Cut through the noise
Employees can only do what you expect when they know what your expectations are. That sounds simple enough, right? How is it then that so few people, when asked, can provide a fantastic—or even just an adequate—answer to “Will you tell me one specific expectation your manager has of you?”
There are three mistakes managers commonly make that undercut their effectiveness. The first two mistakes, failing to set and communicate expectations, and their fixes are detailed in Chapter 1 of Focus on This, Not That, but Mistake #3, failing to maintain a focus on expectations, is nicely “blog-sized.”
Ron Popeil’s infomercial catch phrase "Set it and forget it!" helped generate more than $1 billion in sales of the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie. But, set it and forget it is a dangerous mantra for managers to adopt regarding expectations. This would be like planting a flower bed and never returning to water it, fertilize it, or deadhead flowers that have faded out of bloom. But, frequently that is just what happens in the workplace—about a week or two after annual performance reviews.
Keep in mind, expectations can change—in response to changes in the work environment, staffing levels, organizational shifts, or other reasons. Without your attention, established expectations can become outdated leaving employees potentially doing just what you asked of them but not what you need from them—through no fault of their own.
The Fix: Discuss Performance Against Expectations on an Ongoing Basis
Having defined expectations and established them with your employee, sharing regular feedback with her on her performance creates the expectations trifecta. Think about it, if you were coaching a new driver, would you wait until he drove into a ditch to redirect his performance?
Managers commonly do exactly that by not sharing timely corrective feedback—or any feedback. Some justify “it was just once—he won’t do that again,” others hope it was just once, and still others don’t even notice. That is, they don’t notice until the behavior becomes a pattern that requires them to focus on that—written reprimands, progressive discipline, counseling, or interviewing new candidates to replace a nonperformer—when they could focus on this—recognizing desirable performance as it happens and redirecting disappointing performance when it happens. There also are those who don’t notice performance failures until another employee complains about her peer’s performance or, worse, criticizes her manager for critiquing her performance while looking the other way when an officemate underperforms.
To avoid such mistakes, instead of adopting the set-it-and-forget-it mantra, managers would be better off adopting a don’t-expect-what-you-don’t-inspect mindset. Employees need to receive feedback and recognition at least weekly. Start paying attention and giving recognition and redirection as appropriate. Because, expectations that are not monitored are typically not maintained.
If your approaches to recognition and feedback are not getting the results you desire, check out Chapter 3 of Focus on This, Not That. They are powerful tools when used correctly, which isn’t difficult—once you know how.
©2019 Kimberly Devlin, All rights reserved