Setting Expectations with Employees
On a recent workshop I was delivering on core management skills one of the managers had a light bulb moment. She suddenly realised that although four months into her role she had never really been specific about setting her standards and expectations for each of her team, and until now they had only been working to the way her predecessor had done things.
I know it can be tempting when you move into a new management role to put your stamp on things and making lots of changes very quickly, which can be unsettling for team members. And just because something isn’t being done the way you would do it, doesn’t make it wrong. But, she had taken time to understand her new role; and observed the team, before evaluating what needed to change. But she’s never really communicated with her team precisely what new expectations were.
This echoes one of the frustrations I often hear when I’m working with a business, i.e. the confusion on exactly what’s expected. What’s expected of the managers and what’s expected of team members.
It’s easy to assume everyone knows what’s expected of them, but a lack of clear direction can be frustrating, confusing and leads to uncertainty for your team members, inconsistencies for your customers and frustration for you.
When expectations are not clear and shared, simple misunderstandings become compounded, potentially turning into personality clashes and communication breakdowns.
The more specific you are about the tangible and measurable indicators, the easier it will be for the other person to measure their success. What does great look like, sound like or feel like for you? What criteria are you using to measure performance?
Quantitative standards or pointers are easier to interpret than qualitative ones. So, for example, if you want the phone answered quickly, specify in how many rings. When it comes to qualitative standards, it can be far more open to personal interpretation, so giving examples and/or demonstrations can be helpful, but still be prepared to make the comparison between the preferred way and the old way.
Often, it’s subtle little nuances that make all the difference to reflect your service culture or improve employee productivity.
By focusing on what you want people to achieve i.e. the end result, rather than dictating how to do it, allows them flexibility to adopt their own style (you’ll be surprised how often they end up improving the process) rather than living in fear of not being able to comply with strict processes.
People are more likely to go above and beyond if they understand how their role helps the overall team’s or business’s objectives.
Your team only get frustrated and confused if you’re saying one thing but doing another. Lead by example, so there are no mixed messages. Simple things such as how you answer the phone, how engergised and positive you are, how much trust you put in others, how open and honest you are when you make a mistake or let someone down.
It’s easy for different managers to have different expectations and different interpretations of the standards. When there is a need for a strict process, if these are detailed in behavioural terms and documented, it’s so much easier for everyone to be consistent. Ensure these same rules apply to everyone and that the rest of your supervisory team are consistent with their expectations. This is particularly relevant if any of your team report to different managers on different shifts.
Make it possible for your team to reach your expectations by providing the appropriate tools, time and training to do the job effectively.
Check your metrics and measures of success are in line with your expectations. For example, if you’re stressing the importance of customer service and to keep the customer happy, but all your metrics are centred on the bottom line and profitability this can send a mixed message.
“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.”
Working with friends and family
No one likes a teacher’s pet and if one person gets recognised more than others or gets singled out for recognition it will certainly not go down well with those who don’t get the same attention (as well as potentially embarrassing the person who gets all the glory).
Be aware of when any of your supervisors or managers are managing friends or family members, This can feel awkward not only for the manager, but also the friend/relative and other team members. Sometimes in an effort to avoid any accusations of favouritism the manager is harder on these people than they are on others in the team. But it’s important they have the same expectations of them as any other team member.
Similarly, when people have been promoted to management positions internally, and are now managing people they’ve worked alongside previously, it might be uncomfortable at first, but if they openly discuss the new dynamics with the team members, By talking about their role, defining boundaries, and aligning on expectations makes it easier all round, and is more likely to gain support.
If you only do one thing:
Ensure everyone understands the end result you’re aiming for and why.