Effectively Communicating Performance Targets
by Ian Cook

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In working with organizations large and small, I am repeatedly amazed at how few people really know what their priorities are and what performance standards their boss expects them to meet. As a result they assume certain standards or, more typically, they just keep working from day to day until at year-end they receive a surprise “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” in their performance review.

The research is pretty clear that communicating your job expectations to your employees has a positive impact on their performance? More than a 16% uplift, according to the Corporate Leadership Council.

BlessingWhite, in their 2008 study, The State of Employee Engagement, reported that, when asked what would most impact their performance, 18% of respondents said “greater clarity about what the organization needs me to do and why?”.

But why don’t more managers worldwide do this well? Why don’t they identify what they expect from their direct reports? Why do they leave such a vital item as expected results so fuzzy? I mean, what could be more important? Let me suggest a couple of reasons. See if these apply to you.

Sometimes the manager truly does not know. Maybe he (or ‘she’) has not received clear priorities and expected deliverables for his unit from his own boss. If this is true for you, then obviously you need to have that conversation with your boss about his expectations.

Often, the manager is unable to find the time to articulate performance expectations for each employee. Hey, managers are super busy today. They have more people reporting to them than ever before and they face immediate pressures, fires to fight, sixty-five e-mails to answer and just generally “doing more with less.”

But there is a number one reason they don’t communicate expectations. Let’s face it, it is hard mental work for any of us to decide what we truly want from our employees. We have to think of the various areas of each person’s job and determine what level of output is fair to expect and what standards we will measure it against. Besides, frequently we don’t know that much about a particular job. We may never have performed it ourselves.

Here is my advice. Take the time! Map it out. Have your employees themselves identify key result areas for their job and suggest the numerical indicators or observable behaviors to be reviewed during the year and at review time. This will enable your people to plan their activity, commit to results and self-monitor their progress towards goal achievement.

Communicating performance targets is not some extra task that keeps you from “the real work.” It is at the very core of being a professional leader/manager.

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Ian Cook, presenter and consultant, works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. To talk further with Ian about these approaches or to book him for a training seminar, team facilitation or keynote presentation, call toll-free at: 1-888-FULCRUM (385-2786) or e-mail. You can check out his company's website at www.888fulcrum.com.

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