Do 360 degree feedback models offer valuable insights or reinforce previously held inhibitors ?

The concept of the 360 degree feedback model has been used extensively over the past 50 years. The foundation of the 360 degree model goes back to the work of Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. In 1955, these two psychologists created the Johari Window model, for personal use and corporate application. “Their focus was to improve an individual’s understanding and insight into themselves and also to improve understanding and communication between individuals; in the interest of improving relationships between them. From this they developed the concept of 360 degree feedback.” (2020).

The concept of this model has been developed even further and today there are a range of models available including in-depth psychological 360 profiling models, customised 360 questionnaires, informal 360 questions and feedback. In addition, there is an extensive range of topics covered in these models from leadership types & styles, communication effectiveness and emotional intelligence to name but a few.

Given such an array of tools to choose from how does a coach, tasked with implementing a 360, choose the right model? How do they follow up with effective coaching to serve the needs of the coachee ? Additionally, from an organisational perspective, how can implementing 360’s for individuals or teams be cost effective and offer an opportunity for improvement, lasting change and a return on investment ?

Some considerations for coaches to help limit and erode coachee inhibitors.

  • What is the purpose of the 360 and therefore what type of 360 is most appropriate to implement ?
  • Who are the ‘raters’ and how many ‘raters’ in each category are required to give effective, credible feedback and meaning to the 360 process ?
  • Is the coach expected to give 360 feedback or pick up with the coachee once feedback has been given ?
  • Is feedback & coaching timely. In other words quick follow up is essential in supporting the coachee whilst feedback is current
  • Is the feedback going to be kept confidential or shared by the coachee with team members, boss, stakeholders etc ?
  • The objectivity and honesty of the ‘raters’ is important in making the feedback valuable and valid.
  • Does the coach need to be skilled in using 360 models and giving feedback or is their coaching ability and experience enough?
  • The change curve.  Ignore this at your peril ! From experience, awareness of the change curve and its relevant stages play a big part in feedback and subsequent coaching. Depending on the feedback received by the it may take several coaching sessions for the coachee to process the information and arrive at acceptance enabling a new decision making / thought process to take place.
  • The psychological safety of the coachee is an important factor to be aware of, particularly if they are stuck in the ‘denial or depression’ stage. How does the coach deal with this ? Does the coach need to sign post the coachee to other specialist areas before coaching can resume?

To be truly effective a 360 is not a quick fix, and should not be used in a vacuum; rather it should form part of a medium to long term development plan.

Benefits of a 360 to enable insight to occur.

  • It enables all relevant stakeholders to assess & feedback on an individual’s behaviour and actions.
  • 360 feedback can highlight a coachee’s blind spots, allowing an opportunity to be aware of actions or behaviours they may not previously have been aware of.
  • Enables senior leaders to receive feedback they may not normally receive.
  • If implemented on a team level it can be a very effective way of highlighting development gaps, similarities and differences across a whole team / board. In addition to increasing accountability, trust and effectiveness.
  • Allows the coachee an opportunity to receive rich, deep feedback which they may not normally receive. This of course can be positive feedback highlighting strength areas, as well as constructive feedback.

Last but not least ! ……. making sure all aspects are covered at the contracting stage with the relevant coachee, sponsor and stakeholders to ensure a seamless coaching experience, will enable a beneficial and insightful experience for the coachee.


Sue Brown is an accredited Senior Practitioner with EMCC UK and approved DiSC trainer, including Disc 363 for Leaders. Sue is passionate about people being the heart of business and has over 20 years’ experience leading and coaching corporate teams and is the Founder of Smart Coaching UK. Sue develops and implements leadership programmes for high potential candidates and senior management teams.

Sue is also a Business and Leadership Mentor for EMCC UK for newly qualified coaches and also an Accreditation Mentor for EMCC Global. Sue recently led the project team to update and re launch the Mentoring Programme for EMCC UK members.


Read more blogs about Leadership: Return on Investment vs Return on Expectations… which is right when evaluating coaching or leadership development?