Every manager and every employee should sit down each year, at a minimum and agree on expectations for the job. These expectations should include “The What” expectations. One can define these as the actions that need to get done, such as reaching a sales goal or a level of profitability. This agreement should also include “The How” expectations. These could cover issues like how you will interact with customers, responsiveness, timeliness of reporting, interactions with internal employees and a host of other expectations.
The setting of expectations, including “How” and “What” is the most powerful of actions that can be taken by a manager to drive performance in a company. It is also one of the most underused. We often see goals that include only the “What” with no attention to the “How” and yet, employees are often evaluated on these ill-defined goals. We hear that “These are long time employees; they know what they are supposed to be doing.” After ignoring the important step of setting expectations, company executives are then surprised that their evaluation system is broken or weak. Should they be surprised when they have allowed managers to skip the initial step of setting expectations but require conversations around how well direct reports are meeting these never defined expectations?
Once we agree that expectations are a good idea, there needs to be follow-up and continual feedback to compare performance to these expectations. This continuous feedback is the responsibility of the leader or manager but the person held accountable must be the direct report. It is their performance and therefore they must have a plan to demonstrate how well they are tracking to meet or exceed these expectations.