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360-Degree Feedback Helps Develop Public Health Leaders

Learn the basics about the 360 review process, which asks individuals to assess themselves using a survey or evaluation instrument applicable to the individual’s profession.
360-Degree Feedback Helps Develop Public Health Leaders

Leadership Institute scholars break into small groups for discussion with instructor Jack Thompson, MSW.

Learn the basics about the 360 review process, which asks individuals to assess themselves using a survey or evaluation instrument applicable to the individual’s profession.

November 13, 2012

Leadership and management programs increasingly use 360-degree feedback to help leaders learn more about themselves and how to apply necessary leadership competencies. Over the next few weeks, Northwest Public Health Leadership Institute scholars will finish their 360-degree reviews and meet with a personal coach to go over feedback.

The 360 process asks individuals to assess themselves using a survey or evaluation instrument applicable to the individual’s profession. Other respondents—like the individual’s supervisor, direct reports, colleagues or acquaintances—also anonymously answer the same questions about the individual. This information connects pieces of the puzzle about how a leader functions overall, offering insights on strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots that may not be apparent to the individual. NWCPHP’s Leadership Institute scholars will use this feedback throughout the rest of the year to develop their personal leadership plan.

If you are thinking about implementing this type of process to encourage leadership at your organization, a thoughtful process is key to a positive outcome. So, what is the best way to use these reviews in an everyday work environment?

Northwest Public Health Leadership Institute scholars use Discovery Leadership Profile for Public Health for their 360s, a process geared especially for public health leaders. Institute scholars receive personal coaching to review their 360s and then build personal leadership development plans during the remainder of their cohort year.

“The 360 report has been very helpful. The moment I looked at the report I was able to see areas in my leadership style that could be improved upon. We were told to focus on the areas that we do well, but I enjoy looking at the areas that I can work to do a better job.”
– Todd Phillips, R.S., 2012–13 Leadership Institute Scholar

Learn more about the Leadership Institute >

Check the intent

The first step to ensuring a positive 360 experience is to check the intent and goals for the process. Good reasons for implementing 360s include providing new opportunities for feedback, developing your workforce, retaining employees, and improving overall performance. Poor reasons for putting a 360 in place are to identify low performers or compensate for underdeveloped channels for real-time feedback. It is also important to find a reputable tool that applies to your profession and workforce.

Make the process positive and growth-oriented

When the 360 review is administered well and is a positive experience, people get excited by the way their path to career growth is illuminated. They’ll want to learn and grow. That means a plan should be in place for how individuals and their management will use the feedback to identify next steps. Having this in place from the start helps participants feel safe in knowing how the feedback will be used to help them in the future.

Be ready to give individual coaching

Having experts available to walk people through the feedback also helps to ensure this is a positive experience. There can be a lot of misconceptions about what actions to take and what an “ideal” review looks like. Be sure individuals have a safe place to look at their feedback and understand how to leverage their strengths and neutralize their weaknesses.

Keep reviews under lock and key

The feedback given in a 360 can be very personal. When you ensure confidentiality, you give people a license to be truthful and open. The goal of 360s is to allow individuals to see themselves from multiple perspectives. If reviewers fear repercussions, they won’t be honest. This takes valuable information away from the whole process.

Start at the top and start small

In addition to communicating full support of the process, senior leadership should play a key role in explaining the 360 plans to staff. Clearly communicating the thinking and growth-oriented intent of the review is vital. The more information the staff has, the better—transparency fosters the trust that is needed for a successful 360.

As you roll it out, start with a small group, so that mistakes can be worked out easily. Starting with senior leadership also serves as an example for everyone else. And if there are changes needed or problems in the process, they can be discovered without creating widespread confusion or other negative reactions.

Information adapted from “The Promise of 360-Degree Feedback” by Chris Musselwhite.

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