360 Feedback Guide For Managers How to run a 360 feedback review with your team. A guide for managers

Thinking of doing a 360-degree feedback exercise with your team? Here is our guide to how to do it and what you should be thinking about.

A 360 review with a manager
You're a manager and you're wondering whether 360-degree feedback is a good tool to use with your team. 

At AdviceSheet we believe that 360º reviews are a super-helpful tool for an employee’s personal development. A 360-degree report gives a rounded view of how a person is doing with real feedback from the people they work with: their managers, colleagues and direct reports.

When done right 360º feedback can really help your colleagues grow, and ultimately perform better.  

As a manager, a 360 can act as a catalyst for development by helping your team members identify their strengths as well as find out about their blindspots and areas for improvement. 

The first thing to consider: if you want 360-degree feedback to be effective, it has to be welcomed. Too many people have had bad or unhelpful experiences of 360-degree feedback and if people feel that it's being used to assess them or measure them or manage their behaviour in some way, they'll likely be resistant and there will be push back. 

But if people really want to develop and want to find out what their blind spots are, what areas they can improve on as a way of advancing their career, building their skills and strengthening their role, then it'll go down pretty well. 

To ensure that people engage with the 360 and treat it seriously and as something worthwhile, here are 11 tips for what you need to do as their manager:

1. Setup is key

First off, spend some time thinking about how you'll set it up, and how you’ll introduce the idea of it to your team. 

2. Model it yourself

Opening yourself up to feedback can be scary for anyone, and some people will understandably be wary. To overcome people’s resistance you could start by modelling it yourself… suggest to your team that you go first, and tell them that afterwards you’ll share your experience of it, then you can all see how a 360 works. 

After you’ve done it, if people hear you saying that some of their 360-degree feedback on you was really helpful, some of it felt uncomfortable but you can learn from it, and if you genuinely thank them for taking the time to take part, then your team will think, “my manager’s put their money where their mouth is and they found it really valuable, okay, I'll do it.”

3. Stagger it: not all at once

Let’s say you have 10 people in your team - if everybody in the team is giving feedback on everybody else, that could be quite a few hours of work for everyone. So think about spreading them out and not doing 360’s on everyone all at once - so that it's not such a burden for people.

4. Start with the ones who actively want to do it

Talk to everybody individually about whether they feel comfortable doing it, whether they're ready for it and so on. 

Look for the people who see the value in it, because if people are going to grow, they need to be intrinsically motivated and not feel that it's being forced on them. 

After you’ve introduced the idea with the group, a couple of people may be a bit more up for it than others. 

Start with them. 

Once those people have done it, more of your team will likely want to do it too.

5. Don’t rush it

Don’t rush. Make it feel like a treat, something that feels like participants are receiving special focus and attention. When someone goes through the 360 experience it can feel exposing, and a little bit risky. So support them in wanting to do it. If your team is up for it, to be given feedback can be a good bonding experience.

Afterwards when they say, “Yes, it was scary but I had a great conversation about my own development,” they'll feel really good about it.

6. Don’t push those who’re resistant

If you want to do a 360 with your whole team, as we’ve said some people will be really wary, we wouldn't push them because you’ll just be making them uncomfortable, and they won't be in the right mindset to grow from it anyway. So just make it entirely opt in. When people see others having a good time with it, they'll come.

7. Don't link a 360 to performance reviews, treat it as a separate exercise 

If you link a 360 to a performance review, appraisal or a bonus, feedback providers' subjectivity and motivation will be a factor: ‘friend’ teammates will hold back their comments or put in a good word, whilst competitive colleagues could be biased. In addition, in the follow-up conversations subjects may be defensive and only thinking about their bonus or advancement, limiting their opportunity to learn and develop. 

So we recommend to treat a 360 as a separate exercise. 

8. Consider who goes through the post-360 feedback

Have a really good think about whether people go through their 360 feedback with you as their manager - that might be brilliant and perfect for some people. Other people might find that deeply uncomfortable - so consider whether there's somebody else, such as a safe mentoring figure internally who could go through the report with them, or whether you'd be better off bringing in someone external like a coach. 

We've seen it work really well where the follow-up conversations are done by peers, someone who's at the same level as the subject and is really familiar with their role. That conversation can be just as powerful as with a coach or mentor, and takes away some of the power dynamics that make people frightened of doing a 360. 

As a manager you won't see their 360-report but you can offer to support people if they come to you with a list of things they'd like to take work on or take forward. You could choose that angle if you have people who are reluctant to participate.

If you do choose the peer review route, AdviceSheet has a structured set of questions the person working with the subject can follow to assist the process.

9. The crucial bit: how you follow up

The crucial bit is what you do next to support them. In the follow-up conversations your team member may decide they want to go on a training course, or they want to think about how they contribute to meetings, or they want to get some practice in areas X, Y, Z. 

How will you support them with that going forward? How will you set them up for those opportunities? 

Can you get them into a training course? Will you allow them to lead a presentation, or whatever it was that came out of it? 

When people see that something happens as a result and that there is support for them, you're much more likely to get other people queuing up to do the 360. 

10. Be honest about why you’re doing it

Last but not least, why are you wanting to do a 360: is it because it is a personal development opportunity for people in your team, or are you doing it because you want to tackle a problem person? 

If it’s the latter, a 360 might feel a lot safer than having a difficult conversation, but then are you doing the 360 with everybody in the team just because there's one person that you’d like to deal with?

Having a difficult conversation with that person might be a shorter cut. 

However, if you have tried talking to that person and are nervous about pushing it further because they are a friend or someone you’ve worked with for a very long time, and you’re worried it might spoil your relationship - it could be more helpful to get somebody else to have the conversation with them. 

A 360-degree framework can be useful in that situation, especially when the questions are open (and don't involve judgemental scores). It means you can have an unbiased conversation while having data from the subject's colleagues to reflect on.

Real life example of a 360 peer review

We were speaking recently to someone who works in the NHS - as a clinician and senior leader, he was sharing his experience of 360-degree feedback. 

In his region, the NHS require them to do a 360 every two years. He was deeply sceptical and very wary of it the first time. 

“It was scary,” he said, “but it was brilliant. I could choose who would sit down with me to do the follow up. We were encouraged to do it with peers, not to have a manager doing it. So I chose somebody who I respected, not my best friend, but someone whose opinion I valued.”

“The first time was a bit of a roller coaster, but my colleague was really good, they ‘got’ my job and understood it.”

“Now I actually look forward to 360-feedback. It's been really, really helpful and clarifying.”

For this person it has been the single biggest driver for their personal development. 

11. Avoid the admin headache, use AdviceSheet

If you’re looking for good 360 review software that supports the growth of your employees and your organisation, and removes the complicated admin that can accompany 360’s, use a tool like AdviceSheet, so you don't have to do any admin, it is really that simple.