Great 360 Degree Feedback Tools

A 360 Feedback Tool You Can Do Yourself

Chances are, unless you ask, most people won’t tell. People are holding back their best thinking on how you can improve.

In fact, research consistently shows that people rate themselves higher than others do. When it comes to self-assessment, our confidence seems to out-weigh our humility.

This is partly because we know our own context, and therefore give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

“Sure, I slacked off a bit on that project, but, I’m only human for Pete’s sake. It’s back to school time, my husband’s out-of-town, it’s just a lot.”

We know we are human and that we’re doing the best we can, so we give ourselves some extra credit. We don’t expect others to know or care, but we know in our hearts we deserve a break.

I’ve witnessed this first hand with my MBA students. When I asked them to self-assess where they feel they ranked in terms of class participation, 100% rated themselves in the top 30%. That’s some crazy math– particularly for accountants.

When I asked the students to rate themselves and their teammates on their contribution to their team project, a similar pattern emerged. The students whom the teams identified as someone “they would not want to work with again,” didn’t view themselves that way at all. Instead they rated everyone on the team as having contributed equally. The most fascinating part was that although the team’s evaluations of their peers were often quite harsh, they were quite deliberate in ensuring their team didn’t hear the feedback from them. The harshest criticism came in sealed envelopes.

Of course in these circumstances, I asked the obvious question. “Did you tell her how you feel about her contribution?”  Number one answer. “No. She didn’t ask.” And so the cycle continues into the next semester, and will likely follow them into the workplace.

These students are not unique. Don’t ask, don’t tell is alive and well when it comes to peer feedback.

If you want to know how you’re really doing, you need to ask.

Don’t Wait

Sure formal 360 tools are a GREAT way to get structured, anonymous feedback. I’ve learned a great deal from them over the years, and helped leaders at all levels do the same. But the truth is, what makes these tools valuable is always the conversation that follows. If a formal 360 is not available or not practical in your organization, you can achieve similar results through your own listening tour.

Rachel’s Story

“Rachel” came to me frustrated by the feedback she’d been getting from her boss. She felt completely misunderstood. When I asked her what others in the organization thought, she admitted she hadn’t asked.

We identified 3 simple questions she would ask her boss, her peers, and her direct reports.  She went off an a 2 week listening tour. When we met again to discuss the themes, she had learned a great deal. Most importantly she had made the strategic shift from, “my boss is a jerk,” to maybe there are some things I could be doing differently. She made the changes, and life got better– for everyone.

The Listening Tour Approach

1. Get Your Head Right

Don’t do this unless you’re ready to listen with an open-mind

Absolutely don’t do this to prove someone wrong– people will smell that coming from a mile away

2. Identify Areas of Interest

  • Focus on a few key areas
  • Keep it short, simple, and exploratory

3. Craft a Few Open-Ended Questions

  • What could I do to be more effective in our meetings?
  • How could I have a more strategic impact on our results?
  • What about my communication style gets in the way?
  • What do you think are my biggest strengths?
  • If you could identify one area for me to work on this year, what would that be?

4. Identify People to Ask for Feedback 

  • Include people up down and sideways.
  • Don’t stack the deck with all friendlies or known detractors– work to get a balanced perspective.
  • Approach them one on one, and explain why you’re doing this
  • Explain that you’re really looking for candid feedback and that you’ll be happy to circle back with themes and key actions.
  • Thank them

5. Identify themes and key actions

  • Look for cross-cutting feedback
  • A coach or mentor can be very helpful in this regard
  • Circle back with stakeholders

Or Start with a “Survey”

I’m a big proponent to the listening tour approach. Nothing beats eye-ball to eye-ball conversation. But if you think you won’t get the truth, or you truly feel uncomfortable, you can start by using a free survey tool like Survey Monkey to quickly distribute the survey and ask for themes. I would go with a few open-ended questions rather than ratings. Ratings without comments will just leave you scratching your head at best, or ticking you off at worst.

Process matters less than substance. Ask and you shall receive. If you want feedback, start with a simple question. How can I add more value?

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Very pertinent questions…thanks for sharing. Another feedback/feedforward tool we are using is an online tool called Two-Minute Feedback. Just Google it and check it out.

  2. Karin,

    Asking the questions is essential. As we hear the answers and feedback, we need to be aware of our reactions and continue to communicate an openness to what is being delivered. Part of this is our body language, and part of this is asking probing questions on what is being said to really learn more.

    Great points on the importance of getting feedback… and not waiting.


    • Jon, Such an important add. Yes, even if we appear to be receptive our facial expressions may prove otherwise.

  3. Getting and processing honest feedback is so crucial to our growth. The key word is “honest” and that is sometimes hard to swallow.

    I think when we adjust our thinking to learning from the feedback rather than judging the feedback we may actually benefit. For me, it is always about how the feedback is delivered. When it is delivered with care and truth, it is extremely helpful.

    Thanks for a spot on 360 feedback tool!!

    • Terri, thanks so much. A great way to adjust our thinking and get ready to hear.

  4. Feedback can by a tricky thing! Some are more open to receiving it than others, and some are more proactive in seeking it than others.

    I wrote about this “don’t ask, don’t tell” dilemma in regards to recognition at work. (Here’s a link if you care to check it out: Many of us aren’t happy with the amount of praise or recognition we receive from our manager (and peers), and a lot of the time it’s because we aren’t asking for it. The same concept can be applied to feedback as well, like you discuss in this article. I think the idea of the listening tour is a great for those up to the task!

    Personally, I’m always nervous to ask for and receive feedback, but it is essential for growth and progress and it can help prevent miscommunication and misunderstandings. Great article, Karin!

    – Lolly

    • Lolly, Great to have you join the conversation. I loved your post on recognition. Thanks for sharing it here.

  5. Agreed—honest feedback is the best way to grow!

    Sometimes it gets overwhelming when we try to take in too much information about a variety of areas. I really like your suggestion of limited the focus to one or two salient ones for the moment. You can always go back and add others at a later date.

  6. This is a really valuable post, Karin. A listening tour takes courage and a willingness to listen (duh!) and not defend. Some feedback needs time to be processed instead of responding or explaining. It’s also important to see trends vs one offs – both give a perspective.

    Absolutely love this one!

  7. Requesting feedback on what you can do better is very tricky. You’re almost required to be willing, and have the time and energy, to follow up and follow through on improvements in your challenged areas. Another, not so palatable option, is to preface your discussion that you may not be able to commit to some of the improvements suggested.

    • Thanks, Neil. I agree. You have to be committed to a least circling back. It’s your choice on what to improve, but I do think you must commit to a follow-up discussion.

  8. Great post Karin! Peer feedback can be so powerful when used well. You’ve done a great job of covering the key things to get right.

    When leaders consistently learn from feedback and put it into action, their personal development accelerates & their colleagues tend to relate to them far better.

    However, one barrier to people using this technique is often the ‘what now?’ (i.e how to turn the feedback into action) particularly when presented with a load of data and differing views.

    I’ve tried to provide some suggested ways to address this in a few short videos (if interested you can find them here: but I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

    • Alexis. THanks so much for sharing your insights. Love your videos. It’s great when we can share our thinking and resources. Namaste.

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