Why ‘Why?’ is not always the question in a 360 Degree Feedback Debrief

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In a 360 Degree Feedback debrief, the debriefer has a chance to ask questions as they help the recipient explore their feedback; such as, Why did you do that? Why do you think they said this? Why do you find it difficult? Why are you uncomfortable with this feedback?

Except in all those questions above, the construction of a question with 'Why' can have a distinct feel of conferring a sense of blame on the recipient; it can often lead to the recipient feeling they have to justify or provide rationale.

Whist it is a perfectly valid question, there is always an alternative way to make your inquiry; for example, How did that decision come about? What is about the feedback that makes you feel uncomfortable?

You can uncover more of their thinking processes, feelings and beliefs around the way they behave in the workplace, if you can stop them feeling they have to defend.



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The power of targets – a cautionary tale from the seaside

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My 14 year old daughter and I had two to three hours to kill at the seaside (Normandy, since you ask).  We played "bat and ball".  We had to use a ping pong ball as the rubber ball had been lost … no need to revisit the tensions around that.

So, we merrily played away – initially struggling with the wind, improving our skills, keeping count of how many times we hit it between us.  After initial struggles to get past 3, we started to move into double figures.  I was happy.

I then noticed that my daughter was starting to lose concentration.  She was chatting away mid-point and not taking our record score attempts with the clear focus that they required.  I couldn't help but notice that sometimes she didn't even try to get some of my (slight) mis-hits.  Was she not taking this seriously?

I had a thought.  I am an expert in performance management – I know what to do … I'll set a goal.  Yes, I'll set a target and link it to reward.  There will be clear line of sight between the target and the reward.  I know goal setting theory; we will now improve, just by the setting of the target.

"Neve, let's see if we can hit it 35 times between us without it hitting the sand.  If we achieve it, then I'll buy you an ice cream".  Pretty SMART eh?  The response was just what I wanted.  Her slight irritation that I had turned our fun into something competitive was dwarfed by the desire for an ice cream.

The result was incredible.  The very next go…1,2,3,4,..15,16,17 (the targeting has worked, she's concentrating!)……28,29,…. (I started to get excited….how high could we go here…could we reach 100 even?  What, I wondered is the world record?), 31,32,33,34,… (and then I saw the gleam in Neve's eye….I knew what she was going to do, and I knew I couldn't stop her) 35.  Smack, straight into the sand.  We'd hit the target; time for an ice cream.  She couldn't have been happier.

So, performance appraisal time?  Have a think about those goals.  Yes, they are powerful and can change actions…. BUT … are we replacing already motivating stuff with unnecessary targets?  Are we replacing intrinsic with extrinsic reward and losing something in the process?  Are we unwittingly reducing the potential performance levels?  Am I a bad parent?

Ice cream was lovely.  We made sandcastles afterwards as I'd extracted all fun from bat and ball!



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Guest post on being a feedback junkie

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We are delighted to share a guest post from Tony Philips of 'The Coaching Approach' – Tony works as a coach with a diverse range of business people and is also an exceptional facilitator who we have been fortunate to have work with us for a number of our clients.

Here Tony shares his own insights into why he is hooked on feedback.


So what is a feedback junkie, why am I one, what are the benefits of being one, why are people afraid of both giving and receiving feedback and what about providing and receiving negative feedback – how can that be made easy?

As someone who doesn’t react well to criticism, why is it that I relish receiving feedback?

Well here’s the thing – as a coach I know all too well that none of us are particularly good at looking at ourselves and the way we perform at work (and in life) objectively.

You might argue that none of us are particularly good at looking at anything objectively, and I would have to agree with that too.

But our own subjective view of ourselves is seen through our own lenses whatever colour they are tinted, and probably distorted, and they provide only one perspective, view, judgement, opinion and belief. I’m sure that you might agree that there can be as many different perspectives on anything to do with life as there are people observing it.

And here’s the thing – none of them are the truth. The only truth is the facts of what has happened. It’s how we link the different facts and add our own beliefs and opinions on top of the facts to make them mean something else that makes them our own personal “facts”, or beliefs as we should more accurately call them.

So the way I look at feedback (my perspective) is that it’s a gift.

I’m also well aware that all of us have our own blind spots, those parts of ourselves, our behaviours and their impact on others, that we just can’t see however hard we try.

So here’s why I think of feedback as a gift.

First of all, as the recipient of feedback we could be receiving information on our blind spot, something we’re not aware of. If you tell me about something in my blind spot, I have a choice to do something about it. Without that feedback, I will never be able to change anything because I will remain blissfully unaware that there is anything wrong.

This applies equally to giving feedback. If someone you work with has a blind spot and you have information that could help them to improve that area, by withholding that feedback you are robbing them of the opportunity to improve.

What about being given feedback on something that’s not in your blind spot, something that you were already aware of?

When on the receiving end, if I receive feedback that I don’t recognise or agree with immediately, even if I have heard it before, I have choices.

If it’s the same feedback from the same person I’ve heard it from before and they’re the only one with this view, after considering it if I still don’t recognise it I can choose to ignore it and not act on it.

If I don’t recognise it but I’m hearing it from more than one other person, maybe even several, then it could well be time for me to examine it in more depth just to see what it is that others are seeing and I’m not. It is an opportunity.

But like any gift or opportunity, on receiving it you have a choice. Firstly you can choose to ignore the unwanted gift, maybe keep in the cupboard to bring out when the giver comes round next time, or maybe just give it to charity. Or you could really have a go at using it or displaying it and seeing what it adds to your life

Many of us are wary of giving feedback because we don’t want to upset another person or create bad feeling or a conflict situation. But as long as that feedback is about that other person’s behaviour or competency, which they have the power to change, and not about them as a person, then it is a gift that the receiver can use if they so choose.

Not giving that gift is robbing them of an opportunity to improve.

So next time you have the opportunity to give or receive feedback, welcome that opportunity to improve yourself or someone else.

Oh, and positive feedback. Who doesn’t benefit from receiving that? We just don’t get or give enough it.

If you would like to know more about how we support organisations put effective 360 degree feedback processes then please get in touch for a chat.

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