Are You Going the Extra Mile?

Meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, assessing discretionary effort and the frequency of that “discretionary” effort are all part of the art and science of setting expectations and assessing performance. Whether at work or with personal performance, the performer needs to know and understand what the expectations are and how perceptions can cloud the assessment.cycling extra mile

We live in a world generalized world defined by  “awesomes” and “great jobs”, always, usually and most of the time. It’s easy to feel we are going the extra mile when we feel the work appears harder and requires more thought, time and effort. But maybe in reality, we aren’t going the extra mile. Case in point.

I am a cyclist. I ride a specific number of hours per week in 15 and 20 mile segments. 15 miles is my “meets expectations.” I feel good when I at least meet expectations. Occasionally, when I don’t want to do a full 20 miles, I get the urge to just “go the extra mile” after a 15 mile segment and ride a little further thinking it is “about a mile.” As I rode, I reflected on projects I have worked with in organizations on performance management.  There are healthy, breadth and depth discussions about measuring performance including defining discretionary effort and how much should be identified and recognized in the appraisal rating system. So, this last week as I rode my “extra mile”,  I measured the distance. Needless to say, my mile was not a mile. It was .76 miles and I was kidding myself that I was adding anything near an extra mile. I was definitely pushing a little extra but not an exact mile. My personal innumeracy had kicked in.

Completing a performance appraisal on my staff in the past has been one of my least favorites management tasks. No matter how you write or phrase it, there are few individuals who really like to be a “meets expectations.” Many employees sincerely think they are consistently exceeding expectations and this can be for many reasons. Expectations may not be concrete and clear. There is overblown encouragement with the verbal praise of awesome and great job that can lead someone to believe they are always exceeding expectations. Please note! I am not against verbal praise as I have been a manager/cheerleader and strongly believe in the power of praise! But perhaps the praise is many times not specific enough creating misperceptions of actual performance.  And then again, perhaps there is not enough continuous dialogue about performance, or there is an organizational cultural belief that “meets expectations” is negative, a  “not good enough”, rather than a positive appraisal that the person is doing the job he/she is being paid to do.

Just for today:

How does your organizational culture or department microculture view “meets expectations?”

How can you learn what it takes to meet and exceed expectations?

If you are a manager, how can you share openly and honestly exactly what discretionary effort above beyond a vague “doing more” and “appears engaged?”

In what ways does your organization values the type and frequency of discretionary effort?

What is the language you use for verbal praise and are you creating the perception you want to create?


Be specific and include enough details so the person knows they are meeting or exceeding expectations in their actions and words. Examples:

“You truly exceed in your customer service skills. You have worked here two years and I have not received one complaint. In addition, I have observed you handle very difficult situations which normally would be handled by a manager.”

“Thank you for keeping the project on time and managing meetings well. You are definitely meeting expectations of your position. If you stay 20% under budget, you will exceed expectations.”

“You truly exceeded my expectations with your presentation today. Your last presentation was good, I did not have any real comments, but the added piktograph and data enhanced what we are trying to share through words. Thank you for your effort.”


 Ask to Clarify:

What are real examples of what it takes to receive anything beyond a “meets expectations?”

What is the frequency?

What are the breadth and depth of the actions I need to do to receive an “exceeds expectations”?

What is the best way to share my accomplishments?

How will I measure my results?


Want to learn more about giving feedback and setting performance expectations? Click here and visit my library for more!


Lisa Boesen, MAOM, is a Certified Masted Coach and HR Professional. She enjoys working clients who want to work through barriers, improve resilience and approach opportunities with renewed energy and curiosity. To request more information or a free consultation, click here. 

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