360 | Circle n.
- A group of people sharing an interest, activity, upbringing, etc.
- A domain or area of activity, interest, or influence
- A circuit
- A process or chain of events or parts that forms a connected whole.
“If you don’t get feedback from your performers and your audience, you’re going to be working in a vacuum.” – Peter Maxwell Davies, English composer
Recently, I had a great meeting with a client company, in the Florida Keys (somewhere I’d never been before), at the southern most point of the US – literally about 90 miles away from Cuba.
The really interesting part was the work we did was on the dynamics of the executive team. This is a very successful, fast-growing company not only rapidly growing revenue, but in gross margin and cash as well – which is the ideal way to grow.
As part of the commitment to make the company stronger, we put a lot of energy into continually making the executive team stronger – and this meeting was our annual 360 ritual. Like traditional 360s the team gets feedback from their boss, their peers, and their direct reports. But we do it in a way that is not only simpler, but actually more powerful: we treat 360s as a team activity.
360 feedback as a team exercise
Here’s how it works:
A few weeks in advance of the meeting we gather feedback through seven questions sent to each of the executives: questions about they how live their core values, about their strengths, and ways they can grow stronger as leaders.
At the meeting, we gathered outside in the warm Florida evening after dinner. Each executive received the results of everyone’s feedback, and then were given 30 minutes to go and read it, and come back to the group with three things:
- Any questions or clarification they need, based on the feedback
- What they are going to keep doing – or do more of – to leverage their existing strengths
- What they will start – or stop doing – to grow stronger as a leader.
We then posted the 360 results on the screen, person by person, for everyone to see, to comment on, and to ask questions – and then we talked.
Sometimes the conversations were easy – and sometimes difficult – depending on the feedback, and the person’s comfort level.
It was a very, very long night but incredibly productive because everyone got very good feedback, and everyone committed to what they would – or wouldn’t do – to become stronger as a leader. More than that, people knew and understood what every person was committed to – and how they could be part of helping them get there.
This approach may seem uncomfortable or shocking – and truly, if you don’t have a fairly high level of trust on the team, it can be a terrifying and destructive process. But if you have a reasonable amount of trust on the team, it’s by far the most powerful way to do it.
Let’s face it: our strengths and weaknesses are not that secret – and usually they are fairly obvious – so this process brings them to the forefront, and ultimately creates even more trust, as people are in a better position to help each other win.
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard, Author of The One-Minute Manager
Here’s an example of a sensitive issue we discussed:
There was a new, highly capable member on the team, who hadn’t gelled well with a number of the team members. When people invited him to events or social activities after work, he always declined because he was dedicated to his family.
What the person hadn’t realized was that these invitations weren’t really social – or optional. They were about creating personal bonds. Without them, he couldn’t be a real part of the team because in this particular company, if you’re not in, you’re out.
A number of comments in this person’s feedback said they wanted him to be a part of their team – but every time he didn’t join them, it came across as if he didn’t want to be part of the family.
Because of the 360 feedback process, the issue got on the table – and he understood how important those invitations are. From that moment, the change was immediate – and lasting.
In a perfect world every person would transparently share with their peers, bosses and direct reports about their strengths, and how they might improve. But we’re not always good at it – and that’s why a mechanism like the 360 is critical. Sometimes the tiniest bit of feedback can make a massive difference in helping people to perform better. But if an issue is left too long without being addressed, it can be explosive and leave a lot of damage.
By the way, if you are going to do a 360 session, you need an expert to facilitate the process, or it can be destructive. Please call us if we can help you.