360 feedback is an incredibly valuable developmental tool for leaders. Many people realize that gaining perspective on strengths and opportunities from the people with whom they work is essential for professional growth and development. However, no matter how much we say we want feedback, it still can be hard to hear.
A 360 feedback report landing in our email in-boxes or in our hands can trigger our “not-so-rational-and-perhaps-a-bit-emotional” reactions. These reactions are prompted by whether we believe the feedback to be true, by the relationship with the person giving feedback, and by what we believe about ourselves.
Even the best leaders can feel off-balance, overwhelmed, or judged when first receiving feedback. In thinking about the thousands of 360 reports delivered, the difference I have seen between the best leaders and the rest is how they go about processing the feedback. Listening to and applying feedback from multiple co-workers is an important skill set. These learnable skills include imagining how other people see things, filtering through clues about what your direct reports and colleagues need from you, and calibrating how you work with others.
The following guidelines will help you strengthen this skill set.
The ACE Way to Receive 360 Feedback
Anticipate your likely reaction.
Some people blow past positive feedback and ruminate on negative messages. Others give too much weight to the nitty-gritty details (e.g., an outlier or a single harshly worded verbatim comment) and miss the top-priority themes. Some overly focus on positive feedback and write off any developmental suggestions (i.e., “I have an under-performing direct report who doesn’t like me”). Reflect on how you have typically handled feedback in the past and deliberately choose to listen to all feedback before jumping to a conclusion.
Then, listen to what you are telling yourself as you review your 360 report. Take a step back to listen to what others are really trying to tell you across the various ratings and comments. What patterns are most common? What are the headlines?
Create a goal for how to use the feedback.
Once you have taken a first pass through the feedback report, it is time to get intentional. The feedback report can be a rich source of information; focusing your attention will reduce overwhelm. Review the feedback a few times. Each time ask yourself focused questions to reach the goal that you set. You might ask, “What I am learning here?” or “What are my direct reports saying they need from me?” For example, you can consider taking your next pass of the 360 report with one of these learning goals:
- Which standout strengths to capitalize on
- How to strengthen mid-range strengths to add more value
- Which bad habits are negatively affecting others (even if well-intentioned)
- How to minimize or compensate for a weakness that could limit or derail you
Engage others in the conversation.
Feedback is an investment that others are making in your professional growth. Without communication following a 360, people tend to assume the worst about the leader (e.g., they do not care; they are angry). These negative stories will prevent people from providing useful feedback next time. You can easily prevent this from happening by sending a quick, yet meaningful “thank you” with a couple key learnings from the feedback. With this in mind, take a minute to thank each of your raters for taking the time to offer suggestions on your behalf.
At a high level, you can share what you appreciated hearing in the feedback (e.g., a couple of strengths or areas where your efforts are recognized by others). It is also important to show people the direction in which you are heading in the coming months thanks to the feedback (e.g., what do you plan to do differently). At this point, you do not have to provide specific details, but it is critical to show people that you listened and are using what you learned from the 360 process.
The Next Step Is the Action Plan
Understanding the feedback that you receive (and showing others that you heard their feedback) from a 360 process is a critical first step. Certainly, the 360 feedback does not end here. The next step is to create and execute a plan of action based on what you have learned. This is a topic worthy of its own post that you can check out here: http://www.thriveleadership.com/making-personal-action-plan-gets-results/
Want to Learn More?
Our favorite book on the subject of receiving feedback is Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) By Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen