Being Interviewed for a 360

Your colleague is working with a coach. You’ve been asked to provide the coach feedback in a 1-1 meeting. You want to provide useful feedback, but you’re wondering: What’s the best way to do that? How can I be the most helpful? How open should I be? Are there any dangers lurking in this conversation with the coach?

Interview-based 360s are a common, useful part of many leadership coaching engagements. They’re important because they provide granular, nuanced feedback–both on strengths and development areas–that help leaders set the right growth goals. They provide clearer, deeper insight than a survey-based approach. As one coach I know likes to say, “360s are the best thing we do.”

Here are some important things to know about your participation in the process in the way Sierra Leadership conducts it:

Your candor will help. In formal performance evaluations, people can be very careful with their words because they know what they write could impact the person’s career, or their relationship with that person. In this case, the more honest and open you can be, the more helpful it will be. They need to know the truth of how people see their strengths and growth areas.

A 360 is usually a good sign. Companies increasingly use 360s and coaching to invest in high performing, high potential leaders. It’s occasionally but less often used to help turn around a leader who is really struggling. But the odds are, if someone is getting a 360, they are someone the company wants to invest in and keep.

There are a few standard questions. Typically I ask: (1) What are this person’s strengths? (2) What are their development areas and (3) If you could wave a magic wand and this person would change one thing, what would it be? I also ask: what else should I know or should this leader know? You might give a little thought to those questions before the interviews, but usually people don’t. There may be follow up questions too.

Your comments will be kept anonymous. The report your colleague will receive is organized by theme and comments are not attributed to the person who said them. While the 360 report includes direct quotes, if you say something during the 360 interview that you don’t want repeated, you can flag that to the coach and work out wording that helps keep you anonymous.

The 360 report will only be shared with the leader. Because the 360 is not part of any kind of performance evaluation process, the output will not be shared with the leader’s manager or HR–unless the leaders decides to share it. The idea is to gather candid feedback that will give the leader a clear view of how others see her so she can get even better at her job.

This is good news for you. A 360 and coaching improves leadership performance, including relationships with direct reports, peers, and others. Your participation will help this person be a better colleague for you to work with.

Sometimes a 360 is life changing. Once I worked with a leader who received a critical 360. The next time I met with him, he had a major insight that profoundly impacted his leadership. “I realized from the 360 that I’ve been viewing myself as the customer with everyone around me there to serve me. But I need to change the way I think about that. In fact, everyone around me is the customer.” He had this insight and huge, positive changes in his mindset and behavior just from hearing the 360 feedback from the people around him.