Conceptual Agreement for Performance Goals
At my last full-time job, I had a performance evaluation each year with my supervisor. The format was batch call-and-response. First, I self-evaluated and filled out all sections. Then, my supervisor responded to my content. Finally, we met briefly to go over the content before submitting to HR. In the last section of the evaluation, I had listed my goals for the next year. This meant that, each year, my official performance goals for the following year were determined this way:
- I wrote out a full draft proposal.
- My supervisor read this and wrote comments.
- We met briefly to discuss and conceptually agree to what was written.
- The evaluation was sent to HR.
The above process was mandated neither by my employer nor my supervisor. Rather, I gradient-descended within some incentive landscape dimly visible to me. I “defaulted” to it.
My approach to setting performance goals was to go from a proposal to conceptual agreement. This is backwards . Ideally, a proposal is “merely a summary of conceptual agreement reached prior.”1
How to accomplish this? There is no substitute for a sufficiently long, zero-distractions conversation. Schedule a meeting. What is to be agreed upon?
- Outcomes. What’s needed? Not deliverables, not inputs, not tasks.
- Metrics. How will you know that progress is being made?
- Value. The actual impact of the outcomes. Not enough? Back to outcomes.
Conceptual agreement like this is crucial for value-based fees in consulting1, for eschewing the “default” of hourly rates. However, it’s also applicable to any professional relationship where you deliver value to someone. When is a proposal not a proposal, not an exploration, not a negotiation? When is a proposal actually a summation? When you make it so.