Performance feedback is a means to improve your expectation-providing skills
Now let’s take this to a new level. When giving performance feedback to an employee, you are in the position to specifically articulate what you want the employee to do. This is handy information, because it could be a clue that you never actually set this expectation in the first place.
Let’s say you are in charge of a team working on a significant systems delivery. The team has been working on it for a couple of months without significant issue, and the Vice President comes into your office saying, “I don’t know what’s going on with this systems delivery project!” OK, so this is a problem. Something needs to be solved. You determine that the VP wants a visibility to the project status, and you work out a format and timing for getting this info to the VP. Nobody wanted this crisis to happen, but it did.
OK, so now you need to course-correct the team. That is, provide performance feedback to change behaviors. The team is doing one thing (not providing a certain kind of status), and now you need the team to communicate directly to the VP.
Note how in this example, the performance of the team members – including the manager (that’s you) — is sub-par only after discovering this new information. It’s the school of hard knocks, but this is also known as learning on the job.
So you give the new instructions on how to communicate the status to the VP – a.k.a., performance feedback — to the specific team members who are now responsible for this duty. They are now expected to change behavior moving forward. They weren’t expected to before, but now they are. This is a good example of how giving feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that the prior behavior was wrong, but it does mean that you still have to have that feedback discussion.
Note that in this example I don’t recommend that you tell everyone on the team this new thing, as this creeps into the zone of “Public Feedback”, which is more confusing than illuminating for the public, and creates highly variant behaviors. Stick to the people whose individual behaviors you need to change.
Now, back to the providing expectations part: Apply what you just learned!
You have just learned that, in the future, you need to provide expectations for how your employees communicate with the VP, in what context, and in what format. Don’t let this go to waste.
In your need to give feedback to change behaviors, you have just learned something about providing performance expectations.
So in the future, add this to your list of expectations for how you expect the people on your team to behave.
On the next project, you may 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 progress
e) Participate actively, or don’t participate at all
f) Work in a collaborative manner that focuses on resolving problems
g) Provide professional and regular updates to the designated stakeholders via the channels provided
Your expectation-setting skills are just that much better. Note that you have done an end-around from the reactive “public feedback scourge” and are now a pro-active, vision setting manager. Good job for taking this step!
Have you ever applied what you learned from a previous set of experiences to improve how you provide expectations for behavior – in advance? Does your manager typically provide expectations on how you should perform, or is it more reactive?