A couple days ago while doing a radio interview, I was asked about how to clarify expectations. I thought I would share my response, as I think it is a common challenge.
As a middle manager, you can immediately improve the focus and productivity of team members by ensuring that they know what is expected of them. When high impact middle managers (that’s what I call the best middle managers) talk to their employees, they go beyond discussing obvious expectations. They ensure that each person has a good understanding of how they can best contribute to the company. Notice the significant difference between these lists of expectations:
The usual expectations conversation includes:
Regular and ongoing work that the employee is responsible for
The types of tasks that this person should own
An expectation to bring questions and problems to the manager
A more effective expectations conversation ALSO includes:
Expectations about how this person should contribute to identifying and solving problems
Expectations about how this person will represent their function and the company
Expectations about generating new ideas and improving results
Expectations about how this employee should analyze and manage organizational resources. (For example, staff, finances, equipment).
Expectation about how this person will manage employees
Expectations about the business relationships this person should maintain and develop
Expectations about deadlines, execution, and results
Expectations about judgment and decisions
Expectations about meeting preparedness and participation
Expectations about planning and communicating work
Expectations of how this person needs to improve his or her performance.
The second list of discussion topics may seem long, but it is helpful to ensure that each person fully understands how he or she can best contribute to the company. You can adapt the list as necessary and based on the job and individual.
You know what they say about assumptions? Many people do not feel they know what their manager expects. This is an easy thing to fix and doing so makes a big difference.
For those of you who are looking at these lists and thinking, "If I tell my folks this, I will come across as dictator and micromanager,"?? let me clarify the intent of the lists. We can be clear and open about expectations without disempowering people, so please don´t let this fear stop you. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I do not advocate control oriented management.
Now let´s turn this around – how many of YOU know what´s expected of you relative to the items in the second list? I cannot tell you how many times I have seen managers behave in a manner that indicates they are clueless that they might be expected to be proactive or a positive role model. If you are unclear about what your manager expects from you, have a discussion with him or her and ask positive, open-ended questions to create a mutual understanding. You will feel much better when you know the results you are expected to produce.
(I adapted the above from a section in my book, H.I.M.M. (High Impact Middle Management):Solutions for Today´s Busy Managers.)