Performance Objectives: Deadly Sin No 3


performance objectivesFor many years, when I was a manager, I thought that performance objectives were only good for the ‘numbers’ part of a job. I thought they were about; volume of work, % of sales, $ in savings etc. How wrong I was!  Here’s my Deadly Sin No 3:

Deadly Sin No. 3  – Only focusing on the numbers

Focusing performance objectives only on the numbers (as I did) is a simple, but big, mistake to make. Why? Because the most effective way to use performance objectives is for defining and managing the behavioural element of our employee’s job. Let me explain why

Performance Objectives – The Behaviours    

I’ve written before about the importance of behavioural performance objectives (read more at ‘Performance Objectives: The ‘what’ and the ‘how’’). Without repeating myself too much the key reasons for managing employee behaviours are:

  • Because your employees behaviours are vital to the success of your team and business. You just can’t have a high performing team without effective behaviours
  • Because we all, at some level, judge our employees on the way they behave
  • Because inappropriate or ineffective behaviours are the root cause of most employee performance problems

So a key question now is:

How do we write behavioural Performance Objectives?

Here’s a three-step process for identifying and describing behavioural objectives:

Step One. Identify the Crucial Behaviours

The key questions to ask are:

  • What are the behaviours that differentiate us from our competitors?
  • What are the behaviours that contribute most to our success?
  • What behaviours must a person demonstrate to be successful in this job?
  • What do I want from the people I manage?

Step Two. Describe the Behaviours

Having identified the behaviours you need your employees to demonstrate, here are some methods for describing those behaviours. The overriding question you are seeking to answer is ‘what does this behaviour look like demonstrated in practice?’

Here are three approaches:

1. Use a Model

Think of someone who already demonstrates the behaviour. If, for example, you are trying to describe ‘creativity’ think of someone you consider to be creative and then note down the behaviours that person demonstrates in that area. (Read more at ‘Writing Performance Objectives – Using a Model’)

2. Use your Vision

Ask yourself the question what would it look like? What behaviours would creative people demonstrate in your business? What would creativity look like in practice? What would a person need to do for you to consider them to be creative?

3. Use some Reverse Thinking

Turn the question around by asking what do people who aren’t creative do, or not do? You might think of someone who you think is totally lacking in creativity. What are the behaviours they are demonstrating, or not demonstrating, that makes you think of them in this way? It’s strange but it’s often easier to define what ‘it’ looks like done badly rather than done well. (Read more at ‘Writing Performance Objectives Using Reverse Thinking‘)

Step Three. Writing the Behavioural Performance Objectives

The skill here is in the language used and the discipline lies in the ability to focus on observable behaviours. In short, if you can’t watch someone doing ‘it’ or see the evidence of them having done ‘it’ then it’s unlikely you’ve described behaviour


Effective performance management is much more than managing the ‘numbers’. It’s vitally important that your employees understand both your expectations of their behaviours – the behaviours that directly impact the success of your business – and why those behaviours are so important to the business. Managing the behavioural element of your employee’s performance enables you to help your employees achieve that clarity and perform to the standards you and your business needs

Do you want to read more about Performance Objectives?

performance objectivesWhy not take a look at my e-book ‘Motivating Your Staff with Powerful Performance Objectives’ – a step-by-step guide for managers, team leaders and supervisors who want to motivate their staff to high performance. More details HERE


3 Responses to Performance Objectives: Deadly Sin No 3

  1. […] the job satisfaction of our employees   Read more about how to identify and define behaviours here       […]

  2. […] not just on the ‘what’ of the job but also on the ‘how’ (and avoided the sin of only focusing on the numbers) and you’ve neatly avoided imposing the objectives. Excellent! […]

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