cover photo Reflect Blog
Ingo Kallenbach

Success factors using 360° feedback instruments

From our point of view being able to receive and give feedback is one of the key aspects of successful leadership. But it is a long and hard way to get there. The current issue of the Harvard Business Manager picks up on exactly that topic. Most interesting for you is probably the way google used 90°-feedback (employee reporting to manager) to improve the reputation (cultural level) of the little appreciated work done by managers of google. At the same time the HR-people of google were able to show what effective management behavior can achieve (collective level), creating a transparent reference framework for personal performance improvement (individual level).

How did they do that? As a first step the HR-people of google analyzed a lot of existing data about what makes management successful in their company. They extracted eight behavior patterns that seemed especially promising. They then broke these patterns down into concrete observable behavior so that it could be rated. So far so good. In the biannually (!) occurring feedback processes the managers were rated and received clear hints how to improve their behavior. The results and measures were discussed with their respective managers. Apart from that, they examined possible “stumbling blocks” when using the instrument:

There was no significant correlation between employee’s performance evaluation by the manager and the feedback from the employee about that manager. Socially desired behavior from employee´s side was thus excluded.

  1. Second, there was no “beautification“ of the results by the manager by simulating certain convictions or values.

360°-Feedback Instrument

Fig. 1: Feedback instruments - time for feedback


Exact data analysis upfront and consequent implementation afterwards were probably the crucial success factors in the example of google. This is mostly in line with our experience. The success of 360° instruments depends mainly on the following three dimensions:

1) The company culture is so open that critical feedback towards managers is “allowed”.

  1. 2) The manager takes feedback seriously and is willing to work on himself/herself.
  2. 3) The 360°-process is regulated in a way that sustainable added value is possible. That includes a follow-up workshop as well as a connection with aims and concrete measures.