A 360 degree assessment can deliver amazing clarity and insight. It’s a smart-mirror for seeing yourself — your leadership skills, managerial behaviors, strengths and weaknesses — as others perceive and experience you. For more information about the many benefits of a 360 assessment, read our recent article, “5 Benefits of 360 Feedback.”

Implemented and leveraged properly, a 360 assessment can provide a huge boost for your career.

Of course, “doing it right” is the trick. Many horror stories have been written about 360 degree feedback: from irrelevance, denial, and depression to disastrous office politics. However, if someone does a poor job of preparing and cooking lasagna, that doesn’t mean that lasagna itself is a bad meal. In our view, it’s all about preparation, execution, and the expertise of the chef. Here are four essential elements that will contribute to a meaningful, productive, life-changing 360 assessment.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” — Bill Gates

A 360 assessment should be an integral part of an executive coaching engagement.

An executive coach will design and implement the 360 assessment properly, expertly interpret and translate its meaning, and leverage the results by working with the executive to develop a plan of action for leadership change and development. We’re not being self-serving here. Context and follow-up are critical! Tremendous damage is done when 360 assessment surveys land unexpectedly on people’s desks, and when the executive being assessed simply receives a copy of the report with a vague comment scribbled in the margin about “things to work on.”

360 feedback must assess the right things.

A coach will provide context and help an executive understand what behaviors, qualities and attributes are most relevant to leadership, and need to be assessed. Too often feedback is gathered that has little to do with the leadership skills and capabilities that truly make a difference.

Context and preparation are important for everyone involved.

All supervisors, subordinates and peers involved in the feedback must understand what a 360 assessment is, why it’s important, and how they can be constructive participants — providing candid, honest, relevant, worthwhile feedback.

Sharing 360 assessment results: you decide.

In our executive coaching practice, 360 results are used for developmental purposes — we share them only with our client. This is not Dancing with the Stars. We don’t post scores. The purpose is to gather honest feedback needed to analyze and examine an executive’s performance, behaviors, and leadership skills — and then create an action-based plan for improvement and development. You, however, may share results with anyone you choose. We also understand that the “rules” for sharing may be different based on the purpose of the 360 assessment: for example, when used in a performance review.

Like any good tool, you have to know how to use a 360 degree assessment! For more about their value, read “The Importance of 360 Assessments.” To learn more about 360 degree assessments and executive coaching, contact us at admin@ardencoaching.com or 646.844.2233.