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The Relationship Between 360 Feedback, Personality, and Behaviors

The Popularity of 360s

360° feedback instruments (360s) are becoming a common intervention tool in organizations. Statistics suggest that 65% of all companies use them as part of executive coaching, performance evaluation, succession planning, team building, and/or leadership development. The feedback they provide can build the awareness and insight that act as a catalyst for behavioral change.

The current practice of using 360s for long-term change is based more on anecdotal experience, expert opinions, and vendor recommendations, than evidenced-based empirical research findings or evaluation studies. That doesn’t mean 360s aren’t valuable, but as a consultant and coach I am always aware of their limitations and the fact that feedback can do more harm than good if not communicated properly.

In large part, my role is to engage candidates in ways that facilitate their readiness and sense of confidence to engage in their own development. While external factors like culture, strong social support, effective goal setting and planning, and opportunities for practical application are critical, it’s the internal motivation and commitment of the candidate that potentially drives success and is of interest here.

Personality, Multi-Rater Feedback, and Change

How can you determine the extent of a client’s readiness and confidence to change after a 360? Based on my experience and observation, I find it beneficial to pay close attention to the candidate’s personality and reactions. There are some characteristics that can be indicative of the way the individual processes feedback and uses it to shape his/her development.

  1. The candidate’s initial reactions and perceptions about the feedback – Feedback can be tricky. There is always the message and then the perceptions or assumptions that accompany it. So, it’s important to understand the relationship between candidates and their raters. For example, if a candidate respects the rater, it will likely add to the credibility of the comment and vice versa. Moreover it is valuable to pay attention to the initial emotional response of candidates to feedback, as it can be a strong indicator of what individuals gauge as important and how it will be incorporated into the change process.

  2. The candidate’s feedback orientation – Successful coaching candidates tend to be open and curious. They seek improvement. Generally, candidates like these are continuous learners. They welcome evaluation, seek feedback, process it carefully, believe that feedback is a useful tool, and feel more accountable for implementing it when it aligns with development goals.

  3. The personality characteristics of the candidate – Some characteristics such as extroversion, conscientiousness, internal locus of control, and high self-monitoring have been related to a candidate’s positive reaction to feedback. It can be helpful to have more than a superficial understanding of the things that drive a candidate’s behavior as you plan to present feedback.

  4. The candidate’s beliefs about change – This is the level to which individuals trust they have the capacity to affect their own behavior, as well as the confidence that the organization/culture will not sabotage their efforts.

  5. Goal setting and action taking orientation – Individuals who strive for ideals and are focused on demonstrating competence typically set specific action goals and are persistent about accomplishing them successfully, based on the feedback they receive from others.

While not everyone may agree with my methods, HR professionals, consultants, and coaches should understand that sustained behavioral change is a complex process that starts with multi-rater feedback as a way of creating awareness and insight. Beyond that it is imperative to understand how individuals respond to and engage the change process. This requires that we as professionals ask questions and observe the behaviors of our candidates to gauge the potential success of behavioral change.

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