Why 360 and Stakeholder Feedback Alone Falls Short

Written by Nancy Parsons

Most leadership performance and coaching processes include some type of 360-degree feedback instrument. These tools are important. However, 360s only tell part of the story and are like the tip of the iceberg. They describe what and how performance behaviors are observed. Frequently, feedback from 360s or stakeholder feedback alone creates confusion or disconnects for the recipient. The difference between a leader’s intent and impact on others can be substantial. 

The CDR 3-Dimensional Assessment Suite®, especially the (CDR) Risk Assessment developmental feedback, goes beyond 360° feedback and reveals the “whys” behind performance behaviors. The CDR 3-D Suite cuts to the chase by identifying individual character traits, inherent personality-based risks, and motivational needs that trigger performance behaviors. This helps the leader feedback recipient to understand the root causes of their behaviors and why behaviors manifest in the ways they do in various situations. The mysteries, gaps, and confusion created by 360 feedback are cleared up by the CDR 3-D Suite. Developmental paths are clearly revealed when an individual understands their own inherent risks, strengths, acumen, and motivational needs.

For example, if a leader is given a lower rating for communications, they may be surprised and think,

“This makes no sense… I have weekly staff meetings; I communicate via email updates regularly, and I have reiterated my open-door policy with my team.” So, their intent is positive, yet something has broken down when it comes to the impact of their communications with their team. Then, when receiving coaching feedback with the CDR 3-DSuite, they learn:

  • CDR Character Assessment — they have “Low Social Stamina and Low No Hostility” which translates to a leader who prefers to isolate and is reluctant to share their true thoughts and feelings on issues.
  • CDR Risk Assessment – they have high scores on False Advocate and Cynic which translates to passive resistant behaviors or not being open with disagreements and being negative and shooting down new ideas and approaches and showing mistrust for others.

The above example shows that inherent personality-based traits undermine the intent of the leader. While this leader may work hard to communicate, he or she tends to hold back frequently, only share partial or carefully selected information, and tends to come off negatively. Due to these behaviors, the communications are not received in a positive or open way. Without understanding one’s inherent personality traits (Character and Risks), there is often a disconnect between why the leader was rated lower than expected on communications given the intent and effort put forth. When this happens, the leader often denies and dismisses the feedback or tries to fix or develop in the wrong ways. The path forward is just not clear for the leader.

When equipped with essential and accurate insights about their own inherent tendencies, leaders are able to focus on their strengths, understand and manage their risks more productively, and re-fortify relationships. Leaders can then concentrate on building a more positive and productive work environment, designing developmental action plans that are accurate and productive, and on homing in on those aspects of work they find most rewarding and fulfilling.

360s and Inherent Risk Behaviors

It is important to understand how risk factors show up as developmental needs on 360 feedback and as external observations such as stakeholder feedback. 360s provide important information because stakeholder perceptions are critical to success. However, this feedback only provides a superficial or a partial view.

The reason it is important to use the CDR 3-D Suite (including the Risk Assessment) when using a 360 feedback instrument, is to get clarity both on perceptions and why the behaviors are manifesting in the ways that they are. Below are examples of actual 360 Leader Scan narrative feedback of leaders who had related risks predicting these behaviors when under stress or facing adversity.

Considering the comments above, you can see how the Risk insights help the leader client understand the 360 comments. Here are a few examples from above:

  1. She remains isolated in her own portfolio. – This risk is “Detached.” It is often difficult for a leader to grapple with the notion of isolation, shyness, or being too distant. However, once the leader learns they often “detach” under stress, then they can work on tactics to prevent this natural reaction. Also, this is an ongoing reaction, an ingrained reaction under stress or conflict so the leader realizes this is something to work on.
  2. Takes credit for work done by an entire team of workers and does not acknowledge others for their extra effort. This risk is Egotist and shows the impact that these behaviors have on others that frequently result in demoralizing team members and turnover.
  3. He has made some off the wall and very inappropriate comments in front of clients. Damage control isn’t easy after the fact. Eccentrics often have difficulty understanding how they impact others. They are social blunders and can blurt things out they think are clever or amusing that fall flat or are offensive.


It is essential that leaders and professionals gain a better awareness of self and why. At times, particularly under stress or when facing adversity, they tend to react and behave in nonproductive ways. Measuring inherent risks (as well as character strengths and motivational sources) is the best way to get at those annoying or counter-productive reactions that all working adults have. Understanding why behaviors manifest in the ways that they do is the key to maximizing performance success. By only capturing external performance observations such as on 360s or stakeholder reviews, this may identify the symptoms but does not necessarily provide any insight as to the root causes of ineffective behaviors. Without the latter, it is difficult, if not impossible, to set the right course of developmental action and accountability.


Parsons, Nancy, E., Measuring Inherent Personality-Based Leader Risks, Presented at ISPI Conference, Vancouver, Canada, 2005.

CDR Risk Assessment, CDR Companies, Stafford TX, Copyrighted, 1998.

CDR 360 Leader Scan, CDR Companies, Stafford, TX, Copyrighted, 2000.