Examples of using expectations to improve your performance feedback
One important aspect of providing feedback is that it is based on some sort of standard, a bar that has been set, or a series of expectations of performance. So let’s talk about it!
In my prior article, I offer providing expectations as an alternative to giving public feedback. But there are more advantages to setting expectations than being perceived as a forward, clear thinking manager who knows what she wants and how to get there.
I suppose that’s reason enough, but there are more reasons to hone your skills at providing expectations!
Providing expectations also give you the ability to give performance feedback more effectively.
The formula is simple: If you’ve set a performance bar in advance, when you give feedback to your employee you can now measure against that expected performance.
What’s amazing is how infrequently this is performed by managers. So I hereby set the performance expectations to managers: Have you set performance expectations to your employees? If so, great! You are now ahead of the game.
Let’s look at examples of identifying expectations for performance prior to having to give feedback:
You are starting a big systems upgrade project. And you set the following expectations:
a) Strive toward staying on budget and timeline.
b) Identify the level of quality we can achieve based on the budget and timeline, and strive toward it
c) Bring up issues to me that could get in the way of successful completion of the project
d) Bring up ideas for improving the project and its progress
e) Participate actively
f) Work in a collaborative manner that focuses on resolving problems
These are some pretty basic expectations, but the mere act of articulating them shows that you care about these parameters. It’s OK to start basic! It’s better than the frequently observed alternative: The overly broad expectation of “just get it done.”
Now that you have identified these basic expectations, when it comes time to give feedback on performance, you can examine which aspect of performance you’ve observed has, indeed, met the expectations that you set out. So when you give performance feedback, you now have a basis for discussion.
Let’s say that someone on the team hid from you a big problem in the project (the new hardware systems are delayed in delivery). You find out two weeks later only after you specifically asked about the hardware system delivery. Clearly, the team didn’t “Bring up issues to me that could get in the way of successful completion of the project.” That was one of your expectations! (You might want to document this in your performance log, to help identify patterns and track improvement in employee performance.)
So when you give performance feedback, you can cite this expectation in setting the context of the performance feedback discussion:
“At the outset of the project, I set the expectation that issues that could delay or otherwise hurt the project should be discussed with me. However, I found out about the hardware delay two weeks after it was identified as an issue.”
Now, the focus is not on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing that the team kept this info from you; the focus is instead on what caused the issue. So this is the next item to discuss:
“Let’s talk about what caused this to happen.”
This should be an open discussion with your employee(s) on the causes for not meeting the performance bar.
Finally, this makes providing the alternative action more obvious and precise, since it isn’t the first time the employees have heard this:
“When something like this arises, I expect it to be communicated to me in a timely manner.”
So in this scenario, the manager has been consistent, the performance feedback has been consistent with the expectations, and the likelihood of the team doing this again becomes less.
Providing expectations is a useful activity!
Does your manager consistently provide expectations on what the expected performance bar is? Does the feedback provided to you tie back to those expectations? For you management designers out there, what do you do to assure that managers consistently provide expectations?