Why provide coaching support?
Whilst it is widely accepted that 360 degree feedback can play a powerful part in the development of senior managers and leaders, simply participating in a 360 degree exercise does not guarantee results.
Our experience and research, obtained through working with over a quarter of a million 360 degree participants, confirms that a key differentiator between inconsequential 360 outcomes and positive performance acceleration is how the participant is supported to draw appropriate and balanced conclusions from their report and then convert these into a forward looking set of positive and meaningful development objectives.
What does 360 coaching aim to achieve?
360 degree feedback coaching is a performance focused, results orientated partnership that aims to support and facilitate the coachee to understand and accept the data and then maximise its value in terms of improved performance and their development growth.
They key outcomes of a typical 360 feedback coaching relationship would be for the participant to:
- Understand, accept and take ownership of the feedback; including managing the emotional reaction that may be prompted by the feedback.
- Draw conclusions from the report, enabling them do develop a clear picture of how others see them. This includes linking together feedback themes to identify key messages and what others perceive to be their strengths, areas for further development and possible blockers.
- Develop a pragmatic personal development plan (PDP) that includes identifying how objectives will be achieved and their success measured.
- Identify an opportunity to have a development discussion with their line manager and to have built a communication plan for thanking people for their feedback input and sharing how they intend to apply the key outputs from the 360 degree feedback.
The fundamental coaching principles and coaching approach remain the same as for any other coaching relationship and can be summarised as:
- Coachee centred - Recognising that personal change comes from ownership and it is therefore the coachee who sets the agenda, makes decisions, takes responsibility for and drives the outcomes.
- Belief in the coachee's potential - Believing that the coachee has great growth / development potential and belief in their ability to solve their own difficult challenges. Recognising that it is the role of the coach to facilitate that self discovery and decision making process.
- Build and sustain a powerful coaching relationship - Building a non-judgemental relationship based on trust, respect, openness and confidentiality that allows honest, constructive challenging and genuine support.
- Encourage self awareness and self belief - Asking the hard, insightful and challenging questions that raise personal awareness and an ability to support the coachee to build self confidence and belief in their own potential and ability.
- Performance and results focused - Working on the real issues and the tough stuff that results in performance focused action, leading to positive change that benefits both the individual and their organisation.
A template for the 360 coaching process
Two coaching session of two hours each works well as this provides an opportunity for the coachee to reflect on their feedback and gain further clarification where needed before deciding on a call to action.
- Session 1 - In addition to understanding the business context, where the feedback fits into the coachee's goals and current situation and agreeing the purpose, process, objectives for meeting, typical outcomes would also be that by the end of the session the coachee has:
- Received and interpreted their 360 degree feedback report.
- Identified what others perceive to be their strengths and key areas for development and linked these back into their own agenda and the business context.
- Drawn initial conclusions and identified possible areas of development work from the report.
- Interim work - A 'mulling over' period of between one and two weeks allows sufficient time for personal reflection and an opportunity to clarify key feedback messages and how they feel about them.
- Session 2 - This session should focus on converting key feedback messages into a personal development plan (PDP), including identifying pragmatically how objectives will be achieved, by when, and how their success will be measured. This session should also be used to consider how they will engage and gain their manager's support in their development agenda and to build a communication plan for thanking those who provided feedback / sharing the next steps.
Getting 360 degree feedback coaching right
We believe that the following principles define those things that help coaches and their coachees 'get it right' when dealing with 360 degree feedback:
- Accept the data first - A key benefit of using a 360 is the factual, candid information it makes available. For many of us, our instinctive reaction to dealing with negative or critical feedback is to want to justify or defend our own positions. A key role of a 360 coach is to support the coachee to 'accept' the perceptions others may have of them. Interestingly these can be positive or negative, expected or unexpected perceptions. Recognising that it is only then that the coachee can objectively use the information as part of their own decision making process.
- Coach from the 'head' and 'heart' - Coaching 360 degree feedback from the 'head', by logically and objectively reviewing ratings to identify trends and patterns from which development goals can be built, is only part of the story. 360 participants may experience some form of disappointing feedback which is typically read through the 'emotional eye' and it may hurt. Coaching 360 degree feedback means being able to coach from the 'heart', having the ability to tune in and follow, in an empathic way, the coachee's emotional journey, supporting them to work through it and turn their feelings into positive actions.
- Take a balanced approach - It is easy to focus on lower feedback ratings and the participant's areas of obvious need and in the process miss a great opportunity. It is important that the 360 coach guides the coachee to take a balanced view of the feedback, placing equal emphasis on strengths and areas for development. Focusing on the coachee's strengths and leveraging their natural abilities towards continued performance delivery will generate positive energy and enhance the likelihood of their future success.
- Find the 'big one' and deal with it - Use the feedback to help the coachee identify any potential 'derailers', those behaviours or aspects of their current style and approach that will get in the way and limit their potential and progress if not addressed. Having found it, help the coachee to put it on the top of their development agenda.
- Enable self discovery and ownership - 'Pull' don't 'push'... If you find yourself steering the conversation, pointing out ratings, explaining the numbers or linking questions together to draw conclusions then you've failed! The report and experience will have far more impact and likelihood of driving personal change if the coachee is allowed to 'struggle' with the numbers to work things out for themselves.
- Contextualise the feedback - 360 feedback should be viewed as a component part in a bigger picture and not the central cog from which all else is driven. Take time at the beginning of the session to understand the business context, what the coachee is aiming to achieve in the business and for the business, where the feedback and competency areas fit, then link the feedback to them.
- Turning negatives into positives - Support the coachee to view what they perceive as negative feedback in an objective and constructive manner. Enable them to identify the key themes and the way that the message can represent a clear way forward. The role of the coach is to facilitate a curiosity about the feedback rather than allow a defensive reaction or, worse, denial or 'discounting' of the feedback.
- Expectations before and after - Coaching 360 degree feedback differs from a normal coaching session in two ways. Firstly, it is important to recognise that with 360 degree feedback the agenda has not been set by the participant. Secondly, the coachee will have expectations before the session; after the session the participant's peers, line manager and indeed the whole organisation will have raised expectations about the participant. The sheer volume of feedback that the coachee receives means that careful attention is needed with regard to managing the post-session period, both for the coachee and the organisation.