DIY 360 Interview
The best tool for increasing self-awareness
I offer coaching for high-achieving men and women, the purpose of which is to clarify their purpose in their work, build radically deeper relationships, and/or to find more confidence, inner peace and a consistent state of presence.
We start with a 360 interview. I’ll describe it in more detail below, but the big idea is that I interview the 6 people closest to my client for an hour to highlight my client’s strengths and blindspots. Then, I present my findings to the client and we create an action plan for seizing growth opportunities.
I have two intentions for this article:
To make my process clear and to attract people for whom this idea resonates to work with me
To also make my process clear to people who might implement it on their own
I personally did my 360 interview with an executive coach, Heath Dieckert, 5 years ago, and it was the single most impactful thing that I did for my growth as a leader. Now I’m putting my own spin on it.
While I’m conducting the interviews and analyzing the results, I meet weekly with my client to discuss what they want in their life, what’s blocking them, and taking action.
At the end of the 360 interview process, we decide if we want to continue working together. If we do, we shape a coaching plan
Why is the 360 interview so powerful?
When you’re a leader of any system, constructive feedback is hard to come by. On top of fear of defensiveness and abandonment, people are also afraid of losing jobs,
losing the favor of their superior,
or they may just put the leader on a pedestal.
When YOU are aware of something you want to change, you change it. It may take longer than expected sometimes, but you change it, because that’s the type of person you are. You are intentional and walk the walk.
But what if you aren’t entirely aware of what change would make the biggest difference? What if you feel stuck in one or more areas of your life, or you see an opportunity for growth in yourself but don’t know exactly how to get to where you want to be?
That’s why getting candid feedback from those closest to you in different areas of life is one of the best methods for personal growth.
But unless we intentionally cultivate a pathway for giving and receiving this type of feedback in our relationships, it won’t happen.
Because it’s too scary and too much seems to be at risk.
Let’s say we’re close friends and you tell me candidly that you really want to feel more connected to me and the rest of your friends. Later, I may notice that you have a tendency to make a joke anytime someone asks you a question with a remotely vulnerable answer—and it prevents you from forging a deeper connection. Telling you this tactfully is in your best interest based on YOUR goal. But I may be too scared to tell you, fearing that you’ll lash out, get defensive or take it out on me. In some relationships, the fear of even losing the person is palpable, even if completely fabricated.
Your growth is always limited by your awareness.
Failure to get the perspective of those around you will stunt your awareness and your growth.
On the other hand, creating a way for your inner circle to share their perspective with you reliably leads to greater clarity in your life about how to perform, communicate and lead better. It also leads to more depth and trust in your relationships.
With practice, we have a great awareness of our internal world (which only we can), and if we’re observant we probably have a pretty good idea of how our actions impact others.
But we can only see so much. We could meditate for years without ever realizing how our behaviors and communication keep us from getting what we want in life, when a single conversation or even single statement from a close friend, colleague or partner could point it out immediately.
Room of Mirrors
When you don’t get this type of feedback in your life, you’re like Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly (Sandy Lyle in the movie). He thinks he’s Kobe Bryant when he actually plays at a 2nd grade level. He doesn’t see reality. If he really wants to get better at basketball, a critical step is for him to realize he’s not there yet.
When you have an inner circle giving you feedback it’s like having a room full of mirrors, each reflecting a unique angle of how you’re viewed in the world.
During the 360 process you’ll find out:
Which strengths come so naturally to you that you don’t even realize you have them
When you know your strengths, you can lean into them and do more of what you’re best at. For instance, one thing I learned in this process is that the single most consistent way people would describe me is “grounded.” I appear to be grounded, I have a significant grounding effect on others, and they get value out of that. Knowing that this is one of the ways I bring value to relationships gave me more confidence immediately. It also showed me more of who I truly am, so that when I want, I can crank up the grounding energy and bring that to a relationship or a group.
Another example: A guy came to me saying one of the biggest things he wanted to improve was his confidence in his life and his work. One of the themes that came out of his 360 interview was that the people in his life ALL saw him as a baller—and they craved more of his confident, decisive leadership. When I told him this, he said, “Whoa, this is big. This feels like it changes everything.”
The knowledge that the people in his life respected the hell out of him and actively wanted him to continue leading and expressing himself gave him a huge amount of energy. And he got exactly what he hired me for: greater confidence.
The inconsistencies between what you say you want and how you behave
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been “working on yourself,” it’s hard as hell to notice these inconsistencies sometimes. It’s easy to see in others, but tough to see in ourselves, because there are ancient mental mechanisms designed to maintain homeostasis, avoid change, keep looking good (ego), and avoid looking bad (also ego). Having these pointed out can instantly help us live in greater alignment with our values.
I have thought of myself as very empathetic and connective ever since I went to rehab in 2008. I have prided myself on being able to connect with anyone under the sun. But in my 360, I learned that some people I worked with felt like we had a transactional relationship, and that I didn’t seem to want to get to know them.
As soon as my coach told me this, a dull feeling of guilt arose because I knew it was true but hadn’t seen it before. That’s not how I wanted to be. So I immediately started being more curious about the people I worked with and genuinely getting to know them. This led to greater psychological safety on the team and contributed to some of those same team members coming to me first when they needed support with a challenging situation at work.
Annoying habits and defects of character
The things that may not even directly relate to things we think we want in life, but create tension in our relationships and prevent us from living with greater peace.
The impact that certain actions have had on our relationships
A single statement can lead to years of resentment and disconnection without you ever knowing what you said. This is an opportunity to get complete in your closest relationships which could lead to more love in your life and the release of creative energy that was previously trapped by the tension in this relationship.
While things like meditation and journaling are impactful (and an essential part of my personal practice) they are the safe, and often slower, route to personal growth. The people in your life have a treasure trove of things you can use to improve yourself and reach your goals faster. If you’re willing to hear it and use it.
DIY 360 Interview Process
Here’s how you can create your own if you don’t want to hire a coach.
How to set it up
Pick a handful of people closest to you in your life. For my 360 I picked 10 people that worked with me in different businesses, some who coached me, and one who married me.
For most relationships, the setup is the most important step. You want to make people feel safe enough to give you honest feedback, you want them to have the time to really think about it. You also want them to really get that this isn’t a random question or handful of questions you’re asking.
Ideally when you ask them if they would be willing to give you some feedback, you set up a specific time to do it. Be clear about what it’s for and what they can expect. Tell them that this is for your growth and that you really want their honest feedback and promise not to get defensive (and then you have to honor it. Nothing could derail this exercise faster than you arguing with them about their feedback that YOU asked for).
Lastly, it's often a good idea to record it. That way you can be fully present but can go back later to write down notes and create action steps.
What to ask
Here are a handful of questions that I ask:
What 3 or 4 words would you use to describe me?
What are my superpowers?
What impact have I had on your life?
In what ways do you think I can improve?
What do you think are my blindspots?
Have there been any moments you’ve felt tension with me that you’d like to clear up?
What do you wish I understood or knew about myself and how I’m perceived by others?
Is there anything you’ve wanted to say to me but have been too scared to do so?
Business focused (you can ask most of the above in a business setting as well)
What’s it like working with me?
What do you wish I’d do differently?
How specifically could I be more supportive of your goals?
What should I double down on and do more of?
If you were me, what changes would you make to the business?
After doing over 400 podcast episodes, I’ve realized that the best questions are usually the ones that aren’t scripted. They are follow-ups to scripted ones that require you to listen intently and to follow your own curiosity when they answer. When you hear something new, when you feel a little triggered, when they seem to be holding back, lean in and inquire further. That’s where the gold is.
You should also expect that some % of these people will ask you you to answer the same questions about them. This is the best possible scenario because then you’re creating a dynamic in your relationship where it is safe and expected that you will hold each other to a higher standard.
Once the interviews are done, you may have a ton of information and ideas for what you could focus on. When I did mine, I had about 10 different common themes. My business coach helped me identify the things that came up most frequently and focus on those first.
Next, I emailed everyone I worked with to thank them for participating in the interview process. I outlined the top 4 things that were brought up and how I planned to work on each of them. I told them I would reach out in two months to check in on my progress.
Over the course of the next year, when I checked in with my team, these issues were completely nonexistent. I wasn’t perfect, but I had resolved those challenges. I was perceived as a better leader, I was significantly more productive, and I contributed more all around.
Rather than simply asking once, checking the box, and never following up, make it a habit to check in with your people again occasionally to see how you’re doing. This will let them know that their feedback really matters to you, and it’s the only real way you will know if you’re improving.
A coach helps you maximize the value of this process
If you want to maximize the value of this process, consider hiring a coach to guide you through it.
The anonymous nature can help you solicit much deeper feedback
If the coach is a skilled interviewer, it may be easier to get to the root of someone’s experience of you
The coach can help you set up calls, organize the information and prioritize what to focus on based on your life goals
Here’s what it looks like to work with me.
How it works
I’ll interview 6 people in your life for an hour to assess your biggest strengths and weaknesses. All of their responses will be kept anonymous to create the safety for them to share as candidly as possible.
While the interview process is going on you and I will meet weekly to start working on what you want, what’s blocking you, and taking action.
At the end of my interviews I will compile all of the results in a report for you. I’ll rank order things in terms of how often certain things were mentioned, I will give you direct quotes, and more. This will give you a smorgasbord of things you could “work on” in your life to level up.
After going over your 360 report, we’ll decide if we want to continue working together. If yes, then we’ll make a coaching plan together.
If you’re ready and truly feel called to this work, it can change your life.