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How to Transform Your Management and Leadership Style With 360 Reviews The potential impact that a 360 review has on an organization depends on the quality of the feedback and the insights it provides.

By Max Azarov Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • A 360 review offers the ideal assessment tool because it obtains multiple responses from people at various levels within a department to offer different perspectives for evaluation.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Organizational success is contingent on every department performing at its best. Within this operational paradigm, line manager performance relates to how they communicate with staff, assign and organize workflows and their willingness to embrace a more independent management style rather than the often stifling micromanagement approach.

Improving departmental performance in this way requires regular evaluation to help managers continuously improve by identifying potential areas for development and opportunities to adapt their approach where a change is necessary.

Getting the complete picture

In this regard, a 360 review offers the ideal assessment tool because it obtains multiple responses from people at various levels within a department to offer different perspectives for evaluation.

A 360 review allows everyone to give and receive feedback, which is key to business success. It's important to understand the goals, make the procedure easy for everyone to complete and carefully determine the timing, period, tool and frequency. The results should be communicated to everyone, and actions should be taken to improve or maintain the level.

Sourcing feedback from an employee's manager, subordinates, and employees creates opportunities to evaluate staff holistically, with impartial and unbiased insights that can identify hidden strengths and blind spots and offer important perspectives about how others in the organization perceive the employee beyond their self-assessed performance and attributes.

However, the potential impact that a 360 review has on an organization depends on the quality of the feedback and the insights it provides.

Related: How to Avoid Horrific Musk-Like Employee Reviews

Poor response rates erode value

For example, for our annual 360 review process in 2022, we wanted to maximize its impact on the company by generating as much information as possible from the questionnaires.

Seeking in-depth insights, we included a grading system in the evaluation process. While the intention behind this decision was logical, making the questionnaire too extensive and the grading system too complicated meant completing it was time-consuming.

As a result, numerous managers did not have sufficient time to complete it, and it was difficult for staff to provide meaningful insights because we had the wrong goal in mind. Consequently, the review was only useful for 20% of the company.

Related: How to Give Employee Feedback Effectively (and Why It Matters)

Make it quicker and easier

To streamline the next review process, we interviewed managers and executives to clearly define the goals for the review process.

We subsequently simplified the system and the questions, choosing to evaluate only soft skills in the review – we focused on hard skills during the performance review due to differences in job roles and the individualized nature of these requirements. The revised questionnaire covered areas of competence such as self-awareness, teamwork and communication skills.

We also tested numerous platforms to administer the reviews. We selected an automated online option that made it easier to provide feedback via an intuitive interface with the functionality needed to provide the feedback and insights we were looking for.

The best time to send out the reviews was another important consideration, as month-end is a busy time for managers and sales staff, which would impact their ability to complete their part of the assessment.

Related: Why Creating a Culture of Feedback is Vital to Business Survival

Limitations in score-based feedback

The simplified rating scale scored interactions with subordinates, focusing on how well the manager empowers, coaches, and motivates their team members.

This quantitative feedback ranked performance from 0 to 4. Scores of 2 to 3 indicate potential areas for development or growth, while a score of 4 is a good result. Any rating below 2 raises a red flag and indicates areas that need immediate attention.

This curtailed rating scale simplifies the scoring process for those rating a staff member's performance and makes the analysis process easier by spotting trends or areas that need attention. However, asking solely for numbers-based feedback may encourage shallow thinking.

As such, we chose to expand the scope of the review to create a balance between numbers and open feedback. We encouraged respondents to write a comment to justify the score they provided in each assessment category.

Including opportunities for open feedback alongside the score-based feedback provided quantitative and qualitative data that helped generate more comprehensive insights. Moreover, providing honest and constructive open feedback promotes better understanding and alignment between leaders, managers and employees, fosters trust and improves communication, enhancing engagement and collaboration to impact departmental performance positively.

Related: Open vs. Anonymous Employee Feedback — Which is Better?

Barriers to open feedback

This approach is not without its challenges, though. Some staff feel uncomfortable providing more extensive feedback in writing as English may be their second language, or they may feel uncomfortable putting their views 'on paper.' Written feedback takes longer, which can prove challenging if managers have many team members to review.

Staff sometimes hesitate to provide open feedback, especially when subordinates review their managers. Some people believe it may create friction or animosity within the team. While anonymous feedback offers a viable solution, creating an environment where staff feel confident and can provide open feedback generally yields more constructive outcomes.

For this reason, we favor open communication, which we promote through initiatives like our Open Talks – an internal communications initiative that consists of a meeting between an HR business partner and an employee on their request – and our All Hands meetings, where staff can pose questions to the company founders and leadership team, which they address in an open online forum.

As such, we continue to work on cultivating an environment where staff feel safe to provide this type of feedback in 360 reviews. In addition, we work with all staff, including managers and team leads, to ensure they can receive negative reviews in a positive light and use them as an opportunity for growth and development.

While there is always the option to leave anonymous feedback, we encourage our team to provide open and honest feedback constructively and respectfully, as this ensures the company derives the most value from the 360 review process.

Max Azarov

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO & Co-founder of Novakid

Max Azarov is the co-founder and CEO of Novakid, an online AI-platform that provides personalized English learning for kids ages 4-12 through gamification. He is a serial entrepreneur with successful cloud-related ventures. He's held positions at LG Electronics, Google, Cyber Vision and Digital 5.

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