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360 Degrees Dinner - Peer Evaluations At The Dinner Table

03.15.2013
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360view Next time the HR department wants you to deliver evaluation forms of your team members, organize a 360 Degree Dinner. That's what I did with my team. And it was great.

Standard 360 degree evaluations are valuable, but somewhat cumbersome. You ask several people to give you feedback about a team member, either verbally or anonymously (via forms), and then you consolidate the results in one big evaluation. And you do this for each person in a team.

Wow, that's a lot of work...

But wait... there is a shortcut!

Invite the whole team for dinner,and tell them in advance that, before or after dinner, the team will evaluate each team member's performance, at the dinner table, face-to-face. You, as a manager or team leader, will volunteer to be the first one to be evaluated. This shows courage and respect. And it helps to loosen up the atmosphere, so that people know what to expect (and how to behave) when it's their turn to receive feedback. Plus, very important: thank every person who gives you honest, valuable, and constructive feedback. Because sometimes it's not easy to be honest. And you need to reward that.

Have one person ask everyone questions (about your performance) and let him take notes (possibly using the official HR form itself). When your evaluation is complete, continue with the next person at the table. And maybe then it's someone else's turn to take notes.

Why should you organize a 360 Degrees Dinner?

  1. It saves you time. The total amount of time you need to evaluate everyone is less than the time you need when you interview everyone separately. Our team had a 360 degree dinner last Monday. It took us 1,5 hours to evaluate four people. That's less than it usually took when I did it through personal interviews;

  2. People can discuss an issue about somebody's performance, so that it's immediately clear whether or not the majority of the team shares that particular concern. I remember bringing forward one issue about a person that wasn't recognized by any of the others. This made me realize that I had misunderstood something. Apparently, the problem was on my side;

  3. When an issue is not clear, the person who is being evaluated can ask to clarify the issue, so that he understands what the real problem is. He can press for more concrete examples of criticism that sounds a bit too abstract. Or he can respond and explain circumstances that put the issue in a whole new light. Sometimes the real problem can turn out to be a very different one;

  4. People force themselves to be fair and more understanding in a face-to-face situation. It is (too) easy to criticize someone anonymously behind her back. It is nicer and more civilized to bring something to her attention when she's present at the dinner table. Possibly fellow team members can help to carefully paint a proper picture that isn't distorted by spite or vengeance;

  5. There is a good chance that the team at the table will make sure everyone is evaluated in equal measures. Nobody is perfect, and everybody can learn more about themselves. It won't be considered fair by the team if one person gets to swallow far more feedback than another. And so the team will tend to balance the amount of criticism they provide.

Can you think of more reasons?

360dinner The 360 Degree Dinner I had this Monday with my team was one of the most fulfilling evenings I had this year. They told me things about myself that I had never realized. And I was able to better formulate some people's issues with the help of fellow team members. We were all very pleased that we could have this conversation with each other. We all shared food, pain, fun, and drinks at the same time.

Naturally, I would advise you to have a 360 Degree Dinner only when you have a team of trusting, respectful and caring team members. If team members are not capable of giving or receiving open, honest and constructive feedback then you might have another problem to solve first...

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)