• 18th March 2007 - By proteman

    An article in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer aptly titled, “A’s and B’s for Everyone”, just goes to show how important it is to clearly define performance expectations, measurement methods and rating scales in performance management systems. It also shows what goes awry when you don’t get clear.

    The article quotes surveys in which Americans rate themselves on a variety of areas. Here’s a sampling of results:

    - 83% percent of Americans believe they are above-average workers.

    - 74% percent of American adults believe they have above-average common sense.

    - 58% percent of Americans believe they have above-average IQs.

    - 94% percent of university professors say they are better at their job than their average colleague.

    - 60% percent of men age 20 to 39 believe they are better than average in bed. (I threw this one in just for fun.)

    Either lots of people are fooling themselves, or mostly above-average people respond to these surveys.

    This just goes to show you how a simple word like “average” can be perceived differently by so many people. Of course, some things are easy to prove or disprove. For example, it’s not hard to find out that an “average” American IQ is between 90 and 110, so you could say you’re above average if you’re over 110.

    What about some of the other “average” measures? In work and life, these are harder to measure objectively. Take the term “above average common sense.” What does that look like – and who decides what “average common sense looks like?” Obviously 74% of us can’t be above average in common sense, but who among us thinks we’re better than we are?

    Take this as a lesson, managers and employees. When you’re discussing performance expectations at the start of your performance management cycle, remember that:

    - Vague words like “average” and “better” need to be defined. How are you going to measure “average”? Better than what? And who decides what “better” looks like?

    - People often think they’re better than they are. Both managers and employees should be accountable for providing specific data and behavioral examples to support ratings. It’s not enough to say, “I think you’re below average in X area.” Support your rating by saying, “Here are some examples of why I’m rating you below (or above) average.”

    - Make it OK to be average. Angela Hayes (played by Mena Suvani) in American Beauty, says “I don’t think there’s anything worse than being ordinary.” Unfortunately, lots of people feel this way – and corporate cultures often encourage this thinking. Not everyone can be above average or the best. And certainly not at everything. So make it OK for people to be average in some areas. How can an organization have candid discussions about leveraging strengths and professional development, if individuals feel pressured to inflate assessments of themselves?

    TLG’s Performance in Action solutions teach managers and employees how to clarify performance expectations and reach a “meeting of the minds” about what success looks like in jobs. Click here for more…


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