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Coaching with 360 and MBTI – A Case Study

Published in The British Psychological Society’s Journal, “Assessment and Development Matters” Vol 3, No 3, 2011


This article describes a case study of how 360 degree feedback and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), were used together as part of a leadership development programme in a manufacturing organisation; the synergy of the tools led to significant benefits for the individuals and the organisation.

The use of 360 degree feedback is becoming increasingly popular and for good reasons: research shows that, when done well, it has a positive effect on performance, retention and development (Smither, London & Reilly, 2005).

However, because the focus of 360 feedback is on observable behaviours, it can seem superficial to participants and lacking in explanatory value. Combining 360 with an appropriate self-analysis tool, such as the MBTI, can add context and facilitate acceptance of the feedback and willingness to act on it.

Coaching sessions
The 360 diagnostic tool was based on the organisation’s competencies and desired behaviours; as well as 55 quantitative questions (5 on each of 11 areas), there was a qualitative section, asking respondents what they would like the person to stop, start or continue doing.

The 360 feedback was covered first in the coaching sessions, followed by the MBTI. This worked well to dispel anxieties about receiving feedback from colleagues and there was an additional benefit: sometimes the 360 had negative aspects or comments that participants could not make sense of; had the 360 been covered last, they may have left the session feeling confused or disappointed. By ending with the MBTI, participants felt upbeat and positive as they left.

Overall, the benefits of the 360 were:

  • the feedback was based on real behaviours, so strengths and weaknesses (as perceived by others), were easy to understand;
  • the coaching session gave the opportunity to explore how the person might develop these in a practical way;
  • people liked getting appreciation from colleagues, often for attributes of which they were less aware.

The main issues with the 360 were:

  • some comments were unclear and therefore not helpful;
  • there was sometimes a tendency to rationalise away negative feedback based on who they thought the feedback was from;
  • they sometimes didn’t understand why people’s perceptions were as they were.

This is where MBTI came in as a complementary resource, in addition to its value in its own right.

While the 360 provided insight into how surface behaviours were perceived by others, the MBTI helped them to make sense of this behavioural feedback; it gave them an understanding of what was driving their behaviours and how their behaviour might impact others.



Intention and Impact



 Individual development

One person had been shocked by his 360 feedback on the competency of “social skills”, which included items such as “adapts style to suit different situations and people” and “shows sensitivity to other people’s concerns”. His reaction was “but I’m always sociable, I spend a lot of time with other people, I play golf, I’m captain of a football team, I don’t understand it”. He was ready to discount the 360 feedback as an aberration.

When we looked at his MBTI, he was able to see that his people skills were manifestations of Extraversion, and that his tendency to criticise and drive for quick decisions sometimes meant that he did not display an appreciation of other people’s perspectives. This was a revelation for him and he left the session determined to make changes in both his professional and personal life.

The MBTI helped people set negative 360 feedback in the wider context of their personality and its strengths. One person who received some negative 360 feedback on flexibility (eg “adapts quickly and flexibly to new circumstances”) and creativity (eg “looks for new ways of resolving issues”) was helped, through the MBTI, to see that he had compensating strengths in areas such planning and systematically following through activities. These were not being used in his current role and he was able to explore coping strategies for his current situation and possible future career direction.

For individuals, the MBTI complemented the 360 extremely well. It enabled people to see their 360 in the wider context of their personality type strengths, as well as recognising the different strengths and approaches of others. This was an affirming and positive message, enabling them to feel confident in their strengths, while recognising there were some behaviours they could change for the better. The 360 provided the specific grounded behavioural data to put into the MBTI framework.

Organisation Development
At the organisational level the 360 and MBTI also complemented and added value to each other. When the 360s were collated, it was found that the lowest scoring competencies for the group as a whole were:

  • Social skills
  • Willingness to learn/flexibility
  • Creativity and innovation

The dominant personality type was a good fit with a manufacturing organisation concerned with marshalling people and resources to achieve outputs. However, too much dominance of this type could create an overly competitive environment, stifling individual engagement and creative ideas.

This knowledge, together with the collated data from the 360s, enabled the senior team and middle managers to see how giving more voice to people with other personality preferences could support some of their other aims, such as shifting the culture to a more engaging one and encouraging more change and process improvement.

MBTI and 360 made a powerful combination, each adding validity to the other, and providing actionable feedback (Morison, 2010) and real personal development for the participants. For the organisation, the 360 gave a snapshot of how things are, while the MBTI gave insight into what to do about it.

Smither J.W., London M. & Reilly, R. (2005) Does performance improve following multi-source feedback? A theoretical model, meta-analysis and review of empirical findings. Personnel Psychology, 58, 33-66.

Morison, P. (2010) What makes 360 degree feedback succeed or fail? Assessment and Development Matters, Vol. 2, No. 3.

The Author
Catherine Stothart is an Assessment and Development Consultant at Essenwood Consulting.