360 degree training

When you think about it, 360 degree training makes sense. However, many people in leadership, HR and talent development, don’t know what 360 degree training is or they don’t fully understand how to apply it.

Let’s take a moment to examine 360 degree training: what it is and what it can do if executed properly…

What is the root of 360 degree training?

The foundation of 360 degree training is a particular type of feedback. 360 degree feedback is also called multi-rater feedback, multi-rater assessment, 360 degree assessment, multi-source feedback and/or multi-source assessment.

This type of feedback is designed to give an individual a variety of perspectives concerning their behavior and performance. With this feedback, an employee’s supervisors, subordinates, colleagues and team members may be asked to provide feedback concerning that employee’s work behavior and performance. The individual also performs a self-assessment. This multi-source assessment can also include feedback from other stakeholders, such as clients, customers, suppliers and vendors.

The goal of this multi-source feedback is for an individual to gain a well-rounded perspective with fewer “blind-spots.” With this method, an employee receives insight into their strengths as well as development opportunities.

Using 360 assessment results, an employee and supervisor can develop an action plan to chart the direction of their personal and professional development, particularly looking to grow areas that may have been unknown or unperceived.

360 degree training is the Johari Window in action

The Johari Window is based on an interpersonal, relational model that is used to improve understanding, communication and relationship between individuals.

Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham devised the model in 1955 for self-awareness, group development and corporate use.

 Known to SelfNot Known to Self
Known to Others 1: Open Area2: Blind Area/Blind Spot
Not Known to Others3: Hidden Area/FacadeUnknown Area


According to Johari’s Window:

  1. The Open Area represents the public things that you and other people know about you. People with a large Open Area tend to be easy to talk with. They’re open and honest communicators who get along well with others. People with a small Open Area tend to be difficult to talk with and are often perceived as uncommunicative. They may not work well with others and tend not to be trusted.

  2. The Blind Area represents the things others know about you but you don’t know about yourself. People with large blind areas tend to have behaviors and traits that they are unaware of and haven’t dealt with, yet others can see them. These issues can cause conflict, especially because others see the obvious but the individual doesn’t.

  3. The Hidden Area represents the things that you know about yourself but others don’t. It’s often called the “facade.” People with hidden areas may cause others to feel they are untrustworthy and difficult to get along with, but can’t put their finger on why.

  4. The Unknown Area represents those things that you don’t know about yourself, nor does anyone else. These areas can be the source of tremendous conflict, misunderstanding and trouble.

The goal of the Johari Window is to expand the Open Area in two ways:

  • One way is to disclose more of yourself, which pushes the Open Area into the Blind Area.
  • The other way is for others to disclose what they see in you, which pushes the Open Area into the Hidden Area.  

The more you open up and self-disclose, incrementally and over time, the more trust and honesty grow. The more others can give you feedback without negative repercussions, the more trust, openness and camaraderie grow, which is key to team-building.

The benefits of 360 degree training

On the most basic level, 360 training develops the self-awareness of the individual being evaluated. It provides an employee with a well-rounded view of their strengths and improvement areas–particularly unknown areas. It aids in growing areas of strength and developing those areas of need.

360 degree training also fosters and develops a culture of openness within your organization because it gives everyone a voice without penalty or negative repercussions; people appreciate having a voice and being heard.

Further, 360 degree training, when implemented with correctly, allows supervisors and employees to get on the same page with employee development and establish a more clear and reasonable path for future development. 

Is 360 degree training effective in developing individuals in a professional setting?

A 360 degree assessment, if done with fidelity, true openness and a respect for all perspectives–regardless of position in the organizational hierarchy–is a highly effective method of providing feedback for individual growth.

Consider the traditional, top-down method of supervisor providing feedback to a subordinate, which is extremely lop-sided. Leadership only sees one “face” of an employee and provides feedback on that lop-sided perspective. 

Further, if an employee only receives feedback from supervisors and superiors, then this feedback is one-sided feedback. How they perceive themselves, particularly in the workplace, can only be one-dimensional. Add other people to the process and the employee now has a rich multi-dimensional perspective of their strengths and improvement areas. 

It’s better to encourage feedback that moves in all directions that is garnered in an open, straightforward manner with no opportunity for being penalized for critical or contrary opinions. But 360s must be applied in the correct way to get the desired results. 

Avoid the Major Pitfall of 360 Degree Training

It is almost impossible to execute 360 degree training if employees feel intimidated. No worker is going to provide critical feedback to a supervisor or anyone who has power over them, unless they feel 100% comfortable and certain that the person won’t retaliate. You must make sure that you cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. You must foster the reality that leadership (and everyone) can take negative feedback in a positive way and, further, that everyone knows this.

This is something that absolutely must be a practice and not an erroneous perception in the minds of the leadership. Everyone knows the boss who thinks he’s a great, laid-back guy yet everyone else thinks he’s extremely difficult and thin-skinned.

You must know yourself before you can execute this type of training. If not, you’ll receive prodigious amounts of positive yet distorted and misleading feedback.

Often, supervisors think this problem can be superseded if the feedback is anonymous. Part of the problem with anonymous feedback is that those workers who have something critical to say of a supervisor also feel that somehow, someway, their response is being tracked. They feel certain that the feedback isn’t anonymous, although they’ve been told otherwise. This is an obvious indication of a lack of trust in leadership and oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with the sentiment that the leadership is difficult and capricious.

360 degree training is beneficial and helpful

When implemented properly, 360 degree training can greatly help your organization. First and foremost, it is an excellent method for growing your employees personally and professionally. It provides well-rounded information for multiple perspectives that can be used to create an effective growth plan.

Additionally, 360 degree training is helpful in creating an atmosphere of openness and collegiality in the workplace as well as for building your team, all of which benefits an organization.

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