s, the critical value they provide, is that they can help eliminate hidden strengths and developmental opportunities. Give you insight into strengths and developmental opportunities you are not aware of. The way 360 feedback works is pretty straightforward. You start by developing a questionnaire that asks raters to measure specific performance, competencies, behaviors, skills of a given employee.
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Then you ask the employee to provide self-ratings and collect confidential ratings by other stakeholders. Again, I wanna emphasize that confidentiality of respondents is key to successful 360s. Then you compile results, usually present them in some visual form with graphs and charts, debrief those results with the employee, and follow up on the developmental plan. When you receive your 360 degree feedback report, it may look something like this. Where on the left hand side, you can see the different dimensions on which you’re evaluated. In this particular case, they’re centered around competencies, and you can see your self-evaluations as well as the scores supplied by your direct reports, your peers, and your manager.
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To analyze your 360 degree feedback data, it may be useful to categorize those results in terms of expected and unexpected results, developmental areas, and strengths. By this categorization, some of these results will be expected, meaning the feedback from your manager, from your peers, from your direct reports will confirm your own expectations about your strengths and developmental areas, it’s validation. A second set of results would be unexpected, which is your Blind Spots and your Hidden Strengths, your Developmental Areas and your Strengths that you were not aware of prior to taking 360. To me, this is the critical value of 360s. The percentages that I’m showing you refer to the actual distribution of feedback in a typical 360.
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They come from the study by David Antonini. I’m really excited to share these numbers with you because they tell us that about half, 45% of 360 degree feedback, is unexpected and, hence, particularly valuable. So let’s come back to this 360 degree feedback report. In light of our discussion so far, take a stab at analyzing these data. What do these results tell you? Pause the video and think about it for some time.
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So let’s start with the expected results first. Communication emerges as a confirmed strength, although it might make sense to look at what’s going on with the relatively low lateral scores and peer to peer communication. In terms of confirmed developmental opportunities, customers interested in analytics are prime candidates. We can see that the scores aren’t consistently low, including your self-evaluations. Turning to unexpected results, I think this 360 degree feedback report can be a useful reality check for this employee, where you can see that her scores on many dimensions and are substantially higher than the scores provided by peers, direct reports, and her manager. More concretely, influencing without authority emerges as a key blind spot.
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This employee’s convinced that she’s being very effective at influencing others, but peers, direct reports, and her manager consistently disagree. Developing others is another potential blind spot, and you would think that it’s especially important to develop your peers and subordinates. The fact that you’re getting low lateral and upward scores is particularly alarming. And in fact, it could be a blind spot not just for you, but looking at the results, also for your manager. Innovativeness, on the other hand, emerges as a hidden strength, where your peers, your direct reports, your manager give you pretty high scores, and your self-perception here is a bit more muted.
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