How to Avoid the

360 Degree Appraisal

Time Bomb!

Discover what you need to do to avoid the catastrophe that
360-degree performance evaluations can become

Let me start with - I prefer that 360 Degree Appraisals aren't used! If your company was truly high-performing you'd be giving each other feedback freely, openly and without harm or foul. However, very few companies get to this level rapidly, so need to rely on 360 Degree Appraisal processes. 

If you are looking for ideas on the criteria you can use to rate a person against during a 360-degree appraisal, then check out the Manager To High-Performance Leader self-assessment. I've used a modified version of that tool, with great success with several teams. However ... do read this article to make sure that you have all the elements in place to set your appraisal up for success.

The organization design elements you need for success

For your program to be entirely successful you need many of the following organizational design practices in place:

  1. 1
    An organization culture that encourages personal growth and development
  2. 2
    Performance Improvement Feedback is seen as a time to learn and grow (not as criticism) by ALL members of the organization
  3. 3
    The Senior Leadership team is committed to developing individuals. They view the feedback process as a chance to boost people's performance (rather than looking for problems to be gotten rid of)
  4. 4
    Systems and Guiding Principles are in place which enable each person to 100% trust that feedback will be used in a positive way
  5. 5
    Everyone involved in the 360-degree appraisal process has been well trained on the purpose, and use of the information gathered during the process
  6. 6
    Everyone is highly capable at giving and receiving feedback
  7. 7
    After an individual receives their feedback, they have available to them strong support, coaching, guidance, and/or mentoring from their direct leader. Sometimes they may need one-to-one coaching from a trained professional. Someone who can guide him or her to make whatever changes are needed.
  8. 8
    The organization is focused on enabling individuals to use their strengths regularly, and minimizing the impact of their weaknesses. They are not trying to make each individual master all aspects of their role.

The 360 degree appraisal and evaluation processes become a time bomb when:

  1. 1
    The feedback process is directly linked to pay and/or promotional decisions
  2. 2
    Team members aren't educated in how to overcome the 'hit to the ego', from negative comments
  3. 3
    The feedback isn't linked to (and customized to suit) the organizational values and goals
  4. 4
    The 360-degree appraisal and evaluation process does not include regular follow-up or linkage to development plans
  5. 5
    Poor implementation due to lack of training (feedback givers and receivers)
  6. 6
    Individuals are required to provide feedback to too many others, and become swamped by the process
  7. 7
    People see the 360-degree performance appraisal process as another 'chore' they have to get done to get management off their back
  8. 8
    Feedback is provided by people who have limited exposure to the individual
  9. 9
    Team members don't see any real change within a reasonable period after the feedback 

Make sure that most of these elements, mentioned above, have been covered off before you decide to go ahead with any 360 processes.

Why leaders should welcome the 360 degree appraisal

360-degree feedback and performance appraisals frequently get a bad rap. Often justifiably so! However, the reality is, we are being evaluated every day ... whether you think about it or not. Your reputation is on the line every day due to what you say, do and deliver is being evaluated.

If you are self-aware, then you will have a good feel for what others think of you.

But sometimes your perception of your performance and your impact on others can be at odds with how your leader, peer group and/or the people who report to you... see it. And, aren't you better off knowing that?

Knowledge is power. 

Knowing how others view your impact can enable you to make changes that make you more effective and successful.

Keep in mind too that you shouldn't expect to be strong at everything. Shooting at an individual being highly capable in every requirement of a job is idealistic and will get both you, and your organization in serious trouble.

Certainly, your 360-degree appraisal, should enable you to look at the areas where you are weak. Furthermore, you need to make sure that your weak areas don't become critical and cause you to crash and burn. 

For example, say your work colleagues see you as rude and arrogant - you need to know that. And hopefully you'll take steps to soften that behavior. Because that type of behavior will eventually railroad your career. Even the best performers are eventually set free (to find work elsewhere) if they can't create a culture that engages others.

However, say the feedback is that you lack attention to detail. Sure, this is something that you could improve. However, it would be a waste of your time and effort (and the organization's) to spend a lot of time and focus on trying to make you strong in this area.

Put in strategies and support systems to minimize the impact of your weaknesses

You are better off putting strategies and support systems in place, to make sure that this weakness is taken care of and it doesn't become a 'fatal flaw'. What's more, spend more time, focusing on making sure you are using your areas of strength, regularly ... this way both you and the organization will win.

Even flawed 360s can be useful

Even if, you find yourself caught up in a 360 evaluation process that has been poorly planned and implemented - be bigger than the flawed process. Take charge of making the best use of what you discover, so you can expand and grow and step into more of your potential.

Please feel free to contact me if you wish to find out more about how to customize a 360-degree appraisal and evaluation process to suit your organization's goals and values.

Several of the leaders I coach, on a one-to-one basis, have come to me following 360-degree performance evaluations and we find that with coaching they can really make the most from their feedback. You can read more about business leadership coaching here. 

Read about no rating performance appraisals here.

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