Writing objectives that define what we expect of our staff can be a challenge. Many managers know that research shows that staff members who know clearly what is expected of them are both more productive and have higher levels of job satisfaction than those who don’t. They might also know that achieving high levels of clarity with our staff is sometimes easier said than done, particularly for those areas of performance that are unquantifiable – the behaviours rather than the numbers. This is why I’m often asked by the managers, team leaders, supervisors and business owners I work with to help them to define and describe more clearly what they want from their staff. You might also be looking for a way to help your managers with writing objectives? Here’s a technique that works really well – using a model – and how you could explain the technique to the managers in your business
Writing Objectives – How to use a Model
The simple idea here is to find someone who is performing well in the area and then use that person as your model of good performance
So, if you think Dev is a really effective team player, you describe what you see them doing that makes you think of them as an effective team player
Or if Carole is getting great feedback from clients you find out what she’s doing to get that feedback so you can use her as a model for writing objectives for ‘effective client management’
The key here is to focus on the behaviours the person is demonstrating – it’s all about analysing what the ‘model’ is doing which is so effective.
Writing Objectives - Ways to analyse a model
- By paying close attention to their behaviours – observing them ‘in action’. This means you need to pay particular attention to Dev when he is in ‘team playing mode’. For example, what does he do in team meetings that is so effective? What do you see him doing with his team members? Is it that he often builds on other people’s ideas in meetings? Is it the way he offers support to less experienced team members? You are simply trying to ‘unpick’ what it is that makes you (and probably others) regard him as effective in this area.
- By asking the model. You may not be able to observe the model in action, you may not be able to accompany Carole to her client meetings. The approach here is to find out from them what they do that makes them effective. For example you could ask Carole ‘would you mind spending 10 minutes with me explaining how you get such great feedback from clients?’ You would then be aiming to get Carole to describe specifically what she does that gets such great results. Is it about the preparation she does? Her knowledge of the client? Her ability to adjust her style to meet theirs? Here you are helping Carole ‘unpick’ what makes her so successful in this area.
Clearly you then need to write down the outcomes of your analysis – the ‘first draft’ so to speak for writing objectives. Let’s take a look at example
Writing Objectives – An example (Team Player)
Here’s my description of what I would expect to see if I watched an effective team player in action
- Knows what the team needs to do and what they need to do to contribute
- Looks around and sees when others need help, then offers help
- Involved in team meetings and events – always has something useful to say
- Comes up with ideas on ways the team can work together more effectively
- Other team members say they are good to work with
Now clearly this might not be your description of ‘team playing’, it may look quite different in your organization or for your team. I’m simply aiming here to give you an idea how these behaviours might be demonstrated.
A word of warning when writing objectives using a model
What I don’t mean you should be doing is using the model as an example. Saying to your staff members ‘If you were all like Dev everything would be fine’ or ‘Can’t you just be great with clients, like Carole?’ won’t work (so that’s something you didn’t know then!). What we need to do is to take the information we have gathered and then use that information in writing objectives that describe what good performance looks like (so we use these objectives with our staff to clarify our expectations).
Writing Objectives – Describing the behaviours as performance objectives
In order to make this description into a performance objective you simply need to reframe it into positive outcome language or the language style you usually use in your business for objectives. Here is the team player description written as an objective
Performance objective – Team Player
- Explain the team objectives and your role in meeting those objectives
- Identify when your team members need help or assistance and offer that help
- Fully participate in team meetings and events
- Identify ways the team can work together more effectively
- Gain feedback that you are an effective team worker
Writing Objectives – Summary
When you can describe what your expectations of your staff are you can then begin to share and agree with your staff what these expectations look like in practice – using performance objectives. You can then begin to work with those staff to coach them towards meeting those objectives – and your expectations
In my video ‘Motivating Your Staff with Powerful Performance Objectives‘ I train managers in a number of techniques for writing objectives and how to gain their staff’s commitment to achieving those objectives. Even better the video comes with a bonus e-book ‘The Managers Toolkit: 176 Behavioural Performance Objectives and How to Use Them’ – more than 176 objectives that managers can cut, paste, edit and begin usinng immediately to improve staff motivation and performance. Take a look at the video details HERE
From Joan Henshaw, the author and presenter of the video management training series ‘The 10 Minute Management Toolkit’ – the flexible, cost effective and time effective way to help managers, team leaders and supervisors learn how to motivate their staff to high performance (including writing objectives!)