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Is 360⁰ any good?

Nikos K. Kokkalakis

Principal, STRATEGY TECHNICS

January 2020 

Feedback has come under fire. Not so long ago, Harvard Business Review questioned the value of it (March-April 2019), and this not without grounds. Research has shown that only one third of companies using 360⁰ feedback got positive results from it. One third saw no benefit. The remaining one third suffered setbacks!

It seems 360⁰ is a double-edged sword. Yet, according to Forbes (March 2016), more than 85% of Fortune 500 companies keep using it. Are these all reckless? I think not.

Perception may not equal reality physically, but as far as organizational life goes, it does. What a manager’s subordinates, peers and superiors think of that person may be inaccurate, biased or downright wrong. And it may differ from that manager’s self-perception widely (even wildly!). But it is both totally valid and tremendously useful. Provided three key conditions are met:

Be True. It is humanly impossible to give objective feedback. But subjective need not mean untrue. People will most probably not like your feedback. But if they sense that this is your owned, balanced truth about them, they may, deep inside, start giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Be New. Tell people something they don’t know. It always feels good to hear about one’s own positives. Sometimes it is soothing to even reconfirm one’s own shortcomings. But there lies the danger of getting stuck in one’s own stereotype. Help people break out of it by pointing to new specifics you have observed in them, in a timely manner.

Be Good. If, by now, you have discerned the basics of the BOOST feedback framework semi-hidden in the above two conditions, congratulations, you are spot on! But technicalities and frameworks are never enough. We are talking people here, and nothing good will come out unless you have people’s good in mind. If you do a 360⁰ for appraisal, promotion/demotion, compensation or any reason other than your sincere concern for their personal and professional good, please do not be surprised to get a huge blowback. But if you do the 360⁰ because you care about the people, and you show it to them through honest, revealing and compassionate feedback, you are likely to get the best out of it.

I have seen several 360⁰ feedback exercises fail because of poor execution. I have also witnessed some still going nowhere in spite of being technically impeccable -and I wondered why. At some point I came to realize that what was missing in the latter was the Be Good factor: the real concern for people’s good, beyond any short-sighted corporate consideration.

So, all-in-all, my advice to any leader thinking of running a 360⁰ survey is this: Do not do it unless you are willing to Be True, able to Be New and, above all, mentally and emotionally ready to Be Good.

 

For further insights on how your 360⁰ feedback survey can be True, New and Good, please feel free to contact n.kokkalakis@strategytechnics.com