Sales Coaching Blog

Three Reasons NOT to do 360 Reviews

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

April 25, 2016

Bill_Headshot_Round.pngI despise 360 reviews. Didn’t like them when they were done on me, didn’t like to do them on others, don’t like them when our members do them, and refuse to do them at the EcSell Institute. I’ve never visited with anyone following a 360 that was pleased with their end result, and for a tool that is supposed to be a "growth instrument" I’ve had to council too many execs off the ledge. Only recently have I been able to articulate my thoughts in a logical fashion. Below are my three reasons why 360 Reviews stink.

Reason #1 - Most 360’s aren’t reviewing what is proven to drive performance

The spirit of them is to provide performance feedback, but until organizations and specifically sales departments figure out what behaviors drive performance, they are poorly used. Also, it is more than just behaviors that drive performance; there are talents, tools and skills that are also not documented on most 360’s. I spoke today with a member who has a question within their 360 that has the evaluator rate, “This person does a good job of balancing short and long term goals.” 

Why should one be graded on this? Should one balance 60% of their time on short term and 40% on long term goals? There is no science that I’ve seen that shows how one balances this time leads to more performance. Besides, what does "long term" mean today? If I’m speaking about technology it may mean 180 days, but we have members who still do five year plans—their definition of "long term". 360’s often discover/uncover so many petty, nonperformance related items, focus is brought to behaviors that don't impact performance.

Reason #2 - Behaviors are being rated, but resources are not being provided to help change behaviors. 

For example, we know that a sales manager's ability to a.) coach, b.) help sales people progress towards career goals, and c.) adaptive leadership, are what most motivate sales reps to sell more. But, even if organizations knew enough to rate these behaviors and skills within a 360, have they provided the resources to help them grow in these areas? 

EcSell’s objective research shows that only 55% of organizations provide development programs for their sales leadership team (our subjective research would indicate it is much less). Every day we are on the phone with executive sales leaders and while there is an ever increasing emphasis on coaching, there are very few teaching it, let-a-lone providing their management teams with the most effective activities, behaviors and tools. A good golf coach wouldn’t evaluate a player’s swing, then tell him/her what is wrong without providing the resources to improve the swing. 

Reason #3 - The EcSell Institute is discovering that a leading cause of growth is employee discomfort, or what we refer to as healthy tension. 

Think back to a tough coach, a highly demanding boss or perhaps a teacher that made you work harder for a good grade.  Retrospectively, it is easy to understand how their behaviors helped you grow, but at the time when the furnace was turned up would you have been as objective as you are today?  If someone would have stuck a 360 in front of me with the manager who helped me grow the most, on certain days I would have used words like “doesn’t listen, combative, causes conflict, ...”  Today, looking back, I would describe him with words such as “demanding, set high expectations, challenged my way of thinking…”  Add to this that in most cases not everyone on your team is filling in a 360, which basically says, “not everyone’s opinions are worthy.” 

Curt Coffman, arguably the world foremost thought leader on high performing managers spoke at our last Coaching Summit. During Mr. Coffman’s afternoon breakout session, an attendee mentioned 360’s, and Curt simply nodded his head and said “Ahhh, 360’s. I have an acronym for those things; I call them NIGYSOB’s.” We all looked at him and after several moments he filled in the dialogue, “Now I Gotcha You Son of a B$@%”. 

Do 360’s have a place? Comment below and let us know what you think.

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