360 Degree Feedback; why it hurts and how to prepare yourself

So your 360 feedback session looms and that heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach surprises you! HR says you shouldn’t worry as it’s only for the development, you can’t help but shake the corridor talk you’ve heard about possible restructuring. Also, your colleague had their session last week and has been left emotionally bruised and demotivated.

This is a very typical context we come across at Omnicor, we deliver hundreds of 360 feedback sessions for our clients. If you’re not sure of what to expect or you’ve previously had a bad experience, this intervention can be daunting. If you’re very critical of yourself or are a perfectionist, this can open up some self-doubt you may have been keeping well-hidden at work. Those with an existing low self-esteem may also struggle as it sometimes feeds into all the negative self-talk. This is why it is so important to prepare for your session.

WHAT IS A 360 ASSESSMENT?

Essentially, this is a thumbnail for how you’re perceived by your co-workers. The process should be safe, diplomatic, clear and scientific to create meaningful conversations and opportunities for you to grow. It lets you compare your own perception across various categories in your team, for example, your manager, your manager’s manager, colleagues, direct reports and customers. When done well, the results take invisible data and make it visible, providing you with a very valuable snapshot of your brand across the organisation. Without it, one is simply relying on the reality you may invent. The 360 assessment allows you to test your self-awareness, in each competency across each rater categories. For example, you can see how you view yourself in the competency of leadership compared to how your manager, colleagues and direct reports see you.

The feedback is more about the how your job is done and the impact it has on others, not as much as what you get done. If you’re open, this can trigger the cognitive dissonance to take the necessary action for change or even just update your self-concept of what you are doing well. Ultimately the end result should be both an individual and organisational success.

HOW TO REFRAME THE FEAR
Pre Feedback Prep

Ultimately, if you take the “pain” now there will be long term gain! When done well, feedback is a gift, that becomes rarer the more senior you become.

Mostly there won’t be any major surprises, you are, generally speaking, able to predict the themes of your upcoming feedback. To prepare, take some time before your session to reflect on what your strengths and development areas are, this will help you feel more empowered during the session. Many gems are to be discovered during your feedback conversation, that is if you go in with a growth mind-set.

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

All tools are slightly different so I will talk about the Omnicor 360.

Understanding the jargon used in the report can help too. Request to see an example 360 report before your session, understand the scoring and different categories.

  • Find out the why: If the organisation has not communicated the objectives of the 360 project clearly ask for the clarity, the more clearly you understand the “why” the less threatened you will feel.
  • If it’s an option always invite your manager to the feedback session, if you’re in coaching, it will be helpful to have your coach too. It seems counter intuitive, but, to have some support in the room is reassuring and provides the balance and insight to make the data meaningful.

IT’S SHOWTIME!
What to do During the Session

Breathe, it will be important to stay grounded in the session, not to allow yourself to be triggered and taken in by your prehistoric fight or flight reflex. Being mindful can help, through breath and self-talk, pay attention to the surrounding and monitor your internal response. This is when EQ really counts.

Record the session on your phone if the facilitator is open to it, this means you don’t have to try and take notes at the same time. Even though you will receive a report, it’s the conversation and insights from your manager and facilitator that need to be captured.

Listen, open your heart to the feedback, and listen out for the good stuff! It’s natural to get triggered by the tougher feedback but remember to catch all the good feedback that is being said about you.

Imagine you have a mental shield or filter you can use to give you perspective, this feedback is very subjective and you don’t have to buy it all wholesale! Try not to take the information personally, but rather see the data as input for your personal development.

Don’t deny or explain away the difficult feedback, this is not productive, ask clarifying questions and for examples of the behaviour.

Good Questions to ask:

  • What behaviours should I stop doing?
  • What should I continue doing?
  • What should I start doing?

YOU SURVIVED
Post feedback, how to maximise the learning

You are most likely to be feeling slightly vulnerable, emotionally bruised and definitely overwhelmed with information about yourself, and that’s if the session went well! Now it’s time to take stock, do this soon, take your journal out and just write, whatever comes up!

1) 360 Journal Exercise:

Ask yourself:

  • What were the surprises?
  • Any disappointments?
  • What were the main messages?
  • Select two urgent areas that would have the biggest payoff for your current role and context.
  • What will happen if I ignore this feedback?
  • How close did your reality match up to the raters?
  • What internal beliefs do I need to shift to help me change?
  • What resources or training do I need to help work through this?
  • Would leadership coaching or mentoring pivot my success?
  • What are the immediate steps I need to take?
  • What habits will support or drive my success?

2) Make an Action Plan

Now incorporate the feedback into an action plan. Use a goal setting template like the one below.

3) Seek out Deeper Conversations

Take the conversation deeper, allow the feedback to marinade and then set follow up chats with those in the 360 you feel have the most influence and impact on your career success.

Aspects to consider for Deeper Conversations

Thank them! Getting real constructive feedback is harder than you think. Giving it can be too.

Explain, I am trying to get better at…………”

Ask Questions,

  • “What advice do you have for me to become more effective?”
  • “What behaviours would you need to see from me that would indicate positive growth?”

4) Partner Up

I highly recommend you don’t try and take this journey on alone, set up coaching or mentoring to have an accountability partner that will drive and motivate you to keep working on your goals.

“Extensive research in psychology and leadership has revealed the core factors of creating change through feedback: awareness, action, accountability.” - Decisionwise

In the long term, when feedback is done well it works! Being on the receiving end can be a defining moment for your career, the resulting self-awareness is a kind of superpower that will be evident to all as your self-confidence grows. It’s true that you are not going to be liked by everyone whom you work with, but understanding how people see you at least provide you with a choice to change the behaviours that are limiting your career. Our team went through 360’s last year and it was tough but we have all come out the other side with better self-awareness and collaborate on a more meaningful level. Trust, a critical ingredient for high performing teams can only really exist in an environment where feedback is safe to deliver and changes are made as a result.

If this article has sparked your curiosity and you have some questions or you just want to chat more about the topic

Contact Colleen Colleen@omnicor.co.za

Some feedback from our 360 assessment clients:

“I appreciate that the organisation took this step. We need to get continuous improvement of ourselves and who we are. I wish this can be done yearly so as to check improvement.”
“The feedback was spot-on, I was not really surprised at areas that I needed to improve on. It will be up to me to improve my leadership skills for the better.”
“The insight shared by my coach was great I really understand myself better and know what I should do more of and less of. I have identified areas that I need to focus on to become a better leader. The 360 process has really changed my way of seeing myself and others. I believe I can grow as a leader. This was one of the best engagements I have had in my entire career.”
“Excellent feedback which conceptualized the required development areas and facilitator offered some advice in ways of addressing them”
“The session was good in that I got the opportunity to see how others see me. I also got to understand what my current leadership style is and what the areas are where I need to improve.”

Author: Colleen McLintock, Head of People Development at Omnicor