Actionable tips to receive 360-degree feedback well

In our previous post, we introduced the concept of 360-degree feedback where each team member receives feedback from multiple sources. The purpose of the feedback is to help each team member develop further. Needless to say that the recipient as well as feedback givers play important roles in a 360 review’s success. Let’s first look at the former.

The Feedback Recipient

Presumably you are one of the recipients in a 360 review. You are getting feedback from your peers and managers. In principle, this is the time for you to figure out the opportunities to grow.

In reality, what you are likely to face is an avalanche of comments and opinions based on various observation and interpretation. In the best scenario, converging positive feedback comes from all sources. Unfortunately, there are often variety and contradiction.

So what do you do? How do you get to understand the whole lot of feedback and take the best out of this 360 review?

Here is step-by-step guide that you can use. It will help you break down the feedback, and start working on improvements.

1. Acceptance

First of all, you need to accept the feedback for what it is. Most of 360-degree feedback will be anonymous, unless a giver chooses to reveal her identity. Hence, the temptation to guess who thinks highly of you, and also the opposite. However, you have to overcome this temptation. Your focus should be on what is being said, not who said it.

Work on your curiosity as well as your emotion. Even if you feel like some feedback is totally unfair or simply wrong, don’t get emotional. At this stage, you should not try to think of the reasoning behind. What you do here and now is to simply record what is said.

2. Spot patterns

In this second step, you want to spot tendencies in the 360-degree feedback.

Take a step back to look at the big picture. Identify patterns and trends. If most people say you are providing useful feedback, that means you are quite a team player.

There is a possibility that you will find some outliers - one or two people say the opposite to the rest about a certain skill or behavior of yours. You should not worry about those for now, sparing them for the next step.

At this stage, you want to note down the most common patterns in the feedback. For example, 8 out of 10 respondents noticed that you have been more in control of handling multiple tasks. More than half said you located time to each task of yours reasonably and hardly felt behind. This is the pattern for good time management skills. Look for patterns like this one and note them down. Those patterns give you an overview of your competencies and a general direction for your growth path.

3. Understand more

Now is the time for you to develop a better understanding of each piece of feedback. This step is very important because it will help you know more about your behaviors, the impact on others and what you can do to develop further. So, dig in. Read between the lines. Take out your measurement tape. Compare A to B, and B to C. Basically, you want to do whatever it takes to understand more about others’ perspective toward your behaviors and skills.

For each piece of feedback, you should try to separate objective observation and the giver’s interpretation. Let’s use an example to illustrate this:

“You were quiet during a meeting with a client last week. I think you should be more assertive in order to become a better sales rep”.

The being quiet part is objective observation. The not being assertive part is the interpretation of the giver. You probably have a different explanation for your quietness. You knew the client very well and knew that she liked to take control. She liked to think that she drove the deal, not you. That was why you stayed more quiet than you normally do. It can also be the case that the giver was right and you failed to make a quick decision and give timely responses.

The point here is that by separating data and interpretation, you understand more where the feedback comes from and where it goes to. Whether you agree or disagree with the feedback, a better understanding will always help.

Unfortunately, not all givers would give you both. Some feedback is so unclear that you wish to seek clarification. If a giver leaves her name with her opinions, you should suggest a 1-on-1 conversation to discuss the feedback further. If they don’t, there are ways around it. Impraise allows feedback recipient and giver to start a conversation while keeping anonymity.

Don’t forget to balance the feedback in this 360-degree report with other feedback you’ve received and your self-assessment. If there are gaps, now is the time to think of reasons. With a better understanding of the feedback, you already avoid falling into the emotion trap.

4. The roadmap

In the fourth step, you want to specify a roadmap for personal development.

Take the above example, people appreciate your feedback. What can you do with this valuable teamwork skill? You can participate more in team brainstorming sessions or collaborative tasks. Ask yourself

  • Are these activities significant for your current role?

  • Will they benefit your career path?

This is the flow of questions you should ask yourself in order to narrow down a few most relevant skills. Obviously, you can be ambitious and want to develop all possible skills. However, you might find yourself improve faster if you focus on a few.

Think about what you do everyday and what you want for the future. Discuss this with a mentor, a friend, a trusted colleague or a manager if you need advice on which skills to pick.

Finally, you need to make an actionable plan and start working on it TODAY. (More on how to make an actionable plan in another blog post)

Feedback Givers

So if you switch role to be the feedback giver, what should you know?

It is important for feedback givers to remember two things.

Firstly, the purpose of your feedback is to help your colleague improve. Think more toward coaching and appreciation, and less toward evaluation.

Secondly, in order to help with development, it does NOT have to focus on weaknesses. I can’t stress this point strongly enough: You are actually helping more when you focus on your colleague’s strengths.

Not everyone is a natural feedback giver. It takes a real skill to give constructive feedback that your colleagues are more likely to accept. Since their acceptance and decision to work on the feedback you give is the key to a 360 review’s success, it would be useful for you to learn that skill. Ask for coaching from your managers before you participate in a 360 review if you are not sure about your feedback giving behavior. In the mean time, here is a simple formula for constructive feedback.

Constructive feedback = Situation + Behavior + Impact + Next

Click here to learn more about each component of the formula, so you can give feedback the right way. Want to become an expert on feedback giving? Check out this article for the reasoning, the time and space, and the right feedback behaviors.

Conclusion

A 360 review is well worth spending time and effort on because it can bring personal growth, team development and the improvement of the whole company. However, it is not easy to do 360 reviews right. On one hand, feedback recipients need to understand the feedback and know how to work on it. On the other hand, givers need to learn to give feedback the most constructive way. These are not easy skills to master, and coaching is in high order. However, the results are something worth working for. Tune in for the last post of this series when we discuss the roles of managers. In the mean time, check out the introduction post if you have not yet done so.