Feedback Series, Part 3: 360° Feedback

In the first two articles in our Feedback Series, we chatted through two important aspects of effective feedback loops Montani encourages all of our clients to consider: a shift in mindset from failure to “failer” for team members who receive tough but necessary criticism, and the willingness and ability for supervisors to enter into hard conversations using Radical Candor to clearly but caringly communicate feedback.


Now we’ll dive into 360° feedback to bring this series full circle (sorry, we had to). 


What the heck is 360° feedback? This is the process of giving feedback to (and receiving feedback from) team members below, next to, and above you on the managerial ladder. So unlike traditional feedback loops which, frankly, act more like one-way feedback lines – from managers down to their subordinates – 360° feedback means team members are encouraged to offer insight to their leaders and peers, in addition to anyone they may supervise. 


At Montani, we’re all about 360° feedback – for our own team, as well as for our clients. The willingness for leaders to open the lines of communication with their employees has made such a difference in the health and overall culture of organizations big and small. But this process is often initially met with some hesitation.


Talk about getting vulnerable. This is a practice that may seem uncomfortable for some who are used to dishing out feedback without being on the receiving end during performance reviews. But the value that’s provided through this practice is major for organizations who are truly dedicated to improving the way they work and the growth of their team. After all, who can honestly claim their leaders up and down the ladder couldn’t use any guidance or insight to improve the way they help their team succeed? We’re waiting…


Every organization can benefit from a crystal clear view of just how effective management currently is – and of how it can improve on an individual and team-wide basis. Well, there’s no better group to turn to for insight than straight from the subordinate team members. 


Not only will soliciting feedback from employees you lead result in actionable ways to improve as a manager, but your employees will feel as if their experience and their ideas actually matter. So while the main objective behind 360° feedback may not be to improve culture, we’ve witnessed this as a secondary benefit more times than not.


It’s also important for us to acknowledge that feedback does not solely pertain to talk of falling short or to weaknesses. Just as important is candid conversations about a team member’s strengths and unique skill set. For instance, one thing we worked on with a current client for their 360s was recognizing each person had strengths they could leverage that would not only make them better as an individual, but would also help the team and the organization as a whole. 


Too often people talk about action when it comes to “fixing a problem,” but they don’t spend time coming up with action plans around strengths during or after a performance conversation. So while it’s important to address weaknesses, we’d rather be most intentional about finding ways to get more out of employees’ strengths.


So far, we’ve digressed quite a bit about the manager-subordinate feedback loop, but let’s not forget that a big part of implementing 360° feedback is to invite insight from your “equals” as well. It can be uncomfortable for a peer to do so – particularly if they’ve never been in a leadership position that requires giving feedback – but the honesty and perspective they can provide is extremely valuable. They have a different viewpoint than a leader (in terms of  levels of involvement, stakes in the game, familiarity with details of your job, etc.). So by not soliciting feedback from this source, organizations are missing out on another dimension of crucial development for their team.


There you have it: the case for implementing 360° feedback. Let’s dive into how you can actually get started. We suggest providing all managers with a list of questions they should pose to employees – either during pre-scheduled performance reviews or during a separate one-on-one dedicated solely to soliciting feedback. 


Sample Questions Manager Can Ask Employees

  1. What is one habit I have around communication that, if I broke, would make life easier for my teammates?
  2. Is there something that I invest more time in than you think is needed? Is there something that deserves more of my time and attention than I currently devote?
  3. In your eyes, where have I been successful as a leader?
  4. Where have I failed as a leader (or where I have been only marginally successful)?
  5. If you were in my shoes, what would you change tomorrow? Why?


As you can see, the list of questions above are great for managers to ask employees, but can also be sent to or discussed with peers and leaders. In fact, this is a sample from the exact list of questions Katherine (Montani’s founder and principal) has routinely sent to her employees, peers, and past managers for many years. 


We know not every organization will be quick to jump on the 360° feedback wagon. Even if you find yourself in such an environment, we encourage you to take initiative individually and request feedback from others. It can be as simple as sending some questions in a quick email. Just be sure to explain the why behind this, as you don’t want recipients to feel as though you are wasting their time. 


Here’s an example of how you can present this feedback request to anyone in your organization whose insight you value:


I’m a big believer in the idea that the most impactful and actionable feedback comes from those with whom I work with most. The amount of time we’ve worked together definitely qualifies you to be one of these people in my life.


I’ve attached a document that lists a few questions. The more feedback you give me, the better – but don’t feel obligated to answer all of these (or any of them, for that matter). And if you have feedback about other areas, please feel free to include that, too.


I know it isn’t always easy to give someone constructive feedback, but please know how much I value your opinion. I view it as an opportunity for growth, not criticism. Everyone can improve… and that certainly includes me! Thanks for taking the time and energy to help me be a better team member and leader.


In our humble (but expert) opinion, beginning this 360° feedback journey can’t come at a better time than at year’s end. This is the season to pause and reflect on the effectiveness of your leadership in 2021, and to gain crucial and honest feedback from employees in order to determine actionable steps to improve management practices in 2022. If you know your company could use help implementing 360° feedback, as well as creating managerial training based on the feedback given, Montani Consulting is here to guide you

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