Everyone on the planet likes to feel respected and appreciated. Everyone on the planet will pay more attention to those whose opinions they value. If you lead with positives, you put people in a better frame of mind to hear your constructive criticism. If you lead with negatives, you put people on the defensive.
To be clear, there are times when you need to shock people a little to get their attention. In some of those situations, you may want to lead with a negative platform for change. But, if they’ve asked for help, you’ve already got their attention – like when providing 360-degree feedback.
360-degree feedback is a simple tool that can make an amazing difference. It both depersonalizes feedback and personalizes it at the same time.
At its core, it’s a way to gather feedback on an individual in all directions: up, across and down. It provides the “What” in a “What? So what? Now what?” approach to feedback.
It depersonalized feedback by enabling a reviewer to downplay their own personal views. It personalizes it by bringing in the personal views of others. Done wrong it can “shred the fabric of trust in an organization.” Done right, it’s a valuable tool as part of a comprehensive talent assessment and development system.
One way to frame 360-degree feedback questions is “Keep? Stop? Start?”
- What does [person being reviewed] do that you find particularly valuable – things they should KEEP doing?
- What does [person being reviewed] do that hinders their effectiveness – things they should STOP doing?
- What else could [person being reviewed] do to be more effective – things they should START doing?
The order of asking the questions matters as well as does the order of relaying the information.
By leading with the KEEP question, you put the person answering the question in a positive state of mind. That sets up a positive bias to their answers to the following questions.
STOP is easier to think about than is START. The STOP question goes to things the person being reviewed is already doing. They are real and concrete. Ask about those next.
End with START (and not just because it was so fun for me to write those three words in that order.) The START question frees up the reviewer to imagine new things.
Note some people refer to these questions as “Stop. Start. Continue.” While they the same questions, the order is wrong.
Everything communicates – including how you respond to questions for feedback on others. Even if the feedback is confidential and anonymous (which it should be,) the person compiling it knows who you are and knows when and if you responded and how seriously you took the exercise. Even more importantly, you know. It’s one more opportunity to put what you believe into words and actions.
The most helpful feedback is:
- Well thought through.
- Constructive in that it’s written to help not hurt.
- Has examples.
- Thought provoking.
- Goes beyond the “what” question asked to point the compiler to “so what”
There’s an art to compiling and delivering 360-degree feedback.
Order matters. Per above, lead with KEEP. Then go through STOP. End with START.
Preserve confidentiality. This may require editing some responses so no one – and especially not the person being reviewed – can track specific input back to specific people.
With that said, your main job is to step back from the “What” in the input and draw “So what” conclusions and “Now what” indicated actions.
You might, for example, start your write up with a paragraph on conclusions (so what), then add in indicated actions (now what,) and end with edited responses to the questions (what.)
Deliver the feedback by sending the person being reviewed your write up 24 hours ahead of your conversation with them. This allows them to digest and reflect on the input on their own before digging in with you.
If you’re on the receiving end of 360-degree feedback, treat it like the gift that it is. People cared enough to invest their time and energy to help you improve. Be open to the help. Thank them. Improve.