27 Jan 1.4 State clear expectations of internal groups and individuals
Setting expectations is one of the basic fundamentals of management; yet, many managers fail to do this very important step effectively. As a leader, setting clear expectations is critical to making sure your team understand what is required of them. Of course, this applies to all of the basics like vacation time, appointments, breaks and sickness among others. But even more importantly, it also applies to what is required of different tasks and goal-setting.
There are three areas where providing clear expectations of your staff will have a profound impact on your ability to get the very best from these people… over the short and long term. To lay the foundations for a high performing workplace, managers and leaders need to ensure that they are setting clear expectations around:
- Direction – “Where are we going?”
This includes the Vision and strategy of the organisation (or team) and answers the question “Where are we going?
- Values – “Who are we?”
Values are shared Standards and Behaviours that contribute to the organisational culture and answer the question “Who are we and what do we stand for?”
- Roles and Responsibilities – “What is my contribution?”
This includes ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’, goals and timeframes and answers the question “What’s my contribution to the performance of the business?”
Providing structure starts with defining a direction and setting clear boundaries. Your direction might come from your boss, your customers, your own vision for the future, or even from the collective wisdom of your team. Whichever way it comes about, it needs to be clearly articulated and spoken about often. It ensures you are all on the same page in terms of what needs to be accomplished.
Next, setting clear boundaries requires defining what is within the scope of work and what is not, what appropriate behaviour is and what is not, and what productive work is and what is not. Sometimes this feels bossy; as if you are telling people what to do. But when people have guidelines within which to operate, they are actually more empowered to act, take initiative, and innovate.
Take a second look at job descriptions and job duties. Do they match the work that is actually being done? Are they an appropriate fit for the structure you have set?
Clear roles and responsibilities come from a position description/job statement and work plan so that each employee knows what their contribution is to the overall goals of the business. It also comes from a manager providing clear instructions about tasks and clear outcomes required, with regular progress updates.
Generally, you can expect a job description to accurately describe 50-75% of the role. The rest may require adaptability as needs arise and priorities shift.
Keep in mind job descriptions are the baseline minimum expectation. For those on your team seeking advancement, a career development conversation should focus on above and beyond.
Set Motivating Goals
It is incredibly important to get goals right. When goals support key initiatives and are aligned with the department or organization’s strategic goals, they have a lot of power to direct work almost effortlessly. And when work piles up, stress mounts, and we start to lose sight of how to prioritize, goals can refocus our efforts and help keep us on track.
To be motivating, goals should make a difference, be fairly urgent, have a measurable accomplishment tied to them, and sound challenging. There should be a visible difference between the success and failure of a goal, the timeframe for accomplishment should be shorter than one year, and the completion of the goal should evoke a sense of pride.
Give and Receive Feedback
Nobody is perfect; a conversation that includes two-way feedback is one of the best ways to ensure continued improvement, upward progress, and ultimately, better performance. Additionally, an honest conversation where you seek and accept feedback without defensiveness or excuses builds trust and your relationship with your team.
A good manager and leader will let staff know how their performance will be measured and what successlooks like for them. This is described clearly up front rather than at an annual or bi-annual performance review, and feedback is given regularlyabout whether expectations are being met.
One way you’ll demoralise employees is by saying “that’s not good enough” months after the event. When setting and conveying expectations, say something like “This task/objective will be successful if….” and then fill in the blank.
The Pygmalion Effect – Self-fulfilling Prophecy
Positive expectations influence performance positively, and negative expectations influence performance negatively. In educational circles, this has been termed the Pygmalion Effect or more colloquially, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Everyone has expectations of themselves, their boss, spouse, children, team mates, direct reports, etc. Expectations are communicated consciously or unconsciously and people pick up on cues. People perform in ways consistent with expectations. Setting expectations, and setting them high, improves our leadership capabilities and our people’s performance.
So what does this mean for leaders in the workplace? How do you motivate yourselves to become better leaders by setting higher expectations?
- Remove negative expectations of performance – As leaders we need to remove any cultural, personal, gender, age or other stereotypes we and our peers might hold.
- Wipe the slate clean – Remove any history of underperformance in individuals. Give everyone the chance to make a change to find their purpose and understand their responsibilities and what is expected of them in terms of performance.
- Set high expectations – Instead of small incremental goals, give seemingly difficult goals, also known as stretch goals. This will force them to think differently and work smarter.
- Set the right expectations – There may be unintended consequences is you set the wrong performance indicators and goals. Therefore careful analysis and thinking is required to get people to achieve things they think impossible.
- Train and coach our people to be self-efficacious – After setting our ambitious goals, it is important that we support our staff in being able to reach these goals. This may include skills or knowledge training and workplace coaching or mentoring. Our people must feel it is very important to try and that we will support them through a few missteps and, where necessary, assist directly in building their skills.
- Give feedback – Even our most able and most willing people, who need little skill or knowledge building, need feedback on how they are doing. It is crucial that people who have accepted the challenge of higher expectations feel that warm inner glow of having delivered something difficult. For those who are struggling, we must at first give positive feedback on their level of effort and give constructive feedback on how they can improve their performance.
There are following Four Pygmalion factors:
- Climate – Tone of voice, body language, eye contact
- Input – Challenging assignments, expanded skills
- Output – Allowing employees to speak, offer opinions
- Feedback – Positive reinforcement, constructive criticism, recognition, reward