What Your 360 Results Really Mean
Understanding the Results From Your 360-Degree Feedback Assessments
360 assessments provide leaders with feedback on their job performance from multiple perspectives, including the leader’s own self-perception as well as perceptions held by the leader’s direct reports, peers, bosses, and superiors.
Additionally, 360-degree assessments are critical tools that are used in a wide array of leadership development initiatives. 360 feedback results are essential for helping leaders identify their strengths and development needs, and for improving their self-awareness around critical leadership competencies. Results also tell leaders what they need to do to improve and take their leadership skills to the next level.
Your 360 Results Can Help Prevent (and Predict) Career Derailment
At CCL, we’ve conducted many studies on the use of assessments and 360 feedback results.
We’ve also examined how executives can keep their career on track instead of derailing. “Derailed” is a term that Morgan McCall and Mike Lombardo coined nearly 50 years ago to refer to the careers of high-performing employees identified as having the potential to move up in the organization and take on higher levels of leadership responsibility but who don’t live up to that evaluation of their potential. They plateau below their expected level of achievement, or they reach higher levels only to fail miserably, resulting in being demoted or fired. For these managers, their careers have derailed from the track that their organization had expected them to stay on.
By studying the traits of those who have derailed and those who made it to higher levels of the organization, our researchers have identified characteristics that indicate a leader is more or less likely to derail. These are helpful to keep in mind when interpreting 360 feedback results. Among our findings:
- Leaders with lower ratings on task and interpersonal aspects of leadership are at greater risk of derailing in their careers, as compared to leaders who have higher ratings of task and interpersonal leadership.
- Leaders’ self-ratings of their task and interpersonal leadership skills tend to be poor indicators of whether others perceive them to be at risk of career derailment.
- Peer, direct report, and supervisor ratings of task and interpersonal leadership tend to be reasonably good indicators of whether a leader is perceived to be at risk of experiencing career derailment. Peer ratings of leadership tend to be the best predictor of whether a leader is at risk of derailing.
- When discrepancies exist in 360 results between self- and observer-ratings, over-raters (leaders whose self-ratings are higher than their observers’ ratings) tend to be perceived as being more at risk of career derailment than under-raters (leaders whose self-ratings are lower than their observers’ ratings).
How to Interpret Your 360 Results
Based on these findings, here are the 3 key takeaways from our study:
1. Improving your task and interpersonal leadership skills will likely reduce your risk of career derailment.
Task leadership includes the following work responsibilities:
- Delegating and organizing work;
- Setting a work team’s direction; and
- Taking charge or action when needed.
Interpersonal leadership includes the following:
- Praising direct reports for their hard work;
- Mentoring others;
- Coaching direct reports;
- Resolving a group’s interpersonal conflict; and
- Negotiating effectively with others.
2. All rating sources in 360 feedback results matter.
While leaders should pay attention to direct report, peer, and supervisor ratings, they may want to give extra weight or attention to peer ratings of their leadership skill in their 360 results, given how effective these ratings are at predicting derailment.
3. Self-ratings are especially useful in one key way.
Self-ratings enable leaders to see how they rate themselves on leadership skills — relative to their direct reports, peers, and supervisors. How leaders rate themselves in relation to their raters provides an indication of their perceived risk level of derailing in their careers.
Specifically, if leaders receive higher leadership ratings in their 360 results and their self-ratings are in agreement with their raters’ ratings, they tend to be more self-aware and aren’t very likely to derail in their careers.
On the other hand, if leaders discover that they tend to score themselves higher than their raters do, this is a sign that they have a higher risk of career derailment than if they under-rated themselves. Leaders in this situation may want to take active steps to work on increasing their self-awareness and seek out some coaching to improve performance.
Reflecting on Your 360 Results
All in all, setting goals and creating a development plan of action is just as important as measuring and assessing your current skill levels.
The best way to approach your 360 feedback results is to give yourself some time to think about the ratings. On your own — or with help from a trusted peer or mentor — you can reflect on the competencies and consider what you do well and not as well. Then, ask yourself these questions:
- What do I consider to be strengths, weaknesses, or mid-range skills?
- How might different people have different perspectives of my strengths and weaknesses?
- Which of my strengths are most important for continued success in my organization?
- Which of my development needs are most important for continued success in my organization?
- Which of my mid-range capabilities (not clearly a strength or development need) are most important for continued success in my organization?
Next, think about 1-2 development goals. You might:
- Identify one of your strengths to capitalize on, or choose a mid-range capability and work to make it stronger.
- Identify a weakness that you want to work on transforming into a mid-range strength.
- Compensate for a weakness by “owning it” and adopting strategies to work around it.
Finally, think about using your experiences to fuel your development and whether you could seek out developmental assignments or other experiences to help you learn to lead and bring you closer to your goals.
In summary, 360 feedback results can be valuable to both individual leaders and to organizations, playing a critical role in facilitating leaders’ growth and development over the course of their careers.
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