Guide to Select a 360° Survey Process Producing Results

When introducing a leadership 360° process to an Indian Business Partner, they asked, “What sets this 360° survey apart from the rest?” The answer came from a VP of Human Resources at an international MedTech company I had recently coached. She said:” I have seen many 360° instruments in my career, this one is by far the best”.
Conducting a 360° survey is a significant investment in time, money and credibility. This article provides guidance for those evaluating a 360° survey tool that yields results. A downloadable Excel decision matrix helps compare different solutions.

1. Assure the survey covers your needs

Start with a clear objective for your 360° survey. Ask three key questions:

  1. The objective, What is the desired outcome?
    Complete the sentence: “at the end of this process individual participants (or the company) will …….” For instance, if you aim for “Managers do have structured feedback from stakeholders,” any 360° survey may suffice. But if it is “Leaders’ organisations are more successful,” a specific leadership-oriented survey is needed.
  2. How does the 360° tool support this objective?
    Then link the objective to the tool. In our “Leaders’s organisations are more successful” example you could ask: “what makes leaders more successful?” The answer could relate to hundreds of different competencies, approaches, methods. Even the most experienced executive or HR leader would not really know, would have to guess, would have to assume.This is where research comes in. For instance, Zenger Folkman’s extensive research of over 1.5 million survey feedbacks analyses what separates extraordinarily successful managers from the rest. Tools based on such research allow focusing on critical competences. They ensure development plans focus on what is really key for success. Verify whether the tools you are evaluating offer the research which can answer the following
    3 questions:
    1. What makes survey participants succeed, what are the competences to focus on?
    2. Are needs of specific job roles considered when defining competences to focus on? (A Chief Accountant’s and a Sales Director’s focus competences might be different)
    Is the research regularly updated and the survey adapted accordingly?
  3. Is there evidence to back it up?
    You have thus checked effectiveness of the tool. Take it a step further: demand proof that high 360° ratings correlate with greater success. Ensure providers have conducted studies and offer
    statistically significant data. Your investment is too significant to have it rely on unfounded vendor claims.

2. We have the Survey – And Now?

We aim for the survey report to be more than just informative; it should inspire the right action to reach the objective. Those who receive a report should be motivated to act. That motivation
should be used to have the 360° system support defining effective actions which are executed efficiently. The execution should be measured.

Motivation to improve

Changing habits and behaviours is not easy. There are always some “good” reasons not to change (read “How Coachable are You?”). Few of the executives I coach see a compelling reason to act.
They perceive themselves to be performing adequately. To motivate them to invest into self-improvement, look for these elements in a good 360° survey process:

Step 1: Accept the results

In his book “Influence” psychology professor Robert B. Cialdini describes 6 ways to persuade. 3 of them can help getting feedback results accepted:

  •  Authority: Trustworthy, research-based approaches help gain acceptance. Wo are the people who develop and maintain the 360-based development approach? Are they authorities who    publish in reputable journals and consult with top companies?
  • Social Proof:

– Have others confirmed that this specific 360° report has helped them become better?
– Is there scientific proof that others have become more successful going through the process?
– Does the survey allow for unlimited numbers of raters? The more raters – the higher the social proof level.

  • Consistency: Consistency here means accepting the input we have requested from our raters and acting on it. How does the process support involving raters before and after submitting their evaluation in the process?

Step 2: Be motivated to act

Choosing the right 360° tool can increase the motivation to act. Look for the following:

  • Clarity: Reports that are easy to understand and concise facilitate action.
  • Benchmarking options: Comparisons with peers can trigger a competitive spirit. Verify which benchmarks are available: 100’000 leaders from all over the world, peers within the same company, country, industry,,,?
  • Focus on excellence: A benchmark using an average could lead to complacency: “I am as good as others, why act?” Own results being compared with the top 10 % or at least 25 % of leaders can lead to aspiration: “what do I need to do, where do I have to focus on to be in the top 10 %?”
    This is of course particularly true if research proofs that being better than average will result in significantly better leadership effectiveness.
  • Strengths-based approach: Focusing on strengths is motivating and leads to lasting change. We are more passionate about improving our areas of strength than addressing weaknesses. And yes, there are cases where weaknesses overshadow strengths and therefore need to be addressed first.
  • Development Guidance built into the method creates a sense of “it is doable”. Does the 360° instrument you are evaluating answer questions like:” where do I start, what competences should I focus on and what specifically could I do?” This guidance should be specific to individual’s particular 360° results, not generic.
  • Coaching: Qualified coaching available to support development and execution of plans helps create and maintain motivation.

Effective Actions, Executed Efficiently

A 360° report can be overwhelming, providing answers to possibly over 100 questions and covering dozens of competences. The risk: process stalled. Day to day business could push self-
development out into an indefinite future resulting in personal frustration, a “non-coachable” image with raters and a decline in performance.

A good 360° process helps recognize the forest behind the many single trees, helps move effectively and efficiently forward to sustainable results, step by step.

  • Focus on Specific Development Objectives: Is the process oriented towards achieving specific goals?
  • Provide Comprehensive Insights: Does the report provide the following: overview, summary per competence and items as well as the detail of how many responded how per specific question of the survey, text feedback on areas of strengths, weaknesses, and improvement areas?
  • Effectiveness: Research-based insight to know which competences an individual should develop based upon his/her specific survey.
  • Include Cross-Training: Like athletes, leaders can benefit from developing diverse competences. Example: Improving on Driving for Results will improve how we are perceived in decision making. Does the tool inform about what synergy competences help develop the one we want to focus on, based on research? This understanding substantially widens the field of possible actions we can take to improve, hence to be more successful.
  • Action orientation: Does the documentation received include specific action ideas to develop specific competences?
  • Involve others: Does the process consider and support involving managers and others in the development process? Provided they are informed, they will likely support, provide, ideas, tell when they perceive the person is off track, will help make change sustainable.
  • Measure progress: Does the process include steps/tools to assess to what degree the development plan was implemented, the effort put in and results?
  • Coaching support: Are experienced coaches available speaking the coachees’ language? Are they certified on the 360° process? Getting a coach for a few hours helps efficiently navigate through the whole development plan process, from understanding and accepting results to defining and executing an action plan, helps getting a real return on time and effort invested.


360° surveys are a valuable tool to help people develop. The survey should be part of a system, which has proven it leads to better results of those being rated in their role. Selecting the right 360° instrument matters. The system should support all phases needed to reaching development objectives: accept – motivate – focus – act – measure. It should include a research-based method to identify those development priorities and specific actions which allow improving results effectively, efficiently, and sustainably. Involving others and utilizing coaching can boost the chances of success.

Additional resources

Spreadsheet: 360 survey evaluation tool; Click here to download it
Article: “12 Components of the best 360 assessments”
Article: “We need to get 360 reviews right”

Logra LLC is a Swiss based company helping you succeed – world-wide – multi-lingual. We focus on leaders, professionals who need to act as internal or external consultants, companies and their B2B sales organisations. We partner with Zenger Folkman for Extraordinary Leadership.


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