Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sharing Your Expectations

I’m sure most Great Leadership leaders have been though management 101 classes, read books or blogs, and have heard about the importance of setting expectations. We’ve all heard about SMART goals, inspecting what we expect, the importance of job descriptions, and yada, yada, yada.

All good stuff, and I’ll tell you, it’s true.

So why don’t more managers do it? Is it that, like a lot of management and HR practices, we make it sound more complicated than it needs to be? If you’ve ever sat though a lesson on how to write SMART goals, you might come to that conclusion too.

It really doesn't have to be. Here’s all you have to do:

1. Set aside 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Turn off your phone, your email, and shut your door.

2. Take out a blank pad of paper and a pen, or open up a Word document.

3. Think about what you would look for in an ideal employee if you were hiring someone tomorrow. Jot those things down.

4. Think back to all of the performance discussions you’ve had with employees over the last few years. Jot the opposite of those things down, but add the word “don’t” in front of each.

5. Think about all of the things that are important to you that you have not discussed with employees, but you have implied. Add to your list.

6. Think of your best employees – what has made them so good? What does their best work look like and how do they do it? You got it, more for your list.

At the end of 30 minutes or sooner, you should have no problem filling up at least one sheet of paper.

Whatever you do, don’t go back and sanitize it. This is not an official HR job description that has to pass EEO and department of labor standards. It’s simply a list of stuff that anyone who has worked for you for 5 years has probably figured out. Maybe….. but have all of your employees? Perhaps to them it's been like figuring out the secrets of the Da Vinci Code.

I’ll tell you a story I heard from some consultant or trainer – maybe an author – and I can’t remember who, so my apologies to whoever told it. Skip to the end if you've heard it.

A CEO was getting very frustrated with one of her senior managers. She was so fed up, she was about to fire him. But before she did, she felt she should give him one last chance and hired an executive coach to work with the manager at a cost of $20,000.

So after explaining the situation to the coach, the coach asked her to write down a list of expectations that she had for this manager. Basically, the same exercise you just did. He thanked her, and said he would do his best, and left an invoice for 50% of the total bill.

The first thing the coach did when he met with the manager was to give him the list. The manager was amazed – he had never seen anything like that before. He was able to figure out what he was doing wrong and what he needed to do to please his boss and be successful. He thanked the coach and went on his way.

Three months later, the coach met with the CEO to review progress. The CEO was ecstatic with the manager’s performance – a complete turnaround. She asked the coach – “how did you do it?” The coach told the CEO he simply gave the manager the list of expectations and gave her an invoice for the rest of the bill.

The CEO, with a look of shock and anger, said: “You SOB – I’m not paying you - you cheated!”

OK, so maybe the story is a bit of an exaggeration. But maybe not.

I wonder what would happen if you shared that list of expectations at a team meeting or with employees individually? What harm could it do? You could also use the list as a way to onboard new employees - their very own new manager secret decoder ring.

Even better – what if you asked your employees for a list of what they expected from you in order for them to meet your expectations and be successful?

Naw, now that’s just crazy talk.

7 comments:

Kristen said...

What a difference simply sharing what we expect from our employees could make in their overall work output.
Imagine how much time they waste guessing when we could just do your exercise and actually communicate to them what we expect.
Great informative post. Thanks for sharing!

Deb Brahma said...

Hi Dan,
Again an excellent post,introspections can be very
useful.
I was going thru the net and found a very interesting pdf clips, just sharing with . Open ended questions can really build people. http://www.wial.org/publications/power_of_questions.pdf
With Warm Regards
Deb

Harris Silverman- Business Coach said...

In defining expectations, managers need to do some self-examination as well. Are all their expectations fair, based on legitimate business goals? Or are some of them personal preferences and prejudices that are not legitimately the employee's to worry about? To what extent is an employee responsible for a manager's personal preferences? Questions of the correct use of power can enter into this issue, and the degree of introspection necessary on the part of the manager could be part of the reason some managers don't articulate their expectations clearly.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if you have read the blog www.whatdoyouexpect.wordpress.com

Your comment about expectations remind me of what that author writes about.

Dan McCarthy said...

Kristen -
Seems like it could. Thanks

Deb -
Thanks for the resource.

Harris -
Good point, but I think there is a fine line between personal preferences and business goals. If as a manager, you really beleive your prefered behavior or way of doing something will help acheive those business goals, then you owe it to your employee to share it. They may not agree and have a better way - but at least it opens up an dialig.

anon -
thnaks for the resource tip.

SWrightBoucher said...

I love that story! Reminds me of the premise of Tenacity's Clients for Life philosophy: Expect your clients to have expectations you didn't expect them to have. Getting people to write down - and if it's group,agree on expectations, can be an amusing and very worthwhile use of time. thanks.

Dan McCarthy said...

SWright -
Thanks. Might even work for relationships, but then again, I'll that stuff to Dr. Phil and Laura.