Mike and Mark,

As always, thanks for the information in the podcasts...

I have two questions for you:

1) What is your take on 360 degree evaluations? I did them when I was a young, individual contributor with my first company and found that they game me some good insights into how others perceive me and my efforts. My current company does not have a formal program at my level, but I am thinking about just asking some of my direct reports, peers, and manager-level people to do a 360 degree evaluation. I'd be interested in your thoughts on the subject.

2) You talk almost exclusively in your podcasts about managing professionals - mostly IT-type people. My 24 direct reports are hourly people in the plastics manufacturing industry with only a high school diploma. Do you have any thoughts about the differences in managing these types of employees rather than generally college-educated professionals?

Thanks for your time and, as usual, thanks for your podcasts!

Best regards,

bflynn's picture

I'm not M or M, but I'll offer my thoughts anyway:

1) General reaction - any evaluation, 360 or otherwise is unnecessary when the feedback model is being used, other than for corporate record keeping. If you're considering asking those around you for a review, consider what that means to the communciations environment you're in. Why don't you already know?

Specific - I don't see any danger is asking, other than the fact that its unusual. People might not quite know what to think about someone that WANTS a review. I would handle it on an informal, 1on1 basis, rather than anything formal.

Mike/Mark - this is probably a pretty good future topic, "asking for feedback". When you're in an environment that doesn't readily give feedback, what are some specific things that you can do?

My recommedations are to use a combination of
- special 1 on 1
- lunch meetings
- downtime meetings (Hey, next week we're going to Dallas together and I'd like to ask a favor. I'm really interested in getting feedback on how I'm doing and I'd like you to reserve some time on the plane to talk about it.)

Again - schedule with people directly rather than asking the organization to do it. Be up front with what you'd like from them and tell them you'd like to get some feedback on how you're doing. Make sure they have some time to think about it, you don't want to walk into the meeting and then tell them what you want - you won't get anything useful.

2) The principles of feedback and 1on1s apply anywhere. Management requires a relationship with those being managed. Feedback and 1on1s are opportunities for those relationships to be built. Having had experience on the industrial side, I'd say that relationships and action based feedback (when you DO this) is even more effective and more important. Its simple, basic and very understandable.

Your mileage may vary...

Mark's picture


First of all, I always enjoy it when others comment on posts. I don't always agree, but then y'all are smart and I know you're consuming our ideas with a careful eye towards YOUR approach. So, thanks Brian for sharing with a fellow MT member.

Also, I am sorry this took me so long. We don't advertise it, but we have accepted some MT consulting clients and when I'm there, my schedules are grueling.

We definitely have shows queued on asking for and receiving feedback. At least two shows, actually, as those are completely different topics.

So, to be crystal clear, I am COMPLETELY IN FAVOR of asking for feedback, accepting it happily, and acting upon it appropriately. Every professional leader does this in some fashion.

[b]AND, I have a STRONG dislike for 360 feedback efforts.[/b]

360 is a powerful tool. When done well, it works quite well. But NO ONE does it well, or it happens so rarely that it ABSOLUTELY does more harm than good. There are innumerable reasons.

First of all, it is poorly administered. And Rob, you can bet your next paycheck (and perhaps not just figuratively) that if you do it YOURSELF, it will be the MOST poorly administered 360 ever done. Why? Because the core of 360 is ANONYMITY (ahh, blessed curses). NO ONE will believe you that it is anonymous if you don it yourself. Sorry. I've been called in several times to CLEAN UP botched 360 implementations.

This is not an indictment of you (though is you implement it it might become so.) It is a statement reflecting my non-cynical yet realistic view of employee responses to such efforts.

360 must ALWAYS be done by a third party, and specific efforts must be used and communicated to prove anonymity.

Second, even if there IS trust in the anonymity of the process, that engenders a different, much more insidious danger. I have never seen a process where there wasn't at least one negative comment made which was meant with less than goodwill. When you combine this tendency with the third point below, the process which has potential to create valuable personal change bogs down in human frailty.

Third, even the best executives I know, faced with a MOUNTAIN of exceptionally positive comments and powerful statistically significant Likert scores, focus immediately on written comments. They often spend time crowing about their ability to discern authorship, and then whether the author was credible or not, spend an inordinate amount of time fretting over one tangential comment about an area that makes little difference to their core deliverables.

A clever rule of thumb for 360s is that cheap is bad, free is good. Since you can't get believable anonymity cheaply, and free is just what I describe below... well, you get the picture.

[A brief note: do you know why anonymity, one of the cornerstones of democratic voting, works there? Aggregation. There is little aggregation in 360s. ]

So, DON'T do it. Unless you want to spend thousands of unnecessary dollars (* - see below) to ensure a robust process, you don't need to.

Because, the way to get the information *FOR FREE* that 360 will provide is to create trusting relationships with your folks, and periodically ask for input about how you're doing. If everyone says you're doing fine, and adds nothing, that's NOT feedback, except about the lack of relationship you have. The TRUE value of good upward feedback is the light it shines on your relationships.

Just ask how you're doing every once in awhile. Try to do it BEFORE you do something, so people will be looking. Then, afterwards, ask for input, and reward ANYTHING you get, good, bad or indifferent.

If you need something to make it a little easier, set up an anonymous email box for your foals to post to. Ask an HR or IT person to come brief your team that will give credibility to the anonymity piece.

[And then, be ready for some zingers, which hopefully you'll ignore.]

What I do is make myself and my actions part of the WWW/TALA Hot Wash... I talk openly about MY weak moments or stumbles. This "modeling" engenders more candor, in my experience.

Re: your second question, so sorry that we haven't been clear. We do NOT talk almost exclusively about managing professionals. MANY MANY MANY of the examples we use come from every industry BUT tech and professional roles. I've worked in distribution centers, call centers, chemical plants, warehouses, food processing facilities, road crews, insurance companies, banks, order fulfillment facilities, the government, the military, telephone repair crews, migrant farm workers, baseball field grounds crews... all of these have been in my mind when I troll for examples. Everything we espouse works well in all environments. Sometimes there are slight modifications... but mostly not. People, communication and behavior are surprisingly homogeneous at the right abstraction level.

Great questions - have been wanting to address the first for a while now.


smorison's picture

i would like to pose a question on 360's - actually scream out for help in this area.

My manager performs them for all his DR's (my peers, and myself), the survey goes out to not just my peers but ALL THE BUSINESS UNITS (not just the BU heads) its literally an "all staff" email. He also actively shields himself from exposure to 360's, his manager (my dotted line), has no interest in completing them as like me he really dislikes them.

I'm really struggling with how to give my manager feedback about some of his actions (or rather lack of action) and how to demonstrate that the 360's are one of my actions are having a dramatically negative impact on the moral of his DR's.

background: we are a shared services IT department (no one likes shared services, no one really likes IT put the two together and you get nothing good)

thanks for your input.


harry's picture

I am new to this thing - 360. I must have forgotten or my lecturers may have taken it back from my memory banks.

Anyway, a quick check & skim over the Internet raises goose pimples. It reminds me of the KGB stories that I read while growing up. No wonder M&M expressed their low preference and caution.


Mark's picture


Alas, you just can't give feedback to your boss easily.

I think we have a cast coming up on this, but for now, just pass. You're never going to find a perfect boss. Breathe in, breathe out, move on.


smorison's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]You're never going to find a perfect boss. Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

:), not looking for one that's perfect, would be nice to have a MT manager :). I'm just after someone who is able to add value rather than be a burden.