360 Assessment is a Great Talent Development Tool

Some of us don’t like to look in the mirror.  We may not like what we see due to previous experiences we have had or the fact that we have chosen to listen to much to what others have to say.  Mirrors typically do not lie, but the view can sometimes be sobering and it takes a great amount of courage to see our reflection and accept who we are.

360 assessment is a method of “looking in the mirror” from a Talent Development viewpoint.  360’s allow leaders to gain great insight by seeking the feedback of others they work with.  This feedback should come from those who are direct supervisors, superiors, peers and subordinates.  This full-circle view can be tremendously illuminating and sometimes quite scary for those who choose to expose themselves to this type of feedback.

My first person experience with a 360 process came 20 years ago when I attended a leadership program conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs.  This program included a number of assessments, but the one that had the most impact was the Benchmarks 360 process, my first experience with gaining comprehensive developmental feedback.  I’ll never forget how I focused too much on the areas for improvement and totally ignored my areas of strength.  The Benchmarks process looked at 16 competencies that leaders must exhibit and asked the raters to answer a number of questions about me in each of these 16 areas.  None of my results were “bad”, but were certainly better than others.

360 feedback is a powerful tool and a helpful one when used correctly.  I became a certified Benchmarks facilitator over 15 years ago and have worked with hundreds of leaders across the globe to help them better understand their impact on others.  Here are a few guidelines I have learned along the way that help this process be an effective one:

  1.  360 assessment is for development, not for rating performance
  2.  What someone else perceives is their reality, and not necessarily the truth for you in all cases
  3.  Most raters seek to be honest in their ratings, and they are also trying to help the person being rated
  4.  Persons being assessed should look at the complete picture and not focus too much on either the high and low scores only
  5.  There is a developmental plan that can be constructed for each person who goes through 360 assessment.  None of us are locked in place and there is a plan of action you can take to improve
  6.  Talent Development takes time and effort
  7.  Honesty, both with others and with yourself, is essential
  8.  Feedback can be a powerful tool for positive improvement, or it can be an anchor that keeps us from ascending; each of us has the choice to make regarding how we use this feedback

If you have never gone through a 360 feedback process and you want to be a better leader, I would encourage you to seek out a qualified resource to discuss how this might be of benefit.  Assessment processes like those used by the CCL Benchmarks tools can be a cornerstone for any talent development process.

When you look in the mirror, don’t be surprised by what you see.  Know what to expect and understand how to take action to improve the picture.