Why objective-setting avoids focusing on attitude and behavour!

Research has shown that the reason people fail in roles (particularly in the first year) is 81% down to attitude and behaviour. It's the thing that we talk so much about and have so many difficult conversations over, but rarely makes it into performance objectives.

We know the traditional performance review cycle routine: we agree objectives that are then supposed to be reviewed and updated throughout the year etc. These often repeat targets, ask people to 'continue doing what they are already doing' (!) or might have the odd additional job challenge for the year ahead.

But where is concerning attitude/behaviour dealt with? Many managers are repeating themselves having multiple conversations with people they see as demonstrating the wrong or negative behaviours/habits. This can become a time-consuming loop where nothing really changes! Why aren't objectives handling these concerns if the chat isn't working? One of the main reasons is that the 'concern' has instead been spun as something positive you are encouraged to do and copied into the softer personal development plan as opposed to a 'hard' objective target.

So for someone being 'negative' around others ideas in meetings the PDP may say something like

  • Improve your collaboration with others in meetings...... (this is effectively a 'piece of advice', has a subjective buzzword in it and the individual being negative will probably say 'yep, I've done that'! Even when in the managers opinion they haven't.)

Where instead is the targeted performance objective eg:

  • To help improve teamworking, for every two objections you have, suggest one idea that some agree with in each meeting – consistently happening/‘new normal’ in two months time

  • Why aren't we a bit more blunter with things? Firstly, its sometimes difficult to target the behaviour you want to see so the sentences end up as 'recommendations/advice'. Secondly, objectives are often mandated as needing to be six or twelve months long - behavioural objectives may need to be achieved in a few weeks time. This often doesn't sit neatly in HR's process. Lastly, we can't help ourselves but use those meaningless corporate buzzwords: 'collaborate', 'proactive', 'engage' - which all means different things to different people.

    It is normally the case that concerning behaviours are eventually dealt with via the disciplinary procedure or set out in an informal letter 'of concern' before it gets to a formal stage. There will be a few sentences around expectations and the consequences of not meeting them.

    But, why do we wait until things have got that far to tackle concerning behaviour? If you are fed up chasing people who are non-responsive, having to intervene unnecessarily in stuff someone else should be doing or dealing with people who 'pushback' when you ask them to do things then these should be covered in objectives: early on, if needed, when needed. They should be bluntly measurable and picked up in 121s, support given etc etc.

    Very few managers agree behavioural objectives with their people - it could make all the difference!

    Managing performance for overnight results......