When it is performance review time, the people receiving the review go a little over the top about “meeting” expectations and “exceeding” expectations. When I was managing, no one came in and self-rated themselves as “meeting” expectations. It was (90% of the time) “exceeding” expectations.
You know, including me for my own performance review. Hell, I thought I was Outstanding when I obviously gave way more than the rest of my peers. Like when I was out of town for 32-weeks of the year working a company-wide project that I was volunteered for while my coworkers sat comfortably in their cubicles doing the routine work. But that’s a different story (and, no, I didn’t get the Outstanding rating. Exceeds…).
The truth, though, is that most people are “meeting” expectations. The truth, as well, is there is this stigma about meeting expectations. It’s all just so satisfactory and we know we are all so much more than just meeting expectations.
Yes, management types will tell you that just meeting expectations is something to be proud of doing. We think that’s just spin.
But, yes, we should be proud of meeting expectations.
Because meeting expectations is hard. Think about it. How well do you meet the expectations of your significant other? Of your kids? Not easy, day after day, week after week, meeting those expectations when you think about it. How many times to you apologize to your kids or spouse in a week because you’re not meeting expectations? I do it all the time.
But work, somehow, is different. When work is not different. Work, in fact, is much more difficult to meet expectations than meeting those of your spouse or kids. Most people at work don’t know you that well. Their needs and requirements are constantly changing. Your boss changes. The goals change. The company gets better – or worse. Different people are in your work group every year and each brings a different set of skills into play – impacting your work.
First, ensure you understand the expectation. The goal or task or project needs specific definition along with what success looks like in the end. If you can’t define success, you’ll never meet expectations, much less exceed them.
Second, make sure you can measure that progress so that you have a feedback mechanism to ensure you can stay on track. If you can’t measure it, you’ll never nail down the expectation or have a reference point to change the expectation.
Third, tick the tasks off your list for each activity that helps you meet the definition of the expectation. If you don’t perform, you’ll never get a “meets” expectation much less an exceeds. If you can’t do the tasks, you won’t get to success.
Finally, make sure your talking with that person who has the expectation (e.g., your manager or coworker) so that you can describe your progress. If you wait until you think you are all done, or wait until the performance review, you’ll have missed out on the fact that conditions changed and what your expectation was no longer is. And you get bit. Talk and recalibrate so that your work continues to meet changing expectations.
How am I meeting your expectations?