Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do’s and Don’ts for Having a 360 Degree Assessment Development Discussion

A 360 degree assessment is a great way for a manager to get feedback on their strengths and development needs. As a follow-up, the recipient of this great feedback should review the data with their manager as a springboard to a development discussion.

While this sounds like a good idea in theory, I’ve seen way too many managers screw it up. Here are some lessons learned, from both the perspective of the 360 participant, and their own manager (the “coach”).

When you get a 360 assessment and are ready to discuss it with you manager, DO:

1. Prepare for the discussion. Be ready to share your reactions, surprises, top 3 strengths, top 1-3 development needs and why

2. Prepare a draft Individual Development Plan (IDP)

3. Ask clarifying questions

4. Be open to possible “blind spots

5. Ask for advice and/or “feed-forward

6. LISTEN – and say “thank-you”

7. Be willing to take some risks

8. Acknowledge what you are going to work on and commit to telling the world

9. Ask for a follow-up meeting to review progress and set a date


1. Let the assessment report drive the discussion, your decisions, and your choices

2. Dwell too much on a single comment

3. Justify, deny, explain, rationalize, or defend

4. Wing it

5. Play it safe, i.e., wimpy development ideas like “read a book”

6. Keep playing to your strengths and ignore your weaknesses

7. Try to figure out who said what

8. Even have a follow-up session if you really don’t need clarification, don’t trust your manager, or don’t value his/her feedback or advice

When you are the “coach”, and one of your managers comes to you to discuss his/her 360 assessment, DO:

1. Allow the manager to own the process

2. Create a positive, optimistic environment

3. Ask a lot of questions:

 What did you learn about yourself?

 How do you feel about that? Why?

 What are the strengths you feel most proud of? Why?

 What’s your biggest opportunity for development? Why? How are you going do this?

 Do you need any additional ideas from me? How can I support you?

4. Listen:

 Think before you speak

 Listen with respect

 Ask yourself: “is it really worth it” before you add your comments

5. Provide clarification or additional feedback

6. Provide additional development ideas

7. Offer to open doors and make connections

8. Be supportive, encouraging

9. Be available for follow-up, keep your commitments


1. Demand to see a copy of their report

2. Treat this like a performance review

3. Be a know-it-all

4. Do your own diagnosis and insist on your own brilliant solutions

5. Talk about yourself

6. Compare this manager to others

7. Be vague when asked for clarification

8. Focus only on development needs

9. Chicken out and sugar-coat development needs

When both the manager and coach follow these guidelines, a 360 review and development discussion can be one of the most energizing, positive, and constructive conversations you’ll ever have. If not, it’ll end up being….. well,…. like a performance appraisal. Yuk.

Note: permission granted to turn this into your own 360 job aid.


Ann McKenzie said...

This is a very concise list. It assists both the employee receiving and the manager giving the 360. The manager gets a double benefit because likely they will also be on the receiving side from their manager.

Diahann Boock said...

Great suggestions for preparing for the 360 discussion. It seams important to re-iterate that both the participant and the "coach" should work hard to acknowledge the positive comments (or strengths) as much as the areas for growth (opportunities). We all tend to only see/hear/gravitate toward the negative, so often focusing on the positive takes a little more work.

Dan McCarthy said...

Ann -
Thanks. I always find it helps to have a manager go through a 360 and IDP discussion themselves before they try to coach someone else.

Diahann -
Thanks. Yes, I think it's important to focus on both - there are usually connections between them. For example, a high score on "gets results", or "action oriented" sometimes shows up as "impatient" or "poor listener".

Dan Zaccagnino said...

Yes, I agree. If you follow these guidelines your much better off than having an actual performance evaluation. This kind of reminds me of from Vineet Nayar's book," Employees First, Customers Second." He discusses how he separated the 360 degree evaluations from performance reviews and just used them as a developmental exercise.

Dan McCarthy said...

Dan -
I agree, I've never been a fan of using 360s for performance reviews.