3 tips for discussing a 360 feedback report with a recipient

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Taking a recipient through their 360 degree feedback report is a key moment in the 360 feedback process.  It is multi-faceted and requires a good amount of skill and effort.  I just wanted to note down my 3 top tips.  There’s more to the job, but here is my recommendation.

1. Read it, read it again, and read it one more time

The first time you read the report you get a feel for it.  No more.  As you read the latter parts of the report it perhaps hints at themes from earlier in the report.  You can’t get these in the first reading because you need to have read the whole thing.  

Then you read it again; this time you draw out where you think there may be strengths, development areas and themes.  I make my notes of areas I’d like to explore in the debrief meeting.  This is only an aide memoire, it most certainly isn’t you working out what the report is saying – it just hints at areas you may want to explore in the meeting.

And finally I read it once more when I am with the recipient to refresh my memory and get into the moment of the debrief session.

2. Look at the self feedback

The self feedback hints at the self-perception.  How does it compare to the other feedback?  Are they aligned, high, low?  You should avoid judgment of why you are seeing what you are seeing but make a note and explore it with the recipient in the meeting.  All of the 360 feedback is important of course, but the self feedback is the most important.

3. Remind yourself that it is your role to explore the feedback and aid interpretation

By this stage it is easy to fall into a trap of thinking you are an expert.  Not just on 360 feedback debriefs (humility is required there) but on this person.  You’ve read one report on them, often you’ve never met them.  You don’t know them and you don’t know what this report means, however clever you think you are!  You are now just well placed to discuss the report with them.

There is much, much more to creating an effective debrief session but these are my top 3 tips.

We run a training course on debriefing 360 feedback.  Feel free to contact us if this would help you or you have a general 360 requirement we can help with.


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Authentic leadership – the latest fad or an essential quality?

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This is a guest post from Amanda Heath of Leadership Matters.  We’ve known Amanda and her work at a number of organisations over a long period of time.  Here is a great article she’s written for us on Authentic Leadership.  Amanda’s website details are at the end of the post.

"Whenever I talk about authentic leadership I am met with all sorts of interesting responses.  They range from outright cynicism, to a vague notion that ‘it’s the latest way you are supposed to lead’ and even passionate speeches on just how important it is. 

The one thing people have in common however are examples of where they felt they had not been authentically led.  They could clearly recall and feel how destructive the experience was and how it directly affected them and consequently business outcomes. 

The depressing truth is that there are a lot of leaders out there who think they are better than they actually are. 

What is authentic leadership really? 

The belief that you go to work and have to be someone else to get on is outdated and unhelpful.  It’s perfectly natural to expect that the kind of person you are and the experiences and beliefs you have are inextricably linked to what kind of leader you are. 

So when the pressure is on leaders must know when to switch from operator to leader mode and take the time and trouble to genuinely engage their teams at a human level, and this can only be achieved by being authentic.  The reality that’s often overlooked is that people will only become engaged (or not) based on how they feel during interactions with their leader – not by clever corporate communications or engagement initiatives.

The crucial factors to authentic leadership are;

  • pursuing a genuine purpose with passion, and the courage to stay true to it through turbulent times (which is most of the time anyway)
  • finding the balance of showing just enough of your true self, maintaining an appropriate distance and conforming to the environment
  • knowing when you need to switch focus from yourself to others
  • understanding and then shaping the context
  • skilfully communicating aims with a low enough ego to then genuinely listen and understand others’ perspectives
  • ultimately creating material value through strong relationships

Obstacles to authentic leadership

There appears to be a lot of dissatisfied people in corporate life these days – and that adds up to a lot of wasted opportunities and productivity which just doesn’t make sense particularly in a recession.  Why then, in these difficult times when businesses need every last bit of goodwill and productivity from their teams, is authentic leadership not at the top of the agenda? 

Whether it is the unrelenting pressure for results or the expectation to conform to politics, culture or process, the clear (but probably unintentional) message is that individual qualities such as initiative or judgement is not wanted nor valued in the same way society rates logic and knowledge over wisdom and instinct.  Ironically it is these very qualities leaders should harness for great ideas and results to flourish – after all nobody gets up in the morning wanting to do a bad job!

So what can be done about it?

By its very nature there is no magic formula to authentic leadership so an individual approach to developing it is the only way.  The first essential step for any aspiring authentic leader is to make sure he knows himself and how he is perceived by others because there is quite often a disparity between the intended impact and the impact that is actually felt which has a direct effect on morale and productivity.  

This is where 360 degree feedback is an invaluable opportunity to properly understand this.  With carefully considered criteria for measurement, professionally facilitated feedback and a clear action plan supported by regular coaching, this can be a giant step along the road to authenticity.

The bottom line is that there are so many advantages to authentic leadership that benefits everyone.  I recently met a well known and respected politician who spoke warmly of an authentic leader she had once reported to:  “We worked so hard, we would have done absolutely anything for him.  When he had to get the tough things done we totally understood and respected it.  He even managed to make people still feel good during tough times when things could so easily have turned very bad, and this was no doubt due to him being a skilled authentic leader”.



Amanda Heath

Leadership Matters


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Free Seminar; implementing 360 degree feedback; limited places remaining

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A final reminder if you haven’t already seen this invitation for our next free seminar taking place next month:

"How to succesfully implement a 360 Degree Feedback process within your organisation"

Date: Thursday 4th November
Time: 09.30 – 11.30am
The Hubworking Centre,
5 Wormwood Street, 
London EC2M 1RQ

Feedback from previous delegates:

  • "Very informative and helpful, we came away with some great tips and ideas for our implementation of 360"
  • "Short, sharp and to the point. Well delivered by very expeienced consultants. Thank you"
  • "A most informative and well presented seminar by presenters well grounded in the subject matter"
  • "Good relaxed atmosphere and very useful and practical information provided."
What to expect
  • Understand the critical factors that will ensure success when introducing 360 into your business
  • Take away a checklist to help you work logically through the implementation process
  • Appreciate the key principles that will help you design a great questionnire, communicate effectively to get company wide ‘buy-in’ and facilitate face-to-face debriefs.

Please register in the sign up box on the right hand side; limited spaces remaining.

We look forward to seeing some of you there.

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Confidentiality and anonymity in 360 degree feedback

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Two unrelated issues that are often confused – confidentiality of your report and anonymity of responses.

Let’s take confidentiality of the report. 

Up front – before the 360 feedback process is even started – you should be clear on who gets access to a 360 degree feedback report.  The manager?  HR?  The department director?  As long as it is clear and as long as it is restricted to those people that the recipients and respondents see as having valid  reason for using the report then all will be fine.  Most of our 360 feedback reports are in a work context and so we would expect as a minimum that the line manager would have access to the report.

Now anonymity of responses. 

I would say that in an ideal world there should be no need for anonymous responses.  360 feedback should not be seen as a way of saying to people something that you would not have said to them directly.  Rather it is an effective method of gathering feedback from a range of people and presenting that feedback in an aggregated manner.

But, 360 degree feedback is also often used as a method of getting feedback that the organisation has not seen as forthcoming and fear would not be forthcoming if anonymity of feedback were not guaranteed.  This is very common – indeed it is the norm – but I suggest that anyone starting 360 degree feedback or renewing a process at least considers whether anonymity is required. 


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Structuring your performance appraisal form to help the appraisal meeting

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One of the most important aspects of a performance appraisal form is that it tends to be used by manager’s as an aide memoire during the annual appraisal meeting.

We can all picture a manager with the performance appraisal form in front of them talking things through with the employee.  We may prefer them to do something different but we’d probably accept that the uncertain manager will use the form as a prop during the meeting.

With this in mind, how we structure the appraisal form; the words we use, and the questions we ask can positively influence the conversation from afar.  We are the experts in performance appraisal, not the manager, so this is our big chance.

For example, by using a simple "look back", "look forward", "plan development" structure we can immediately help the manager to structure their thoughts.  Hopefully they will then review last year’s performance, set targets for the coming year and consider what development the individual needs based on last year’s performance and this year’s targets.

You can follow this approach through into the detail of the form – have in the back of your mind … "how will the manager use this".


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An outbreak of narcissism? Administer 360 degree feedback…

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A brief post to highlight an article in Bloomberg Business Week which mentions 360 degree feedback in passing to illustrate how the sometimes extreme behaviour of narcissists in companies can be tempered.

Whilst the article is tackling the issue of narcissists in a business school environment, they are dealing with the same issue, and that is how to harness the productivity of such individuals without their behaviours having a toxic effect on those around them.

A focus purely on grades in a business school or perhaps a sales target in a work situation can exacerbate the problem; a narcissist’s sense of self-belief is drawn from just hitting the numbers, at which they are invariably good at; self-belief can teeter over into arrogance and a sense of superiority over others.

360 degree feedback (or peer observation) offers the chance for the wider truth to emerge; the fall-out of their behaviour is held up in a report which emphasises that ‘how’ they go about things is just as important as ‘what’ they achieve.


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