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Organizing 360° Feedback

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

A powerful tool to be used with care!

Organizing 360° Feedback

A few weeks ago, a client called me with this problem:


“Our new Quality Control Director really knows the technical side of his job, but his personality is brushing every one up the wrong way. Can you ‘sort him out’ with a 360° profile?”


I told him that we first have to consider if a 360° profile is the appropriate tool. If it is, our statistics show that participants have a 66% chance of making progress with their interpersonal skills.


To be appropriate, 360° profiles and feedback should always be used with a view to develop the participant professionally. If there is any hint that the results may be used with a ‘hidden agenda’, or in a punitive way, for example, to demote or fire the person, stay away from them like the plague!.


The best 360° feedback tools provide participants with a portrait of how their attitudes, behaviors and on-the-job results impact those around them. This type of portrait has the advantage of being far more objective than the opinion of just one person. There are many different tools on the market. Some measure leadership capacity, others management skills and yet others look specifically at dimensions such as conflict management and the ability to plan and organize. Some organizations build their own culture-specific 360° feedback tools. These tend to do an excellent, but somewhat limited job, targeted just for that organization. We will look at the Human Synergistics® profiles in general, such as MEPS®, Leadership WorkStyles® and Leadership Impact®.


Choosing the 360° ‘molecule’ of respondents


The 360° process starts by making sure the participant is completely at ease with receiving this type of feedback. He or she must be reassured that the program’s objectives are to develop and perfect her or his professional skills and competences. Critically, participants must also be guaranteed that their results will be treated in complete confidentiality. The decision to share and work on the results is that of the participant alone, regardless of the fact that, in practically all cases, it is the organization and not the participant that is footing the bill.


With this golden rule established, participants need to decide from whom to solicit feedback. This ‘molecule’ of respondents will typically consist of the participant’s immediate superior (N +1) two or more peer- level colleagues (N 0s) and two or more subordinates (N –1s). This type of ‘molecule’, with respondents from various levels and viewpoints, gives excellent feedback. The Human Synergistics® profiles that we use work well with ‘molecules’ from five to ten in size. In some cases, the composition will be different, as participants may have two or more N +1s, or no N –1s. The key factor is to build a feedback ‘molecule’ of people who know the participant well in his or her on-the-job context. These people will then receive questionnaires, most often on line. These will take about 30 minutes to complete. Respondents also need to be reassured that their completed questionnaires will be treated in complete confidentiality. Participants will not know the scores and answers of specific respondents.


Participants will only readily accept feedback from respondents that they have had a very significant hand in choosing. We find that our best results come when we suggest the structure of an appropriate ‘molecule’ to our participants and they then choose their specific respondents. It is rare that participants try to ‘gerrymander’ their results by choosing only people who may be favorably disposed to them, but, on the rare occasions we feel that this might be happening, we generally have little difficulty in getting participants to cast their feedback net over a more balanced ‘molecule’ of respondents.


Once all the questionnaires are completed, it rarely takes longer than 72 hours to have the report shipped to the participant.


Delivering the Feedback


Together with his team, Dr Robert Cooke, President of Human Synergistics®, has been tracking 360° data for many years. He finds that only one in twenty-five individuals present profiles that are close to ‘ideal’ or perfect. This means that most participants are going to receive some feedback that they may find difficult to accept. This is why we always suggest that reports are delivered with an internal or external Consultant available who is fully-trained in interpreting Human Synergistics® profiles and helping participants work on their results. The results themselves come in sealed plastic wrapping to ensure confidentiality. They are a mix of results and suggested development actions. They may often appear contradictory at first glance to the participant. This makes the role of the Consultant critical to ensure that the participant gets over any initial feelings of anger and denial and begins to plan and implement work on her or his continuing professional development.


It is at this stage that we most often see 360° programs fizzle and die. Participants may not receive the coaching and follow-up they need, or the resources, such as time and budget to take courses, or receive one-on-one coaching. So, to make sure participants gain the most from a 360° profile, it is worth while keeping these ‘Golden Rules’ in mind:


  • Use 360° for development purposes only

  • Choose a tool that is simple to administer

  • Guarantee complete confidentiality to the participants and their molecule’ of respondents

  • Make sure that coaching and other follow-up resources are available.

Want to know more about our leadership programs and profiles?

  • Individual Leadership (360° profiles, training, coaching)

  • Team leadership (Survival simulations, case studies, etc.)

  • Organizational leadership (culture surveys, engagement surveys, satisfaction surveys, etc.)

Tel : 514-485-4900


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