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Making Sense of the Feedback:  How To Sort Through It All and Find a Focus Area or Two

By Michele Caplette, Ph.D., Senior Consultant, The Piras Group

Choose your 360 assessment development focus

Fourth in a series on how to best use 360 assessments.

Now that you’ve read through your 360 Feedback Report and worked through the initial “Feedback Shock,” you’re probably wondering “What do I do with all of this information?  How do I make sense of it all?”  Because you can’t do it all, it’s important to identify one or two areas where you can effectively focus your energies and develop your leadership capabilities.  Once these areas are identified, you will create a development plan with goals and action items.  And that will be addressed in our next article “Turning the feedback focus into action.”

For now, let’s review the seven considerations that can help you decide your focus area or two.

Seven Considerations for Choosing Your Area of Development Focus

  1. From your organization’s point of view, what is expected of you in your role?  What key skills are required for current success, to take your leadership to the next level or for future career and professional growth?  Remember that when you “set up for success” in initiating your 360 feedback survey, you explored these expectations and clarified your own goals for this process.
  2. In reviewing your feedback report, what are the themes or patterns that stand out?  Which ones resonate?  Try summarizing the messages your manager, your team members and your peers are trying to send you.  You may not agree with these messages, but they are very real perceptions. Avoid trying to identify who said what or dwelling on “outlier” (one of a kind) statements or scores.
  3. In looking at themes or “key messages,” are there very low scores or certain comments that are “red flags?” These may identify performance issues or communication challenges that need immediate attention for continued job success. Often these are communication issues (not listening? Not informing?), interpersonal issues (feeling disrespected? Ignored?) or trust issues (not following through on commitments?  Badmouthing?)
  4. What are your strengths that can be leveraged? Consider utilizing these strengths in new or different situations or by coaching or training others. But also be wary of overusing them as some skills that make you successful in one role or situation may not be what’s needed at the next level and may even impede your success. (see Marshall Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  In it, he provides 20 examples of how previous accomplishments often prevent leaders from gaining more success.
  5. Which relationships do you need to pay particular attention to?
    • Your relationship with your manager is critical.  Are there messages from your manager that are a surprise? Have you heard them before?  Is your own self-assessment aligned with your manager’s point of view?
    • Likewise, your direct reports provide powerful messages on how they experience your management and leadership on a daily basis.  Are your self-observations aligned with their feedback?  Are you listening to their feedback?  Where do they view you as strong?  And where do you need to develop your skills?
    • Depending on your role and responsibilities, your peers can be extremely important. Pay particular attention if your role and job success depends significantly on cross-team collaboration and influence.
  6. Do some skills or competencies matter more than others?  While all management and leadership skills are important and are obviously dependent on role, position, and function, certain skills are highly impactful and merit special attention.  Basic communication and interpersonal skills (listening, showing respect, etc.) are fundamental skills for success in any role at any level.  For managers and leaders, the competencies of setting direction, communicating expectations, and establishing goals and priorities can be considered high leverage as they are the starting point of job performance.  They set the context for the management behaviors that follow.
  7. Last but not least:  where is your passion and interest?  What excites you?  What do you want to learn and where do you want to grow?  This may be one of the most important considerations of all. Good leaders tend to be eager learners who put their egos aside to consider new ways of leading and managing.  

As you consider these questions and explore options, be sure to meet with your manager and other key stakeholders to clarify feedback you don’t understand or where you want more guidance.  While you won’t know which stakeholders said what, you can nonetheless share messages or questions and engage in a rich discussion.

Key Takeaway:  Choose Focus Areas that are Relevant and Energizing

Remember that developing yourself is not about just getting a promotion.  Picking one or two focus areas that ignite your energy, are relevant to you and the organization at large, and will demonstrate stronger leadership in the long term are the most important criteria for identifying what’s important to you.

The first article is this series is: Avoid Wasting the Rich Opportunity of Developmental 360 Assessments.

Here's the second article: Set Your 360 Assessment Up for Success.

You can find the third article here: Dealing with 360 Assessment Feedback Shock.


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