When introduced and interpreted effectively, both 360 feedback instruments and personality assessments play significant roles in helping participants develop greater strategic self-awareness. Here are three tips on introducing the feedback combination to participants:
1. Participants should understand that each of these sources of feedback is based on a different time horizon. Snapshot perspective: 360 feedback comes from a particular group of people, while a participant is in a particular role, and is provided at a particular point in time. One way to think about this type of feedback is that it’s like a snapshot. The participant is the subject, the moment is frozen in time, and the picture includes a fixed setting and group of people. Motion picture perspective: Personality assessment results, as measured by the Hogan Personality Inventory, the Hogan Development Survey, and the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory, on the other hand, are more like a motion picture; they provide information about participants’ reputations or characteristics that tend to be stable and predictive of performance across many contexts, many groups of people, and over time.
2. Not all personality assessments are not created equal. Participants often have completed a type-indicator at some point in their careers that measured their identity, not their reputation. Making the distinction between reputation — which is enduring and stable over time — and identity, which may be highly changeable, is a critical one if participants are to take seriously the notion of undertaking development steps based on their personality characteristics. It only makes sense to do so if the personality characteristics being measured are stable, enduring characteristics over time. We would expect little consistency between 360 feedback and personality as measured by highly changeable type-indicator results. Personality measured as one’s reputation, however, often shows sensible relations with 360 data.
3. By its nature, 360 feedback includes various perspectives, and sometimes those perspectives may disagree. Often these differences in perspective are driven by differing opportunities to observe the participant exhibit a particular behavior. For example, direct reports typically will have the most frequent and most accurate observations about a supervisor’s level and style of delegation. The participant’s manager, on the other hand, may have few opportunities to see the supervisor delegating to others, but may have frequent opportunities to observe the outcomes of the team’s work. It is important to let participants know that personality assessment tends to smooth out these differing perspectives by focusing on characteristics that are stable, enduring over time, and that may be descriptive of the individual in general, versus focusing on a particular set of behaviors at a particular point in time, as 360 instruments do.
Interpreting 360 results within the larger and more enduring context of personality strengths and development needs helps participants integrate information from both in order to create a development plan. Such a plan enables the participants to develop strategic self-awareness to apply on-the-job and over the long term.