Coaches Tip #2 – A New Approach to 360 Interviews

Most coaches agree: there are multiple benefits of including a 360° assessment in the packages you offer.

The downside is they’re costly and time-consuming. Even so, they’re invaluable. I include them in most of my coaching. Here are the top 6 benefits of a 360° assessment:

  • Observations from others give you a more nuanced and complete understanding of the client’s world and his effect upon it.  Without them you would have only your client’s subjective reality and your interpretation of it.
  • Interviewing superiors, peers, and direct reports allows you to enlist important key players in helping the client achieve his or her goals.
  • It increases your cultural understanding of the organization.
  • If you encounter a client’s political enemy, you can learn about the conflict and gain insight about its potential resolution.
  • The interviews give you a baseline for comparison. Circling back to your interviewees at the end of the coaching assignment is illuminating. In some cases I’ve used the initial interviews to construct an assessment that measures post-coaching progress.
  • By interviewing key players you’ll be known as a resource for future coaching assignments.

I imagine you’re familiar with these benefits and probably have additional reasons for how 360s add value. Now, let’s make them easier to do.

The TipCreate a 360 that’s enjoyable, cost effective, and improves the emotional climate in which coaching happens.

People often value 360s because they uncover the harsh realities of the client’s dysfunctional management behavior. In my old 360 process, I assured interviewees their comments would remain anonymous. I removed all identifying details from their stories and compiled a report with unattributed verbatim comments. The report often delivered some difficult messages to the client who did his or her best to “take them in stride.” After reflection, we would brainstorm a development plan.

In the new process, I ask questions that elicit predominantly positive observations and opinions. For that reason, the interviews are transcribed, lightly edited, and given directly to the client with attribution. This dramatically reduces the time it takes to prepare the report. If during the interview, interviewees slip into complaining about the client, I extract those portions and put them in an anonymous section.

Here are examples of questions I ask:

  1. What is your understanding of the client’s role?
  2. In what ways is the client already executing well in his/her role?
  3. How could s/he do it even better?
  4. In what ways are the seeds of that future excellent performance already present?
  5. Do you have any requests? A good format for making the request is: Rather than  (unwanted behavior), it would be more beneficial to (requested behavior). That way… (give rationale and benefits).
  6. Any final words of appreciation for the client?

As a result, clients receive a predominantly positive report with helpful suggestions for areas of improvement. It also gives interviewees practice at delivering direct and positive feedback. This supportive feedback is consistent with the principles of Solutions Focus. It acknowledges the good that is already present and builds on it to rapidly achieve the desired results. It offers the client the encouragement, dignity, and respect you want them to extend to their coworkers and direct reports. This way they get a powerful experience being on the receiving end of those messages.

Rather than focusing on the problems, working quickly toward the solution works best – every time.