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Feedback is an essential tool that effective leaders use to develop themselves.  The use of 360° survey measures is a comprehensive way to discover what your colleagues, employees, customers, and clients think about your performance and leadership skills.

Proactive leaders regularly seek this feedback from others to provide a foundation for their own growth and development.

leadership development, executive coaching, leadership skills, leadership styles, 360 feedback

Obtaining ratings from a variety of different sources can bring some surprising issues to light.  Your self-ratings tend to be inflated or, at least, may differ from other ratings.   And any face-to-face feedback that you have received is typically positive, so anonymous survey feedback can point out some unexpected shortcomings.

In my executive coaching practice, I have found that some leaders are pleased with the results of their 360° feedback while others are shocked and angry.  I like to use the following SARAH acronym to prepare my clients for the phases they might expect to go through when they receive 360° feedback.

The SARAH Model

S = Shock
Some people are shocked by their ratings because they are lower than they expected, very different from their own perceptions, or extremely varied across rater groups.

A = Anger
Shock sometimes turns to anger and disappointment because you thought you were doing better than you were rated.

R = Rejection
While you are angry, you may search for ways to reject the feedback that was given, or reject the survey and the process, saying “This is all meaningless!”

A = Acceptance
As you work past rejection, you usually get to a point where you can accept some of the ratings, for whatever they are worth.

H = Hope
The final phase is hope. You find things you can accept and understand and then determine a course for action. Once you have some course for action there is always hope.

Working closely with an HR representative or private executive coach help you to work through these 5 phases, assimilate the feedback and make constructive changes in your behavior.

What to do with your 360° feedback

Do accept the ratings as revealing how others perceive your leadership.  Leaders have to manage others’ perceptions as their reality.

Do carefully examine how much your supervisor, direct reports, and colleagues differ from your own self-ratings.  On a 5-point scale, a difference of less than .5 may be a matter of chance.  Look for differences greater than .5.

Situations where your ratings are widely divergent from one person to the next may indicate a different level of exposure or experience with you. It may also be due to how the you treat or interact with different associates over time.

Look for items measuring a particular competency that differ significantly from other items within the same category.  Does this result make sense? Do you have control over these ‘outlier’ items or are they something you can’t do anything about?

Do explore the reasons for these differences in discussions with your supervisor, direct reports, and associates.

Do look for your strong points as others see you. Are you in agreement with these?

Do look for your weak points as others see you. Are you in agreement with these?  Why?

What NOT to do with your 360° feedback

Don’t be surprised if your self-ratings differ considerably from your associates.

Don’t start by finding reasons to justify why you aren’t being perceived as you really are.

Don’t put raters “on the spot” about their ratings, or give them the impression that you know what they may have said.  Such behavior reduces confidentiality and undermines the whole process.

Don’t stop developing yourself in ways that improve your leadership!


The purpose of 360° feedback is to help leaders raise self-awareness and any eliminate self-defeating patterns of behavior.  At the highest leadership levels, even small changes in behavior can have a large impact on productivity, loyalty, and employee engagement.

You should develop a plan to increase/decrease specific behaviors identified in the feedback you received.  Pick items that will have the biggest effect on your overall average for a particular competency and where you can really see yourself committing to make a change.

Share your plan with trusted people who can help you with feedback, suggestions, accountability, and encouragement.  Consider working with an executive coach to help you achieve these goals!

positive leadership, leadership development, leadership training

Dr. Stefani Yorges

I am a psychologist and professional leadership coach. I partner with people who want to rise to their full potential so they can have an increasingly greater impact on others.

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