360-degree feedback (part 1)

Note: This subject is divided into two parts because of its length.

The second strand of work for the preparatory module is to extend your self-assessment through 360-degree feedback. This should be conducted in a way that is relevant and appropriate to your context within your organisation. It will build on your own evaluation of your competency and draws on feedback from others.

By engaging those with whom you work or on whom your work impacts and receiving their perceptions of your performance, it is possible to gain a broader and possibly more realistic assessment of your performance in relation to your role.

A page headed 'Motivation' and the word 'achieve' being highlighted with a highlighter pen

The formal performance management process between the individual and manager in organisations has been discussed in the 'Self-assessment' topic. A more complex approach to performance management is 360-degree feedback. This extends the traditional performance management review process to include feedback from team members as well as the manager.

Executed effectively, 360-degree feedback is a brilliant way of motivating people, helping to build on strengths, identify areas for development and achieve positive outcomes for individuals and the organisation as a whole.

360-degree feedback:

  • is the systematic collection and feedback of data on an individual derived from a number of stakeholders on their performance
  • measures in detail the behaviours and competencies shown by individuals or groups in achieving goals
  • differs from performance appraisal in that it comes from everyone around you, whereas appraisal comes from your manager only and is results-based
  • is not usually used as a technique to assess performance, grade or pay awards but as a means of assessing development needs and as a basis for performance coaching

The 360-degree feedback process involves capturing feedback about an individual from a range of people including his or her manager, colleagues, internal and external customers, people who report directly to him/her and even friends or family – see the diagram 'A comparison of the performance management processes'.

In a school setting, it can produce a rounded picture of the individual by inviting feedback from senior colleagues, peers, subordinates, parents, pupils, governors and members of the community.

The findings can be used to inform the initial self-assessment of your professional competency. They will complement (and perhaps even challenge) your own perceptions of yourself, and provide an opportunity for you to reflect on your professional knowledge, skills in action, values and commitment. They also provide a valuable way of authenticating your own claims to competency, going beyond your own evaluation of yourself, and giving an external and objective view of you as a professional.

Comparison of performance

Why this programme uses 360-degree feedback

For this programme, we are going to use the concept of 360-degree feedback, adapted to suit the individual participant's context as a means of a validated self-review process. Armstrong (2003) suggests that 360-degree activities are usually based on two key assumptions:

  • awareness of any discrepancy between how we see ourselves and how others see us increases self-awareness
  • enhanced self-awareness is a key to maximum performance as a leader, and thus becomes a foundation block for management and leadership development programmes

360-degree feedback is valuable because it:

  • provides a powerful organisational process to align leader behaviour with team results and customer expectations
  • presents powerful feedback that can impact on the quality of communications and staff motivation
  • increases employee participation in leadership development and team effectiveness
  • recognises the complexity of management and allows leadership behaviours that can only be observed by team members to be identified and acknowledged
  • calls attention to performance dimensions which may not normally be considered

The quote below from a school business manager who undertook a 360-degree review sums up how you may initially feel when faced with this process for the first time.

QuoteThe initial concept of opening oneself to personal scrutiny of not only peers but also colleagues and those whom I line manage seemed a daunting prospect. However, the method used to gather the data, on an anonymous basis, and the supportive and positive nature of the feedback, made for an extremely worthwhile experience. Being self-critical often leads to a focus on detailed task analysis, and seldom extends to one's own traits, styles and qualities. Although the process gave me no surprises, it is proving a valuable aid to professional development, through a clear understanding of the balance of my abilities.Quote (Filsell, 2008)

360-degree feedback methodology

In order to be responsive to and adapt to change, you need to know not only your manager's view, but also the views of peers and customers. Their input is very important if you really want to make improvements to your professional effectiveness. There are many ways in which we can benefit from feedback. The perceptions of others are seen as a motivator in changing behaviour and should be used to complement or challenge your perceptions of yourself and to provide the opportunity for you to reflect on your professional knowledge, skills in action, values and commitment. The 360-degree feedback process should only be used after careful planning.

A series of different stages and decisions need to be addressed in designing and carrying out the stakeholder feedback process (Ward, 1999; Armstrong, 2003). The first four stages are set out below for you to work through. Stages 5–7 are discussed in the next topic '360-degree feedback (part 2)'. You should also refer to chapter 8 in Bell (2005). This chapter focuses on the design and administration of questionnaires.

The key stages are as follows:

Stage 1: Consider the issues

Stage 2: Define the focus

Stage 3: Design the questionnaire

Stage 4: Decide on the rating scale

Stage 5: Manage the 360-degree feedback process

Stage 6: Analyse the data

Stage 7: Understand and apply the outcomes

The 360-degree feedback process uses data or feedback collected via questionnaires to measure the behaviours of individuals from various viewpoints. The questionnaire may be devised by the organisation or may be supplied by an external organisation. In this instance, you are expected to design your own questionnaire in collaboration with your colleagues on this programme.

Stage 1: Consider the issues

Before writing the questionnaire, you need to consider the issues and dilemmas you may face. These are likely to be:

  • ensuring anonymity
  • choosing the right competencies
  • ensuring the validity of questions
  • choosing the right type and number of questions
  • choosing the right number and a suitable cross-section of respondents
  • approaching respondents
  • overcoming objections to participation
  • ensuring security on the internet
  • dealing with negative comments
  • trusting people's perceptions
  • handling feedback
Man writing in a book


7: Addressing key issues in planning 360-degree feedback

First, look at the issues and dilemmas you have identified.

  • Are there any others that you think are important? If so, add them to your list.

Now consider each issue or dilemma in turn.

  • What possible concerns can you identify?
  • How might they be overcome?

Stage 2: Define the focus

The purpose of your questionnaire is to generate feedback relating to the SBM competency framework. You might think that you could just give respondents the framework itself and ask them to tick off the competencies you currently demonstrate. However, three key problems would be encountered with this:

  • The framework is not always written in a way that clearly defines the competencies as the behaviours that a school business manager will demonstrate and that others can see.
  • The breadth of the framework is such that you may feel the need to focus on specific aspects of it.
  • You might also like to draw on other frameworks, such as the four domains of emotional intelligence.

You will need to decide on the areas/behaviours the questionnaire needs to cover to meet your needs.

  • Will it be based just on behavioural competencies or will it include some technical competences as well?
  • What part will your initial self-assessment play?
  • What does it say about the key areas of professional learning you hope to progress through on this programme?

Your primary focus should be the SBM competency framework. Within this, you may select specific sections to focus on (for example 'providing direction', 'facilitating change' and 'achieving results'), or you could drill down to specific areas of competency such as 'build capacity for organisational change' or 'develop innovation'.

The important thing is to be selective, and also to identify areas in which stakeholders will be able to provide you with meaningful feedback.



8: Summarising the focus of the 360-degree feedback

Make a brief record of your decisions relating to the focus of your planned feedback in your activities log.

  • Which sections of the SBM competency framework do you wish to include?
  • What are the specific competencies you wish to focus on?
  • Are there any other frameworks you wish to bring in (for example, emotional intelligence). If so, what are they?
  • What are the factors that have influenced your decisions?

Stage 3: Design the questionnaire

In designing a suitable 360-degree questionnaire, you will need to be able to define each of your chosen competencies and identify statements that describe the critical skills, personal qualities and professional knowledge required for each one.

The primary aim of the questionnaire is to explore your level of competence against selected competency statements. These competency statements describe the skills, qualities and knowledge required as they can be seen by others as behaviours.

Competencies have been discussed in some detail in this section. In developing competency statements, you should take note of the following advice that should be observed when designing questionnaires (Bell, 2005):

  • Begin each statement with a verb.
  • Describe one behaviour at a time.
  • Try not to use 'and' or 'or', as you will have produced a multiple (and confusing) statement.
  • Use everyday language.
  • Try to avoid judgemental expressions like 'well', 'excellent' and 'effective'.
  • Avoid words such as 'demonstrate' and 'show'.


9: Developing competency statements for inclusion in your questionnaire

The following is an example of statements you might develop for the competency of 'critical thinking'.

Competency: critical thinking

Definition: the ability to properly construct and evaluate arguments

Competency statements

  • Thinks logically.
  • Is receptive to others' opinions.
  • Differentiates between cause and effect.
  • Seeks out information to deepen understanding of an issue.
  • Explores the underlying purpose of a decision.
  • Identifies key issues quickly.
  • Understands complex arguments.

Now answer the following questions.

  • Do you agree with the choice of competency statements in the example opposite?
  • What amendments might you make and why?
  • Looking at the area in the SBM competency framework relating to 'facilitating change', identify a competency you wish to explore. Refer to the definition of this competency and other information provided in the framework.

Using the advice provided above, draw up statements that describe the critical skills, personal qualities and knowledge required to demonstrate this competency. Try not to have more than 10 words in a sentence.

Stage 4: Decide on the rating scale

Bearing the objectives in mind, ratings can be scaled on how important those completing the questionnaire consider the identified competency to be, as well as the level of performance they achieve, or just the level of performance as suggested below:

Importance of competency Not important Essential
Level of performance Weak in this area Outstanding

Scales that might be used in the questionnaire

Different scales can be devised, depending on the objectives.

The following table provides examples of the type of wording you may wish to use.

  Frequency Effectiveness Importance Agreement
1 Almost never Needs to be addressed urgently Not important Strongly disagree
2 Sometimes Needs development Somewhat important Disagree
3 Generally No noticeable strength or weakness Important Neither agree nor disagree
4 Almost always A genuine strength Very important Agree
5 Always Supremely effective Extremely important Strongly agree
Group of colleagues in a meeting

The table below demonstrates an example of a questionnaire segment for 'communication'.

Note how a range of responses is included and that there is space for the respondent to communicate their own thoughts. You will also note that the numbers are scaled from 1–4. This is to avoid respondents choosing a mid-point that would not provide helpful information for you.

Sample section of a questionnaire

1. On a scale of 1–4, rate how important you think communication is as a skill for the school business manager's role.

(Please circle the appropriate number.)

Not important 1 2 3 4 Essential
2. The SBM actively listens to my concerns.
(Please circle the appropriate response.) Almost never Sometimes Generally Almost always Always
3. The SBM expresses herself/himself clearly.
(Please circle the appropriate response.) Not important Fairly important Important Very important Extremely important
4. The SBM expresses herself/himself clearly.
(Please circle the appropriate response.) Almost never Sometimes Generally Almost always Always
5. Please add any comments about the SBM's role and communication below.





10: Produce your questionnaire and rating scale

Design a draft version of your questionnaire.

Share it with others and seek feedback on the design.

Make any necessary changes and finalise the questionnaire.