360 Feedback Tools360 multi-rater feedback assessments are now used by more than 85% of Fortune 500 companies. They’ve become a foundation of leadership development efforts because they’re like a GPS unit showing leaders their current leadership effectiveness (“you are here”) and mapping a route to increased effectiveness. 360 feedback tools derive their name from getting feedback in all directions; boss, peers, direct reports, and others working with that leader.

Another reason 360s have become so widely used is outlined in Zenger Folkman’s new book, How to Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths:

” … very few people have an accurate perception of either their strengths or their weaknesses. This is why we often comically read such facts as “80 percent of American drivers consider themselves above average” and “65 percent of people surveyed believe they are better than average looking in appearance.” Indeed, our research shows that self-perceptions tend to be only half as reliable as those from either peers or direct reports.

BUT, we’re also seeing a growing backlash against 360 survey feedback tools. Like any tool, the design of the tool and how it’s used makes a huge difference in its usefulness. Traditional assessments and needs analysis look for gaps. And most 360 feedback tools focus on finding and fixing weaknesses. This often leads to:

    • Participants feeling beat up by feedback reports.
    • Negative response or avoidance of 360 multi-rater feedback tools.
    • Erosion of confidence.
    • Defensiveness and fear of making mistakes.
    • Data denial and feedback phobia.
    • Working on a weak area and only getting it to average — with mediocre results.
    • A belief that extraordinary leadership is achieved by naturally gifted or “born leaders.”


While most organizations have the technical capability to run 360 feedback surveys internally, over 95% use external companies to provide this service. Some of the reasons include giving raters a much stronger sense of anonymity and participant confidentiality in reporting the results, normative percentile scoring comparisons across industries and leadership levels, measuring competencies that are proven to differentiate low and higher performers, and more sophisticated and flexible tools that have been well tested in a wide variety of situations.

Zenger Folkman’s solidly researched and highly successful 360 development system is used by Marriott, Harvard Business School, Wells Fargo, Coca Cola, General Mills, and ConocoPhillips. Here are some highlights of 11 Components of a Best-In-Class 360-Degree Assessment:

  • Compelling research correlating a leader’s effectiveness and organizational success.
  • The need for validated, research-based 360-degree assessments.
  • How poor rating scales lead to false positives that reduces desire for improvement.
  • Why validated items drive substantial and lasting organizational change.
  • How a strengths-based methodology is twice as effective as traditional development methods.

You can read the entire white paper on this topic here.