When to give people their report?

Earlier this week I had the unusual experience of talking in depth to a consultant from a competitor.  Strangely this Consultant used to work for me at SHL so it was very odd and at the same time exciting to be working with her again.

One of the issues that came up was about when you should give someone their 360 report. Should it be before they get feedback or should they get first sight of it from their facilitator/coach? She said that “best practice” was the latter approach, where the facilitator gives them the report on the spot.  I would like to challenge this view.  I used to take that line and became very used to seeing the range of strong reactions people experience – some have been angry, stunned, shocked, upset, and some have simply denied the relevance of the data. A few have even queried the truth of the “ratings”.

Over the last 3 years, I have had the pleasure of working with an organization truly committed to leadership development.  Together we designed the process to get the maximum development and behavioural change out of the 360s and the programme. As a result I have coached in excess of 75 people in the following manner:

  • We have emailed the 360 report to the participant
  • 1 or 2 days later we have the feedback/coaching meeting.

I have achieved amazing results in the 2 hour sessions with these people.  Some had studied their data and got stuck in a few areas but we soon got clear on the real impact of the data.  Most were genuinely curious and eager to be supported through the process of working it all out, willing to look at the underlying themes and patterns they usually hadn’t spotted on their own. They had had time to start the emotional reactions and were ready to truly explore the meaning and implications of them.  They were ready to take on that the data was a result of the way they had behaved with their colleagues, and ready to see that they could generate different conversations and have a different impact should they choose to do so.  In the 2 hours we nearly always got clear on the top 2 to 4 priority areas for focus.  They finish committed to moving these areas forward and they had some ideas for next steps.

The people I coached found it helpful and inspiring.  How do I know?  Well, each participant was always invited to complete an anonymous review after the session so I got feedback (only once did I regret that idea of mine!). It worked really well.  Some participants did not get their report in time to have a look at it (due to late reviews usually). Every time that happened I observed that we achieved less in our session.

Overall, giving out 360 reports before a feedback session has lots of benefits:

  • it gives people time to reflect,
  • it allows different learning styles to adjust and deal with it in a way that suits them,
  • it respects their privacy,
  • it allows them space to be upset in their own way
  • it actually treats them like an adult, trusting them to deal with it maturely.

In essence, it hands over responsibility to where it belongs: the participant.

It would be great to hear others’ views on this…


[EDIT: We have since written a follow-up article which looks at the results of a survey that a client did, which specifically asked participants how they felt about receiving the report the day before the feedback session. Read it here.]

One thought on “When to give people their report?

  1. Nice to find your blog Elva and Mark.

    I like what you’ve got to say here. If a person does have an emotional resonse to their feedback report, they have to work through the range of emotions before they can start to work seriously on an action plan.

    Look forward to your future posts.

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