The following is a guest post by Executive Editor Christina Parisi on what she learned from our upcoming book 2600 Phrases for Setting Effective Performance Goals by Paul Falcone.
Every employee has behaviors that affect their performance that you wish you could talk to them about, openly and not under your breath. The performance management process is one of the tools that you can use to broach these topics by setting goals.
We know, of course, that goals should be SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. But that kind of advice doesn’t help much when you are trying to tackle difficult issues through performance management, or when you are dealing with difficult employees.
So as the New Year looms, and that performance goal paperwork stares you in the face, it’s time to start working on some of those issues and coming up with truly smart goals—ones that are not always time-bound, but that are specific enough for employees to strive toward and that are objective enough not to set them off. Here are five examples of what you might want to say to employees and some suggestions on how to word them effectively. The sample goals come from our own performance management guru, Paul Falcone, in his new book 2600 Phrases for Setting Effective Performance Goals.
1. Don’t Be So Defensive! OK, you probably shouldn’t say that to your employees, but you can say: “Welcome constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow.” This is a particularly good goal if you are trying to get an employee used to constructive feedback and he or she has not been receptive.
2. It’s Not All About You! Perhaps you have an employee who has trouble seeing other people’s perspectives. This can lead to a lot of conflict, so try this as a goal: “Restate the other’s point of view before offering an alternative solution.” Or, if the employee is a manager, this can be quite effective: “Legitimize others’ points of view even if you disagree.”
3. Can’t You Get Here on Time for Once? This is perhaps better phrased: “Arrive at the office on time and ready to begin work by your scheduled start time.” Similar issues can be addressed by goals such as: “Avoid taking sick days up to the policy maximum,” and “Avoid ‘patterning’ sick days around your weekends or holidays.”
4. You’re So Easily Distracted! This issue is usually a sign that employees are having trouble prioritizing. You can attack this problem with goals like this: “Label priorities from A to F to help you focus on high-payoff activities.” Or, “Regularly communicate your questions or concerns in order to avoid unnecessary or unproductive activities.”
5. Your Work Is Sloppy! OK, don’t use the “s” word, it has all sorts of negative baggage. Employees who have this problem are usually aware that they are not “detail-oriented” and a more gentle reminder will work better. Here are some goals to address this issue: “Focus on tying up all loose ends before closing out or submitting a project.” Or, “Regularly employ to-do lists and checklists in order to ensure peace of mind that no step was skipped or overlooked.”
These are, of course, just a few examples of how you can address common problems through setting goals with employees. To effectively manage employees, you will need more than a few intelligently worded goals. You should probably also read up on some of Paul’s other books such as 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees and 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems. Sometimes a few objectively phrased words are all you need to give you the confidence to tackle problems with employees.
Christina Parisi is an Executive Editor at AMACOM Books and the Director of AMA Self-Studies. She has been with AMACOM for 12 years and acquires books in management, leadership, training, HR, and general business. For book submission guidelines, see our website.