10. Should 360° feedback reports be provided to the individual before the feedback session?
Most agree that the feedback report should not be given to the focus in advance of their feedback session. One key point of debate is whether providing the report in advance helps or hinders an individual who has received particularly difficult feedback. On one hand providing the report in advance may give the individual time to familiarise themselves with the report structure, digest the content (the feedback provider will have time to read through content in advance so why shouldn‟t the individual?), deal with emotional reactions in privacy, and think through discussion points and questions they would like to focus on; but on the other hand it is this precise initial reaction that some coaches find valuable to understand the individual.
“Once the results are in, it’s just as important for me to listen to the client’s initial reactions to the feedback – fresh as it is – for me to understand the nature of the feedback itself.“
Some feel that providing the report in advance may be seen as „cold‟ and may pre-empt a feedback session where the focus is on defensive reactions and counter accusations. In addition, if provided without the support of a coach, feedback may be misinterpreted, which could be distressing. With a coach present, the 360 process can be explained straight away and the feedback can be put into context.
“Human beings tend to see what they want to see,…we create context and meaning that isn’t necessarily truth,… we can be skilled at NOT seeing what is really there….[and we] can get overwhelmed with data.”
The degree to which possible reactions to feedback need to be mitigated may be dependent upon the culture of the organisation. If feedback is commonplace, which some believe it should be, then fewer mitigation strategies will need to be employed and receiving the report in advance will not be a point of contention.
“Feedback should be instant and continuous, not just once a year or every 6 months.”
Those who prefer to provide the report in advance do so within a short timeframe, typically one to two days prior to the session.
“I generally provide the report two days prior – so that the recipient doesn’t have too much time alone with the feedback. The feedback sessions I have debriefed where the receiver has read the report prior have been much more productive and beneficial.”
In addition, some who provide the feedback report in advance argue that this is an important method of encouraging the individual to take ownership of their own development.
“More development occurs when ownership is with the individual. Providing the feedback report prior to a feedback session is in line with treating the individual as an adult with personal responsibility for their development.”
We at Talent Innovations have written two blogs in support of our view that feedback reports should be provided 1 to 2 days in advance of the feedback session. The first shows that when shown their report for the first time in a feedback session, individuals often felt „angry, stunned, shocked, upset, and some have simply denied the relevance of the data. A few have even queried the truth of the ratings‟. Whereas when given their report 1 or 2 days in advance of their feedback sessions, sessions were more constructive and individuals were more engaged. Importantly this gives people time to reflect, allows different learning and personality styles to adjust and deal with it in a way that suits them, respects their privacy, allows them space to be upset in their own way and it actually treats them like an adult, trusting them to deal with it maturely.
Furthermore, research conducted by one of our clients who, on our advice, switched from providing feedback reports just before the feedback session (on the same day) to providing them 1 to 2 days in advance, showed that 98% of focuses either agreed or strongly agreed that they found it helpful to receive their 360 report in advance of their feedback session.
“The vast majority agreed here, with some going as far to say it was essential to have the report before the feedback session, to allow sufficient time for preparation.”
For the full paper, download it for free here.