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Lifting the veil: The power of 360-degree feedback

When I first heard about 360-degree feedback, it reminded me of those horrible slam books from middle school. The ones that kids taunt one another with by anonymously adding their opinions of a peer into a spiral notebook that then gets furiously passed around at lunch.

My imagined nightmare is not that much of a stretch, considering that the fundamentals of 360-degree feedback consist of people throughout a company (salaried and hourly employees, CEOs, supervisors) who all anonymously tell X worker what they think of his/her performance. Sounds pretty horrifying, right?

Well, before you resort to hiding in your locker, consider the one group that could be greatly served by 360-degree feedback — the managers. The purpose of a manger is to effectively communicate with the team, be a middleman (or woman), oversee projects and implement order. Having a touchstone to the effectiveness of those efforts would not be the worst thing in the world. With the right attitude and practices in place, the process can prove to be quite beneficial.

Adjust your attitude

Managing a business is not an easy task. You are the point person between profits, investors, suppliers, customers, your team, its products and services. There are equal stressors on every side of the spectrum, and catering to all of those different groups can be exhausting.

So, when you consider implementing some 360-degree feedback, check your emotions at the door. There will be good comments, constructive critics, hurtful words and completely illogical explanations along the way. If you prepare yourself for this and focus on improving the workplace by improving your effectiveness, the intimidation factor will fizzle out.

Implement it on your own

Whether you are a business owner or the supervisor of a department, anyone can implement 360-degree feedback. The first step is to provide varied participants with anonymity. This is vital to producing honest and upfront results.

It is important to clearly indicate in the instructions the purpose of the feedback — to figure out necessary changes and new ways your efforts can better serve the business and everyone involved. You’ll want questions that touch on your problem-solving skills as well as your communication and leadership styles.

Some sample questions include:

  • Does X display proper management skills? If not, how can X improve?
  • How does X handle problems? Please be specific.
  • How well does X communicate with others? Can you give some positive and negative examples?
  • In what ways does X motivate people?

Evaluate the results

The second step requires you to evaluate the results and then plan how to carry out the new changes. This process can be difficult because the anonymous submissions make it impossible to know who to ask to elaborate. Instead, seek out an outside mentor that can help you evaluate the results and coach you toward improvement.

Your goal is to open your eyes to angles and attitudes you were previously unaware of. Listen to the constructive criticisms from within your company. Make a list of reasonable changes and then brainstorm ways that you can put these into practice.

Throughout the evaluation process, weed out negative and unfair emotions like personal problems, dwellings on the past or those that require a stretch way beyond your duties. Be sure not to toss the positive attributes out; pat yourself on the back and keep conditioning your good qualities through daily practice.

Understand the added benefits

By making the effort to improve your practices and procedures, it will be easy for your team to look at you as a role model. Taking 360-degree feedback in stride will exemplify that flaws are OK as long as efforts are made to improve them.

Your career can also be greatly served by the 360-degree feedback process. Such valuable feedback can tip you off on specific ways to improve. If you can look at the constructive feedback as a path to enhancing your performance and developing your career, you’ll enjoy the experience in a much more fulfilling way.

A good practice would be to revisit this method of feedback annually or semi-annually. As time passes, business factors will change. By collecting and monitoring feedback over time, you will be able to bend and flex right along with them.

Kelly Gregorio writes about management trends and tips while working at Merchant Resources International, a merchant cash advance provider. You can read her daily business blog here.