How to Conduct Your Own In-Depth 360º Feedback

iStock_000009606080Smallby Jonathan London, Feedback Specialist

 Feedback. It’s not a word that typically conjures up a ton of positive feelings. Throw “360º” in the mix, and many people’s eyes glaze over. But people don’t inherently dislike feedback. I actually think most of us crave specific information on how we’re perceived, how we impact those around us, and on the limitations we need to address in order to reach our goals. Why such negative connotations then?

The problem is the feedback we receive in organizational settings is often vague, surface-level, and somewhat sterile. We are left with a list of “shoulds” — I should work on my presentation skills, I should prioritize better — without a deep connection to what it would look like and why it matters.

With that in mind, LaL took a different approach. Our interview-based 360º is built on a foundation of anonymous yet personal over-the-phone interviews. Our experienced feedback specialists help feedback providers clarify their thoughts and frame feedback in a way that is both clear and motivating. We focus on specific behaviors, their impacts and their connection to larger organizational challenges. At the end of the process, we perform a thematic analysis and then go through each piece of feedback with you, helping you process your reactions along they way.

We go to these great lengths because we believe in-depth, personalized, behavioral 360º feedback is a powerful tool for personal and professional transformation, relationship-building and uncovering hidden potential. (Check out LaL’s President Shayne Hughes’ blog on The Huffington Post, “Why an in-depth 360º feedback is crucial for your development.”) We know, however, that hiring professionals to conduct this type of comprehensive assessment isn’t possible for everyone in every situation.

So, in the spirit of spreading our love for feedback and the growth it inspires, here are some tips for conducting your own in-depth 360º review:

1.  Create a structure that allows for anonymity. You could ask a trusted friend or colleague to receive and compile email responses and then send you the compilation. Or, take a more tech-savvy approach. LaL offers a full-featured online 360º at a lower price-point than our interview-based service. You could also experiment with the Forms feature on Google Docs, or Keeping it anonymous will encourage friends, colleagues, and family members to give direct feedback — no sugarcoating. It will also help you to not fall in the trap of discounting feedback based on who said it.

2.  Don’t just ask your fan club. Most people have some relationships that are important yet difficult — a colleague with whom you work closely on a project but can’t seem to see eye to eye; a family member or friend with whom you’ve had a falling out. Soliciting feedback from these folks serves two purposes. First, it’s a small gesture toward repairing a broken relationship — you’re essentially saying, “I’m not perfect, and I care about how you see me.” And second, these may be the only people that have experienced first-hand certain sides of you — your cold/distant side, your sarcastic side — and their perspective will make the overall feedback richer and more complete.

3.  Be specific about what you want to know. For most people, being asked to give feedback will be a bit surprising and possibly uncomfortable. Being clear with your feedback providers about what you are asking for upfront will ease some of their discomfort (also, you might want to send them this primer on giving transformational feedback). It will also make sure the feedback you receive is relevant and focused.

• If there are certain areas you want to work on or things you’re curious about — just say so! Don’t be too specific, though — you don’t want to influence their response. For example, “I’m especially curious about how I show up during difficult conversations” is better than, “I think I look anxious and check out during conflict — is that true?”

• Also, remember to ask for strengths as well as weaknesses — it’s important for both you and your feedback providers to maintain a balanced perspective.

4.  For greater impact, ask for the impacts. Learning how others experience you will increase your self-awareness. Learning how you impact others will motivate you to do the hard work of change. It’s the difference between hearing that you tend to get defensive when challenged and hearing that a colleague is afraid to tell you what they really think. So make sure you ask for the impacts, consequences, and costs of your counterproductive behaviors — to you, to others, to the quality of your work, etc.

5.  Before reading the feedback, take some time to prepare. Receiving feedback can be an emotional rollercoaster — you’re likely to experience sadness, anger,  gratitude, and knowing laughter, all within a short window of time. You may become defensive or resigned. I’ve written about receiving difficult feedback in the past — revisit that post for some tips on how to process tough feedback, solicited or unsolicited. In addition, here are some steps you can take before reading your feedback to make the experience constructive and meaningful.

• Carve out the time and find a quiet space. Be intentional about when and where you read your feedback, allowing yourself enough time and privacy to reflect and process.

• Take a learning intention. Take some time to connect with why you are interested in uncovering your blind spots in the first place. What’s your goal? How do you want to develop? How might your development positively impact your life or the lives of those who mean the most to you?

• Identify your typical responses to feedback. It’s helpful to be aware of how you usually respond to difficult feedback (defensiveness, humor, justification, etc.). Writing out your tendencies and keeping it nearby will help you remember to re-center and focus on your goals when the reaction occurs. 

6. Find a partner in feedback. Having a trusted friend, colleague, coach or mentor by your side to help you go over your feedback can be a valuable resource. If you go this route, be sure to share both your goals in soliciting feedback and your typical responses to feedback. That way, if things get challenging, they can help you notice your reaction and help you to re-connect with your goals.

7. Assume positive intent. Sometimes, people are just harsher in writing than they would be face-to-face. If the wording of someone’s feedback is throwing you off, remind yourself that they aren’t experts at giving feedback and are ultimately trying to help you grow, however clumsily. Ask yourself — underneath the particular way they’ve expressed themselves — what is this person really trying to say? Is there something for me to learn there?

8.  Treat your reactions to your feedback as additional feedback. The content of your feedback is a rich source of information. Noticing your reactions to it can be equally enlightening. Did your mind suddenly switch to a blaming or justifying mode? Did you start to check out while reading a comment about the impacts of your behavior? Be aware of these knee-jerk reactions — both what causes them and how they play out — and try to make connections to how they relate to your personal and professional life. Perhaps some of the behaviors mentioned in your feedback begin with one of these responses?

9.  Leverage your takeaways. Now that you have some new insights, make the most of them with these tips on leveraging them for your greatest benefit.

We hope you find this “how-to” helpful, and that the feedback you receive has a positive impact on you, your organization, and the important people in your life. And if you’d rather leave it to the professionals, give us a call — we’re here to support you to identify and reach your next level, show up differently in your relationships and move forward on your most ambitious goals, both professional and personal.

Have you had a meaningful experience with feedback? Please share your story in the comments section below.


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