5 Steps to Getting the Most Out of 360-Degree Feedback

Renowned leadership guru Ken Blanchard once said that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

This is why many organizations, echoing Blanchard’s sentiment, use 360-degree feedback instruments, or customized multi-rater surveys, to help managers and other employees become better leaders.

Capable of providing individuals with valuable information about their workplace behaviors, including their strengths and weaknesses, 360-degree instruments can help individuals establish clear goals for self-improvement.

5 steps to better feedback

However, because 360-degree reports involve multiple perspectives, it can be easy for recipients to get confused by or refute the feedback.

Certain behaviors may be viewed positively by some raters and negatively by others. In addition, the amount of detail found in the reports can make interpreting them intimidating and murky.

So how can individuals take their 360-degree feedback and put their newfound knowledge to use? We’ve compiled a list of five tips for making the feedback process more insightful, rewarding and productive:

1. Stay positive

In order to get the most out of your feedback, it’s important to view the experience as a positive one.

Yes, 360-degree feedback gives you the opportunity to gain insight about yourself that you may never have received otherwise, and this is especially true for senior-level employees. Although there are always exceptions to the rule, it’s safe to assume that everyone providing you with feedback is trying to be helpful.

Rather than react to any feedback with shock, anger or resistance, consider it the ideal time to connect with yourself, become more self-aware and ultimately grow as a person and professional.

2. Look for themes

Due to the robust nature of 360-degree feedback, reports can appear daunting with all the numbers, tables, graphs and text. To avoid getting lost in the detail, focus on the primary themes that emerge across the data.

By starting at the higher level, it’s easier to identify common patterns regarding how you are perceived by others.

3. Focus on strengths first, weaknesses second

Upon receiving 360-degree feedback, it can be tempting to start making plans for tackling your weaknesses.

Although this isn’t entirely wrong, weaknesses don’t represent the only opportunities for development. Understanding how to enhance your strengths is just as important as understanding how to stretch or grow. In addition, by knowing how to use strengths to your advantage, you may be better equipped to help resolve or compensate for any weaknesses.

4. Identify gaps

Because 360-degree feedback is subjective — each rater is providing feedback from his or her own unique viewpoint — it’s important to identify any gaps in perception that may occur. Do you view yourself differently than your raters? Do your peers view you differently than your direct reports?

Article Continues Below

What does your supervisor or manager see that the other groups may not? Answering these questions can help determine whether you behave differently among different groups of individuals.

If there are significant gaps, or areas of disconnect between groups, it’s important to explore the cause. Are you giving yourself too much credit? Too little?

5. Create a development plan

The last and most important step in the feedback process is to create a development plan for the future. This plan will take the key messages you learned in your report and turn them into specific goals and steps that will help you become a better leader.

To create the plan, identify the desired competencies most important to you and the ones others rated as needing development. Then, list out specific ways to accomplish these competencies, such as taking on a new project or serving as a mentor to someone new.

After that, identify how you will measure your development progress, such as performance reviews or follow-up feedback surveys, and ensure that these initiatives take place.

A lasting impact

In order to use 360-degree feedback to reach one’s full potential, it’s important to treat it as a process rather than an event.

The work doesn’t end with “unwrapping” the feedback and reading it. It requires thoughtful dissection and analysis, a clear plan of action and a commitment to continuous improvement.

By regularly reviewing their development plans and following up with peers and managers, individuals can help ensure that their goals and objectives don’t “slip through the cracks” and evaporate, but instead become the new reality within their workplace.


5 Comments on “5 Steps to Getting the Most Out of 360-Degree Feedback

  1. Very good wrap up of a process I just lived giving feedbacks to directors.
    In addition I would say when focus in strenghts and plan doing something with weaknesses stick to one or two behaviors. And watch out behaviors, something you can DO. It doesn’t have to do with how you ARE as a person. Take you’re a good and valuable person for granted.

  2. Great article, thanks for sharing this.

    I particularly like #3, “Focus on strengths first, weaknesses second” although I’d recommend focusing on ‘areas to improve’ rather than weaknesses – this isn’t just reframing – not all weak areas will need to be worked on; the areas to improve depend on other factors such as their role.

    Thanks again,


    1. Another thought – this time around #4 – “Identify gaps”. Whilst it is useful to look at gaps between different views (peers vs. direct reports vs. your own view) its even more important to look at the gap between ‘Where you are now’ and ‘Where you need to be’. You can see how this can be implemented in a 360 degree feedback report here: http://www.spidergap.com/sample-report (And how to include a development plan as per #5).

  3. Thanks, Paul and Dave, for such a great article. #5 really resonated with me
    because there a number of ways to approach ongoing development as part of
    a 360 program. 3D Group did a 360 Benchmark study with over 200 organizations
    about their 360 programs; the approaches to using the feedback are quite
    varied. Most organizations have participants meet with their boss (65%) and/or
    offer individual coaching (60%), with almost all organizations using some type of development support beyond the report (98%). You can download a free sample of Current Practices in 360 Degree Feedback at http://www.3dgroup.net/benchmark-studies.html or find it on Amazon.

  4. Thanks for these tips, Dave and Paul. In addition to having a 360-degree feedback, I would recommend a competency-based 360-degree feedback..
    Competency-based feedback gives you specific feedback and the ability
    to analyze your behaviors more accurately.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *