The contribution of a Scottish louse to 360-degree feedback


The renowned Scottish poet Robert “Rabbie” Burns (1759-1796) wrote, in Ode to a Louse:

O wad some power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion;
What airs in dress an gait wad lae’e us,
An ev’n devotion.

Burns was focusing on the illusions we might have about ourselves. However, in eighteenth century Scotland, 360-degree feedback was not yet in vogue. In more modern settings, and administered effectively, 360-degree feedback can be a very helpful way of confronting us with our strengths and development needs, and assisting us in developing workable plans to address their implications.

The success of the 360-degree approach lies in part in the confidential nature of the feedback: the recipient alone (and perhaps their coach) are the only ones to see the results in their entirety. As a consequence, some development needs can be addressed whilst still offering the manager some possibility of face-saving. In our haste to tell people “the truth” (which in any case will always be partial) it is easy to forget that even the most self-assured amongst us sometimes require a little air-cover.


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“When everyone agrees, someone is not thinking”
(General George Patton)

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Today’s Nugget:

The contribution of a Scottish louse to 360-degree feedback (click above)

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When you take decisions, beware of their unintended consequences