Seeing Yourself from All Sides

Are you ready for a 360 degree review by your manager, peers and direct reports?

A 360 degree review helps leaders grow in self-awareness. Intimidated? That’s natural, but preparing yourself can make the gift of feedback even more valuable. This three-question quiz will give you a closer look at the process as used at The BB&T Leadership Institute. 

1. Have you ever been the subject of a 360 degree review?

A. Yes. I’m used to reading data about my business, but it was much harder to see data about myself!

B. No, and I’m dreading it. I know there are going to be a lot of criticisms

Answer: A or B are both very typical answers.

Let’s be real. Getting direct, honest feedback can be scary and challenging for everyone, leaders included.

Lots of leaders come in mentally prepared to hear the very worst feedback they can imagine. I remember an educator who came in anticipating some very dramatic negative feedback. But what she was worried about never showed up. She was surprised by other patterns, but especially how highly people thought of her.

And there were many mentions of how hard she was on herself—which is exactly how she approached the 360! Lightbulbs were flashing everywhere.

Our flagship program Mastering Leadership Dynamics™ includes 360 degree review feedback as one of the tools we use.

The process is fairly straightforward. Before attending the program, leaders submit a list of people who they would like us to survey—managers, peers, direct reports and other stakeholders. They also complete a self-survey.

We email the raters with a link to our proprietary Conscious Leadership 360 degree assessment. Raters complete the survey, and we give the results to our participants.
It’s all confidential.

2. When you’ve had to participate as a reviewer for another colleague’s 360 degree review, what happened?

A. Several of us planned our answers together so that we would all give the same feedback. 

B. I hoped they thought I was fair, and maybe saw their actions from a different viewpoint.

C. I hesitated to tell the whole story. I worried that if I revealed too much, that colleague would retaliate when it was her turn to review me. 

Answer: Ideally, B—Honest and fair responses help the reviewee gain perspective.

At The BB&T Leadership Institute, we believe that every leader benefits from understanding the perspective of the people she works with. It’s hard to know how people perceive your behavior, and a 360 degree assessment collects varied input that helps leaders understand their strengths and their blind spots.

Reviewers who are in the A or C answer group—giving planned answers or giving very shallow and undetailed answers—could be holding the reviewee back from learning how others perceive their leadership style and then understanding the impact of their behavior.

Our approach with the 360 degree review process is focused on providing feedback that leads participants to a much deeper level of self-awareness.

One of the most important aspects is your level of vulnerability as a reviewee—which we think of as your willingness to explore your own discomfort. This is the very richest territory for learning and self-awareness. The higher your vulnerability, the more useful your 360 experience will be.

3. What are the qualities of a strong 360 degree feedback process?

A. All the responses should be fully confidential.

B. It should be one tool among many to help a leader develop.

C. Any leader should be able to benefit from it—experienced or junior, struggling or succeeding.

Answer: All three qualities build a strong 360 degree feedback process.

Our 360 is part of a much bigger, intentional experience that helps leaders connect that feedback to their internal psychology—their beliefs about themselves and the world. The 360 is one of many tools we use to make that happen.

Our job as facilitators is to help participants interpret and understand their 360 feedback, but, more importantly, we help them understand their reactions to the feedback and how those reactions are indicative of the behaviors that earned them the feedback.

As they read their feedback, we encourage them not to focus so much on the details, but rather on the bigger patterns that pop out again and again. We also encourage them to notice their emotions as they move through—are they feeling excited, angry, hurt, grateful?

The most effective mindset for receiving 360 degree review feedback is one of openness and gratitude. We say over and over here that feedback is a gift (even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment), and that is the most frequent conclusion that participants come to over the course of the week.

By Bright Dickson

Photography by Martin Barraud, Getty Images

Mastering Leadership Dynamics

The BB&T Leadership Institute’s flagship program helps leaders increase their leadership abilities by becoming more aware of their beliefs and behaviors, and by learning how to better build and manage relationships and communicate more effectively.

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