360 Feedback: The Secret Tool to Discover Your Leadership Blind Spots

Did you know your GPS requires four satellites to determine your 3-D position on earth? One perspective is insufficient. Two is still not enough. Three will tell you where you are, but not in 3-D. 

To get the truest, most reliable read on where you are you need multiple viewpoints! 

Same’s true when it comes to your performance review. To get the truest read on how effective you are in your role, you need feedback from multiple angles. Everyone has blind spots. But when you discover what they are and then make changes to improve, your career can skyrocket.   

You can discover blind spots as well as your key strengths using a 360 feedback survey. You’ll get constructive, anonymous feedback on your performance with incredibly powerful results.  

And, if you’re considering hiring a coach, be sure to consider a 360 feedback survey as part of the discovery process. According to Forbes.com, “One of the most important components of executive coaching is the 360 degree feedback that the coach gathers…about their strengths and development needs, how they are perceived, and what they need to do in order to achieve a higher level of performance and positive impact.”  Couldn’t agree more! 

What can you learn from a 360?  

Let’s look at an example of one of my favorite 360-degree feedback surveys, the Hogan. This is for a leader named Maria Sample (you guessed it… not a real person).  

Maria’s overall score is a 6.3 on a scale of 1-7. Here she can see how she scored in the four themes that comprise Hogan’s Leadership Model: 

Self-Management 

How do you manage your energy, your emotions, and your reputation?

Relationship Management 

How are you doing with getting results through relationships? Cultivating team engagement? 

Working in the Business  

How is your experience level, capability and efficiency for the day to day tasks? How is your prioritization of work and goal setting? 

Working on the Business  

How much are you adding value through innovation, strategic planning, and team building? How effectively do you use planning cycles and challenge poor performers? 

Now Maria can go deeper into each of these quadrants to get more insight… 

What can Maria can take away from this data goldmine? 

  • She knows how to get stuff done! Her “Working in the Business” overall score of 6.5 is strong. 
  • She could spend some time working on Self-Management, particularly with showing resilience. 
  • She scores herself higher than what others score her in most cases. Doing this 360 will be an important correction in her self-perception. 
  • In all cases her scores are higher than the global average. So, she’s a stronger leader than most! 

Maria can drill down further into each theme to see the specific statements raters evaluated her on. She can also spot trends in the rater groups. Super helpful! In the example below, we see her direct reports give her higher marks than her peers. Maria will want to consider ways to bolster her relationships with peers going forward. 

And remember, you get good news in a 360 feedback survey, too! Who doesn’t want to know what their top strengths are perceived to be? Here are Maria’s: 

Why a leader might hesitate to do a 360

Well, it can be a little scary. I get it. It requires courage and vulnerability to ask people to rate you candidly.  

But consider what it demonstrates to your team: Transparency and humility.  

When people see these qualities in a leader, trust goes up. Not only are you getting feedback to inform your development, you’re also modeling vulnerability and honesty to your team.  

Win, win! 

Here’s another thing leaders sometimes wonder… 

Why ask for anonymous feedback if I want a culture of trust? Shouldn’t people tell me directly what they think of my leadership? 

 Ideally, yes. But it’s highly unlikely they will do so with quality. Here’s why: 

  • There’s rarely a specific invitation for a performance discussion with the boss. They have to be bold enough to initiate that. Not likely. 
  • Even if you do get feedback it will not be as full bodied and multi-faceted as a 360 report. There are questions and angles in a 360 that most people don’t think of. 
  • People simply fear retribution. What is the cost of giving honest feedback directly to the boss? It’s a risk many are not willing to take. 

How does a 360 process work? 

Here are the steps. And it can be done 100% virtually.

Select your raters 

Raters usually include your manager and selected peers, direct reports, internal stakeholders. Sometimes even customers.  You’ll want to get input and agreement from your HR leader or boss. 

Notify raters 

Let your raters know they’ll receive an anonymous survey and that you value their time and their honest input.  

Schedule your feedback session 

When all raters have completed the survey, schedule a feedback session with your 360 consultant to unpack the results. You should come away with key things you want to keep doing, stop doing, and start doing. 

Share key learnings 

Let your raters know what you learned and how you’ll be working to improve. Don’t skip this! It’s really important for people to know their feedback was heard and valued. 

Make a development plan 

Work with a coach work to modify your behaviors according the feedback. If you can’t get a coach ask a mentor or trusted friend to help you stay accountable for changing behavior. This is critical. 

Measure your growth 

After 9-12 months re-survey to see how you’ve moved the needle. Then celebrate your growth. And thank your raters for their input in shaping your leadership.

What’s holding you back? 

See how you can use multiple viewpoints to better understand your strengths, your challenge areas, and to course correct for better performance?  

Don’t keep operating with your blind spots holding you and your team back.  If you’re serious about developing your leadership and improving self-awareness, let’s do this together. I’d be honored to walk with you, from startup to coaching, through this process. Let’s watch your leadership abilities rocket to the next level!