Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Spring 2022

How a 360° Evaluation Can Strengthen Your Professional Development

Brian D. Gonzalez, PhD‚úČ; SBM Member Delegate


I recently invited about 30 people to complete a survey. That part is routine, as I often ask cancer survivors to complete surveys for research projects. This survey was unusual because 1) colleagues completed it and 2) the goal was to help my professional development. It’s part of a 360º evaluation to gain insight into my strengths and weaknesses as a colleague and leader.

I first heard of 360º evaluations while reading Radical Candor by Kim Scott, a book I highly recommend for all SBM members. She recommended these evaluations, which request feedback from those who report to you, your peers, and your supervisors. This comprehensive feedback can reduce the risk that, for example, peers and supervisors may think very highly of an investigator but be unaware that they are a tyrant with lab members. These evaluations seemed interesting, but I wrongly assumed they could only be done by your institution’s Human Resources department and only as part of your annual review. I realized this could be done independently after being invited to participate in a colleague’s 360º evaluation led by their executive coach.

One of the many benefits of SBM’s Leadership Institute is that attendees are paired with an executive coach to help further their career development. SBM even covers the cost of a few initial coaching sessions and negotiates a reduced hourly rate for subsequent sessions. My coaching sessions continue, and I highly recommend this process for all investigators.

A 360º evaluation is helpful for learning how you’re perceived by others in various roles. This survey used the Task Cycle framework to request feedback on how one is perceived on the 6 steps necessary to achieve a goal. It’s important to first have a leader’s perspective. Next, a leader must set the direction for the team. Implementation doesn’t just happen next, but rather it requires team-building and timely decision-making. A leader must also set high, but achievable, standards and get results from the team. Along the way, one must provide feedback. And finally, it’s crucial to acknowledge team members’ contributions to the project. Each step is critical to the success of a research project. This feedback has been very valuable for my own professional development, as I reflect on ways to continue in strength areas and improve on my weaknesses (or “growth edges” as I’m encouraged to call them).

Here are a few suggestions for how you can seek out coaching and/or a 360º review. First, consider applying to the SBM Leadership Institute! Second, your institution’s Human Resources department may offer one or both services. Third, until these resources become routine in academia, it may be necessary to use some of your own personal funds. Lastly, leaders in your institution may be willing to contribute institutional funds if you can make a case for how coaching and/or a 360º evaluation may be helpful to the institution. It may make supervisors more likely to consider you for leadership opportunities if they know you take your professional development seriously.