If I asked your team to describe you in one word, do you think you could guess the word they would use?
My bet is: you couldn’t.
Why am I so confident you’d be wrong? Because it’s a simple fact that even the most perceptive among us tend to all have the same huge blind spot in common: ourselves.
And in fact, at work — where a lot of us are trying to be the best version of ourselves — we tend to be *extra* blind to the persona that we are really putting out there. We are working so hard to be awesome in every way that we lose sight of what we are actually saying, doing, and manifesting on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s a perfect example:
A few weeks ago, on a team call, KateM super casually called me a perfectionist. And I was basically stunned into silence.
Why? Because she was making an assessment of me that I was totally unprepared to hear. I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist, so why would this person I’ve worked with for over two years suddenly reveal that that’s exactly who she thinks I am?
In that moment, I was *just* finding out, for the first time in two years, that my cofoudner sees me in a way I was completely unaware that she was thinking or that I was causing her to think.
Noticing my silence, she was quick to jump in and say, “Not in a bad way! It’s just true.”
And the thing is — of course it’s true. Once she said it, I knew it was true. And in the weeks I’ve had to mull it over, I see example after example in my past experiences and my current interactions that tells me: of course I’m a perfectionist.
I expect the pursuit of perfection from myself, and from the people I work with. Not that I expect everything I do to be perfect, but I do pursue it. And I want other people to. I don’t see why you’d want to be any other way.
But I just had no idea that I was projecting that thought process outward. No idea.
Your own performance is the single biggest blind spot you have in your career
Nobody comes to work to do a bad job.
In fact, I think most people come to work trying to do their best. They’re putting in what they consider to be an A or A+ effort most days, and they are doing what they think will make themselves most successful.
It’s not like you mean to hire another jerk, or distract your team with a pointless project, or make people feel stupid when they talk to you.
But we all do it. And we’re all going around not knowing we are doing things all day long that are having profound effects on the people that we work with.
And it’s not all bad stuff. A lot of us are completely missing our greatest strengths too.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses becomes especially important as you move up in an organization. It gets harder and harder to judge the tangible output of your job, and so more and more of your success is determined simply by how well you work with the people around you.
- Are you setting and communicating a clear vision?
- Do you help or hurt productivity?
- Does your team feel supported and appreciated?
- Are you hiring the right people?
Unfortunately, *you* are just about the worst person to answer these questions.
We all have a huge blind spot when it comes to our own performance, whether we think the people we work with love us or hate us. (Spoiler alert: most of us are somewhere in that uncomfortable grey area in between.)
And especially when you’re a manager, it can be really challenging to get honest feedback from the people on whose success you depend the most: your team.
I don’t care how cool or fun you are, or how open your team communication is. We all have complaints we would never say to our manager’s face. So it is really difficult for leaders to get the really valuable, honest feedback that will take you from good to great.
Luckily, you can get a leg up on your blind spots. You can become the best version of yourself. You can become the leader that you aspire to be.
All you need is a little something called… a 360 review.
The 360 review
A 360 review is, essentially, an opportunity for you to get anonymous feedback from the people you work with, so that you can get a truly accurate picture of yourself as a leader and coworker.
Some people have them done by an outside organization and other people do them on their own. Both kinds have their merits.
However you decide to do it, a 360 review is absolutely something you should do if you are in a leadership role, or aspire to be in one someday. You can only get better when you really know where you shine and where you struggle, and you just can’t know that yourself. You need the insight of other people to be truly great.
How to do your own 360 review
To do your own 360 review, you’ll need:
- the names and email addresses of ~10 peers or employees
- an awesome email request
- a SurveyMonkey or Google form that allows anonymous submissions
First things first, you’ll need to create your survey. As you compile your questions, keep in mind that the best 360 reviews are:
- Short. People are busy, so your survey should take no more than 15 minutes to fill out. Keep that in mind as you create your questions, and stick to things you really want to hear about rather than trying to get everything in.
- Open-ended. If you want honest, real feedback, don’t pen people in with options you’ve pre-selected for them. Every answer on your review should be a blank box where the person can write as much or as little as they want. The benefit of this feedback is that it’s stuff you wouldn’t think to ask about – so leave it open.
- Broad. Your questions should be open to interpretation. Keep them super broad — think “When is Kate at her best?” and “What should Kate do less of?”. Questions that are intentionally vague keep you from guiding people to the answers you want to hear or expect to hear.
A few other tips:
- Skew positive. You may think you want to hear more about your weaknesses, but it’s usually a lot more helpful to hear what should you do more of, and start doing more of those things. Better to be a superstar in 1-2 key areas, than to be “pretty good” across the board but awesome nowhere.
- Give a time limit. People will put off this kind of task for a lot of reasons. Build in a short-but-realistic times. For example, you might find sending it on Tuesday with a Friday deadline will be enough time without being so long people forget.
- Tell people how long it will take. Make it easy for people to know you only need 10 minutes of their time. People are so much more likely to click through when they know how long they’ll be there once they start.
Next, send an email out letting people know that you are asking for their feedback, why you want it, and what you need from them. Here’s a sample you can use:
Hi [ coworker’s name ],
I’m working on improving myself at work, and as part of that process I am undergoing a 360 review. If you are willing, I would be so appreciative if you could use the survey link below to help me gain some insight into my performance.
The results are completely anonymous, and the survey shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. If you can, I’d like to compile all the survey responses by 5pm this Friday.
[ insert survey link ]
Thank you so much in advance, and let me know if you have any questions. :)
[ your name ]
You can also send out a reminder email on the day of the deadline with the survey link again, since people often wait until the last minute. Though be prepared for less than 100% participation; a 50-70% participation rate is average.
Once you have your feedback, then it’s processing time. And oh, the processing you’ll do! Like I said, it will probably rock your world, so set aside a few hours over several days to sit with your feedback, think over themes, and create a plan for how you’ll incorporate this feedback into your work.
Finally — and this one is *SO* important, and yet forgotten SO much of the time — send an email to everyone you invited to help with your survey. (Since it’s anonymous, you won’t know which people answered and which ones didn’t.)
Thank them for participating. Tell them how much it meant to you. Tell them what you learned — just pull a few of the key lessons — and then tell them how you will incorporate their feedback.
Make an actual plan or an actual to-do list so that people can track the changes you implement.
Show them you value their opinion and are serious about improvement. Make change. Demonstrate openness to feedback. Be as awesome a leader as you aspire to be.