<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=129106354165469&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Blog Post

Goals, Feedback and Expectations – Growth and Employee Engagement

Amanda Sollman


This post is the fifth in a series about Tony Robbins' 6 Human Needs. The concept of the 6 Human Needs is one of our "4 Cornerstones" and is taught in every training+coaching program, including The Thriving Leader, Millennial Mastermind and Agribusiness Relationship Mastery Experience. You can learn more about those programs here.

I talked about this a little in the post about variety in the workplace, but there's often no worse "nail in the coffin" of employee engagement than that moment (or series of moments) where an employee begins to feel bored in their role. Now, on one hand, it could be that lack of variety - that they're just doing the same thing over and over again. But boredom could also occur when someone isn't feeling challenged or that they don't see how they're making forward progress.

One of the most important things a manager and/or an organization can do is create opportunities for your employees to grow. Help them push themselves further than they thought possible and, along the way, experience a new set of achievements. Forward momentum and growth is fundamental to any effort to improvement engagement – and one you'll need to think long and hard about implementing successfully.

Growth as a basic human need

A refresher if you're new to this blog series: Renowned personal development expert Tony Robbins writes about six human needs that – after reliable access to food, water, warmth and rest – are critical if we are to feel a sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment. Those needs include:

  1. Certainty
  2. Variety
  3. Significance
  4. Love and Connection
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

I'm breaking each of these needs down and diving into how you can apply these concepts to the business world. So far, I've talked about CertaintyVarietySignificance and Love/Connection, so up next...


Robbins describes Growth as "the need to grow, improve and develop – both in character and in spirit." This makes sense in the professional world – after all, we want our employees to improve – but we're not always that great at creating opportunities for that growth. In this post, we're going to dig into that a little further.

Growth and employee engagement

Most leaders would agree that helping employees grow and performance development is important at a philosophical level, but very few organizations and leaders feel as thought they execute on it in a way that is effective. According to Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report, "Of all the topics keeping leaders up at night, performance management may be one of the most pressing. Employees who are indiferent about what they do and why they do it create an all-but-impossible environment for companies to achieve organic growth."

So what causes that indifference?

In our experience, many companies and managers would love to blame it on the employees themselves. People these days just don't have the drive of previous generations. They believe that if people wanted to grow, they'd go out and make it happen for themselves.

On the flip side, employees want to blame it on management. Even Gallup's research shows this:

  • Only 21% of employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work
  • Just 18% of employees strongly agree that employees who perform better grow faster at their organizations

That means the people who work for you don't believe that tranditional performance management is designed to actually do anything (ask anyone who's dreaded the annual performance review with a vengeance) and they're not sure that, even if they perform better, it will get them anywhere in the long run.

So I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Creating a path for growth must be a team effort between company leaders, managers and employees alike.

In today's most successful organizations with the highest rates of engagement, leadership is actively involved in supporting the growth journey of their employees through clear communication, resources and opportunities. And by virtue of that first step, employees are more open about where they'd like their future to go and more engaged in taking the steps to get there.

helping employees experience more Growth

 Recognizing the importance of individual growth and organizational performance development, the next question becomes: How? How do I help my employees grow more effectively and in a way where they're engaged in the process? Here's some ideas that have yielded results for our clients:

  • Set clear expectations. Both Gallup and our experience demonstrates that the vast number of employees in workplaces today don't know what's expected of them in their role. For example, Gallup found that just 41% of employees strongly agree that their job description aligns well with the work they're asked to do. However, if reality and expectations align, those employees are 2.5x more likely to be engaged in their role. The same thing also goes for sales goals and other success benchmarks – if your employees don't have a clear understanding of what your expecatations are, they will struggle to reach them. However, if they know what success looks like, it's easier to make a plan to get there.

  • Involve employees in the goal-setting process. Do goals and targets within your organization get handed down from on high or is the employee involved in that process? If it's the former, you're not alone. According to Gallup, only 30% of employees strongly agree that their manager involves them in setting their goals at work. However, a shift to "collaborative goal setting ensures that employees have a voice in setting performance expectations that are fair, relevant and challenging," which then creates more buy-in. 

  • Avoid a "one-size-fits-all" approach at all costs. All too often, companies set the same goals for all employees and disregard variations in strengths, skillset, and market situations. Instead of setting blanket expectations, consider creating Individual Development Plans (IDPs). These should take into account individualized goals (which are created in collaboration between manager and employee), strengths, competencies and future plans. A 2015 Forbes.com article by Steve Olenski points out that, "The [IDP] should provide a roadmap for the employee that includes measurable goals and a realistic timeframe for achieving each goal. Taking time to discuss and add detail to the employee development plan or blueprint will increase the likelihood for a return-on-investment for all involved." 

  • Provide feedback regularly. We always hear about Millennials wanting more feedback, but the truth is, frequent feedback is good for all employees – and they aren't getting it right now. Gallup found that:
    • Only 20% of employees strongly agree that they've had a conversation with their manager in the last 6 months about the steps they can take to reach their goals, and
    • Only 19% strongly agree that they've reviewed their greatest success with their manager in that same timeframe.
    • However, if those conversations are had regularly, employees are 2.8x more likely to be engaged in their job!

  • Provide feedback that is meaningful. Just because you're giving feedback, doesn't always mean it's good! Only 23% of employees strongly agree that their manager gives them meaningful feedback, and only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they get helps them do better work. So, when you're giving feedback, consider: 1) Am I clearly communicating what I'm seeing? 2) Am I clearly communicating any changes I want them to be making? 3) Am I giving enough direction (without being a micromanager)? 4) Am I providing enough opportunity for my employee to ask clarifying questions? (A tip: Don't ask, "Do you have questions?" Always assume they do and instead say, "What questions do you have?" You'll be surprised at how much openly they'll share.)
  • Make sure evaluation metrics are fair. Are employees in control of their own success based on how you evaluate them? If they are, they're much more likely to be engaged and driven toward desired outcomes. If they feel as if reaching goals is outside of their control, though, you're much more likely to see disengagement and a "What's the point?" attitude. As a result, it's important to develop goals wisely and adjust throughout the year if market conditions or other factors change.

  • Provide coaching. According to Gallup, "coaching is about maximizing performance through people – it is not micromanagement." This requires understanding your team members, constantly talking to them about their role and progress, and knowing which trigger points motivate them to take action. While we believe that all managers should shift into the role of coach, we also recognize that it may not happen happen immediatly. Leveraging outside coaching can be a great resource for helping your employees grow. (PS - We'd be happy to help with that!)
Supporting employee growth is one of the best investments an organization can make. By being more purposeful in what that looks like, we can increase engagement and create our next generation of leaders.

Have other suggestions for helping your employees grow? Leave them in the comments!

The Thriving Leader_Call-to-Action Button

Photo by Ryan Riggins on Unsplash

Subscribe to Email Updates

Motivating Employees Takes More Than a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Over the last month or so, we've been talking a lot about motivating employees or yourself – misconceptions about what motivation is all about, major roadblocks to motivation, and questions to ask yourself or your employees to discover which...

[Read More...]

Struggling to Motivate Employees (or Yourself)? Try Asking These Questions

If you haven't already checked out the 3 ways you're probably thinking about motivation all wrong or the 7 most common motivation blockers we see in professionals of all kinds, do that now – they lay the groundwork so that you can put these tips...

[Read More...]

7 Motivation Blockers that Could Be Holding You Back

It's easy to find yourself asking, “How do I motivate others?” or “How do I motivate myself?” Especially in our line of work, we hear it all the time – people trying to solve their "motivation problem." There’s just one little problem with that…

[Read More...]

Debunking 3 Myths About Motivation

Between #motivationmonday on Instagram, YouTube channels filled with videos of upbeat music and inspirational speakers, and an app where The Rock yells at you to get your project done– you’d think that motivation should be just a click away.

[Read More...]
View All Blog Posts