Having being born and raised in Scotland, I have been reminded many times that the Scots have invented most things in the modern world: the steam engine, the bicycle, the telephone, and television, to name a few. While I don’t think we can attribute the 360 survey to fellow Scot Robert Burns, my countryman certainly articulated its key benefit. What a splendid gift being able to know how others see you?
Thirty-four percent of Millennials have cried after a performance review, 47 percent have looked for another job, and 30 percent say they’ve quit outright. - 2017 Adobe survey - "Performance Reviews Get a Failing Grade"
Despite this, many of the leaders and managers I have worked with are downright terrified of the 360 assessment. But the review needn’t be such a feared ordeal, and here are five reasons why:
- Opinions are free and everyone’s got at least one. Allodoxaphobia is the fear of hearing other people’s opinions. It’s a real condition and those who suffer from it live in constant fear and anxiety of hearing opinions about them. To some degree we can all relate to that—we want others, especially those we admire and respect, to think well of us. Few of us relish criticism. And while occasionally a 360 will contain some criticism, it’s important to remember that it is their perception, not necessarily the reality, and the good thing about perception is that it can be changed with a little bit of effort. 360 feedback gives you that opportunity.
- Others are often a better judge of your abilities, than you are. Have you ever been asked how long it will take to carry out a simple task and said “about half an hour,” and a couple of hours later, you were still on it? Don’t worry, optimism (and the desire to be seen as helpful) are pretty much part of the human condition. A 360 offers the opportunity to address such measures of overconfidence. This will make your life and the lives of the people who work for you much easier. It exposes what you may already know and allows more efficient planning.
- You don’t know what they know until they tell you. In the mid-1950s, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham combined their first names to create a communication model called the Johari Window. A key idea their model promotes is that we learn about ourselves from the feedback others provide. This is particularly the case regarding our “blind spots”—the perceptions others hold of us that we are not aware of. Learning about (and sometimes overcoming) the effects of these blind spots on working relationships is invaluable to personal development.
- Even Roman emperors needed a reality check. Alongside sanitation, law and order, education and, of course, the roads, the Romans knew a thing or two about how easily position and power can give us a distorted view of our abilities. Marcus Aurelius had a servant whose only job was to whisper in his ear when people praised him, “you’re only a man, you’re only a man.” So if a colleague’s view of you isn’t quite as high as your own, at the very least this offers a little lesson in humility and perspective— something leaders should never be short of.
- A chance to hit the pause button. How long have you worked with your current employer? What did you do last Tuesday? What would like to be doing next month? Such is the frantic pace of working life that we rarely get an opportunity to sit back and reflect. A 360 is such an opportunity. It will ask you to think about the ways you behave, your impact on others and, by extension, to think of others too. So grasp not only the chance to reflect, but use it to talk to your colleagues, peers and managers. The conversations explore what works and what needs to change—from this the real benefit of a 360 assessment is immediately derived.
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Dr Ian Stewart, Head of Leadership and Organisational Practice, has over 25 years’ experience of leadership development in the public and private sector. Prior to joining Kaplan, Ian ran the Behavioural Science department at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.