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Proactive 360-degree feedback: A creative appraisal / assessment process

Many companies use some form of 360-degree appraisal. This provides feedback from all directions: above, below, and lateral. This information is conveyed to the person being evaluated without mentioning who made any specific comment. Companies often have an automated 360-degree assessment process as part of routine performance evaluations, and rely on outside consultants for high-level executives.

I do not do traditional assessments, but I work with individual clients to use a 360-degree approach to help you better understand your situation by including other people’s perspectives.

To better explain the nature of the service I provide, in contrast to a traditional 360-degree assessment, I will start by describing a regular “360” process that relies on feedback from others. I will then describe the creative 360-degree approach I use to make explicit the feedback you have implicitly been gathering over time.

If I were to follow a regular 360-degree process:

- I would discuss with you how you see the requirements of your job in terms of competencies, skills and personality… and how you rate yourself on these attributes.

- We would define the scope of people who are going to be asked to give feedback. The people who give feedback would be told that any and all information they give me is in confidence, and that their specific comments will not be relayed to you as such - - unless they specifically ask me to.

- I would send the ‘feedback” people a questionnaire. The questionnaire focuses on the competencies, skills and personality identified in the discussion with you; it also includes open-ended questions to identify other relevant areas. This is a way to prepare them for the next step.

- I would then follow up with each “feedback” person for a personal discussion (by phone) to go deeper into the issues.

- I would communicate the findings to you. We would work together to make sure that you are fully hearing both strengths and weaknesses. We would then identify goals and specific steps to make use of this information.

In contrast, in the creative “360” approach I use:

- Together, we identify key issues.

- We review significant situations as if in slow-motion to identify what is happening from both your perspective and the perspective of the people you are interacting with.

- In doing this, we do not have “objective” data (as we would have if, say, we were reviewing a videotaped record of your work life). My role is to help you get from your recollections more information that you felt you had. We do this in a variety of ways, such as role-playing.

Why this creative approach works:

The significant interactions we have with others are like a dance, where a step one person makes influences the step the other person makes. As I follow your steps, I can help you see what the other person’s steps have been. This enables you to get an overview of the interaction, and of your role in it.

Based on this, we explore alternative approaches to handling these situations. We also explore the impact of these new approaches from both your perspective and the perspective of the people you are interacting with.

This provides you with hypotheses that you can “test” at work, so you can see how changing your “steps” in the dance helps change the way people react to you.

This is a creative process that develops your ability to use empathy in order to receive an ongoing stream of feedback at work, and to adapt to new situations and new people.

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