How to make sure your 360 degree data is easily digestible

“I don’t care what other people think about me” may occasionally be said but, even if it is asserted, it is rarely actually true. We do care for lots of reasons. One of the reasons is that other peoples’ view of you makes a difference to how you are heard and to the degree of influence you can have. In fact our ability to lead and work through others is dependent directly to how people respond to your requests, suggestions and orders. We lead through conversations and our conversations require other people to respond!

The result of this desire or need is that it really matters what your 360 data says. If your data indicates that others have less respect for you than you thought, you will not feel particularly happy about it – you may even feel very upset, angry, tearful or sad (or all of the above.) Another blog will cover a range of techniques to help you manage your emotions if you are indeed upset – this blog however is to guide the coach through an approach I have called ‘depersonalisation’ which miraculously enables people to fully understand their 360 data without getting too stuck and upset.

What is Depersonalisation? Why is it useful?
Depersonalisation involves detaching the individual themselves from the 360 data. Instead of focusing on them and their good points or failings you focus instead on the fact that the 360 data is reflecting the interface between them and their context:

It makes the process less personal and less sensitive but at the same time allows the individual to see clearly how they are behaving at work and how they are impacting their colleagues, team and management. It gives them a clear view of how their personal attributes –their personalities, their experience, their style and interests, are all playing out in their current environment. The advantage of this is that the individual can more easily deal with it and accept the data as it is as emotions are less negatively affected. It is only once the data is accepted fully that there will be clarity about what actions should come next. If this technique is used you can therefore pretty well guarantee useful and committed development actions at the end of a 2 hour feedback/coaching session.

How do you depersonalise?
How you do this is by focusing on the context of the data and by explaining and exploring the context they have been operating in. The context will usually include: organisational culture, participant’s job, their priorities, the boss, the boss’ style and expectations, the comparisons available, the country’s culture, the current concerns and agendas, the politics, their personal goals and intentions, their motivation, level of engagement, their knowledge and experience, their relationships and their expectations.

A key step is to identify the dominant features of context and then to review how these features are connecting and relating with aspects and qualities of the individual. This can lead to useful and inspiring insights that empower the individual. Examples include:

“My forthright style me clashes against the prominent culture of being nice.”
“My boss is highly analytical and into detail and I can see that I will struggle to satisfy this need.”
“The relationships with my peers have not gelled, but I can see I have not delivered my projects in time and this may have impacted these relationships.”

You need to ensure the individual is clear on:

• Nothing is wrong with them
• There’s stuff to learn and see
• Their intentions and goals at work
• They have created this data and generated these views themselves
• They can generate different views and it will require different actions
• They can choose whether they want to do this or not

This understanding will then leave the individual clear on what is so and clear that there are choices for the future.
The key message to communicate as a coach is that the individual has successfully created a particular picture to others – as seen in the data. This picture is a natural, 100% appropriate way for them to behave, given their style, abilities, knowledge and the context they are in. Leave them with a sense that it is perfect, nothing is wrong and that it is useful to really understand exactly how it has been this way. Understanding how and why comes first, then really seeing and feeling the impact of this on them and their ability to achieve their goals comes after. Once the impact is acknowledged you can ask them what they would like in the future.

First – Understanding:
“My forthright style means I clash against the prominent culture of being nice.”
Second – Impact:
“I can see that members of my team don’t think they can talk to me.”
Third – Choice:
“I would like my team to open up to me.”
Fourth – Action:
“I’ll give them more space in my one-to-one meetings.”

Depersonalisation leads to an easy acceptance of 360 data and a clarity about how their personal attributes are interacting with their particular context. It leads to an easy path to seeing what can be done to improve things in the future. The context can be altered, more effort can be applied or more alertness given and conscious actions can be taken. An easy-to-digest route to gaining value from a 360.

Elva Ainsworth

2 thoughts on “How to make sure your 360 degree data is easily digestible

  1. Sorry, but I have to question the point of ‘depersonalisation’ other than to reduce the potential for conflict between the person giving the feedback and the person who has been assessed.

    The value of 360 feedback is to get at underlying qualities (eg attitudes, beliefs and values) that are not otherwise measured (such as performance, productivity, skills and knowledge). Fundamentally, 360 feedback is about providing a mechanism for establishing a dialogue about a person’s attitudes. If we are then going to run away from dealing with these things that seems rather counter-productive – it is also likely to antagonise the very person whom the 360 was intended to benefit.

    The need to depersonalise seems to me to be more connected with the inadequate feedback skills and gravitas of the person delivering it.

    In the case of in-house run processes, I’ve come across some outrageous examples. One classic was the Group HR Director who gladly let one of the junior HR Administrators try to feedback to a notorious bullying operations director rather than do so himself. She naievely went into the session, was sent packing politely but robustly, wet herself, and then had nearly a month off with ‘sick leave’.

    We are trying to influence someone’s attitudes – this isn’t something that an untrained person should be doing.

    It’s like assigning a coach with rudimentary NLP training to dabble in the psyche of a high-performing senior executive, when clearly the person needs a properly qualified (and insured) psychotherapist or psychiatrist who specialises in organisational behaviour.

    Cheers, Graham.

  2. Sorry Graham have to disagree with you on a number of counts:
    *360 feedback is not fundamentally about attitudes its about behaviours – what people say and do – this is what is observable by the people generating the feedback, it is what impacts on those around the individual and it is the behaviours that may need to be changed. Attitudes are only one of many factors that may have shaped the behaviours and are of course not directly observable except in terms of their partial contribution to behavioural consequences
    * Behaviours can be changed without a person necessarily changing their underlining attitudes – this happens often when people are adjusting to the changed behavioural expectations required in a new job or a new organisation, just the same as they change with the move from home to work to home
    *Heaven help us if senior executives must have psychotherapists or psychiatrists (and why have you not mentioned organisational psychologists)as coaches to further develop their performance. There wouldn’t be enough of them in the country and the vast majority have no knowledge of organisational behaviour anyway.
    *In your example it was not the HR Administrator who was naive it was the Group HR Director. I find it very hard to believe a person at this level would entertain such an inappropriate delegation – they should have handled it themselves, used a senior person from their Organisation and Management Development team, a well regarded and trained senior line manager from elsewhere in their organisation, or a well qualified external consultant with plenty of business experience, knowledge of 360 and management development. NLP would definitely not be on my list of requirements.

    While I think Elva’s third last paragraph is not expressed in the way she may have intended the rest seems to me to make a great deal of sense

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