Sharing Coaching and Mentoring Practice 3: Challenge and 360º Feedback


360º feedback can be a great tool in coaching and mentoring for building on strengths as well as for challenging assumptions.

The third of our series of guest blogs from one of our Programme participants gives you an insight into her experience of working with 360 degree feedback.

Have you ever done a 360?

If so, then you probably know already that 360º feedback can be a great tool in coaching and mentoring?

If not . . . Do it! “It will be great for your development” your manager encourages (in spite of never having done one for themselves). So, you choose your raters and invite constructive feedback (feel free to be as honest as you like – I’m looking forward to it!), but really, ‘how can they possibly know me as well as I know myself?’

Yes, 360 can feel like this. But it can also be a jawdropping, lightbulb, life-changing experience, because many people do listen carefully to what others say about them, and then decide to take action. They’re the easy feedback meetings.

But what about when a client reads their report

. . . and decides – ‘Brilliant, I’m perfect, and everyone else seems to agree – job done!’

That’s something I’ve been mulling over of late – how can I challenge clients around 360? How can I help them to turn their feedback into something useful that enables them to set an agenda for development and which results in significant improvements?

My success in delivering 360 feedback as a coach has firstly been about understanding why people resist, and working with low-trust personality types (as I do), who have historically subscribed to a cultural suspicion of 360 confidentiality and anonymity complicates things. And why wouldn’t they be suspicious if 360 hasn’t been much used in the past or it’s been used very badly, with a 360 report landing in their Inbox with no opportunity to discuss its content with an experienced facilitator?

And if that’s not enough, there’s been myself to overcome . . .

  • my own initial challenge of being unsure how to deliver my first, and a few subsequent 360 feedback sessions – I over-prepped, over-talked and over-judged
  • telling people what I thought their raters were trying to say (ooh, the arrogance!)

So, solid coaching skills of rapport-building, ethical contracting, and my growing experience as a coach, all help. But making 360 count, really count, has meant me being brave enough to ask questions in 3 key areas:

  1. Do you understand key messages contained in your feedback?
  2. Can you come to terms with your feelings?
  3. Can you plan what needs to happen next?

Overall, I aim for my clients to be positively dissatisfied with their feedback. I want them to look for themes, to identify what’s surprised them, what’s delighted them, and to identify something they need to do next. My heart sinks when I sense a client trying to rush the meeting, to get back to their day job, probably intending to do no more with their feedback than to bask in the glory of a paton-the-back moment. They’re doing well, everyone loves them, business as usual!

But who gets a perfect 360?

Can’t we all gain something developmental from them?

I can deal with crying, arrogance, argument, disappointment, cynicism (and yes, I’ve had them all in 360 meetings), but if I haven’t enabled my client to share with me what they’re thinking and feeling, and what they plan to do next, I feel I haven’t done the best job I could have done.

Not all 360 feedback processes require an extended programme of coaching, or high level challenge, but what could you do to spark that positive dissatisfaction, if only for a moment, from your client to help them to steer a course from receipt of the report to building and maintaining momentum for personal change?

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Posted in Blogs, The Practice of Coaching & Mentoring