The Power of the 360-Degree Feedback Process

A critical component of leadership development is feedback. Leaders can dramatically improve the quality of their work relationships, their impact on the business, and their overall leadership style through accurate and detailed input from others. At Bandelli & Associates, we believe 360-degree feedback is vital to the success of any leader.

A proper 360-degree process will typically involve several important components:

  1. Selecting Participants – leaders should always look to get a cross-section of colleagues when launching a 360 process. We recommend selecting participants from several different constituent groups (managers, peers, direct reports, cross-functional colleagues, and external stakeholders).
  2. Data Collection – there are two primary methodologies for collecting 360 feedback. The interview-based approach involves soliciting input (e.g., strengths, development opportunities, and leadership traits) from a cross-section of colleagues. This helps to develop a robust snapshot of one’s current leadership style. The survey-based approach leverages a 360-degree survey tool to generate data across key leadership competencies that make for effective leadership. Survey-based 360s can be used at all levels of the organization, and are quick and easy to set-up and administer. Regardless of the method used, it is important to let all participants know that their input will be completely anonymous and confidential. This helps to put participants at ease, and allows them to share their feedback in an open and honest manner without fear of retaliation.
  3. Analyzing Results – there are various methods for analyzing 360 data. With the interview-based approach, an aggregate summary of key themes from the interview data can be shared with the leader. The report will typically include a section on strengths, listed by key themes with representative quotes. The same will be done for development opportunities. An executive summary at the start of the report will also enable the leader to get the whole picture upfront before diving into the report. A strong interview-based 360 deliverable will close with a recommendations section. This enables the leader to begin thinking about behavior changes that they want to make. With the survey-based approach, customized feedback reports are developed, which leverage an aggregate summary of the quantitative scores and a theme based summary from open-ended questions. Depending on the Likert scale used, leaders will typically receive scores across the key leadership competencies. Some survey-based 360 deliverables will also include a section on highest scoring and lowest scoring survey items. This can help a leader get to the heart of an issue quickly. Like the interview-based deliverable, a recommendations section helps to put together some thought starters for development planning.
  4. Providing Feedback – In one of my earlier thought leadership articles, I outlined seven keys to delivering effective feedback: a) preparing for the feedback session; b) taking time to establish rapport; c) starting with strengths and positive attributes; d) being honest and direct about development opportunities; e) allowing time for processing and discussion; f) building a development plan; and g) taking some immediate action. These steps can also be applied to delivering 360-degree feedback.

At Bandelli & Associates, we have the capability to deploy both interview-based and survey-based methodologies. Our interview-based approach can be used to collect 360 data at all levels of the organization. However, we typically see this methodology used for 360s in the c-suite, and a level or two below the executive suite. Our survey-based methodology can be deployed in two ways. The first way is using the Bandelli Leadership Competency Inventory, which is our proprietary 360 survey tool that explores the ten universal and indisputable leadership effectiveness competencies. The second way is customizing the 360 survey to fit your organization’s needs. With this approach, the survey can be put together based on an in-house leadership competency model, or by partnering with your organization to identify the key leadership competencies that should be included in the 360 survey. In order to highlight the differences between both of our approaches, we offer the three client case examples below.

Case Example I: Fortune 100 Insurance Provider

The Situation: The CEO of a global insurance provider came to us with the need for leadership development for his top 25 executives. He wanted coaching and/or team development for his most senior people. Before we could provide any type of leadership development service, we wanted to identify each leader’s strengths and their developmental opportunities.

The Intervention: We partnered with the CEO and CHRO to deploy an interview-based 360-degree feedback process. The interview-based methodology included some general questions exploring each leader’s strengths, development areas, and leadership style. It also had specific questions pertaining to each leader’s respective area of the business. So, for example, the 360 protocol for the CFO contained questions pertaining to his impact with Wall Street and company shareholders as well as his ability to build a strong finance leadership team. We interviewed 12-15 people per executive. The participant feedback pool included the CEO, some of their peers, a sub-section of their direct reports, and a sampling of external stakeholders. The 360 data were collected over the course of 6 weeks, and the feedback was aggregated, summarized, and delivered to every executive.

The Outcome: Each executive received their feedback deliverable reports and were able to partner with our consulting team to build their personal development plans. Some of the senior leaders continued work with us in executive coaching partnerships. Others partnered with us to deploy 360s for some of their direct reports and team members. Over the course of the next year, the company saw dramatic changes in the way the senior most executives led their respective functions and business units. Job satisfaction and employment engagement scores on the company’s annual engagement survey conducted one year after the 360 process were the highest in the company’s history.

Case Example II: Fortune 500 Consumer Products Company

The Situation: The CHRO of a consumer products company came to us with a request to develop the company’s SVP leaders. Across the organization, there were sixty SVPs in different roles and functions. After discussions with the CHRO, we felt it was best to conduct survey-based 360s for this constituency group. The company decided to partner with us to build a 360 survey that was based off of their leadership competency model.

The Intervention: We took the company’s leadership competency model, which included the following dimensions – driving results, building enterprise talent, cross-functional collaboration, strategic thinking, passion about the customer, and building effective teams – and put together a 60-item (10 questions per competency area) 360 survey. We used a four-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Lastly, we included several open-ended questions – top strengths for the leader, top development opportunities for the leader, and recommendations for future success. Each leader was then asked to provide a list of 15 participants. The lists were reviewed by their managers and the survey was launched. Data collection lasted for 4 weeks.

The Outcome: Each leader received a detailed feedback report that included: overall summary scores for each leadership competency dimension by feedback constituency group – self, manager, peer, and direct reports; individual scores by each survey question; top five highest and lowest scoring survey items; largest scoring gaps between self and other ratings; and participant comments for each of the three open-ended questions. The feedback meetings were used to share the findings and help each SVP build a personal development plan. Six months after the initial 360-degree survey, we conducted a follow-up pulse check survey to see where progress was made. 60% of the SVPs saw significant score increases Theacross critical dimensions in their personal development plans.

Case Example III: Fortune 500 Healthcare Provider

The Situation: The CEO of a large healthcare coverage provider came to us with the need for leadership development for his entire executive suite. There were 11 c-suite leaders that he wanted to put through our Executive Assessment process.

The Intervention: Our Executive Assessment process included: on-line psychometric tests for personality and leadership effectiveness; a four-hour behavioral event interview; and interview-based 360s. The 360 component included interviews with the CEO, each of the c-suite peers, and a sample of their respective direct report teams. We developed specific questions for the interview protocol that related to each leader’s business unit or functional area of expertise. The 360 data were collected over the course of 4 weeks, and the feedback was aggregated, summarized, and delivered to every executive.

The Outcome: Each executive received their feedback deliverable reports and were able to partner with our consulting team to build their personal development plans. An aggregate 360 team report was put together for the CEO. This helped him to identify the collective strengths and development opportunities for the executive team. We then used the collective insights to build a comprehensive team effectiveness engagement with the entire executive leadership team. A follow-up pulse survey was conducted 9 months after the team engagement and we saw marked improvements across the team and at the individual level for each leader.

360 feedback is a powerful tool that leaders can leverage to strengthen their skills and capabilities. When done correctly, the 360 process can open the door to positive behavior change for leaders across all levels of any organization.

For more information on our 360-degree feedback capabilities conduct us at

Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.