viaPeople Insight - Performance Management & Succession Planning Blog

Interpreting Reviewer Group Differences in 360 Feedback

Posted by Karen N. Caruso, Ph.D. on Jan 10, 2018 5:15:00 PM

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360 feedbackThe individual feedback report you just received from your 360 feedback process is a healthy dose of leadership advice awaiting action. As I wrote in my previous article, 7 Tips for Getting the Most out of Your 360 Degree Feedback Process, the results that you achieve are directly related to the actions you take in response to your feedback. Be aware - digging into such a treasure trove of data can sometimes result in a bit of anxiety– particularly when the feedback is at odds or large discrepancies exist amongst different reviewer groups.  360 feedback has been designed to provide a complete picture of performance, multiple perspectives are sought during the 360 feedback process. With so many varying opinions, you are likely to receive some inconsistent feedback. So, how do you pull all of this divergent feedback together into something useful?

Why do different perceptions exist in 360 Feedback?

Different reviewer groups tend to focus on competencies that are most important to them and/or those they have had the most opportunity to observe. Research suggests:

  • Managers emphasize technical competence and “bottom line” results or outcomes,
  • Peers tend to emphasize collaboration, influence, and interpersonal factors, and
  • Direct reports (as in upward feedback) are in the unique position to provide feedback on your leadership and managerial skills.

It is not uncommon for managers to receive more critical feedback from their direct reports on their coaching and communication skills. In our experience as feedback coaches, we have found this discrepancy to be the most troubling to leaders. Direct reports are looking directly to their manager to serve as a role model and help them to navigate their career within the organization. As a result, direct reports can offer managers explicit feedback on how they can improve their skills and be a better leader and coach.

Further, perceptions that others have of you are often based on a mix of their relationship and experiences with you, as well as their emotional reactions to you. All are equally valid, but may be very different.

Analyzing Your 360 Degree Feedback Results

Although 360 feedback reports vary in how they present reviewer group differences, most still require at least some degree of interpretation by you and your manager/HR coach. Feedback reports that provide data and charts displaying the differences between your own self ratings as compared to the ratings provided by others will be particularly helpful during this review.

  • Start at a high level and then drill down into the details. Begin by looking for similarities and differences in competency averages. Investigate further by looking at the average ratings on specific behaviors or survey questions. Finally, review the written comments for evidence that may help clarify the different perspectives.
  • Look for consistencies in perceived Strengths and Development Needs. Are there competencies/behaviors that all reviewers seem to agree are strengths or areas for improvement? Consistently identified strengths are areas that you should make good use of on the job and in your development efforts. Consistently noted development needs should top your priority list when crafting your developmental action plan. Look at your written comments for suggestions on how to improve in those areas.
  • Identify areas of inconsistency. On what competencies or behaviors do reviewers seem to disagree? These discrepancies are areas that warrant further thinking and exploration.
    • If your manager has surfaced opportunities for improvement that are a surprise to you, plan to discuss these areas with him/her. As part of the follow up on your 360 feedback results, be sure to ask your manager for specific examples and solicit their assistance in creating development plans to improve your skills/performance. He/she might be observing something of which you were not aware.
    • If you find differences among peers or your direct reports, don't be alarmed. You now have the opportunity to further investigate. Think about:
      • Does your behavior actually differ when interacting with various reviewer groups? Can you think of specific examples or scenarios?
      • What specific opportunities have the reviewers had to observe your behaviors?
      • Who can you go to (i.e., your manager, trusted colleague, HR business partner, coach) to assist you in gaining further clarity?

Remember, that the overall goal is not to force all of the feedback into neat little columns of strengths and development needs. When you process the feedback, focus your development actions on the pieces that you believe are most critical for your development – whether the feedback came from one source or many. You can create a development goal that is specifically targeted at changing behavior when working with a specific group of individuals, for example: Better facilitating dialog and soliciting opinions from others while working with peers and team members.

viaPeople's 360 Degree Feedback reports make it easy to clearly identify reviewer group differences and draw conclusions about strengths and opportunities for improvement. Contact us to learn more about implementing 360 Degree Feedback in your company.

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Topics: 360 Degree Feedback, Upward Feedback, Peer Appraisal