Great Expectations

At my old credit union (feels weird to say that), we toyed with all sorts of rewards, incentives and contests. What we generally found is that people rise to the occasion. It didn’t matter the reward – money, time off, a pat on the back, ice cream, or a simple hooray at a staff meeting. If a goal was set, expected, measured and most importantly, communicated well, it usually came to fruition, even if there was a little grumbling. And I always found it fascinating that more often than not we would snake in right at the goal line.  This, of course, would leave me wondering:

{What if we set the bar higher?}

Ron Willingham calls this the Law of Limited Performance:
“People soon discover the level of performance their managers will settle for, and then gravitate to that level. Managers then assume that’s all that people are capable of achieving, so they accept it as fact and quit challenging their people to do better. So both reinforce what the other believes.”

I’m not pessimistic enough to believe that people will only do the minimum, but I do find it intriguing that people, in general, will rise to the occasion you set for them provided you actually establish a goal and communicate it well. The problem is that many times expectations aren’t communicated or that we are limited by our own self image.

This was always evident at performance review time. Some employees would be stumped by low marks because they thought they were meeting the expectations their manager set for them, when in fact all along their manager was measuring with a different yardstick. Employees would invariably complain that they never knew what their manager was thinking or needing. Their own self-image didn’t match that of their boss.

It seemed like the missing link in performance was usually this:

Communicate your great expectations.
Then, keep raising the bar until you break it.


About giraphcu

Greetings and salutations! Welcome to gira{ph}, a strategic marketing firm that helps credit unions amplify their greatness to create chemistry with consumers. The credit union movement has given so much to us. This is our way of giving back. Enjoy!
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