Ring of Criticism

imageEarlier this year, I participated in what is commonly known as a 360-Review. The concept is pretty straight forward; you are reviewed by your supervisors, your peers, the people who report to you and some people outside of your organization. I was dreading the experience until I had a better understanding of how the process works. It starts with a self-assessment.

Unlike the MBTI that I wrote about last week, where you answer questions and a computer program validates what you already know about yourself, a 360-Review makes you do the evaluation. In the process, I had to answer about 5,000 questions related to 22 leadership skills. I guess it wasn’t 5,000, but it seemed to go on forever. After I was done, everyone in my universe got to take an anonymous shot at my psyche. Everything is confidential. I only see aggregate scores and the woman administering the review is the only one who sees everything. The fun started when she and I explored the differences between my scores and ‘those other ones’.

Overall, I seem to be a pretty self-aware kind of guy. I agreed with my collective posse 66.7% of the time. I over estimated my skills 16% of the time and I underestimated my skills 17.3% of the time. A nice balance I thought. I should point out that I turned down the offer to let my wife participate in the review, but I’m not sure how that would have impacted my scores.

Every question is scored from 1-6 and is asked in such a way so that 6 is better. The individual values always represent the frequency with which you do something:

1 – Never 2 – Rarely 3 – Sometimes 4 – Usually 5 – Almost Always 6 – Always

For example, consider six questions constructed from: “How often is Dan likely to accept ______ when offered?” Where the blank is filled in with:

  • Chickpeas
  • Grapefruit
  • Salad
  • Beer
  • Chocolate
  • Bacon

And you have a pretty good idea of how the scaling works.

If my wife, daughter, brother, mother or most of my friends and I answered those questions, I’d probably have better that 66.7 agreement. I would also be ranked pretty low for the skill ‘makes healthy choices’. The trained professional might ask me to work on improving my diet. Oh yeah, did I mention that you are given work to do after the review is over? I won’t share the results across all 22 skill sets, but I will share my 5 highest and 5 lowest skills:image

I was pretty comfortable with that mix and I’m not too interested in
bolstering those low-lying areas. Let’s face it, sometimes decisions aren’t fair – deal with it. My attitude might need some work, but the goal isn’t necessarily to improve specific skills. No, we want to close the gaps between my perception and that of the people I interact with. In other words, the goal wouldn’t be for me to eat better, but to help everybody plan better menus – no chickpeas.

Not surprisingly, the biggest negative gaps stem from questions where I was ranking myself at the 5 and the few I put at the 6 level. I don’t normally express myself in absolute terms, so I should have avoided the “Always” answers but I do think that “Always instills in others a sense of purpose behind their work” is accurate. However, I don’t think that I should always have to repeat that message. I am more inclined to follow what must have been Thomas Jefferson’s approach to instill a sense of purpose in Lewis and Clark:

Look guys, it’s very important that we claim all the land between here and the Pacific Ocean before the British or the French. OK, off you go!

Social Awareness is one of the areas where I under-estimated my skills relative to my universe. This section included questions like: “Is aware of how his/her emotional state impacts others” and “Uses sensitivity to another person’s feelings to manage interactions successfully.” When asked if I could explain this discrepancy, I said “I think everyone was trying to be kind.”

Seriously, I’m no good at that stuff.

Nobody that I know really thinks that I am “almost always or even usually sensitive to their feelings.” I could give you a great example, but my daughter is working on a blog post about that incident. I’ll reblog it here when she’s done. Ironically, one of the questions contributing to my awesome Self-Management score was: “Resists the desire to act or speak when it will not help the situation.” Again, people were being kind. I gave myself a ‘3’ – you will have to wait for my daughter’s post to fully appreciate how generous I was being. Or ask my wife,  I once told her “you don’t really look pregnant, you just look a little bit fat” – I was trying to help.

The planning and vision things were areas where I got a little defensive. I mean, I’ve been doing this job for 26 years without too many missteps, do they think I’ve just been lucky? As penance, the woman in charge made me prepare a presentation in which I explained my strategy to my universe. That’ll teach ‘em.

About those communication skills, well it’s not my worst score, so… The reason for it being rated so low is the fact that after 26 years, my peers still don’t understand the jargon that I use, and it’s only when I care about their feelings that I resist saying: “you really should know what that means by now.”

21 thoughts on “Ring of Criticism

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  1. Picture – That’s the London Eye from my hotel room when I was there last September. It really has nothing to do with this post, but, you know, the 360 degree thing.


  2. Well written…I have taken a number of these throughout my career and almost went into severe depression the first time. The good news, that was 20+ years ago and my last one 3 years ago was pretty spot on between what I perceived and the rest of the planet. I am an advocate of the process as it changed me in a very positive way! I know a lot of business owners that could benefit from this!! Thanks for sharing!!


    1. Thanks Kirt. I think this would have been more useful earlier in my career. I participated in some group efforts, but they weren’t very effective. Thanks for adding your experience.


  3. Really enjoyed this, Dan. I don’t like taking “comparitive tests” because everyone is an individual. I also am with you … many people just don’t understand me, yet I am speaking English. It seems I am more comfortable writing. (smile) (((HUGS))) Amy


      1. I don’t like boxes. I don’t like how these tests lump everyone into the same box IF you are this that or the other. I am ME. Simple. And there is no one else like ME in the world. That holds true for YOU too, you know. And yes, even though I can chat, my first Love is writing. (((HUGS))) Amy


  4. You communicate very well through writing, though–and I know this–it never works the same with verbal. Verbal is difficult. You hope they will understand, but they don’t. Myself I get bored after talking for a while in vain. I give up. We are alike in that part where you resist an impulse to act or speak when it won’t achieve the desired effect. Because of it I’ve been told that I give up easy, that I don’t “even try”. I’m told that “better try and fail than fail to try” but I want to do it and get a result.
    Great post, Dan. Enjoyed. Have a great week!


  5. Certainly Billy Preston’s “Will It Go ‘Round In Circles” would be the appropriate theme song for a 360-Review.

    Nice post, though I fear that you’re not getting enough chick peas in your life.


    1. I was very lucky that day. I had gone up to my room after a day-long meeting to change for dinner. I didn’t have much time, but I saw that and decided I could just wear the same clothes to dinner.


  6. I’ve never heard of such a thing. That’s really intense. I’m not sure if the high tempers around here could tolerate such a …. composite! lol
    I find you easy to understand, and I think your sincerity and integrity make it to every post.


    1. Thanks! You’re pretty easy to understand as well. It seems like the communication is all pretty clear in your house. I showed my wife the questions and she laughed at a lot of them. she knows me pretty well. Spouses and friends (blog friends included) are people you can choose. Coworkers are like family – you get what you get.


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