The annual review can be an uncomfortable event, but a 360-Degree Performance Review (the “360”) is one of the more harrowing proceedings that can befall a professional, business or academic. In a 360 you are asked to grade yourself against a series of attributes, everything from ethics to leadership to
|Gilbert Stuart's 1797 portrait of George Washington|
A good 360—and there is such a thing, when done well—will reinforce your positives and give you additional incentive to fix the things you generally knew were broken anyway. A traumatic 360, however, can disclose huge “holes” in your game, which quite often turn out to be the very things that are keeping you from being effective, or promoted. 360s are not done every year but, like a colonoscopy (not to put too fine a point on it), are appropriate for the occasional gut-check.
A month ago I was asked to meet with a group of senior executives who were about to receive the results of their first 360. This was a strong group who already knew themselves well, but there couldn’t help but be some anxiety. I was asked to talk specifically about my experiences with the tool—I’d been through a few—and try to put the practice in context as just another device that managers use to improve. My 360s were traumatic but positive: I learned that I never shined my shoes (at one extreme), that I was perceived as giving up too quickly on managers who failed (a gaping blind-spot in my game that I tried hard to repair), and that I should “be myself, but not too much myself”—the best piece of advice I ever got, and one I occasionally impart to others.