written by Angie Morgan

The 360 Degree Evaluation.

You know what it is. It’s an assessment where people who surround you, your boss, peers, direct reports, and others, evaluate you on a set of leadership competencies connected to job performance. In most situations all feedback, with the exception of your boss’s, is anonymous.

I’ve long believed this is an invaluable tool. Yet, there’s one major flaw in it: It’s anonymous.

While the anonymity is useful – people get to say what they typically wouldn’t say – sometimes reviewers use the tool in a “I’m not holding back now” sort of way where it makes the truth, or the truth as they see it, hurt.

Courtney and I use 360s frequently (and carefully*) in our Year to Rise program; during a recent review with a coaching client who worked for a company where I knew a majority of their reviewers, I couldn’t help but wish these individuals could’ve been direct and upfront to this individual years ago. Getting all that feedback at once, while illuminating and productive, was also hard to digest for this individual during the review.

There’s an opportunity, I believe, for us all to both ensure this doesn’t happen to us, while also being the type of leader who helps others grow in their career continuously … not episodically.  Here goes:

  • Ask for Feedback Regularly. From everyone. Ask them two things you’re doing well, two areas where you can improve. The first time you do this, they may not have an answer, but be consistent with asking the question and, over time, you’ll develop the rhythm and candor to get helpful information.
  • Deliver Feedback Regularly. Especially if you manage a team. There’s nothing more unfair to an individual than holding back on ways that they can improve their performance. Don’t let your nerves around delivering feedback deprive someone of what they need to hear. You’re not responsible for how they take your feedback; you’re only responsible for how you deliver it.
  • Abandon the Compliment Sandwich. If you’ve got constructive criticism, be direct with it. Don’t bury it in a compliment. Save your compliments for times of sincere praise.
  • Don’t Make it Personal. Feedback on the job should focus on behaviors the individual can develop. Don’t make it personal; keep it professional.
  • Balance Performance with Empathy. This is the tricky balance many people managing teams right now are experiencing. Performance goals need to be delivered and individuals, and the COVID life they’re living, may not be able to perform to the level they did pre-COVID. Be both patient and empathetic with them and offer ways you can support during this time. Help them prioritize what’s truly important and co-create with them ways they can juggle responsibilities.

Investing in our own development, as well as the development of others, is one of the many things that leaders do. Be thoughtful, intentional, and direct as you seek to influence and inspire.

p.s. Yes, I love Lizzo – the inspiration for this subject!

*Not everyone is prepared for a 360; not everyone works for organizations where a 360 would be valuable.

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