Drop your expectations. Define desired outcomes instead.

Expectations-based performance reviews are outdated.

Organizations are full of hard-working, decent people doing good work. Many leadership teams, however, are regularly disappointed when their teams don’t meet expectations. When it comes to their employees, employers talk a lot about “expectations” – even performance reviews center around whether employees have not met, met or exceeded expectations.

Think about an employee’s frustration when their entire performance hinges on another person’s “expectations.” Then add the fact that most managers and leadership teams do a terrible job of clearly defining expectations for their team.

About 30 percent of the time this happens because the team’s leadership isn’t focused on growing their employees and, instead, has assumed their team is “ok” with minimal direction. We’ll get to this lot soon enough. More on how to avoid this here.

[bctt tweet=”Companies are living organisms. #Expectations are always evolving. #growth”]

The other 70 percent of the time, it’s because companies are living organisms. The expectations that we set in January don’t always match what we need in the months to follow.

[bctt tweet=”A good #team needs a #leader who can define the required outcomes, while providing guidance and advice on how to achieve them.  #leadbyserving”]

Aligning the team behind specific outcomes will catapult the right team into action, while a focus on behaviors or “activities” don’t guarantee those kind of results.

Desired outcomes often stay static, while behaviors needed to achieve them may evolve throughout the year.

Outcomes vs. Expectations.

Outcomes define the finish line. Expectations don’t. I can expect you to make 60 calls per day or visit 10 clients per week. As long as you do that you’ve “met expectations.” Personally, I don’t want my leadership teams focused on the minimum pieces of flair #officespace . I want them focused on an end goal that will both make them look great and make me happy. What happens if, for instance, those 60 calls and 10 client visits yield no sales? You have to build plans specific to teams and individuals. I talk about this in my “Rookie Leadership Mistakes post”.

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The desired outcome should be focused around sales – the end game – not on behavior-based expectations that may or may not achieve the desired outcome.

[bctt tweet=”Leaders need to create excellence and transformation. #leadership #transformation”]

Why outcomes trump expectations.

When you discuss outcomes in your meetings and when teams track against those outcomes based on the parameters you’ve set for them, more impactful conversations are had.

You also stop wasting time talking about what constitutes a fair expectation. You’ve set the outcome, read up on some inspiring quotes and coach your team to a win!

Steve Carell as Michael from The Office. Caption: How to define desired outcomes.

Be the “World’s Best Boss” and review people based on desired outcomes, not expectations.

Think of this like coaching a football team, but letting the QB call the plays on the field. Most of the time he makes the best call since you’ve trained him to think through difference situations and evaluate the defense.

Sometimes you may need to call an audible, so don’t be afraid to do that.

The right communication to achieve outcomes.

Outcomes require a special type of communication. Encourage the right kind of communication with your team, and they will bring you in as a coach or mentor when needed. This allows you to speak to your peers and your superiors in terms of goals accomplished and not tasks completed. Senior leadership needs to hear about impact made, business driven and lives changed, not a checklist of what got done.

How to design specific outcomes that inspire. 

If you want effective outcomes, you must make them specific. For example, “Realizing significant sales growth in FY-2014” is a vague outcome. What does “significant” mean to you? It’s a relative term. It could mean anything depending on who’s defining it. Your team looks to you to set the pace.

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You need to do that with an outcome like, “Realize 30 percent growth in sales of our online products and 10 percent growth of our retail products over last FY.” Now your team can map to these outcomes and design their plan to accomplish them. If you’re ready for leadership, you’re ready to help others succeed. Read more about leading by serving here.

[bctt tweet=”The best teams can map behaviors to outcomes, and adapt along the way. #adapttogrow #growth”]

3 Questions to ask yourself to become outcome-oriented

So today  – Find time to review the goals and plans you’ve set for your team and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are these goals based on tasks or business outcomes?
  2. How is your team tracking toward those outcomes?
  3. Are you adding advice and driving timelines or are you micromanaging?

Start setting outcomes for our teams. I know you’ll be happy with the results!

How have your best teams handled this challenge? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @wadamj

See you out there! – Adam

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