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360-degree Feedback as a Critical Turning Point in Life

A turning point is a crucial or transformative shift in our ways of being and doing.  “Crucial” implies that this change is necessary, and is likely to influence future events or actions. “Transformative” suggests that the turning point alters the way we think about the world and our interactions with it.

Events or experiences that qualify as turning points typically have the following characteristics:

  1. The event or experience wakes us up to a reality we have willfully or naïvely ignored.
  2. Turning points create dissonance—the uncomfortable feeling that stems from holding conflicting attitudes and beliefs.and, most important…
  3. Crucial turning points force us to see the world anew, or through a different lens.

A central theory of human nature is that each of us creates a life plan or script in early childhood.  Children are highly vulnerable to the messages from parents, teachers, and other role models.  These messages tell the individual who she is or who she should be.  Some messages are positive and growth enhancing; others are negative and growth inhibiting. In response to these messages, children (you and I) make a number of decisions that combine to form a life plan or script.  We may not be fully aware, though, that we are living a script.

This is where turning points come into play.  When we have experiences, or are presented with information that attempts to break the patterns of thoughts that make up the script, we have a choice to make: either lean into the new information or run away from it.

360 Degree Feedback as a Turning Point in Life

In coaching leaders, I find that the 360-degree feedback process can serve as a powerful turning point opportunity, dependent on how the individual reacts to the feedback.  In many cases, the leader—after receiving the feedback report—will quickly discount the data by using strategies such as blaming raters for giving inaccurate feedback, playing numbers games in the report, or writing off the whole process as a waste of time.

Leaders who use 360-degree feedback as a turning point take time to fully understand the perceptions of key stakeholders.  They avoid jumping to conclusions.  They follow up with raters after the survey to ask additional questions and get valuable insights and recommendations.  And, most importantly, they act as anthropologists—tenacious about understanding the perspective of others.

Based on my experiences in working with leaders who make significant changes, the term 360-degree feedback has taken on a whole new meaning.  Yes, the process allows the leader to see his or her effectiveness from multiple perspectives.  More important, however, is that often a leader who goes through the process goes on a journey and ends up back where he or she started, but with a completely different view of the world.

The words of T.S. Eliot fit beautifully here:

We shall not cease from exploring
And at the end of our exploration
We will return to where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Related Webinar: Making 360 Feedback a Leadership Turning Point

Related Blog: Using the SARA Model to Learn from 360-Degree Feedback


Paul Warner

Paul is a leadership consultant and expert in the field of coaching, assessment, and organization change and development. Paul has a master's degree in industrial-organizational psychology, and a dual Ph.D. in clinical/industrial-organizational psychology. Paul is a widely respected facilitator for executive and management teams, as well as increasing employee engagement.

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