The 5 Stages of 360-Degree Leadership Feedback: From Zeus to Zero


Dr. Z. prides himself on his knowledge of the historical development of 360-degree feedback.

At the institute “Doc Z”, as the students call him, conducts a leadership boot-camp on The Historical Development of 360-Degree Feedback from Cro-Magnon Man to Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap.

Here is the executive summary from his soon to be written Harvard Business Review article proposal on The Zeitgeist of 360-Degree Feedback – From Zeus to Zero: Undermining Leadership Through Spineless Anonymous Feedback

– Executive Summary –

Don’t mess with Zeus: Zeus would never have stood for the audacity of some minion or lesser god thinking he should give Zeus feedback. Zeus turned Pandareus to stone, killed Salmaneous with a thunderbolt, and changed Chelone into a tortoise, and that is just a small sample of his wrath. Zeus did not stand for feedback and he made Al Dunlap look more like a guy with nail clippers than a chainsaw. Standing next to Zeus, Al’s moniker of Rambo in Pinstripes would have to be changed to Pollyanna in Pajamas.

The first wheel: The earliest recorded 360-degree feedback was heard shortly after the first wheel was invented. After standing the heavy stone up, the 360 degree shape made it roll over the project leader’s foot crushing his toes. The leader was heard to say something about who’s dumb idea was it to make a wheel and that 360 degree means what goes around comes around and he rolled the wheel back at his direct report. The direct report was never heard from again but it is believed that his descendants were responsible for the invention of the motorized Segway vehicle – a modern day horseless chariot.

Typewriters and temperatures: Shortly after the typewriter was invented 360-degree feedback turned around and began to mean that employees would give leaders feedback because the leader could not recognize the person’s handwriting. At this time 360-degree feedback meant turning up the heat. Let’s say that someone put something negative about your leadership – perhaps they didn’t like your orange argyle socks – in an employee suggestion box. Because this feedback was unsolicited and because the person giving the feedback remained anonymous it was important as a leader to nip this behavior in the bud. Each day as a leader you increased the office thermostat another 5 degrees and announced that until someone came forth and owned up to this feedback the temperature would continue to rise until it got to 360-degrees. You never had to get to 360-degrees to melt out a confession and release the employee who gave the feedback to opportunities elsewhere.

I am a rock. In the humanistic movement of the 1960’s employees would have a group hug with their leader and then sing Paul Simon’s song I am a Rock changing the words to “You are not a rock, you are not an island,” as they lay flowers at the feet of their leader. After this they would spin the leader around and around in tight 360 degree circles and once the leader was dizzy they would literally write feedback on the back of his white shirt such as: groovy, peace and love or you are even nicer to us than Topo Gigo. After this, everyone would go watch Ed Sullivan and the boss after reading the feedback would, kess-a-them goodnight! By the way, Topo Gigo, the Italian mouse,  played the role of Scurry in the Italian translation of the management classic:  Who Moved My Cheese.

360-degree feedback today. Today, there are a plethora of HR firms that specialize in going behind a leader’s back and getting people to say all kinds of things about the leader. They get a “coach” to tell the leader what everyone said and 360-degree refers to the leader finding ways to keep everyone going around and around in circles of nonstop busyness and transformational change for about 18 months. Employees are so overworked and overloaded that they forgot what they said, the coach moves on to real coaching losing a little league state champion game in the 9th inning, and the workplace moves on to the next great idea, for example Project MELT IT – Measuring Emotional Leadership Traits In Turkeys or how to be a Butterball Boss and not get basted!

Dr. Z’s Leadership Point-to-Ponder: When you go 360-degrees you end up where you started and your leadership legacy is – Zero!

Picture Credit: different by


Filed under 360-degree feedback, humor, leadership, leadership institute, Leadership Lessens

2 responses to “The 5 Stages of 360-Degree Leadership Feedback: From Zeus to Zero

  1. Really nice site you have here. I’ve been reading for a while but this post made me want to say 2 thumbs up. Keep up the great work

  2. Z

    Watch out that you don’t get your thumbs caught in some kind of wheel. And now that I think of it when you go 360 degrees you just end up where you started!

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