Although 360 surveys are a valuable way to gain insight into your performance, they can also be a nerve-wracking process that brings up some mixed feelings. In my experience, when the topic of being on the receiving end of a 360 comes up, clients frequently respond with an intellectual understanding that although it is a useful tool, along with apprehension and fear about what it might reveal.

It’s entirely understandable to feel some vulnerability when anticipating going through an exercise in which your bosses, peers, direct reports, and others are given the opportunity to provide you with anonymous feedback. However, as Bill Gates said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

And, if you use your 360 results to your advantage, it can be a catalyst for significant progress in your career.

Read on for some suggested steps to get the most out of your 360 results.

1. Manage your emotions

It’s completely normal to have an emotional reaction in response to feedback. While you might be one of the rare people who are overjoyed or in a state of total acceptance when viewing your results, some other common emotions include surprise, anger, hurt, and embarrassment. To deal with your feelings, it can be helpful to take a step back to gain some perspective. Practicing mindfulness can also be helpful for gaining some objectivity.

Strive to appreciate the feedback for what it is — information that lets you know if your behavior is having the intended effect on others. Also, recognize that it is a valuable opportunity to get rid of any blind spots. Once you can get to the point at which you recognize the feedback for the gift that it is, you will put yourself in a much better position to take full advantage of it.

2. Have a balanced view

Without fail, the clients I have worked with tend to gloss over all of the positive feedback they receive and go right to the areas of improvement. This is predictable, since we are naturally inclined to process negative information more deeply than positive information. Still, by focusing entirely on the “negative,” it can cause you to have an imbalanced view of how you are being perceived by others. So, strive to be objective as you review your data, and recognize both the strengths and weaknesses that are indicated in your results.

3. Look for themes

As you go through your 360 results, you will likely notice several themes in terms of things you do well and areas in which you could stand to improve. Start to think about how you can be even more intentional about using your strengths to your advantage. After all, not only will doing so likely enhance your performance, it will also contribute to greater job satisfaction. In addition, look for common developmental areas that come up so that you can begin developing some hypotheses about areas for growth.

4. Make a note of questions you have

Often, 360s raise as many questions as they answer. Particularly if there are some surprises in your results, you might find yourself confused as to why you received a particular rating. Or, if your 360 has a section with written comments, you might, at times, be at a loss as to why you are being perceived in an undesired way. To start to address this, make some notes about areas you would like to follow up on, keeping the following African proverb in mind, “Examine what is said and not who speaks.” In other words, it usually isn’t productive to try to figure out who said what — you are looking for common themes in the data.

5. Schedule conversations with others to ask questions

Because 360s can raise a lot of questions, it can be helpful to schedule some one-on-one meetings with some of your raters to gain further clarity. Frame up the conversation by letting the other person know that you want to talk to him or her to further understand your 360 results. Make sure your raters understand that you are not connecting them to any particular comment or assuming that they rated you in any particular way. Instead, let them know that because they are people you trust, and you hope that they can give you greater insight into your development opportunities. Then listen.

I cannot overstate the importance of making sure that you are in the right frame of mind when you have these meetings — the purpose is to gather information and gain clarity, not to argue your point or defend yourself. If you make it unpleasant for the other person, you will likely compromise the quality of feedback that you receive, and reduce the odds that you will get constructive feedback in the future. Therefore, aim to have a discussion in which the other person does the vast majority of the talking and you do the listening.

6. Determine your development goals

Once you have pulled together the information, settle on a few development goals. Make sure not to take on too many at once — I recommend no more than three. That way, you can maintain adequate focus on your goals, as opposed to diluting your efforts by trying to take on too much at once. You may also find it helpful to create a development plan to assist you with your efforts.

7. Share your development goals with others

While your first inclination might be to try to work on your development goals privately, sharing them with others can be beneficial for several reasons.

  • First, if you are a leader, telling others about what you are working on normalizes the process of development and models that we all have areas to work on. It also contributes to an environment in which people can feel safe admitting vulnerability and asking for help.
  • Second, it helps people to notice that you are striving to make changes. Too many times, people go through an exercise of getting feedback and then do absolutely nothing about it. By openly admitting your opportunities for development and sharing your strategies for working on your goals, people will be more likely to recognize the efforts you are making to improve (as opposed to just noticing times when you may falter).
  • Finally, it opens the door to receiving further feedback. If you inform others that you are working on your goals and invite them to give you ongoing feedback, it provides you with further information that you can use to hone your skills.

Take these steps ands your 360 results to your best advantage!

Originally published at on April 25, 2016.

Originally published at