I like this post from Brain Based Business called How visible are expectations where you work? Here’s a snippet:
When clear focus is missing , workers often complain that they have no idea what their supervisors want"?¦ and yet these same leaders bemoan the fact they can´t get ahead. One frustrated manager approached me after a talk I gave about highlighting specific expectations so people´s brains can register what to go after. "I give my boss whatever he asks for and it´s never the right thing," she complained. Yet when I asked him to list what he wanted, he seems unclear himself. "I´ll know it when I see it," he´d often mumble.
I don’t agree totally with the post, but I do agree that many managers are lousy at clarifying expectations – their expectations, what they want.
Let’s face it, the expectations are clear, but they are likely not what you want. Yours actions, words, and reactions all reinforce notions about what’s expected. The question is, are these defacto expectations aligned to what you need to accomplish within the department?
Here’s an example. I was meeting with a senior leadership team for a small company about a month ago. They were moaning about this one employee they have who is brilliant but can be verbally aloof and abusive – a real jerk to work with (I know this sounds similar to an example I shared a couple posts ago but it is a different company, similar situation). They tolerate her. They were using words like unacceptable and intolerable to describe her bedside manner. I corrected them. Her behaviors are meeting their expectations and are acceptable. By their actions (or inactions) they have set the expectations extremely low for relationship skills – not just for this one person, but for the whole organization.
Needless to say, they did not like hearing this – but thought about it and agreed.
Expectations are clear. Make sure the notions about what excellence looks like match your goals for the department.