360-degree assessments are only as good as the methods used to collect data and select raters. Furthermore, no 360-degree feedback can have a meaningful impact on leadership performance unless it is part of a well-structured performance measurement system.


To improve the performance of your leaders through 360-degree feedback:

  • Choose your raters well to eliminate skewed and manipulated results.
  • Feed the resulting data into a performance measurement system capable of identifying clear development needs.
  • Establish a roadmap to meet these needs.
  • Set up a clear and structured Individual Development Plan.

What is 360-degree Feedback?

360-degree feedback is a method of collecting information on the performance of a leader/employee. This feedback acquisition method combines self-assessment with assessments from a superior, a handful of coworkers, staff members, etc.  

Given the diverse information sources, the resulting 360-degree assessment should be highly relevant, offering the leader/employee clear pointers on how to improve his/her performance.

The problem with 360-degree feedback is that it is easy to get it wrong and relatively difficult to translate its findings into value that has impact.

In and of itself, 360-degree feedback is little more than a component of a performance measurement system that may or may not work for its intended purpose. It may flush out an employee’s shortcomings, but unless it is part of a system that can derive value from this information, it is useless.

The Pros and Cons of 360-degree Feedback

There are several good reasons for companies to use 360-degree feedback. For example, they can:

  • Generate feedback from a variety of sources
  • Strengthen teamwork and promote mutual understanding among team members
  • Uncover a variety of problems that hinder leadership growth.
  • Pinpoint areas where leadership development can produce impactful results
  • Shine a light on the training needs of an organization

That said, 360-degree assessments base their findings on feedback from mere humans prone to petty conflicts, acts of revenge, and exercising their real or perceived superiority. Thus, such assessments may:

  • hurt company morale by inviting people to use them as opportunities to push various agendas
  • become useless in the absence of a well-structured performance measurement system
  • harm leadership morale by focusing on shortcomings and failings instead of strengths and abilities
  • generate low-value feedback from inexperienced raters or raters colluding to abuse the system
  • lack objectivity
  • overwhelm those assessed with high-volume, negatively charged data

How Leadership Development Deals with the Pitfalls of 360-degree Feedback

In the context of leadership development, 360-degree surveys are useful tools for identifying development issues and creating individual development plans.

Use 360-degree feedback to create a roadmap for performance improvement. 

In my book “Intelligent Leadership,” I have introduced a potent performance assessment and measurement system called the Strategic-Tactical Leadership Index (STLI). Here’s how it improves upon the standard 360-degree feedback model:

  • The STLI provides context and structure to 360-degree feedback.
  • In addition to the survey, it features a selection of developmental strategies based on the nine leadership competencies that make up the STLI.
  • To generate a snapshot of the inner- and outer-core leadership competencies, I also use the John Mattone Leadership Enneagram Inventory in combination with the STLI.
  • Assessment-driven individual development plans are designed to put to use the findings of the performance measurement system. To this end, I have devised a six-step process, integrating the assessment results with how the subject perceives his/her leadership performance.
  • The goal of the exercise is to uncover previously unknown strengths and weaknesses, thus establishing the subject’s development needs.
  • I provide additional guidance for IDP-building through a sample IDP I have included in “Intelligent Leadership. “

Further Considerations 

To overcome the pitfalls of 360-degree assessments, organizations cannot leave anything to chance. Choosing raters carefully can boost the accuracy, reliability, and validity of feedback data.

A thorough measurement system like the STLI lends relevance and meaning to this data. It does not dwell on the negative aspects of the findings. Instead, it provides workable development solutions, thus setting the stage for measurable performance improvement.

A strong IDP creates a structure and a roadmap for change, setting clear objectives, and eliminating the threat of data overload.


Back to blog