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Great post, Margaret.

I have seen frequent examples of "but, they're experts, so we have to rate them as 'Exceptional,' by definition!" Too often, in my experience, this has been a stalking horse to mask low expectations. In organizations that are truly stocked with experts, the standards should be higher. Olympic-caliber athletes are experts in their own right, but no one would think of gauging them based on High School athlete standards. When the level of expertise goes up, so should the standards of performance - especially since the compensation has generally gone up, too.

For your "serious mistakes" example, one time I had to work help a group of polygraphers with performance management. Simply measuring the number of polygraphs administered in a given period of time was not an effective metric of performance. After talking to them about their work, it was clear that the performance goal of the polygrapher was to get a test result that could be adjudicated (vice one that yielded an inconclusive result). Moreover, it was clear that there were tangible actions that successful polygraphers took before, during, and after the test that significantly contributed to the adjudication of results. So, we focused the performance measures on those tangible actions that had been shown to contribute to the ultimate goal - vice the prior metrics that had been focused on random activities or simple measures (such as the number of people tested per month).

Joe, thanks so much for all of the insights. Sounds like you have a lot of valuable experience with this topic. I am sure the readers will learn a lot.

(It must have been fun to work with the polygraphers!)

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