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Set Your 360 Assessment Up for Success

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

360 Assessment Success

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

How Can You Get The Most Value From Your 360 Assessment?

Even with good intentions 360 assessments can derail in a myriad of ways. Here's the very first step of “setting up for success” that's essential for optimal 360 outcomes: valid feedback providing insight that leads to action.  We’re looking for nothing less than real behavior changes as demonstrated in improved leadership or professional skills, capabilities, and effectiveness.  This is true from the perspective of the larger organization making the investment in developmental 360 assessments, as well as from the perspective of the individual participant utilizing a 360 assessment.

From the participant’s point of view, there are eight keys to setting up the 360 assessment for success. Ideally these are addressed before the 360 launches but can also come into play as the process initially unfolds.   

  1. Clarify what is expected of you.  People end up taking developmental 360 assessments because they are asked to, they want to, or it is part of a leadership development initiative.  In any case, understand the purpose of the assessment and the expectations of the organization and your manager. What will success look like at the end of the journey?  Ultimately, what are your goals and expectations?
  2. Select the best or most appropriate 360 assessment.  There are many standardized assessments that are targeted at specific roles—first-line supervisor, senior executive, technical professional, etc.   It’s important to ensure the survey tool measures the skills or competencies that are pertinent to your role. LINK
  3. Understand the nuts and bolts of the 360 assessment process.   It’s important to understand your role in the process and how the process actually works.  How will people be invited to participate and access the survey?  What are the deadlines?  What will the feedback report look like and when will you receive it?  How will confidentiality be ensured?  Typically only your manager’s feedback stands alone while all other feedback is summarized by participant group. In addition, 360 assessment results and feedback report are only seen by the participant (and coach if one is provided).
  4. Select the survey participants carefully.  In addition to your self-assessment, you will want feedback from people who have seen or worked with you in a professional capacity for at least 6 months.  Typically your manager, your direct reports, and peers should be represented. Often there are options to include others:  upper management, suppliers, customers or organization colleagues. Individuals selected should be representative of that rater group including those with whom you may not have the most positive relationship.  Five to seven in each rater group may be optimal.  A total of 20-25 raters ensures good representation.  Consider inviting all of your direct reports if possible or have a good explanation for why you included some and not others.
  5. Adopt the right mindset.  This is critical.  Whether you’ve chosen to do a 360 assessment or it’s been chosen for you, make a conscious decision to get the most from the opportunity.  Are you willing to change?  How committed are you to learning new skills and behaviors? If the answer is “no,” “not sure” or “we’ll see,” you are sub-optimizing this rich learning opportunity.  Can you get out of your comfort zone with what’s familiar, known or a habit?  Can you be curious and open-minded?
  6. Calibrate your expectations.  If you’re in a new role, your scores may be lower.  If you’re preparing for the next level, your scores may be lower but may point you in the direction of needed growth.  Again, be clear about your goals and what you want to gain as a result of this valuable feedback.
  7. Solicit and ask for internal support.  Not only is it important to engage your manager to understand his/her expectations, it’s essential to solicit their active support.  Your manager can help you create your development plan and coach you in regular check-in meetings. Engage your team in the process by communicating the 360 process and what you hope to accomplish. Allow HR to play a role in helping to seek out learning opportunities. Enroll key stakeholders by sharing your intentions and asking for their support.  In addition, share key learnings from your feedback with others and enroll them in supporting your continued growth.
  8. Engage with an external coach. Using an external leadership coach is one of the most powerful methods of setting yourself up for success at every step in the process. An external coach is adept at understanding many 360 assessments and results and can help you focus on highest value areas for development.  A coach can also help you in creating a strong, actionable development plan.  If available, additional coaching sessions can accelerate your behavioral and skill growth as a leader.

Now that the 360 assessment process has been set up for success, it’s time to prepare yourself to hear and learn from the feedback.  Our next article in this series is  Dealing with feedback shock: how to handle direct and candid feedback without freaking out.

An organization can help individual leaders by remembering these steps  leading to insightful feedback.  Ensuring that the leader understands what’s expected and setting a positive tone for outcomes will result in an openness to feedback. Translating these keys to setting up for success into actions taken at the organizational-level is essential.  Without thoughtful planning at the beginning, the investment will fall short of what’s possible.

Part of a series on getting the most from 360 assessments. The first article is here: Avoid Wasting the Rich Opportunity of Developmental 360 Assessments.

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

The fourth article can be found here: Making Sense of the Feedback:  How To Sort Through It All and Find a Focus Area or Two.


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