Why a Self-Aware 360-degree Assessment Report on your Communication Skills Can Be An Opportunity for Growth

Improved communication makes every other aspect of work better

Garrett Mintz , Sun 31 January 2021
A 360-degree assessment is a unique survey that uses input from self-assessment and from colleagues’ assessments to understand a professional’s strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. By gathering feedback from your colleagues alongside your own perspective on those same questions, we can get a deeper look at how your self-perception compares to the way your colleagues see you. 

With this data, we can break down the results of a 360-Degree Assessment into three outcomes: 

1) Somebody has underestimated their abilities (self-rating lower than colleagues’ ratings), 

2) Somebody has overestimated their abilities (self-rating higher than colleagues’), 
 3) Somebody is self-aware about their abilities (self-rating matches colleagues’).

This article is going to address some possible problems and solutions that might arise for people who are self-aware of their abilities. This article is part of a series I’m writing about Ambition In Motion’s 360-Degree Assessments and how their results should be interpreted. There are ten other articles addressing the two other possible outcomes of a 360-Degree Assessment available here:

Overestimating - People Management, Innovation, Leadership Ability, Communication Skills, and Financial Management 

Understanding Self-Awareness for 360-Degree Assessments

When somebody is self-aware about their abilities, this means that they gave themselves a similar score as the score their colleagues provided on the same skill. 

Initially, self-awareness may seem to be a cut-and-dry positive outcome but looking a bit deeper reveals some potential issues. After all, the goal of a 360-degree assessment is to identify blind spots and close the gaps between one’s self-perception and the perception of their colleagues. However, we find that there are opportunities for growth within a self-aware 360-degree assessment report and this article will review those opportunities.

At Ambition In Motion, our 360-Degree Assessment has 5 core components: 

a.                People Management
b.                Innovation
c.                Leadership Ability
d.                Communication Skills, and 
e.                Financial Management.

While self-awareness is likely the best outcome relative to the other two possibilities, I’m next going to explain how you can leverage self-awareness to grow as a professional and identify blind spots in your professional perspective. I’m going to show why self-awareness on your 360-Degree Assessment is more than just a pat on the back, even if you and your colleagues share similar views on your performance. 

Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively affects every interaction you have personally and professionally. When you make improvements to your communication skills, you are likely going to improve your skills in every other category measured by our 360-Degree Assessment. Communication is based on one’s ability to listen, trust that others are speaking openly and honestly with them, and understand what others are sharing before focusing on being understood.

If you are your colleagues are in agreement on your communication skills, that is excellent, but that could mean that they agree that you are a poor communicator or a great communicator.

Self-Awareness but poor performance

If your colleagues rated your communication skills relatively low and you agreed with them, that typically is an indicator that there are opportunities for growth.

You may think to yourself “I am in a pretty isolated role and communication isn’t a big part of my work.”

That may seem to be true, but that doesn’t mean that improving your communication skills will be wasteful.   

A key component of communication skills is the ability to listen to others. If others believe you are a poor listener and agree with your self-rating, this indicates that you are probably giving off negative physical cues that signal that you aren’t listening AND you aren’t actually listening to what they are saying.

This has negative consequences. If you are struggling to listen to what others are saying, it can be difficult to accomplish any work tasks because you have no idea if you are missing some key information. People can recognize a poor listener and they’ll dislike working with you because they feel like their time spent communicating with you is wasted.

The other key component to communication skills is trusting that others are being open and honest with you.

If you feel like others aren’t being open and honest with you, that is a HUGE red flag. This means that you should reflect onto yourself why you might feel that way about others. Do you feel like people are hiding things from you? Do you feel like people are skirting the truth because they only want to deliver you good news? Do you have any reason to believe that they are being dishonest or withholding the truth? Has something like this happened to you before in the past?

If your colleagues agree with you, ask yourself, why might this be? Are you giving the impression that others must give you the best news, even if that means stretching the truth? This might be a difficult pill to swallow but could this be a possibility? And if this is the case, what are the implications of this? This could mean getting blindsided, surprised, or feeling deceived. 

A great example of this is in HBO’s Silicon Valley. The show is about a group of people who found an up-and-coming startup business called Pied Piper. Pied Piper’s major antagonist is the CEO of a large conglomerate named Gavin Belson. Gavin is the type of leader who demands only good news, so much so that his people will lie to him to appease him, even if it makes him look like a fool later. A hilarious example of this rearing its ugly head is when Gavin is launching a new server called “the box”. Because Gavin is a narcissist, he requests that his signature be on every single box so his team creates a contest throughout the entire company to draft the best signature to go on the box. The signature that received the most votes was the signature “Gavin B”, which when displayed in the particular font used, looked like a phallus. The reason this scene is hilarious is because everyone on Gavin’s team can see exactly what it looks like, but Gavin is too self-centered to see anything but his name. Everyone is afraid to tell Gavin the truth, so Gavin moves forward shipping millions of boxes embossed with an ornate phallus prominently on the front.

The point is that if you feel like your team isn’t being open and honest with you and your team doesn’t feel like they can be open and honest with you either, you need to take action to create an environment and setting where others can be honest. This can start with asking for specific feedback on your work and the way you have communicated with others.

Self-Awareness and high performance

If you gave yourself a relatively high score and your colleagues agreed with you then that is excellent. That indicates that your colleagues feel comfortable being open and honest with you and they feel like you are a good listener and overall communicator. 

The question one should then consider is the balance between productivity and communication.

If you have an open-door policy or situation where anyone can ask you a question at any time, then you are making yourself available and are clearly making yourself present while having a conversation with those you work with, but are you optimally productive?

Research from Stanford shows that it is impossible to multitask and that mental residue builds up when switching between tasks. Therefore, if anyone can communicate with you at any time, the gaps in time from pausing your work and having a conversation before finally getting back on task are essentially wasted. This is also very true for emails/texts/phone calls/social media. If you focus too much on being available for everyone at every moment, you are sacrificing your ability to get into deep mental focus for the sake of being available to communicate. You are being communicative and present, but you are not being as productive as you possibly can be.

Some people have subsequently adopted office hours where they are open to people jumping in and asking them questions only during certain time periods, minimizing the gap time mental residue that is created from switching tasks. 

As new technology comes out, making it easier to communicate with those on our team, there can always be new ways to improve our communication and optimize our performance.

Overall, having a self-aware response on your 360-degree assessment report isn’t a free pass to give in to stagnation. It simply shows that you and your colleagues are on the same page. But, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. The implications from having a self-aware score are not wholly positive or wholly negative. Instead, it is a snapshot of your current performance which can help you make informed decisions about where you need improvement. As long as you possess an open-mindedness about making improvements and are willing to measure whether the new changes worked, you can ensure that you are on a positive track towards continual growth and improvement.