If you are a leader and are reading these words, you may be carrying a secret in your mind. You wish you could find a way to “fix” that one team member. You may not say it that way, and it might be a secret because you don’t want to talk about it. But if you have one team member who just isn’t cutting it, you know what I mean. Today, I am giving you the most important first step you can take in these situations – setting clear expectations.
I know, you think I don’t understand. Everyone else on the team seems to get it. Everyone else is doing their job. It is this one person. Think about this person and ask yourself this question:
Do they know what is expected?
Stop – don’t reply with – they’ve been here (x amount of time) how can they not know, or everyone else knows, or something else focused on them. Here’s the truth:
We can’t expect people to be successful in a role unless they clearly know what is expected of them.
And if people aren’t delivering what you want or need, we must first ask – do they know what is expected? And if they don’t know, we must take some (maybe most) of the responsibility for that fact.
Now that we are past your initial excuses, let’s talk about one of the most important and foundational skills we must master if we want to be a successful leader.
Setting Clear Expectations
Setting clear expectations can help you help those who aren’t currently making the grade, but without clear expectations no one can succeed to their maximum potential. Only once people know what is expected do they have the chance to first meet and then exceed those benchmarks. Here’s how to make your expectations clear:
- Be clear yourself. If you can’t talk about your expectations in clear behavioral and observable terms, how can they be clear? First, make sure you know what you really want and need.
- Write them down. Thoughts are fuzzy, words bring clarity. When you put your thoughts on paper you will clarify them and find what you are missing.
- Share your expectations. While you must be clear that isn’t enough. The key to setting clear expectations is by having a conversation with others so you have a mutual understanding and agreement on those expectations.
- Clarify and discuss. As the leader or boss, the risk is that you will share your expectations then ask the other person if they have questions. This may well short circuit a real conversation and complete understanding. Let the person know that you want a conversation – and let them know that your goal is their complete understanding.
- Set them up to succeed. Once the expectations are mutually clear, make sure people feel they have the skills and tools they need to succeed. Now you can have a productive conversation about helping them reach, and eventually exceed your expectations.
- Find out what they expect of you. Remember that they have expectations and needs of you as their leader/supervisor too. Once you have created this open conversation, now is a good time to find out how you can meet their needs and expectations too.
It is possible that the person you have been thinking about does know the expectations and still isn’t meeting them. I’m not suggesting that the performance gap is always (or only) unclear expectations. I am suggesting, with experience as my guide, that it is more often part of the performance gap than leaders realize.
When you try the ideas above you will likely help close those frustrating performance gaps and you will also create greater clarity, greater momentum, and less stress ad frustration, both for your team members and yourself.
Setting clear expectations is part of our role as a leader but is one of the many things we never had to do before we got promoted to la leadership role! Enter the Bud to Boss Learning Experience. Designed for new and front-line leaders to help them build the skills and confidence they need to succeed (including setting expectations), we have virtually every approach to helping people learn these critical leadership skills. Learn more about your options here.