Watch out for the Skew!
Sometimes I need to remind clients what they can expect from a 360 report. Any questionnaire or psychometric tool or can only give you a snapshot of what people were thinking at the time they answered the questions. This should be blindingly obvious, but many of us have a strange tendency to continue to give credence to something we see in print, even if we know things have changed since it was written. Bearing in mind that 360 reports are often revisited over time, and used as a starting point for a year long development plan, their usefulness can be limited if the information gathered is distorted.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t carry out a 360 feedback exercise if we knew that those taking part were likely to respond in a way that is not typical of them, but of course we can not always predict events.
I have seen examples where there has been a major team falling out during the 360 process. Sides were taken, accusations flung… Fortunately, it gave the team manager a real wake up call about the implications of how he dealt with disagreements, but it would have been good to see more reasoned responses to his usual management style and skills, rather than just the argument focus.
So what can we do? There are two main areas, ‘Before’ and ‘After’:
- Take the bigger company picture into account when organising the process, looking out for activity that might hinder or complicate your plans.
- Prepare your people well. Make sure they know what is being expected of them, and ask them to let you know if they have any concerns.
- Build some flexibility into your time table, so that if something untoward happens, you can give people an extra week or two to get their responses done.
- Make sure individuals are helped to take the context into account when considering their report. As with all feedback, we have a choice whether to accept it, reject it, or accept part of it. An external, impartial coach can help you achieve that.
- If an individual is sure that their report does not represent them well, you could consider adding some more respondents to the existing report to get a broader range of views, repeating the 360 in a couple of months, or using another method of gaining feedback.