How to have a meaningful conversation about 360 degree feedback – Part 4 of 6

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This complete set of posts will shortly be made available as a full PDF whitepaper; if you would like to receive this then please do get in touch via email at with subject heading ’360 Debrief Whitepaper’ and we will forward it to you as soon as it is published.

Following on from debriefers role, debriefer skills and what to look for in a 360 report, we now come to the structure of the 360 debrief session.

Structure – the basic debrief process

Now suitably prepared, with ample time for the session (typically 90 minutes), and in an environment conducive to a private conversation, you can start the debrief.
The following is an outline structure for the conversation.
Introduction and framing
You first need to explain the purpose of the debrief, your role, and the level of confidentiality of the conversation e.g. How will the conversation or outcomes be shared outside of the debrief?
Depending on your relationship to them, it can be useful to ask them to briefly describe their role, key responsibilities and the team around them.
Finally, you should explain how the 360 degree feedback report is laid out and how to read it.
Reading the report
Now you can hand over a copy of the report to the recipient; invite them to skim-read it before moving on to the debrief conversation itself.
You may find yourself sitting in silence for 15-20 minutes whilst they read it; this provides you opportunity to read it again and observe their reactions to the report as they work through it.
Debriefing the report
Once they have finished reading, three key questions then drive the debrief conversation:
  • What is your overall impression of the report?
  • What does the report suggest are your key strengths?
  • What does the report suggest are your key development areas?

Note the choice of language with the latter two questions; very purposefully, we ask what does the ‘report suggest’  as this allows you to focus on the feedback in the report rather than the recipient potentially just offering you their opinion of what their strengths and development areas are without proper reference to what the feedback is saying.

In the penultimate post, we will look at those questions in a little bit more detail and consider what to listen out for.

This complete set of posts will shortly be made available as a full PDF whitepaper; if you would like to receive this then please do get in touch via email at with subject heading ’360 Debrief Whitepaper’ and we will forward it to you as soon as it is published.

Many Thanks



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How to have a meaningful conversation about 360 degree feedback – Part 3 of 6

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Preparation – what to look for in a report

Having considered the key skills of the debriefer in Part 2 and with a clear understanding of the debriefer’s role in Part 1, we can now prepare for the debrief session itself by reading the report with a view to using it to steer the conversation to it’s best conclusion.
You should read the report several times before a debrief, and preferably some time before the debrief session itself; the unconscious mind is wonderful at spotting themes and joining dots.
The key elements to look for in the report can be broadly defined as follows:
  • Overall impression – what are the high-level themes?
  • Consistency of the feedback – is the self-assessment in line with others feedback? Is there consistent feedback from different types of respondent?
  • Key points from the comments – how does the narrative support the ratings?
  • Key strengths – which may not necessarily be identified as clear-cut competencies, but could be more nuanced than that
  • Key development areas – again, these may not necessarily be identified as those behaviours rated lowest

Notwithstanding your own assessment of the 360 degree feedback; context is everything and until you are sat opposite the recipient, hearing in their own words how they perceive the world, you will never have the full story.

Be comfortable going into a debrief that you don’t have answers, a defining analysis or interpretation – ambiguity and wonder should be feelings more likely at play if you are to conduct the debrief with an open mind.



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How to have a meaningful conversation about 360 degree feedback – Part 2 of 6

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In the first part of this series of posts, we considered what the purpose of the debrief is and consequently what the role of the debriefer should be; critically, we suggest that it isn’t to coach in the traditional sense, but to explore.

With that in mind then, what are the key skills of a debriefer?

Key skills of the debriefer

 Whilst the debrief is not a coaching session, the skills required are unsurprisingly similar; notably, a debriefer must be adept at:
  • Analysing information
  • Asking questions
  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Summarising and linking
  • Dealing with emotions
  • Confronting
  • Giving feedback
Underpinning these there must be real skill on the part of the debriefer not to stray into coaching and resolution mode, but rather to stay with raising awareness and having the recipient accept there is information worth paying attention to.
We find this latter skill sometimes the most difficult to master, particularly for line managers who often wish to see problems resolved and actions taken quickly – patience is required with trust in both the process & the individual that they will get to a more well considered development plan, rather than a hastily formed one,  if they are given the space to reflect and explore.
The next part will focus on what to look for in a 360 degree feedback report.
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How to have a meaningful conversation about 360 degree feedback – Part 1 of 6

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You have completed the on-line 360 degree feedback process and the report is ready, but how do you extract the maximum value from this process for both the individual and the organisation? You have a face-to-face debrief.

What is the purpose of a 360 debrief?

Considering the broader purpose of 360 degree feedback which is to raise self-awareness and open up an individual to change and develop, it follows that the debrief is the catalyst for this process.
It is not a coaching session, rather its focus is to:
  • Help the recipient understand what the feedback is really saying to them
  • Help them accept that there is information they need to pay attention to
  • Identify any areas where they need to take action as a result of the feedback.

Meaningful Conversation

What is the role of the debriefer?

With this clarity of purpose, the role of the debriefer becomes more easily defined; they are there to:
  • Act as an intermediary between the report and the recipient
  • Facilitate their understanding of what the report is saying, not proffer opinion
  • Help them develop a realistic self-perception in relation to the chosen competencies
  • Confront defensiveness, excessive self-criticism, over-optimism
  • Provide in-the-moment feedback, if appropriate
  • Help identify specific development areas – but not to offer solutions
The accompanying mindset is one of curiosity and a desire to fully explore the feedback.
In the next we will consider what the key skills are of a debriefer.
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The one-day diet; re-appraising appraisals

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A recent article by a Dr.Tim Baker in Training Journal entitled ‘Re-appraising appraisals’ begins with a humorous sideswipe at how a dismal performance appraisal might look, in scenes reminiscent of ‘The Office’, before laying out some reasonable criticisms of the appraisal process from the author’s own research and a conclusion that the appraisal process is not working.

This leads into his own suggested approach around his ‘The Five Conversations Framework’ which proposes a series of five interconnected conversations between an employee and his line manager, which happen every six months.

I wholeheartedly agree that quality conversations between a line manager and an employee are where the value lies for all parties concerned, but whether these replace a broken appraisal process, is where I may differ a little.

The reference to the ‘One-day diet’ in the title, is a reminder of the adage that ‘Only giving feeback at the annual appraisal is like dieting for one day a year and expecting to lose weight’.

If the annual appraisal is the only conversation happening during the year, then of course it won’t yield the results people want it to; everyone will throw their hands-up in the air and say ‘What’s the point? Let’s get rid of it.’ – this risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

A better question might be’ How do we effectively support the annual appraisal to create a robust performance management process?’. The debate shifts from performance appraisal to performance management, and we should then be able to discuss how a series of conversations need to precede the appraisal one. i.e. An effective objective setting conversation, ongoing feedback conversations, coaching conversations, developmental conversations, etc.

I think there is a perfectly good framework for cyclical performance management conversations already in place; it just needs to be better executed by both line managers and employees taking responsibility to come to those conversations suitably skilled and prepared.







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Let me tell you just how brilliant I am..!

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A recent project with a client of ours highlighted again how a key consideration in making performance management conversations go well is often missed; this is the confidence and capability of the employees.

The common approach to improving performance conversations might begin with Line Manager training; better objective setting, giving feedback, coaching skills, holding the appraisal, etc, so they can hold an effective conversation with an employee.

However, if the employee finds it difficult to articulate how they have performed, particularly in regard to demonstrating the company values or behaviours, then the conversation can falter and ultimately have the employee not represent themselves in their best possible light.

The Line Manager cannot be expected to see every aspect of how an individual has performed; some is quantitative and can be assessed, but the qualitative  data is patchier, less clear cut.

If employees can learn the art of telling stories about how they have demonstrated the company behaviours in their day-to-day role, then a much richer two-way conversation can emerge, and the very act of creating and articulating those stories about  how they demonstrate the company behaviours, deepens their understanding of them.




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Hitting the target but missing the point – Why bother with 360 degree feedback?

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There has been a lot of discussion of late in nearly every sphere of public life and government policy with regard to the concept of performance targets; those set within education, policing, the NHS..the list, as they say, goes on.

In each instance, the phrase ‘hitting the target but missing the point’ has been used to highlight the perceived madness, whereby organisations and institutions are so focused on achieving a performance target, that the very core of why they exist is lost i.e. to foster learning, to solve crime and promote safety, to care for patients.

There is a separate post to be written (a long one!) about how in these instances, the values which should underpin the behaviours of said organisations and institutions, are forgotten; they fail to provide the moral compass they should do to individuals and management teams – poor decisions are made for children, citizens and patients.

There is a parallel to any organisational process which is put in place, which ‘ticks the boxes’, but fails to deliver on the real reason it is there; in the case of 360 degree feedback, the point is that it prompts a meaningful conversation between a line manager and an employee, about values, behaviours, and development – it isn’t an end in itself.

If running a 360 programme simply serves to churn out a colourful report, which is left to the individual to try and decode without discussion, then the value of the process is very much lost.


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What is a ‘meaningful conversation’?

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We talk a lot about ‘meaningful conversations’ in our discussions with clients; as you can see from the home page, it sits at the centre of what we are all about.

But what do we mean by ‘meaningful conversation’ and why is it so important?

We believe that a key skill of a line manager is the ability to deliver on the stated purpose of a performance management conversation i.e. Set objectives, give feedback, coach or conduct an appraisal, whilst maintaining a high-trust relationship with the individual concerned.

To deliver on both these dimensions, is not as easy as it sounds, but is critical to effective performance management.

Often we see line managers in our training programmes who are excellent at getting the objectives set, or reviewing the performance of an individual at year end, but their approach is coercive, it isn’t a two-way dialogue, it’s imposition.

Employees come away feeling ‘done to’ and disengage; the relationship between them and their line manager suffers as a result.

Alternatively, the line manager is very sensitive to the relationship with their team member and overcompensates in not delivering on the purpose of the conversation i.e. perhaps some ‘difficult’ feedback which needs to be conveyed.

Here the line manager drifts into ‘friendly chat’ area and this can leave the employee somewhat confused and unclear as to what has been said and/or what they are expected to do.

Suffice to say, any conversation that fails to address either of these dimensions becomes meaningless in every sense!


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Return of the magnificent seven

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A first note of apologies to all those who had been loyal readers of our blog over a number of years, only to see it stop suddenly last Autumn; it wasn’t our intention to leave people hanging like that, we just became consumed by work, which is no excuse, but is the reason.

As we started the year, new ideas began to form, new ways of working with our clients showed both results and real promise, so we began a ‘re-branding’ exercise which has had us examine every facet of what we do and how we do it, leading to a revised home page which starts to hopefully capture this in a succinct way.

That said, it’s a work in progress; there is more to do, and much more to share; client stories, new research, and live events which we shall begin to unveil over the coming months.

If you are still out there and reading this…..thanks.


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