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Reviews suck.

Feedback is something that all of us want, sure, but the whole review process can be filled with missed expectations, surprise feedback, or disappointment.  Reviews are a regular part of many company’s annual lifecycle, though – so it is important to learn how to play the game.

And there are lots of facets to getting good feedback and giving good feedback, this article is all about giving feedback.  And in particular how to give feedback to you boss.

Whether you have a good boss (yay!) or a bad one (ugh!) 360 reviews can be a great opportunity to share meaningful feedback – you just need to handle it in a way that is graceful and productive.

What makes 360s different?

Giving your boss feedback can be a liberating, intimidating, or daunting experience. There are things you undoubtedly appreciate about your boss. There are things you’d like to see improved. And things you would just eliminate if you were the boss.

A 360 review is your chance to constructively articulate and share all of those thoughts.

Sometimes 360 reviews aren’t part of a normal review process, and are used as a feedback tool for someone seeking input about their behavior, skills, and performance. I did one when I first starting working with an executive coach to help me get a baseline on my own performance and help uncover blind spots.

One thing that is different for most 360s than traditional review is that the participants submit a completely anonymous review.  The thought is that anonymity will provide more candid and honest feedback.

Typically feedback is compiled by a third party (we do them at Popforms, but lots of executive coaches and HR teams offer them too), organized into an easy-to-read document, and then shared with the person seeking feedback.

While your initial reaction may be to shy away from this responsibility, it is in your best interest to participate in the review. Not only will you gain experience doing 360 reviews and giving really good feedback (which is hard to do!), you’ll also be improving your own workplace via better leadership, coworkers, and more.

Plus, you will be helping someone to be better at their job; they are choosing to invest in being better for you, so you should invest back in them by giving the best feedback you can.

If you are new to 360 reviews, like most people, you are probably wondering, “What do I say? What does ____ want to know?” Don’t worry; it’s normal to feel a little lost, worried about saying the right thing, and maybe a little fearful of repercussions for being too honest.

Today I want to give you my best tips for giving an excellent 360 review.I want to make sure your advice is heard and the messages you share are received as effectively as possible.

Laying it on the line

Identify key areas needing change.

Before you start, think through some of the key things you have felt needed change in the last few months. The more clear your ideas are before you start writing your feedback, the more coherent and useful your feedback will be, so get your thoughts in order first.

Here are some questions to help you think about this:

  • What aspects of your boss’ leadership style could use improvement?
  • What meetings/processes/protocols could be conducted differently?
  • When did you last feel really frustrated with your manager? What happened?
  • What is your least favorite part of work? Why?

Identify key areas of success.

Again, try to define your manager’s greatest strengths, and their successes, so that you can talk about them in a way that is meaningful. Think about the good things you’d like to see more of, what helps you the most, and when your manager seems to shine in their role.

Here are some questions to help you think about this:

  • What are things do they do that are positive and should continue?
  • What do you appreciate about the leadership style of your boss?
  • What is your favorite thing about your manager?
  • How has he or she helped you improve or grow in your role?

Think big picture.

It can be tempting to think all about yourself and your personal interactions with your manager as you do a review. However, they manage a whole team (or product, or process) and thinking about all the aspects of their role can help you provide high level feedback that helps them improve across a number of areas.

Good things to think about include:

  • Are the goals/missions of your team being met? In what ways are you succeeding thanks to your manager? In what ways are you held back?
  • Are your goals, needs, and priorities clear through the leadership and mentorship you are receiving?
  • What could be done to help you maximize your productivity as an employee?

Be specific.

Telling your boss that you don’t like the way he or she runs your weekly team meeting isn’t going to help them identify what exactly you don’t like about it. Instead, go for specifics: state what it is you don’t like about how the weekly meeting is run and what you’d like to remain the same.

The more specific you are, the better they’ll know exactly what to improve and how. Which is why they are doing this review in the first place.

Explain why you’d like to see certain changes.

Don’t just say what you’d like to see done differently. To go back to our team meeting example: if you don’t like your weekly team meeting because it is too short, explain that you’d like a longer meeting so that you can, for example, get feedback about your objectives and tasks for that week, or hear from more of your coworkers on their status updates.

Talk about why these things are important to you, or why making these changes would add value to the team.  This way even if they don’t take your suggestion, hopefully they can do something else that would still address your why.

Be solution-minded.

If you want to see changes actually implemented, it is helpful to suggest them (since your manager can’t read your mind!). [ tweet this! ]

This is especially true if you have an idea for how things could be improved. Saying, “I don’t like Thursday meetings,” isn’t as helpful as, “If we moved our meeting to Monday, it would allow us to set objectives for that week and review our progress on the previous week’s objectives.”

Stay honest.

The goal of a 360 review is to help your boss improve through your feedback, so don’t be afraid to voice your opinion in a direct and concrete way. It is easier for your boss to understand why you do or don’t like certain actions, behaviors, etc. if you tell them how their behavior makes you feel.

In a recent 360 review, one reviewer mentioned that when his boss was on his laptop during meetings, he felt less valued because it appeared that his boss wasn’t listening to him. This feedback really struck home because it was easy to see how this behavior translated into a negative experience.

The intent of the person you are reviewing is to get feedback and improve. Your boss probably has no idea how some of their behaviors make you feel. If you don’t tell them, they can’t remedy their behavior to make the workplace more positive for you!

Remain constructive and professional in your feedback.

While it can be tempting to pile on the negative criticism because the review is anonymous, it is important to conduct yourself professionally while still remaining honest. You don’t want to hurt their feelings; instead, your feedback should drive them to make positive changes.

Trust me, when I got the results of my first 360 review, it felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I was crushed by every single negative comment I got. Any manager who is doing a 360 review sincerely cares about being great at their job, and so any negative criticism will already hurt – don’t pile on just for the sake of getting your point across. Try to be constructive over just being negative.

Even though we all know we could improve in one way or another, hearing it from someone else is unbelievably tough. You can make the disheartening experience more constructive for your boss by remembering that they are doing this review because they care about improving. Your feedback is valuable to them and they have made an investment in this process. Make the investment worthwhile by keeping your feedback professional, focused on improvement, and specific.

Be a forward thinker.

Your manager cannot change the past any more than you can, so gear your feedback towards what can and should be improved moving forward, rather than looking back as past bad experiences. Suggest what you’d like to see next time or new goals that you’d like to strive towards.

Don’t be afraid to give the feedback again, in person.

Sometimes it is easy to tell who gave which piece of feedback, even when the review is anonymous.  As a result it may be helpful for your relationship to give the same feedback in person in your next one-on-one meeting.

You can lead with something like: “When I was writing your 360 review feedback I reflected on some things and I realized I hadn’t actually told you them before.  Would you be open to hearing what I put on your review?”  Such a statement makes you sound thoughtful and professional and ensures your boss won’t feel blindsided when they actually do get the feedback themselves.

End on a positive note if you can.

When you give feedback in a 360 review, you want to help your boss improve. Make it clear that you appreciate their role and recognize its challenges; you want to help them be even better at their job. In the long run, if your manager is better at their job, you’ll be better at yours!

Have you done a 360 review and have tips that you can share? Leave them in the comments!

For more tips on giving upward feedback, check out these Safari titles!

Tags: better leader, change, feedback, improvement, managing up, team,

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