The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

August 14, 2016

What They Think Of You – The Dreaded 360

If you don’t know what your coworkers think of you, you can’t maximize your potential. So the 360o feedback review is an important tool for any organization’s leaders, and thus for any organization’s success. But most often it’s done poorly. Jim & Steve offer tips and tools for optimizing the impact of your company’s 360s.

View Transcript

Voiceover: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss. This is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Jim Hessler: I am Jim Hessler. I’m the Business Guy. I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services and the author, along with my co-host, of the book Land on Your Feet, Not on Your Face. Good day to you, sir.


Steve Motenko: Good day to you too, sir, my partner. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the Psychology Guy. I’m a personal development coach and executive coach here in the Seattle area, as Jim mentioned co-author of the book that he initiated and I hopefully helped refine a little bit …


Jim Hessler: More than a little bit.


Steve Motenko: Land on Your Feet, Not on Your Face, a leadership primer. We are here to offer you, we hope, a little bit of workplace wisdom with heart and humor.


Jim Hessler: In line with that, today we want to talk about something that many of you may have experienced or will experience at some point in your career and that is the 360 review.


Steve Motenko: The dreaded 360.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. These things are becoming popular, so we want to give you a little bit of our experience and wisdom in regard to how those are best handled. There’s a lot of positives about the 360. We’re generally fans of the 360, but there’s certainly some caveats to how they’re structured and how they’re executed, so we wanted to talk about that.


Steve Motenko: From a very high level, I always say if you don’t know how you’re perceived in the workplace you can’t possibly maximize your potential. That’s why we’re fans of the 360, this notion that when you hear from your direct reports (if you have them), your peers, and your superiors about how they perceive you, how they regard you, what they see as your strengths and weaknesses, that’s potentially a hugely positive thing.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, but there are some do’s and don’ts and we want to cover some of that ground with you today. Before we do, Steve, I was interested to see that there’s a book out, it may have been out for a while, I don’t know how long, but it’s called The Math Myth, say that 10 times fast, The Math Myth, by a guy named Andrew Hacker. I haven’t read the book yet, but I read a synopsis of it, which that’s enough isn’t it? Do we every really need to read a book? Can’t we just read the Cliff Notes?


Steve Motenko: Yeah, Cliff Notes. Actually, the first sentence of every Cliff Notes paragraph.


Jim Hessler: Isn’t that how you got through Harvard?


Steve Motenko: That’s exactly right, oh my God. How did you know? Who told him?


Jim Hessler: What he’s challenging is the relentless focus on STEM education in our educational system. He says that struggling with math requirements, this really blew me away, is the number one reason students don’t finish high school or college, so when kids drop out of high school math is most likely to be the subject that drove them screaming over the edge. I can really relate to that. I think you know I’m good with numbers.


Steve Motenko: Yeah.


Jim Hessler: I actually love numbers.


Steve Motenko: Yeah.


Jim Hessler: I love dissecting numbers, I love statistics, I love analysis, but I hated math class. I was lucky I graduated high school when I did because I got a D, I got one D in high school and it was in Algebra II. I hated it. This really struck me and it brought me back to, again, how many times you and I talk about the importance of a liberal arts education and not shoehorning kids into these little technological marvels who can all do this advanced mathematics. There’s a lot of people that we’re driving away from education because of those high requirements.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of people who we’ve been driving away from education.


Jim Hessler: In a lot of different ways.


Steve Motenko: In a lot of different ways over a lot of different decades …


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Steve Motenko: … for a lot of different reasons, forcing square pegs into round holes.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. Let’s talk again one more time very quickly, I get on my soapbox about this a lot, but a leader is a well-rounded person, a good leader is a person who has some idea of the world outside the four walls of their business, who has some idea of currents in society, of culture, of, I’ll say it, literature, religion, and history. I think these are all essential parts of the education of somebody who wants to lead other human beings. I know that comes across as kind of snooty, but I’ve stopped apologizing for it. I think if you want to be a good leader you need to be a well-rounded, well-educated person and just sitting in math and science classes all day long isn’t going to get you there.


Steve Motenko: Especially, as we say to our clients all the time, you really have to be successful at relationships if you want to be a good leader.


Jim Hessler: Absolutely, absolutely. That education gives you a context for those relationships. Speaking of relationships, the 360 assessment is an interesting relationship challenge. We’ll talk about that when we come back from the break. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the Psychology Guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the Business Guy. Someday in your career you may have had somebody or will have somebody come up to you and say “Hey, Steve, we’d like you to be the subject of a 360 assessment.”


Steve Motenko: Oh God, no. I quit. I don’t want to know what people think of me, too depressing.


Jim Hessler: They’re very popular. Apparently, about a third of companies use them or some form of them, so they’ve become very mainstream. Truth in advertising, we have accepted fees from clients for doing 360s, for consulting on 360 processes, but having said that it’s not an essential core part of our business and we’re very careful about how we do them. We only do them under certain circumstances with certain clients. That’s part of what we want to talk about today. First of all, Steve, what is a 360? Let’s describe that for a minute to people who may not be familiar with the term.


Steve Motenko: I mentioned briefly before the break — 360 comes from the number of degrees around a circle, and the idea is that you want to get feedback in, let’s say, your circle of influence, you want to get feedback from everyone who’s in it if you want to understand how your strengths and weaknesses are perceived in the workplace. Hell, you could do it in the family too I guess.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, for sure.


Steve Motenko: If you want to know how you’re perceived in the workplace, what is in the way of maximizing your potential, you’ve got to hear from a representative sample of everybody who works closely with you.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Steve Motenko: These can be verbal, one-on-one, or they can be written instruments.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, they’re often written instruments, they’re often done online. There’s a series of questions, you’re asked to evaluate the person’s performance. It’s most frequently done anonymously so that the person who receives the feedback does not know where the scores or the comments came from, although sometimes the comments are written in language that are kind of identifiable.


Steve Motenko: Yeah. Quite often in my experience people can guess, “I know who that came from.”


Jim Hessler: “I know you said that.” Yeah. We’ve even done 360s where we’ve stripped out some of the language that might clue people into the identify of the provider and put it into summary form so that they don’t get hung up on that. This is one of the problems we have when we’re delivering 360 results is people want to know right away who said what.


Steve Motenko: Right. Right.


Jim Hessler: We don’t want them to be going there. That’s one of our first rules, don’t worry about who said it because we’re only giving you information here.


Steve Motenko: In my experience as an executive coach, in many of my client companies I’ll do one-on-one 360s. In other words, it’s not a written instrument, but I sit down with people who work closely with my coachee, as we say, and say “What are this person’s strengths and weaknesses?” That way I’m able to get more depth and fleshing out the perspectives and also compare the perspectives and see who’s in the middle of the bell curve. That information I’m going to convey to the client. Some perspectives on the edges of the bell curve I won’t convey to the client because they’re clearly about that individual’s filters.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, good point. One of the things I want to say about 360s right out of the shoot here is they’re not entirely without controversy. For example, Susan Scott, who’s a writer who wrote Fierce Conversations, is a book that we advocate frequently and advocate the programs that that organization runs, but she says that anonymous 360s are a bad idea because they encourage people to be anonymous. She believes in a perfect environment, people are able to give whatever feedback they need to give to each other without it being anonymous.


Steve Motenko: We agree with that ideally.


Jim Hessler: We agree with that, and so the way we position 360s typically with our clients is, hopefully, it’s maybe a transition to a higher-cultural phase in which the anonymity part of it is no longer necessary, but we believe the vast majority of organizations require that anonymity at least in the initial phases of doing this sort of 360. Again, the 360 would be you get feedback from your boss, you get feedback from peers, and you get feedback if you have direct reports from direct reports. Anybody who works closely with you gets a chance to weigh in.


Steve Motenko: Yeah. I know you planned to say this at some point during the show, but we both are really strong advocates for consistent informal feedback at the very least in addition to and maybe instead of a regular annual written 360. We want everyone to have the healthy relationships that allow them to speak the truth to each other all the time.


Jim Hessler: Yeah, great point. As we talk about 360s, and in general we’re advocates for them, we don’t want them to be seen as a replacement for what should be happening every day at work, which is people having the conversations they need to have with each other about performance and maybe someday you’d get to the point where even any sort of assessment would be necessary. While they still are, let’s talk about how to make them work. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy. We’re talking about 360 assessments today, which are those tools where you get feedback from your boss, your peers, your direct reports, your co-workers, and you get this big set of feedback questions, people answering questions about how you perform in the workplace. I think the first question really is what is the purpose of the 360. I know, Steve, you believe strongly that we have to see ourselves through the eyes of other people. We hear people oftentimes saying “I don’t care what other people think.” We think that’s not good. From a psychology perspective, help me understand that. We think we should know ourselves, but we really don’t, do we?


Steve Motenko: Yeah, it’s a gray area because both are true. It is true that if all we know of ourselves comes from other people’s perspectives and there’s no there there, there’s no center to our self-concept, there’s nothing that we can rely on inside ourselves. On the other hand, we are social beings, we are programmed, hardwired to belong to others. Early in the development of our species, banishment from the tribe meant death. We all carry that in us, so it’s critical that other’s perspectives of us inform who we see ourselves to be, otherwise we’re living in a vacuum. My mother had a mentor who would say to her, “What other people think of me is known of my business.”


Jim Hessler: Right.


Steve Motenko: I get the idea behind it.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. That’s that American independence speaking, I think. It’s the John Wayne thing, I don’t care what you think about me, I’m just going to be me. We hear this from athletes a lot, I don’t care what you think.


Steve Motenko: Right, and it’s glorified in Hollywood.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. It’s nonsense. It really is nonsense because like you said we are social beings. In order to really have a successful experience with a 360, you have to be open to it. You shouldn’t agree to be part of a 360 process if you really don’t give a darn what other people think of you. You have to get yourself in the right mindset because people are going to say things about you that you don’t want to hear.


Steve Motenko: The workplace I think has a right to demand it if it’s done in a healthy way.


Jim Hessler: Yeah.


Steve Motenko: To demand that you listen to what your co-workers think of you.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. I know some organizations make this a voluntary thing. I’m like, “Well, if you’re going to do it for one set of people, you should do it for everybody, at least at the same managerial level.” It’s particularly useful for managers and higher executives because we know that the amount of feedback that people get from others actually declines as they move up the hierarchy, so 360s are often used with very powerful people at high levels of the organization because of the fear that’s attendant of people to give feedback to high-ranking, powerful people.


Steve Motenko: Yeah. I think there are a lot of people listening to this who are thinking “Boy, I wish that were true in my workplace because my boss’s boss is so clueless partly because he or she has so much power and wields it and doesn’t care who is impacted by it.” One thing that I hope we’re going to get into, I hope you’re planning on us getting into, Jim, today …


Jim Hessler: If I’m not, you can do it anyway.


Steve Motenko: I can bring it forward. … is the question of what happens after the 360 is delivered because that’s determinant of its potential value. If all that happens is it’s dumped on the person and there’s no support for following through and growing, then we’ve got a problem.


Jim Hessler: I think that’s a really great thing to talk about because you can go online and learn everything you need to know about the various instruments and tools that are used for 360s, the types of questions that are asked, but the thing that’s rarely talked about is what happens after the 360 results come in, what do you do with that. Interestingly enough, the difference between your first and second 360, if you have more than one, is usually insignificant and it’s really between the second and third that you see the improvements. More about 360s when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: KOMO News. The Boss Show is back on a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. If you’ve got a topic you’d like us to consider on The Boss Show, something that’s going on at work or used to go on at work or you’re worried is going to go on at work and you want a little bit of context-setting advice or ideas or questions, let us know. Send us an email, talk to us at


Voiceover: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy. Today we’re talking about 360 assessments, which many of you have or will experience at some point in your career. I once worked with a client, Steve, that prior to my engagement with him had had a very negative experience with 360s, and basically that’s because they were just dropped off on the person’s desk and there wasn’t really a conversation that went along with that 360, so here’s the person just sitting there reading this feedback, some of it negative, and having to process that on their own. This is one of the rules we establish with the 360s with our clients is that the results are delivered in a very caring and facilitated way so that the person can experience whatever emotions they need to experience about the feedback in a supportive environment. I’m sure you feel the same way.


Steve Motenko: Yeah. Of course, as an executive coach, for me the 360 is at the very beginning of my coaching process. If I go into coach someone, and this goes back to what I said earlier about how we all need to understand for the sake of our workplaces effectiveness and fulfillment, we need to understand how we’re perceived, so when I go in a company hires me not to necessarily support their executives growth the way the executive perceives it but to support their growth the way the workplace overall sees in the best interest of the workplace overall and its mission.


Jim Hessler: I read something recently that really I think is so relevant to this conversation and that is that giving somebody feedback in and of itself doesn’t create change in their behavior. Typically, if you sit down with somebody and do some sort of an assessment or a performance evaluation and you say “Well, here’s three things you’re not real good at yet and you need to get good at them,” that may result in some modest increase in their performance and area, but generally that’s where most companies stop. They give the feedback and then they expect the employee having heard the feedback to take action on the feedback they got, and often that doesn’t happen.


Steve Motenko: Yeah. Whether they do depends I think to a certain extent on how willing they are to let go of the stranglehold of their own preexisting beliefs.


Jim Hessler: Also, they’re creating new habits, which is hard to do.


Steve Motenko: Right. Exactly. Without support.


Jim Hessler: In many cases with 360, you’re asking somebody to create in some cases a significantly different set of habits for themselves …


Steve Motenko: Right, right.


Jim Hessler: … and this is not done easily, so again this is our emphasis on what happens after the 360. First of all, we don’t think you should do a 360 as a discreet event that only happens once. We think you should do 360s multiple times to track a person’s development. We said earlier, statistically you’re generally not going to see a huge difference between the first and second 360s, even if you do them six months or a year apart. It’s hard to change habits, as we all know. It’s really the third, fourth, fifth where we start to see growth with people because the implication is they’re getting coaching, they’re getting support, they’re getting challenged, the two words that we love to use with our clients.


Steve Motenko: Again, to me, ideally the 360 should not be an occasional instrument, an occasional tool, it should be a daily conversation, an honest conversation, very informal conversation among employees; how are we doing, what I’m doing that’s standing in your way, name one thing that I could have done on this project or in this meeting that would have made your life better or your work a little easier.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. This speaks to what we believe is such a gold standard item for good business managers anyway, which is having a regular disciplined, consistent conversation with your employees about their growth. If you’re having monthly one-on-ones or weekly one-on-ones, pull the 360 out and say “How we doing?” If you’re the person that was the subject of the 360, carry your 360 into your meetings with your boss and say “Can we talk about what you’ve observed in regard to how I’m making progress on these issues or not?” Get the most out of the process.


Steve Motenko: Right, and take it and do everything you can, again, to step out of your own preexisting beliefs and imagine what the other perceives of you in order to look at the outcome of maximizing your own potential. More when we come back. You’re listing to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Steve Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy.


Jim Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy. Call us at 206-973-7377.


Steve Motenko: Once again, that number is 206-973-7377.


Jim Hessler: 206-973-7377. I like the way you say that, my friend. 360 assessments, so let’s just imagine that you’ve been told or invited into a 360 process and you’re going to be the subject of a 360 assessment. Here’s some questions that I would suggest that you ask about that process before you’re asked to be part of it. First of all, what kind of professional support or development will you get to address the areas of concern in your 360. I’m going to get a 360, it’s like that what happens next question. I’d think that’d be a healthy question to ask your employer. If your employer wants to do a 360, say “Okay. What happens after the 360?” It’s back to what you and I were talking about earlier.


Steve Motenko: Right. You mentioned earlier that too often that it just gets dropped on the employee’s desk and they are expected to take care of it themselves. It occurred to me, Jim, that the soft skills or the hard skills, as we teach our leadership development clients, that applies to ourselves as well. Engaging those soft skills with regard to our own development is a tough thing to do.


Jim Hessler: Who else will see the results is one of the interesting questions I think to ask about a 360. We’ve worked with companies that only we as the facilitators and the employee actually see the results. We’ve worked with other companies where the person and their supervisor sees the results. The best outcome for me is when the employee who’s the subject of the 360 is asked to summarize the key points of the 360 and then publish for the people who they work with kind of a commitment document about what they’re going to be working on and to be very open about that. That tells the people who participated in the 360 process I hear you, I heard what you had to say, and I’m willing to work on it.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.


Jim Hessler: That’s worked well for us. When you have your 360, ask who’s going to see it and really what it’s going to be used for, is this going to part of your employee file, is this going to be treated like another performance evaluation, or is this really just for your own development and independent of any formal evaluation.


Steve Motenko: My only concern about that commitment document idea is that if it feels coerced it could be awful.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. I know where you’re going on that, but this is the old you can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink argument. If somebody receives feedback in a 360 that’s essential, I think you can say “Yeah, you’re going to work on this.” As the boss, this isn’t a negotiation. This isn’t something you get to decide whether you’re going to get better at, you need to get better at it.


Steve Motenko: Right, because the interests of the organization at large supersede your own interest in staying hidden behind your weaknesses.


Jim Hessler: Yeah. My answer to the horse with water is always you better darn well make sure the horse drinks water if you have to ride the horse across the desert. This idea that you just kindly drop the 360 information in front of the employee and say you might want to work on this stuff, that’s a little soft for me.


Steve Motenko: Yeah, yeah. I agree.


Jim Hessler: Even as an executive coach, I’m sure you run into situations where there has to be an accountability of some sort present for that process to work.


Steve Motenko: Yeah. When I do my 360s as an executive coach, I repeat them, or at least some of them, halfway into the coaching process and then again at the end of the coaching process to make sure progress is being made.


Jim Hessler: The last thing we think you should ask is will you have another 360 in the future. It really is a good idea, as we talked about earlier, to have these spread out over time and receive them so you can track your progress. The last thing about 360s …


Steve Motenko: We’ll have to take up after the break. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Voiceover: Now, back to Steve Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Steve Motenko: Hi, welcome back. I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy.


Voiceover: I’m Jim Hessler, the business guy. We’ve been talking about 360 assessments today. The most important thing for you to know about 360s if you’re the subject of one is how open you need to be to the feedback that you’re getting. It’s so easy to get defensive, it’s so easy to try to figure out who said what, it’s so easy to deny it, to explain it away, or argue away the feedback. You just have to get over that, not only for the purposes of a 360 but for the purposes of your life and career generally. Be open, be curious about what people are saying. Even if you want to disagree, you’ve got to hear it.


Steve Motenko: It’s going to be painful. Move through the pain with the pain, you’ll be a better person for it.


The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions. Our sound engineer today is Kevin Dodrill.


Jim Hessler: If you missed any of the show, you can get it in its entirety online at


Steve Motenko: That’s also where you can go to subscribe to our podcast. You can get that on iTunes and Stitcher and SoundCloud as well or on our website, You can contact us, maybe you want to bring us into your place to help your leaders.


Jim Hessler: We’d love to do that. Hey, thanks for listening.


Steve Motenko: Don’t forget, rule number six.


Jim Hessler: Rule number six.



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