Leadership Within – Setting Performance Standards

Posted on: December 9, 2019

As we move into our series on employee evaluation, we start with the first key component of a strong performance environment: Performance standards.

Performance standards are the bedrock of any organization and its ability to perform, over time.When effective performance standards are in place, it is clear who holds what roles, how those roles are to be laid out, and ultimately, who is accountable for any actions undertaken.

Performance setting actions of an effective leader builds upon visioning, persuasion and evaluation skills.these guiding functions of leadership allow the team members to connect to a larger sense of purpose in the organization, and link it to the outcomes that are desired.

At it’s heart, performance setting provides clear expectations of how an employee is expected to perform assigned duties. These expectations may morph or change as the organization shifts, or an employee may find their role changing. When these changes do occur a redefinition of the roles, responsibilities and outcomes is required. this can either be done on the fly, or in a formalized setting such as a performance evaluation, where the prior years expectations are evaluated, and the coming years actions are laid out and communicated.

Standards also allow you to examine and review duty competencies and assess whether continuation, realignment, or revitalization is appropriate. Employees that fail to meet prescribed standards may require some level of intervention.


Performance setting in the work unit focuses on either personal (personnel) standards, behavioral expectations or task specific standards. Personnel standards are set by the organization and should be reviewed at the beginning of employment and on a regular basis thereafter. Personnel standards often include work hours, hygiene, interpersonal standards or other aspects of daily life within the organization. Task specific standards are often changed when tasks change, or updated as the capacity, roles or outcomes are changed.

The organization, the work unit, or a combination of the two can set project standards. For example, the organization may have a policy in place that outlines specific procedures related to a task. However, the unit may have options on how to carry out those procedures. The unit leader’s standards build upon the foundational base of the organization’s standards and often include specifics that are applicable to operational realities.

To define a performance standard:

  • Start with a clear identification of who the standard applies to,
  • Define expectations of behavior,
  • Assess what tasks are required to reach the goal,
  • Define task specific standard,
  • Define consequences for failing to comply.

If performance standards don’t currently exist for your team, its time to create them. Use the following sheet to guide the creation of your performance standards.

Once you have performance standards for many of your tasks, and are able to clearly articulate them, you are a step closer to providing a professional evaluation.

that sounds great on the surface, however, most leaders get tripped up because they fail to realize the strategy of language and approach in the delivery of an evaluation. Next time around, I’ll talk about Mentoring and Coaching, and when to use each of these skills.