Assessments - Don’t Assume

My colleague asked me to participate in a 360° assessment being conducted for her. As the kind of person who likes to help others, I agreed to participate. Based on my background in human resources, I naturally assumed the assessment was being conducted to support her in her role at work, which is often the case for these types of assessments.

The key word here is “assumed.”

In my past experiences, a 360° assessment typically gathers feedback for an individual in the context of their work from peers, subordinates, supervisors, and even external stakeholders like clients. That feedback is then used to help the individual plan and map their development efforts for even greater work performances. 

I’ve provided feedback for a number of people throughout my career via 360°s using a variety of instrument providers. They are a great way for individuals to learn how they are perceived by others in the organization while allowing the “raters” anonymity for the freedom to be honest without fear of retribution (it can be hard to tell your boss how you really perceive him or her since they hold power over your position). 360°s are widely used during coaching engagements, whether the coaching is remedial/“fix-it” or developmental/growth.  When used appropriately, the 360° assessment provides tremendous insight and power for the individual being assessed.

Now that you know my past experiences with 360°s, you can imagine my surprise when the assessment asked me to indicate the household appliance that best characterized the individual and why. What on earth would that have to do with her work performance? While I can make this kind of leap and connect the dots between household appliances and work performance, it made me wonder what the context for this 360° assessment was.

I quickly had a conversation with my colleague and learned that this was a “personal brand” assessment to help her understand how she’s known, especially with regards to her community involvement. Whew! I thought I would be asked what color Tuesdays are and if she, as the household appliance, worked better on Tuesdays!

So the morale of my story (and I’m sticking to it) is…

Don’t assume!

All 360° assessments are not created equal! The term “360” simply implies a full global view with the individual in the center. Knowing the purpose of the assessment and understanding the context and intended use for the feedback is helpful to those providing the feedback. Great things come from 360° assessments, whether the feedback is for professional development, as I had assumed here, or personal growth, which was the actual intent for this situation!

Have you given or received 360° feedback? I’d love to hear your experiences!

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