I’m just preparing a workshop focusing on setting expectations, for the next module on an in-house management development programme.
In my experience, none of us like to be left not knowing what’s expected of us.
For example, have you ever parked somewhere, thinking it’s perfectly okay, until somebody angrily tells you that it’s private parking and you can’t park there. Or worse still you come back to your car and find you’ve been issued with a parking ticket.
In the first instance you probably feel awkward and apologetic (and probably a bit frustrated that it wasn’t clear and now wondering where you can park instead). And in the second instance you’re probably downright angry as it wasn’t clear there was no public parking.
The same principle of not know what’s expected of you can be confusing and leads to uncertainty within your team. At the very least it makes people feel awkward, and if they’re conscientious they feel bad if they’ve let you down. And of course, it’s frustrating for you because they’ve now not done what you expect.
But, in the long-term, it can also lead to the same frustration, anger and resentment we might feel if issued a parking ticket when it simply wasn’t clear. Not good for keeping employees engaged or for productivity.
So, here are 10 considerations for setting your expectations with your team
- Define what great looks like. It’s easy to assume your team members’ ideas of a good standard is the same, but we all have different perceptions. This is particularly so with criteria which are less tangible, such as the way they interact with customers. ‘Good service’, ‘being helpful’ or ‘giving a warm welcome’ mean different things to different people. Give people examples, and describe what you will see and hear in behavioural terms.
- Focus on telling people what you want to achieve i.e. the end result, rather than always dictating how to do it (unless of course for legal or safety reasons a specific process must be followed). This leaves people with the flexibility to adopt their own style, (and it will be surprised how often they end up improving the process).
- Lead by example, so there are no mixed messages. What you do and say sets the tone and example for your team to follow. Ensure the same rules apply to everyone and that the rest of your supervisory team are consistent with their expectations.
- There will always be times when things don’t go exactly to plan. If your team fully understand the most critical and non-negotiable activities or standards, this will help them prioritise. So, on the odd occasion when something might get left undone it’s the least critical things that get missed off.
- Put tangible metrics in place to measure success. People normally put more effort into the things you monitor than those you don’t. Rather than just measuring your sales or your bottom line, have some yardstick for measuring other aspects of people’s jobs that are critical to your success, e.g. how do you measure the various aspect of your customer service?
- Communicate your metrics. If everyone knows what’s required of them and how this will be measured they can keep track of their own performance and know how they’re doing.
- Set your expectations of new team members early on; no one likes uncertainty or being left in the dark. Establish a thorough induction programme, so new team members can get up to speed as quickly as possible, making it easier for them and putting less pressure on the rest of the team.
- Train from scratch in your way of doing things. Even if you recruit someone with extensive experience it’s vital they fully understand your way of doing things not just how they did things in their last job.
- Observe the same principles for your seasonal team as you do for your permanent team members. Your customers won’t differentiate, and one person not knowing the ropes can have a negative impact on the whole team.
- Communicate to everyone when there is going to be an exception. Maybe there are circumstances on a particular day which mean that some of your rules and processes won’t apply. Make sure though that you remind people when you’re going back to normal.
If you only do one thing, review the last time one of your team members didn’t complete a task the way you expected, and ask yourself how tangible was your expected outcome.
Related video: Setting objectives
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