Leaders make common mistakes with job descriptions when hiring and reviewing performance. The consequence is an increased probability of hiring mistakes or providing someone with useless performance feedback. Leaders often fall into this trap to avoid accountability or because they fear a performance expectation is flawed.

Most of these errors are entirely preventable. Here are three mistakes every leader should watch out for.



Describing A Job In Vague Terms

“Supporting the marketing team in promoting our products” is too vague. What does that mean? What level of performance is considered poor, good or great? Watch out for “-ing” verb tenses, as they are often too vague. Instead, consider a more specific statement of the job, such as “To help our customers modernize their inventory management systems by increasing sales of existing customers by 20% per year through new product introduction.” We would consider that an essential statement of the role’s mission, which is a high-level but specific explanation of why the job exists.


Focusing Only On Actions, Not Results

Some leaders make the mistake of wording their expectations in terms of only actions, not results. “Contact at least 20 existing customers per week and conduct an account review with at least five customers weekly.” That is a perfect expectation of an “input” or an “action,” but it is insufficient if all expectations are just actions, with no eye for the expected results. The risk is that people go through the motions of doing prescribed actions without feeling the urge to deliver a specific outcome. And your organization succeeds or fails based on results in critical areas, not actions.


Solely Focusing On Results, Not Actions

Other leaders make the mistake of wording their expectations in terms of big-picture results without regard to the actions that are likely to achieve them. “Grow revenue at least 15% per year” is a very specific “what.” But to make that expectation more achievable, you must also list several actions that are expected to help achieve that result.

Instead of creating job descriptions, I encourage colleagues and clients to follow a practice called writing a “scorecard.” A scorecard has a clear mission for the role. It identifies 5–7 outcomes you expect a person to achieve by a specific date. The outcomes are a mixture of actions you want the person to take and the results you expect them to achieve. This makes it easy to “score” whether someone has achieved the outcomes. Using a scorecard will improve your ability as a leader to hire and coach people to embody the organization’s purpose and take actions that achieve results.


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