On 360-Degree Feedback (Part I): Preparation and Data Collection

The 360-degree feedback approach is a popular method in leaders’ performance review or leadership development. It helps provide an integrated view of a leader’s behaviors and performance by gathering information from multiple sources. These sources include the leader, the leader’s supervisor, peers, direct reports and sometimes even clients. Sounds great, right? It takes a “360-degree view.” However, the processes of gathering, processing and utilizing the information are altogether time consuming and complicated. If not executed correctly, the processes may not lead to ideal outcomes— and can even be harmful to the organization.

The truth is you cannot start gathering feedback right away. To successfully run a 360-feedback program, a lot of preparation is needed.

The reason for the popularity of the 360-degree feedback method is that evaluations from multiple sources are more valid than self-evaluations. They can cover different areas of a leader’s performance. Therefore, the raters are the key to the success of a 360-degree approach. Before beginning, an organization should prepare its employees on various aspects.

The first aspect is holding the raters accountable. To do this, those conducting the 360-degree process can engage raters in the whole process—including instrument selection, giving evaluations, goal setting and action planning.1 This makes the raters feel more obligated to be honest. Meanwhile, it is also suggested that standards of “valid” feedback should be set and communicated to the raters. These standards can be used to measure the quality of the evaluations, discard the “invalid” reviews and to give feedback to raters on how their ratings compared to the others.2

Rater training is also an effective method to increase the quality of the ratings and comments. Before the process, subject-matter experts should also equip the raters with knowledge on the instrument to be used, performance dimensions to be rated, what to and what not to focus on when providing ratings, common raters’ mistakes, how to make behavioral observations, etc.3 Such trainings can help the raters provide accurate assessments and increase the percent of valid information they receive.

Another factor for a successful 360-degree program is the selection of an assessment instrument. In other words, how do you measure a leader’s behaviors? It is tempting to have the leaders sit around a table and come up with items they think are necessary.  But an instrument that is tested and validated by research and scientific evidence can better help capture important performance aspects more effectively and accurately. No one wants to miss any important performance aspect after such a time-consuming procedure.

Last but not least, effective communication between HR and the raters is very important for a successful 360-degree process. Being clear and transparent with the raters on the timelines, procedures and expected outcomes can get them more engaged and motivated. Setting reminders with reasonable intervals will help get a desirable response rate.

All of these are just the beginning of a 360-degree feedback process. In the next blog, I will discuss what to do and what to pay attention to after the all the information is gathered.


  1. London, M., Smither, J.W., & Adsit, D.J. (1997). Accountability: The Achilles’ heel of multisource feedback. Group & Organization Management, 22, 162-184.
  2. Church, A.H., & Bracken, D.W. (1997). Advancing the state of the art of 360-degree feedback. Group and Organization Management, 22, 149-161.
  3. Woehr, D.J., & Huffcutt, A.I. (1994). Rater training for performance appraisal: A quantitative review. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 67, 189-205.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.