Embracing the potential of 360-degree feedback

Q: I have led operations at my financial institution for over 25 years. I enjoyed a high degree of autonomy in my role until recently when we were purchased by another organization. The new CEO has implemented a 360-degree feedback evaluation, but I am not sure how to accept the feedback and what I am supposed to do with it. 

Candid feedback from our peers and/or direct reports can be a bit hard to accept, especially if you have never been through this type of evaluation or haven’t actively pursued feedback in the past. Keep in mind that the feedback from each person is their perspective. The feedback process helps to close the gap between perception and reality by looking for patterns.

Christy Baker image
Christy Baker

Suppose you are five minutes late for a meeting two days before the feedback is gathered. You truly do not make a habit of being late, but traffic was a bear. One of your peers provides the feedback, “Jim is always late to meetings.” The more recent event overshadows your previous track record of punctuality.  This type of overarching statement threatens to reduce the impact of other, potentially useful, feedback. Does this mean all the feedback is useless? 

The lens through which you read or absorb the feedback is key to whether you will truly accept it and how you will act. Are you reading with an intent to grow and improve or with the intent to defend yourself to your manager, who is most likely also going to read your results. 

Let’s think of this from the perspective of a sports team. The feedback loop is akin to the crucial post-game analysis. This loop drives improvement and growth and includes four basic elements:

  1. Assessing: After a game, players and coaches review their performance. They analyze what went well and identify areas for improvement. This can also be thought of as self-reflection.
  2. Identifying gaps: Just like a team identifies where they underperformed, leaders need to recognize gaps in their skills or team dynamics. This awareness helps them focus on specific areas for development.
  3. Practicing: Leaders, as with teams, invest time in learning, training and skill-building to prepare for future challenges.
  4. Iterating Process: The cycle repeats. 

What would happen if the coaching staff and players didn’t bother with a weekly debrief? They go their merry way practicing for the next game — but are they practicing the right things? They resort to the same plays they made during the last game, the game before that, etc. There’s an unofficial definition of insanity: Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Those after-game debriefs bring to light what went well and what may have lost the game so the coaching staff and team can pivot, practice new plays, and improve their overall performance to lead to a better outcome. 

Once you have your assessment in hand, meet with your manager to discuss the results. This can be as simple as verifying what you should stop doing, start doing or keep doing. For example, your feedback may state you are not effectively communicating with the chief lending officer about ongoing changes to the commercial loan onboarding process. This is an issue that impacts the operations team and the lenders. It may seem easy to slap the CLO’s name on all emails related to the process and call it a day but, if you dig a bit deeper, you may find she has some valuable input on the process. In this situation, you may want to start including her when making changes to the onboarding process to ensure she has buy-in and input.

After you have worked with your manager to identify the gaps based on the feedback, begin to practice. Ask for continuous feedback on how you are doing and where you can continue to improve. Once team members trust your intent, they will be more willing to speak up, offer feedback and iterate the process.

Christy Baker is a facilitator and coach focusing on organizational health and strategies for Omaha-based Revela. She provides group training and individual coaching and is a former COO for an Iowa-based community banking group. She can be reached at [email protected].