Perfect Phrases for Setting Performance Goals

Perfect Phrases for Setting Performance Goals

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by Douglas Max, Robert Bacal

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Real success is about the future, not the past. As a supervisor, you'll be most effective if you concentrate on setting goals for your employees, rather than assessing past events and behaviors.

This completely revised and updated second edition of Perfect Phrases for Setting Performance Goals



Real success is about the future, not the past. As a supervisor, you'll be most effective if you concentrate on setting goals for your employees, rather than assessing past events and behaviors.

This completely revised and updated second edition of Perfect Phrases for Setting Performance Goals provides hundreds of precisely worded performance goals you can put to use in virtually any situation. This handy,
quick-reference guide provides effective language for:

  • Focusing your people on the most important parts of their jobs
  • Communicating your expectations
  • Aligning employee goals with organizational priorities
  • Improving productivity and morale in the workplace
  • Reducing disagreements during performance reviews

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date:
Perfect Phrases Series
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Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

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Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Communicating Any Performance Plan or Review

By Robert Bacal, Douglas Max

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2011The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-174505-5



Using This Book to Write Better Performance Goals

Before we start you on the path to writing better performance goals, and before we explain how to use this book to help improve both individual work performance and overall performance of your work unit or company, we need to place performance goals within the business and management context and examine why it's important to take the time to establish performance goals for employees.

No. Scratch that. Important isn't the right word. Crucial, critical, and essential are better. If you want better employee performance, engaged staff, higher productivity, and, believe it or not, better morale, you MUST have employees who understand what constitutes their jobs, what they need to achieve, and the levels of achievement needed. Goals and objectives do all that.

Wait, we're jumping ahead.

After all, if you don't see the sense or value in working with employees to set goals, it's not likely you're going to do it.

What Are Performance Goals Used For?

There's a popular misconception that the way to improve performance, whether on an individual basis or for a work unit, is to appraise and evaluate it after the fact. You're probably familiar with the performance appraisal process that is often used once a year. You know the one. It's the time of the year where managers and employees would rather crawl across cut glass than meet to do the appraisals.

Eventually, if nagged enough, manager and employee sit down to discuss and evaluate performance for the past year, or at least the employee's performance. Forms are used to record the conversation and convince everyone that something valuable is going on. They don't convince anyone.

Sometimes the process goes smoothly and sometimes not. More often than not, the appraisal meetings do little to meet the needs of employee or manager, and neither considers them helpful. Or worse, they dread them. Mostly they dread them.

The performance appraisal can be valuable, but not as a stand-alone process. In fact, the many benefits of managing and appraising performance are lost when managers focus solely on the appraisal process as the end point. It's like driving while looking in the rearview mirror: you see what's already past and beyond your control.

If we want to improve performance, we need a forward-looking process to prevent performance problems. We need a forward-looking process to harness and coordinate the work of individual employees so we increase the effectiveness of the work unit and the company in general. After all, that's what we really want—for each employee to contribute to the effectiveness of the whole and, to whatever extent possible, to have everyone win: the manager, the work unit and company, and, most of all, the employee. When the performance management is used to help the employee "win," everyone ends up winning.

The secret of success—for organizations, managers, and employees—is to put more emphasis on making sure employees and managers know what needs to be accomplished in the present and future. When an employee understands what he or she needs to do to succeed, it's much easier to contribute. It's also much easier for managers to do their jobs, to improve productivity, and to manage proactively, rather than spend time stamping out small fires after the fact. Clear purpose helps everyone succeed, and, bottom line, that's what we all want.

Enter performance goals. Like the bull's-eye on an archery target, performance goals specify what the employee needs to aim at. Let's look at how they can help.

For the Organization

To succeed, organizations need to be able to coordinate the work of individual employees and work units, so that everyone is pulling in the same direction. Performance goals provide the foundation to allow this kind of coordination to occur.

The process of setting individual performance goals provides the mechanism for translating the goals of the organization as a whole into smaller chunks that are then assigned or delegated to individual employees. That's necessary because organizations achieve their overall goals to the extent that each employee does his or her part in completing the right job tasks in effective ways.

For the Manager

It's easy to think about performance management and goal setting as "overhead." In a world where many managers are exceedingly busy, there's a tendency to think that performance management and goal setting are ways to create more worthless paper that has little to do with the manager's success.

That's not true. Yes, the process takes time and effort. What's easy to miss is that goal setting is an investment that pays off through higher productivity. Let's look at how properly set goals help managers.

First, most managers want employees to do their jobs with a minimum of direct supervision. Employees who require constant guidance and direction eat up a lot of managerial time, not to mention patience. Where do performance goals fit?

When an employee knows what he or she needs to accomplish and what is expected, it's a lot easier for that employee to work with minimal supervision. Also, helping employees understand how their individual work contributes to the overall goals of the organization enables them to make better decisions on how to spend their time so that their work is consistent with the priorities of the organization.

The result? Employees know what they must do, how well they must do it, and why they are doing it. That means there's much less need for ongoing supervision. Also, clear performance goals allow managers to empower their staff to make decisions relevant to their work without having to consult the manager on every little question. For those of you who are believers in the "employee engagement movement" you'll also recognize that clear goals, through creating empowered employees, encourage employees to find meaning in their work and increase their engagement.

Second, clear goals allow employees to monitor their own progress year-round and correct their efforts as necessary. If employees know what they need to accomplish, they can look at their results as they go and identify barriers to achieving those goals AT THE TIME. Once again, this ability to self-monitor and self-correct means less managerial time is needed to supervise and guide employees.

Third, the performance appraisal/review becomes much easier, causes far less anxiety, and goes much faster when there are clear performance goals. In fact, the better the performance goals, the clearer they are, and the more measurable they are, the less managers and employees have to venture into the realm of vague opinions about performance during the appraisal process. Combine this with the fact that performance goals allow employees to monitor both their efforts and results throughout the year and we get an appraisal process that is much more effective and yields no surprises for the employee.

Finally, let's consider the value of performance goals in helping to proactively identify barriers to performance. It does little good to identify poor performance after the fact or after it has affected the organization. Clear performance goals make it much easier to monitor performance throughout the year and catch situations where performance may be veering off course. What follows is a diagnostic process in which employee and manager can figure out what might be causing performance deficits and take action early. In other words, the goals serve as the basis for an "early warning system," because they are specific enough to allow employee and manager to ga

Excerpted from PERFECT PHRASES for SETTING PERFORMANCE GOALS by Robert Bacal. Copyright © 2011 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Robert Bacal is the author of Managing Performance, The Complete Idiot's
Guide to Consulting
, and other human resources books.

Douglas Max is Managing Director of LR Communications, a firm that conducts on-site seminars in writing and presentation skills.

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