As a leader, you know the difference between a minimum expectation and a goal. It is your job to create expectations, and help your direct reports reach it. Goals, though, are different. Ideally, goals are above and beyond the minimum acceptable. When the goal and the minimum get confused, you only have punishment tactics available to you to drive people toward accomplishment, and you invite minimum performance rather than high-level performance.
To address this challenge, you can use this strategy created by Kevin Eikenberry. Simply set three different performance expectations. We call them A goals, B goals, and C goals. Let your team know what these goals are, and help them achieve them.
The C goal is the Comfortable goal. It doesn’t take much extra to achieve it. In fact, it’s pretty close to the minimum acceptable level. In some cases, it might be the minimum acceptable, and there is no great reward. (Note: in today’s economy, perhaps job security is a reward in itself)
The B goal is the Believable goal. It’s what you really want to see. It is above the minimum, and it is still believable. It takes some extra work, and you might have to do some things differently to achieve it. You can offer some rewards for achieving it. You do not punish for failure to achieve it. Typically, your high performers will reach believeable goals semi-regularly and these are cited as reasons for promotion and regular advancement.
The A goal is the Awesome goal. To achieve it, you will definitely have to work out of your team’s comfort zone. You might need new processes, new tools or additional people. This goal can have some pretty big rewards attached to it (like bonuses), and, like the B goal, no punishment if you fail to achieve it. Awesome goals are generally achieved every 1-3 years, and deserve much recognition.