Are You and Your Team Members on the Same Page about Expectations?

July 2, 2018

When you first employ people, relationships usually start off fairly clear. Hopefully both you and the new employees have a somewhat clear sense of what their contractual duties are and what they are being paid for.

Over time, however, many work roles begin to devolve into emotional-based or activity-based relationships. When that happens, managers find themselves spending the majority of their time supporting or empathizing with employees who are not producing at agreed-upon levels.

Performance expectations need to remain front and center in work relationships. Bad things happen when there isn't a constant re-clarification of what is expected from a results and behavior standpoint.

A lack of clear agreements is the basis for all types of discontent.

Be sure to include the bigger picture

Management is about organizing people's work so that people are actually doing things to help the department, and the organization as a whole, accomplish set goals. One of the important distinctions you need to address as a manager is whether you are sharing with people the actual results you expect them to produce, rather than just the activities they need to engage in.

If people are going to have a clear understanding of what results the organization is looking for, they need a sense of some of the larger issues the company is facing. For example, where is the company going? What kind of relationship are you trying to have with your customers? What kind of services are you providing?

As a leader, this means asking yourself, "To what degree am I clearly communicating to my people what I expect from them and what I need them to accomplish?" This drives a follow-up conversation about what activities you need to engage in to achieve those results.

Try this test

Many times people don't perform to the level that is expected because either there was never a clear agreement on what the expectations were, or those expectations have become unclear over time.

You can check this out for yourself by thinking about one of your own direct reports. Take a minute to identify the five things or results, in descending order of importance, that you hold this employee accountable for. List the most important goal as #1, the second most important goal as #2, etc. Now, ask that employee to write down the five things or results he or she feels most accountable for. Don't reveal your list until the employee is finished writing. Now compare the two lists. To what degree do the two lists match in terms of priority and content?

If you are like most companies, you'll find that the two lists only have about a 20% agreement. In many relationships, managers are surprised to find that they are holding a direct report accountable for results that are completely different from what that employee has on his or her list.

One special note: This is not an opportunity to punish the employee or to beat yourself up. Instead, it is an opportunity to gain some clarity and to create some agreement about getting on the same page.

Good for the organization, good for the employee

An aligned purpose and clear expectations are the foundation of an effective work environment. All good performance starts with clear goals. Make sure that your people's work is on track and on target. Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.

It's good for you and it's good for them.

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