Category Archives: Managing People

Setting Expectations

Setting Expectations with Employees

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.

Be specific

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.

Be consistent

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.”

Albert Einstein

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.

Action point

If you only do one thing:
Ensure everyone understands the end result you’re aiming for and why.

Setting expectations with employees video

Reminding people of your expectations article


I can’t do that

I can't do thatWhat does it mean when they say “I can’t do that”?

Here’s a scenario I’m sure you’re familiar with – when you ask someone to do something and they tell you “I can’t do that!”

But, what do they really mean?

Let’s imagine it’s a member of your team. You ask them if they can do a particular task and they respond “I can’t do that”. It may not be quite as direct as that; “Erm, I don’t think so” or a simple “no”.

But the result is the same – a barrier.

Of course, the words alone might miss some of the meaning. What does their tone suggest? Is it one of hesitation, or of indignation? What does their body language imply? Fear, frustration, disgust?

Find out what’s prompted their reaction.

Is it merely an excuse due to a lack of willingness because they’re not convinced it’s worth the effort?

Or do they genuinely mean that they’re not capable, due to a lack of skill or knowledge, or some other underlying reason?

I can’t…” might simply mean a lack of confidence, and they’re in need of some reassurance, coaching or practice. Perhaps there are other skills that are a prerequisite, which they don’t yet have. Or, worse they fear it will expose other weaknesses they feel they have.

I can’t…” could mean they haven’t got all the resources they need. Maybe there’s special equipment needed, or a budget they don’t have. Perhaps they don’t think they have the time, or know what they can leave out instead to make time.

I can’t…” may be because they’ve simply not been allowed to do this before. Old systems, processes or procedures have prevented them, and despite the fact you’ve moved on nobody as yet has set out the new ‘rules’, or demonstrated their faith in them to do it.

We mustn’t dismiss the reason might be because they don’t feel it’s right; they don’t believe it’s the right solution for the situation, they might feel is not their place to do it, or they might be concerned it’s not ethical or just.

Why?

Whatever is behind it unless you understand why it can be difficult to move forward.

Simply asking directly “Why can’t you?” could be seen as a criticism or confrontational, so may not be well received or give you the real reason.

A simple, but concerned “… Because?”  might elicit the real reason, but check this isn’t just a stalling device or excuse. So, if example they tell you they can’t do it because they don’t have enough time due to another project or task, you might respond with something along the lines of “if we could re-gig your priorities and free up some time, what then?” This will help to flush out if this is the real reason or just an excuse and if there is another underlying reason which they may be more reluctant to tell you.

So, when you hear comments such as “I can’t do that”, or “we can’t do that” look out for and listen for hesitation and find out what’s behind their response.

Related video: The power of questions

Related article: Old habits die hard


Read the warning signs

read the warning signs

I was taught an important lesson last week; to read the warning signs

The warning sign said, “Remote control not detected”. I ignored it, thinking it’s in my pocket. I assumed the car would not run without the remote being present. I was wrong! It was only when I reached my destination I realised I had dropped my keys before leaving. No keys meant no way to restart the car!

I was stranded.

How often do we or any of our managers ignore the warning signs, only to allow the situation to become worse?

When it comes to managing performance, I believe this happens all the often. Partly because we think we know best, but sometimes for fear of getting it wrong, or simply lack of skills and knowing what to do.

If this sounds like you, or any of your managers, join me on my Managing Performance Masterclass on 16th February.

#managingperformance #managingpeople #managementdevelopment


Old Habits

old habits

Old Habits Die Hard

If you’ve ever tried to give up smoking (or any other bad old habits) you’ll know just how difficult that can be. Most people really do need a very compelling reason to do so.

But breaking old habits isn’t just confined to ‘bad’ habits. I remember a couple of years ago going back to driving a manual car having become used to driving an automatic. For the first week or so I kept stalling it, simply because I’d got out of the habit of having to use the clutch! Old habits die hard.

And in the same way as changing my driving technique, if some of your processes or procedures have changed, it can take a while for everyone to get used to the new way.

There may be some old habits people have got into as a result of time pressures, poor equipment or simply cutting corners. These too can end up being the new norm, the embedded habits that need to be broken before going back to a previous ‘right’ way.

But even after you’ve shown someone the ‘new’ way of doing something, once they get back to the workplace – the slightest obstacle will send people back to their old comfortable way of doing it.

It’s all too easy for people to revert, particularly if that feels more comfortable, is easier or is quicker.

Human nature says we’ll always take the path of least resistance!

Sometimes you need to break the old habit first.

Here are 6 things you can do to help break the old habits

1. Why

Most of us like familiarity, so without having a compelling enough reason, people are unlikely to put much effort into changing their habits. Most people really do need a very compelling reason to do so, that’s in their best interest, not just yours. Will it make their job easier or quicker? Will it make the task more enjoyable? Will it please customers and lead to more tips or fewer complaints? Will it help their teammates?

If people understand the end result they’re aiming for, this can help clarify why something is right versus why something is wrong. They can often see or feel for themselves that the wrong way doesn’t achieve the result they want and vice versa.

If you’re asking someone to do something in a way that’s doing away with something they took pride in in the past, this can make them feel their contribution wasn’t valued. So be sensitive to this and that your reasoning focuses on being even better, rather than discrediting the old way.

2. What good feels like

What can help is to get them to imagine achieving the new habit and how it feels.

For example, a recent client had got into the habit of putting off taking and making calls to customers who she knew were demanding. So rather than her focusing on the potential negative outcome of the call (which was increasingly likely to be the case, the longer she put off dealing with the customer) I got her to focus on the ideal outcome.

If people can envisage the perfect outcome it helps clarify what’s needed and gives people more motivation to change.

3. What to do differently?

Sometimes there are only subtle differences between the right way and the old habit. Once people know what’s wrong and why, it’s considerably easier for them to grasp the right way; or even to identify the right way for themselves.

Be specific on the tangible and measurable indicators, the differences between the right way and the wrong way. This will make it easier for the other person to realise and measure their own performance and more likely to spot when they’ve slipped back.

Quantitative standards or pointers are easier to interpret than qualitative ones. 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 (and of course leading by example) can be helpful, but still be prepared to make the comparison between the right way and the wrong way.

4. I can’t

Look out for and listen for hesitation. If they believe they can’t do it find out why. Is it due to time, resources, authority? Is it due to confidence? Maybe they simply need a little more feedback, support and coaching.

You may believe that they have everything they need, and they are capable, but if they don’t believe so, it’s important you understand why they think this before you can overcome this barrier. Their perception is their reality, so you’ll need to change this perception before moving forward.

The longer it takes to remove that barrier (be it real or imagined) the less likely the new habit will even get started, let alone last.

5. Quick wins

When the old way feels more comfortable, is easier or is quicker, it’s too easy for people to revert; human nature says we’ll always take the path of least resistance!

If someone tries to change their habit, and don’t get results straight away there’s a good chance they decide it isn’t worth the effort. In their mind it’s not working, so it’s too easy for them to give up too soon.

Reduce the risk of this happening by recognising early wins, feeding back on their progress and just how far they’ve come, to encourage them to keep going.

6. Patience

It takes time to establish new habits; to create a new norm, some say as many as 66 times. So, if it’s a task people only do once a day, this might take 2 months or more.

Forming new habits doesn’t necessarily mean you need to retrain people, but they might need a little bit of a helping hand, some feedback and maybe some coaching to keep them on track.

So be patient. Continue to monitor, coach and correct as needed until the new habit is simply second nature.

Take Action to break old habits

If you only do one thing: be prepared to give further coaching, support and feedback until they have formed new habits.

Today’s top tip

Conduct daily buzz briefings to inform the team on what’s happening in your business on a day-to-day basis. Which customers you’re expecting today, when will there be peaks, what’s happening elsewhere in the business, in your industry or locality which could have a knock on effect on your customers?

Related article: https://www.naturallyloyal.com/conscious-incompetence/ ).

Related video: Changing behaviours when people believe they do that already