The FIVE Key Things a Leader Should Do in a 360-Degree Debrief for Their Direct Report

It’s no secret that part of a leadership 360-degree survey, is the coaching and debrief that happens after the survey. The process of going through an individual’s 360 result is equally as important as taking the feedback assessment in the first place. While the guidance of a leadership coach is often sought after for 360 debriefs, entrusting this process to an individual’s manager has its own set of benefits.

On one hand, leadership coaches bring years of experience and expertise, as well as objectivity to the debrief process. Direct managers, however, possess an intimate knowledge of their direct report’s responsibilities, challenges, and career aspirations. This familiarity lends a unique relevance to the 360 debrief experience, allowing an intimate conversation regarding their 360-degree results. Performing 360 debriefs for direct reports allow managers to provide tailored guidance, build rapport, and increase the trust between manager and direct report.

However, 360 debriefs are innately an extremely sensitive and personal process for the individual. Without experience or preparation, there are substantial pitfalls that managers can fall into while performing 360 debriefs for their direct report. Based on what we’ve learned, there are FIVE key things a manager should do and keep note of when conducting a 360-degree debrief for their direct reports.


1. Always Deliver a Positive Experience:

The 360-degree debrief process MUST be a positive experience. There is no doubt that words can hurt, and your task is to deliver an effective debrief while addressing any elephants in the room. It’s crucial that you NEVER make your direct report feel threatened or feel incompetent. The last thing you want, is your direct report feeling like the 360-degree review process is another KPI that they need to tick off.

Here are some tips:

  • Show that you care, ask follow-up questions.
  • Facilitate, not interrogate.
  • Be outcome-focused, and that’s building a robust and achievable Leadership Action Plan
  • Always highlight positive results, i.e., emphasize their highest rated competencies, and identify their biggest supporters (e.g., Peers)


2. Foster a Safe and Supportive Environment:

A positive experience necessitates a safe and supportive environment where their direct reports feel comfortable sharing personal information and challenges openly, and honestly. This Rapport Building component is CRUCIAL for any successful and sustainable leadership development journey. It’s not just emphasizing to your direct reports that this process is about supporting their development, it’s about actively showing them you are here for them, not to criticize or judge.

Be sure to:

  • Never push for an answer. If you sense that they are hesitant and unwilling to talk about a specific subject, move onto the next.
  • Don’t be afraid to share personal experiences and challenges where relevant.


3. Actively Listen and Validate:

During the debrief, leaders should actively listen to their direct report's feedback without interruption or judgment. Remember, it’s your sole purpose is to facilitate conversation, and listen. If you find yourself not talking very much, then you’re on the right track. In addition, validate their perspectives and experiences; take this opportunity to demonstrate empathy and understanding. Acknowledging their direct report's feelings and concerns fosters trust and strengthens the coaching relationship.


  • You want them talking 80 to 90% of the debrief session.
  • If they start including personal experiences and talking about specific situations and scenarios, good, they’re comfortable and you’re facilitating.
  • During moments of silence, ask questions about a certain competency / question-item, if in doubt, ask them if they agree with certain ratings.
  • This is your opportunity to show empathy, remember, this is not a KPI-drill.


4. Stay Analytical and Focus on the Debrief

It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating a 360 debrief as your regular monthly one-on-one’s – especially in this case when you’re their direct manager. But keep in mind that in this scenario, you’re here to coach them to become better leaders. This isn’t a session where you’re providing your own personal feedback to them, if any at all. Focus on the 360-degree survey results, stay analytical, remove all biases and be a coach, not their manager.

Make sure you:

  • Don’t let biases from your experience as their manager influence this debrief.
  • Cast aside any positive or negative viewpoints of the individual prior to the debrief session.
  • Focus on the report results and work towards the common goal – developing a leadership action plan.


5. Co-create an Action Plan:

The main goal of a 360-degree survey debrief is to establish an action plan for the individual to work towards for the next 12 months. Together with your direct report, co-create an action plan that outlines specific goals and steps for leadership growth and development. Ideally, there should be no more than four goals, one strength and three development areas.

General tips:

  • Action items should be concise, and achievable.
  • Prioritise areas that is more important for the individual’s role, and then the company.
  • Keep it simple, seriously, it can be as simple as a single specific action.


Navigating the intricacies of a 360-degree debrief requires finesse, empathy, and a steadfast commitment to fostering growth. While the expertise of leadership coaches is invaluable, entrusting this process to an individual's manager offers profound advantages. Through these 360 debrief tips, managers gain a unique opportunity to build rapport, cultivate trust, and tailor guidance that resonates deeply with their direct reports. Central to success is delivering a positive experience, fostering a safe and supportive environment, and staying analytical while co-creating actionable plans. By prioritizing these principles, managers empower their direct reports to thrive as resilient, empowered leaders in the modern workplace.