If you are a manager responsible for reviewing the 360 feedback of direct reports, and helping them put an action plan together, it’s easy to get lost in the details. There’s plenty of information online about preparing for and executing a 360 review, but much of it lacks focus. You need to start by being really clear on your objectives and outcomes, and not get lost in the process.

By its nature, a 360 feedback report looks back at what you have done, not at what you need to do in the future. It is very easy for you and your direct report to get lost in the detail of what he or she did, and why.

Given that 360 feedback is a tool to help you focus on what’s important for the future, your job is to help direct reports focus on that future – what’s required over the next year to help them meet your department and organization’s goals.

I’ve seen people analyze feedback to death for additional meaning when the most important messages are glaringly obvious. It’s vital to zero in on what really matters.

Here are three important questions that you should ensure get answered during the debrief:

  1. Challenge: What’s the most important challenge for the upcoming year that you really need to focus on?
  2. Strength: What’s the one thing that your feedback providers consistently say you’re good at that you need to keep doing?
  3. Development Need: Of all the feedback you received on areas you can develop, what’s the one thing that’s within your reach that’s really going to help you address that most important challenge?

Make sure to set the tone and purpose of the discussion. Your ability to set a positive tone, to focus on the future, and to show confidence in a direct report’s ability meet the challenges he or she is facing will have a big impact on the conversation.

As the manager, you are uniquely positioned to focus on the challenges – make sure to have that conversation first. Why? Because it’s an opportunity to clearly articulate what’s important to the organization, and how your direct report’s role fits in. Without this clarity, he or she can’t hope to excel. This sets the whole process up for a forward-looking development discussion.

Tips

  • When you review the report to come up with their most important strengths and development needs, try get some concrete examples from the comments and drill down to specific behaviors so they are clear on exactly what it is they need to continue doing or do differently.
  • Keep going back to the most important challenges – make sure that you are focusing on behaviors that impact those challenges. The behaviors that are rated the highest or lowest are not necessarily the ones that are important.
  • Once you have answered the key questions, put the report away and talk about what you can do to help them. They can always go back and delve into their report further later.

Remember this above all: Your job is to help your direct reports focus on what’s most important, and support them in rising to the challenges they encounter. If you can do that, you’ve set the stage for easy and productive future development and performance conversations.