How to Get the Most from Your 360 Results

What Your 360 Results Really Mean

Interpreting & Understanding the Results From Your 360-Degree Feedback Assessments 

You probably already know that 360 assessments provide leaders with comprehensive feedback on their job performance from multiple perspectives, including the leader’s direct reports, peers, bosses, and superiors, as well as the leader’s own self-perception.

Additionally, assessments & 360s are critical tools that are used in a wide array of leadership development initiatives. Understanding their 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 the 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 in their 360 results 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 in the 360 results report tend to be reasonably good indicators of whether a leader is perceived to be at risk of experiencing career derailment. Peer ratings 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

3 Key Takeaways

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.
Make a proactive plan to improve in these areas.

2. All rating sources in 360 feedback results matter.

While leaders should pay attention to feedback from their direct reports, peers, and supervisors in their 360 results, they may want to give extra weight or attention to their peers’ ratings of their leadership skills, given how effective research has found these ratings in particular to be at predicting career 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 a leader receives 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 in their 360 results that they tend to score themselves higher than their raters do, this is a sign that they have a higher risk of career derailment. 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.

Regardless of which you choose, take a look at our tips for setting achievable goals. You may want to consider sharing with your raters 3 things you learned from your 360 results and 3 things you plan to do based on their feedback. You can also ask for their help in holding you accountable as you work toward your 3 new goals.

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.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Our industry-leading 360 feedback assessments will help you get more actionable insights from your 360 results.

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March 21, 2021
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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