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Everyone needs goals in both their personal and professional lives to deliver improved performance. And having to act upon key objectives cascaded down from senior and executive management teams is part of everyday life for junior and middle managers. It is how performance is measured through all levels of a business, and central to it delivering on its over-arching mission and strategy.
Setting performance expectations for those in senior and executive level positions can, however, be considered a more exacting challenge. While members of senior leadership teams will undoubtedly have been selected for their high-level capabilities and be driven to improve the overall performance of the organisation via the efforts of their own direct reports and teams, they may pay less attention to their own personal performance.
This is hardly surprising given that once in a senior leadership position, personal development can be a less structured affair and will often take a backseat to day-to-day pressures and primary responsibilities. Senior and executive leaders may also feel they have less to learn than they did in their early career paths so lack the motivation for continual self-improvement.
While most top-level executives possess the skillset and experience to perform their jobs well, it is imperative they are meeting the key objectives which lead to business success and bottom line improvements.
A good starting point is to define what high performance looks like for the company with senior executives and make certain that there is clear linkage between their individual goals and the company’s as a whole. Within this framework of what needs to be achieved, determine an appropriate number of performance expectations for the year ahead – five or six is usually seen as ideal. Set too many and there is a risk of them losing sight of their aims.
While these performance expectations will hinge on the nature of the executive’s role, they are likely to fall into areas such as leadership and management capabilities, people management, strategic direction, ability to reinforce values and expectations, behaviours, organisational culture, financial performance, and working with fellow executives. Make sure the expectations established closely align with the future needs of the business.
While it would be a mistake to attempt to micro-manage a senior executive, their individual performance does need to be continually monitored and evaluated to ensure they are meeting expectations. This process may bring to light specific areas where further leadership development is required. So consider the use of coaching, mentoring or sending the individual on a suitable leadership programme to plug any competency gaps identified.
Regular communication and feedback should also be given to help them revise and make adjustments to their personal performance to prevent them from drifting off course, if necessary. It is important to schedule a performance review of some kind but this could be in the form of a two-way discussion rather than a structured appraisal.
The process of agreeing performance expectations at executive level needs to tick a number of boxes. It must focus on the effectiveness of the individual and the success of the business in the long-term. Ultimately, it has to comprise a careful balance of the objectives of the executives as well as those of the organisation to achieve the best performance outcomes possible.
Read more by Richard Chiumento, here
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