You may have some familiarity with 360° assessments if you have been working in a leadership position; their use has skyrocketed over the past decade, and with good reason. They are an extremely well-rounded and useful tool for finding ways to move ahead in your career development.

The 360° assessment uses collected anonymous feedback from subordinates, managers, peers, and sometimes business partners, as well as a self-assessment, to identify areas where you can strengthen your skills in order to progress effectively. However, given the nature of the assessment, it is important to prepare everyone involved for it to get the most useful results. The assessment is not an evaluation of performance, but rather constructive feedback for developmental purposes. For the sake of reliable answers, confidentiality is extremely important in this process. Here are three aspects of 360° assessment preparation that you should work on before the assessment even begins.

1. Determination of who will participate

In the 360° assessment, you have an opportunity to choose who will be assessing you, and you want to ensure that you have a group of people with a diverse range of experiences with you. Some will be your employees, commenting on your management style. Some will be your peers, who understand your position. Some will be professional contacts, discussing how you represent your company. And others will be your managers, describing what they believe you need to achieve to fulfill your potential. It is important that these people all understand that they are not performing an evaluation; they are instead providing constructive criticism meant for helping you succeed.

2. Consideration of your self-assessment

While many times the self-assessment can be more informal, with a simple question from your supervisor asking how you feel you perform, a more structured self-assessment is generally more common and helpful in a 360° assessment. This assessment may be information gathered from a performance observation period, from a computer test, from a written description, or by some other means. However, if you wish to get the most out of your 360° assessment, you should prepare yourself for possible discrepancies between your feedback on your own performance and the feedback from others. Generally managers’ self-assessments have consistently higher ratings of performance, a lower score from others in feedback “can lead to defensiveness and alienation if supervisors do not use good feedback skills”, according to the US Office of Personnel Management.  In contrast, some self-assessments display a much lower opinion of their work than assessors’ reports, and assessees “tend to be self-demeaning and may feel intimidated and put on the spot.” If you are not prepared for a possible lack of correlation between your assessment of yourself and the assessments of others, you may not be prepared to listen to ways to improve your work methods and progress in your career.

3. Assurance of confidentiality

One of the most important aspects of the 360° assessment is the guarantee that the assessments your subordinates, peers, and others submit will be kept in confidence. People who are afraid for their jobs will not provide honest and helpful feedback. It is therefore critical to create safe spaces for everyone’s voices to be heard with no fear of reprisal.

Manfred Kets de Vries, a well-known leadership consultant, writes: “All leaders need feedback to do their best work and continue their development. Unfortunately, the higher you are in an organization, the less likely it is you will receive frank, constructive feedback.”

If you prepare effectively for the 360° assessment, you are likely to get that frank, constructive feedback and get the information needed to increase your performance and effectiveness as a leader.