Your Guide to the Dreaded 360 Degree Assessment


360 degree feedback is not for the faint of heart. You put yourself in front of your colleagues asking to be judged — who wants to do that?

We’re all doing the best that we can. And we can all do better. If you want to improve your leadership skills, you need to know how you’re perceived by the people around you. The best way to do that is through a 360 degree feedback survey.

This guide will help you figure out which feedback assessment to take and what to do with the results.

Which 360 should you take?

There are many 360 feedback assessment tools out there. A standardized survey will be more affordable but a customized survey is likely to be more helpful. Regardless, the survey needs to probe the specific leadership competencies that you’re accountable for in your job.

If you work in the federal government, taking the OPM Leadership 360 evaluation is helpful because it focuses on the five Executive Core Qualifications and identifies specific competencies under each one. In addition, you get the results of your survey and the option for coaching based on your results.

360 feedback surveys are the most effective when they are paired with leadership coaching based on the survey results, so ensure that the vendor you choose also offers an individualized coaching session based on your specific results.

Interpreting your 360 feedback

360 degree feedback is very helpful, but, like any assessment, it also has flaws. It’s important to understand what the feedback assessments do well and what they don’t do well.

  1. Context – When you get the results on paper, everyone’s opinion is weighted the same. Depending on your level or particular job, some competencies are more important than others. In addition, some of your raters are better equipped to judge certain competencies. To figure out if feedback from your superiors, peers, subordinates, or “others” should be considered more seriously than the other groups, talk about your results (even in basic terms) with your supervisor and/or trusted colleagues. They’ll help you identify what’s important and what is petty. They can also help you frame different ways to think about areas you may want to work on.
  1. Data – Your data can have an inflation bias or can be full of people rating themselves against you instead of rating you against the standard. It’s likely that your feedback data will have some outliers. You’ll have good comments and bad ones. Surprising, confusing and even contradictory comments are very common. If you had a hurtful comment, say thank you and let it go. Don’t go on a witch hunt. Instead, look for consensus. Pay attention to competencies where your respondents have clustered feedback for good information about your leadership skills.

Which areas should you focus on?

The achievers in our midst will head straight for their lowest ranked competencies. However, focusing solely on the competencies where you need the most growth can make your Leadership Development Plan a slog — and something you’re not likely to stick to for the longer term. Instead, consider a plan where you:

  • Pick from both lowest scored and highest scored competencies. Working more on the things you do well can give you unique skills and set you apart from others.
  • Look at where your self assessment scores are significantly different raters’ scores. Can you figure out why? Is there a gap in your skills? Are you bad at communicating the things you’re already doing well?
  • Look at areas where there’s a wide variation from your raters. If these raters are in a good position to evaluate you on that competency, then what’s going on?

360 feedback is only helpful if you use the information to move forward and develop your leadership skills. Keep an open mind and talk to your trusted mentors and colleagues. They can help you think about the survey results in new and different ways. When you figure out the competencies you want to work on, create your personalized Leadership Development Plan. 360 degree feedback is tough, but it’s a good way to push yourself and your leadership skills to the next level.

Lauren Lien is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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