The 360 feedback process involves collecting perceptions about a person’s behavior from those around them. The feedback comes from people who interact routinely with the individual receiving feedback such as the person’s manager, peers, and direct reports. The variety of perspectives provides an opportunity for insight and helps to identify the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
One of the most valuable aspects of the tool is that the feedback is voiced anonymously. The truth is not always pretty, and most people will only give honest, candid responses as long as they know they won’t get identified. If a rater is scared of any possible retaliation, their feedback might turn out pretty flat and won’t be much help to the participant.
360 feedback is a sensitive process, and it is considered a best practice for a 360 vendor to maintain the anonymity and confidentiality of raters. Companies must stress to its employees that no matter how a rater answers the question, it will not threaten their job.
The anonymity of raters must be consistent throughout the entire process, even after the individual receives the feedback. Under no circumstances, should the individual try to decipher who was behind the comments. Let’s say you are the person being rated. You receive your feedback and are pretty surprised at some of the responses. Sure, it may be somewhat tempting to try and figure out who said what, but if you do this, you run the risk of harming the 360 process.
In addition, if you try and expose your raters, you may be perceived as being defensive, arrogant, or fearful of looking at your shortfalls. Shutting out the observations and perceptions of others limits your growth and development, and chances are pretty good that, over time, you have developed some blind spots.
Instead of focusing your attention on identifying raters, approach 360 feedback with an open mind. Remember that successful leaders are open to feedback about their actions, whether it is positive or negative. They respond to the feedback and use it to improve their performance, or change course when necessary.
Here are some development tips to keep in mind after you receive feedback:
- Evaluate how you view people who disagree with you. Do you try to understand the basis for their views? Do you ask questions respectfully? Do you work toward mutual understanding, or simply try to convince them that you are right?
- When you make a decision, get into the habit of considering the impact it will have on the people affected by it. Sometimes you may determine that a decision has a higher cost than it is worth, in terms of its impact on people. Other times, you may make the same decision, but you will know you need to reduce its negative impact.
- Recognize that timing is important. Your message might be the right one, but it won’t be well received if it is delivered at the wrong time. Before delivering your message ask yourself: “How will others feel if I say that?”
- As a leader, you have many opportunities to give people feedback. In addition to giving feedback, solicit feedback from your group members about how you can improve your own performance. Listen carefully to what was said, and thank people for taking the time to give you feedback.
Leadership always involves being sensitive to the needs of those who agree to be led. Respect your raters’ anonymity and make no effort to identify the individuals.