Leadership by Expectations is both a philosophy and a process. Setting clear expectations is necessary and can make a huge difference in performance.
Today it seems that management is more focused on efficiency than on effectiveness. Effectiveness refers to doing the right things. Efficiency refers to doing things right. Peter Drucker taught that efficiency must be built on a foundation of effectiveness. When talent and effort are applied to the wrong things, the results are useless.
For instance, it is efficient to fill out a performance appraisal form at the end of the year. It is effective to meet with employees regularly throughout the year. Yet, talking with one senior manager about how much time he spent with his employees, his immediate response was, “Spend time with my employees? I don’t have time to spend with my employees!”
So if a leader doesn’t spend time with their employees, are they a leader? Why do they need to spend time growing and developing their employees? To enhance performance? To maintain focus? To build relationships and retain talent?
Why do so many managers resist regular performance discussions with their employees? The typical answer is a lack of time. A psychologist once told me that the first reason a patient gives is usually not true. More likely than not the resistance falls into one of four categories:
1) fear of causing morale problems,
2) fear of confrontation and having to defend a position,
3) not having observed anything of substance to talk about, or
4) not knowing how to effectively go about it.
There is a need to shift the paradigm managers and organizations have for leaders. The traditional focus on objectives and results is only part of the story. Yet because objectives are often changed throughout a given period of time, there needs to be some standard that is consistent over the same time period.
Which leads to Leadership by Performance Expectations.
The process is simple.
1. Each position needs to have both performance objectives and behavioral-based performance expectations. Performance expectations that define how the employee is to go about fulfilling their tasks and objectives can be the standard.
Picture having a set of five or six clearly defined and measurable competencies such as: attention to detail, integrity, problem solving, responsiveness, and adaptability that remain constant throughout a given year, while assignments change.
What does this give you? The ability to measure not only the RESULTS of performance but also the ACTIONS the employee takes to accomplish the assignment. What are you now able to measure? Not only are they doing right things, but are they doing the things right? In other words are they being both effective and efficient?
Both Results and Actions are important.
2. The key to Leadership by Expectations is employee involvement. The leader and employees use a simple structured process to select and define the essential competencies for success and the related performance expectations. Recurring tasks and responsibilities and long-term objectives can also be included.
3. Each competency needs a single performance expectation that is written in an outcome based format. Do something in order to get some outcome.
4. The employee gathers verifiable Action Examples of how they have demonstrated the performance expectations in pursuit of their objectives. Documenting one Action Example per week (taking 2-5 minutes) provides the basis for discussions.
5. The leader schedules monthly meetings with the employee. Meeting for 15-20 minutes per month. All the leader needs to do then is ask, which performance expectation do you want to talk about first? The employee then shares an example and then the leader asks the employee to rate the outcome of the example and then the actions taken to get the result.
6. As a pattern of examples begins to emerge the employee can identify personal development needs, leading to a more effective opportunity for the leader to actually act as a coach and help the employee to develop new skills.
Moral: One key to effective leadership is developing the talent and performance of employees. Leadership by Expectations is designed to make the process both effective and efficient.
Author Stephen Moulton
Stephen is the Chief Consultant of Action Insight, author, software inventor, and competency guru.