How To Overcome The Top Challenges With 360-Feedback Assessments

When used correctly, 360-degree assessments can prompt greater workplace communication and organizational change, ultimately leading to overall improved performance. They can help managers enhance their skills and employees feel they have a say in the managing process.

However, many organizations still have trouble implementing 360-feedback platforms correctly, either by failing to educate raters about the process or by trying to avoid the hard truths.

Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council talk about how to overcome the most common challenges coaches or organizations face when implementing a 360-degree survey.

Forbes Coaches Council members weigh in on the top challenges with feedback assessments and how to overcome them.

1. Keep Your Views To Yourself

It is critical as a provider of 360 assessment feedback that the coach remembers it is not their personal judgment but rather a translator of evaluations of others. Keeping your views to yourself and refraining from using evaluative statements is not only a must but also an art form. This way the conversation can transition from an appraisal to growth and development. –Edyta PacukMarchFifteen Consulting Inc.

2. Give Coachees Enough Time

Coaches sometimes forget that the participant has to own the output of a 360. Make sure you give your coachees enough time to review their data on their own before the feedback session. And when you do discuss feedback, bring questions, not assumptions or pre-formed solutions. –Ross Blankenship, PhDBespoke Partners

3. Go After The Sweet Spot

Feedback is a gift. But 360 feedback can be a gift that is so big we end up doing nothing with it because the client is overwhelmed. In working with my clients, I focus on finding the sweet spot where we pick a competency that overlaps with a passion and the organization’s need to focus the client’s energy on. This makes all the difference! –Amy DouglasEnvision Business Consulting

4. Help Raters Know They Made A Difference

Often, 360 raters never know if their feedback was heard or if it made a difference. During the coaching session, it’s important for the coach to provide a process for the leader to thank their raters for the time they took to help him/her be more effective, mention to them what changes he/she will make as a result of the feedback, and ask if there is anything additional they would like to say. –Cynthia KivlandThe Liautaud Institute

5. Prepare Your Audience For The Feedback

Avoid jumping into a 360-degree feedback process before your audience is ready to hear it. It’s tempting to roll out a 360 as a starting point for an engagement, but without the trust and context required to communicate the feedback appropriately, all that work may fall on deaf ears — or worse, cause backlash. –Taylor JacobsonFocusmate

6. Remember The Client’s Agenda

A 360-degree assessment needs to be clear and directly related to a goal determined by the client and commonly shared with all stakeholders. Coaches can mistakenly try to solve other problems and share information that may not be related to the ultimate purpose of the assessment, and that can sound as lack of confidentiality, trust and focus. Sticking to the client’s agenda is critical to success. –Mariana

7. Strive For Objectivity And Hard Truths

Clients often exclude the people who would give the best, most candid feedback for personal and professional growth: the boss they feel doesn’t like them, the direct report they have disciplined. Intentionally include participants who can be objective and give hard truths: participants who have good work ethic and personal integrity regardless of personal tensions in the relationship. –Frances McIntoshIntentional Coaching LLC 

8. Have The Proper Set-Up

It’s important that participants have the emotional intelligence to digest the kind of information that gets dispensed by the assessment. Without a proper set-up, people can likely feel attacked or will generally take things personally. It’s important to understand that feedback is just information and that how they take in, interpret and process the information is just as important as receiving it. – Lori DarleyConscious Leaders LLC 

9. Be Clear About Rater Selection

I provide “types of raters” needed for increased validity. Besides the 360 degrees, I ask for people the talent believes have negative views, positive views and neutral views. When we go over the list, I ask into which category each feedback provider falls. Regardless of their answer, I ask why they categorize them as such. The answers give me great starting information and ensure richer feedback. – Bill GardnerNoetic Outcomes Consulting, LLC 

10. Use Opposing Colleagues 

One of the areas many coaches forget to focus on when implementing a 360-degree assessment is to choose a colleague who is adversarial to the person being assessed. Choosing someone who does not see eye to eye with the candidate in question can reveal gaps and blind spots that may not have been brought to light by more collegial relationships. – Kelly MeerbottYou: Loud & Clear 

11. Move From Feedback To Action

It’s important for coaches to help the client move from the feedback to action, once the feedback has been digested and discussed. Too often, a 360 happens and then nothing is done on the backend with the information to take meaningful action. Working with the client on a specific, measurable goal as a result of the feedback along with action steps takes it from “nice to know” to real progress. – Lisa DownsDowns Leadership 

12. Introduce Them To SARAH

People are often blindsided by feedback they receive through a 360 assessment. The SARAH Model can help them through the process (Surprise, Anger/Annoyance, Rationalization, Acceptance, Help). These are the stages people go through when receiving difficult feedback. People often get stuck in the “R” phase. Knowing that everyone goes through these phases helps them be open to change. – Dave Fechtman, Velocity Advisory Group

13. Pair The 360 With An Opportunity For Coaching

A face-to-face feedback session is essential, but two or three coaching sessions at the very minimum are recommended. This way, the employee can formulate goals based on feedback and begin to take steps toward accomplishing them. Once their goals are in place, employees can set up a “buddy” coaching arrangement with a peer of their choice (if ongoing coaching of employees is cost-prohibitive). – Christine Allen, Ph.DInsight Business Works 

14. Educate Your Clients

Educate clients that a 360 assessment is a tool to promote dialogue. Often, coaching clients and feedback providers use the assessment to hide behind rather than to facilitate open and frank discussions. Avoid assuming clients understand the intent and purpose behind the 360, which is to begin the journey towards a feedback culture. Instead, talk about intent early and often. – Laura DavisLaura A. Davis & Associates, Inc.

15. Keep It Confidential

Presenting information in a way that does not protect the identity of the participant is a big mistake. The value of a 360 is that the feedback you’re asking for is true, honest and confidential. When you expose identifiable specifics without permission, rather than presenting the broader conversation trends, it calls into question your credibility as a coach and can result in negative impact for the team member. –Teri CittermanTalonn


Originally published on Forbes.

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