How to set expectations and get the performance you want from your team
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I see a challenge that both seasoned entrepreneurs and seasoned entrepreneurs are constantly faced with, and that is how to get underperforming employees to perform better to avoid going through the difficult firing process. In most cases, I have found that the root of the situation is the lack of clear performance expectations. A 2015 Gallup survey of 2.2 million employees in 550 organizations confirms this impression: it found that only half of staff interviewed fully understood their professional responsibilities.
The ability to set and communicate expectations is important for any leader, as it sets the stage for a more productive and less ambiguous work environment. Establishing these effectively not only helps build trust with employees, but also makes them feel valued – because the simple fact is that they usually have want to to be led… not to let go to produce work and just hope that it is satisfactory.
Results vary greatly when expectations are not clearly defined; an employee may feel underpaid having to repeat work or complete tasks more than once because the desired end result has not been clearly defined, others may feel overworked and late, or underutilized and unappreciated. In addition, your needs as a leader are not being met because staff members do not meet expectations. Not a good environment to foster, even if it was done inadvertently.
Here’s how you can start to turn the tide and move forward.
Related: Great leaders do more than manage expectations, they align them
Set your expectations early and often
Being clear about what an end result should look like, as well as its purpose (revenue, new customers, or other tangible results) is what a team needs to thrive. It also establishes trust and transparency between that team and their manager, as the former has been infused with confidence that they will be able to do their job.
If it follows, then conveying expectations has to be one of the first (and most consistent) tasks of a manager, and it can be done through a wide variety of channels. Basic things such as company dress code, working hours, and other general business behaviors can be communicated through employee manuals or other readily accessible methods. (Remember that these documents should be updated at least once a year to align with changes in the business.) For more detailed questions, frequent checks and reviews of project progress with your team are effective ways to keep expectations in place.
Too many entrepreneurs have the desire to give instructions to a team and then let go without further guidance or support. Unfortunately, this rarely works. Continually reinforcing goals over time just keeps the ball in play. You are the captain of the team, after all, and when players are about to go out of bounds or start making fouls in the game. game, you need to step in and make sure they understand the rules of engagement and realign their actions. Such clarity can also, over time, free you from intensive supervision, as the more staff members understand the rules, as well as your comfort zone and what you want to deliver, a level of mutual trust and confidence will be created. a plan with which they can operate independently.
Related: 3 steps to help employees understand your goals and expectations
What gets measured gets better
Effective leaders should establish Key Performance Indicators (KIPs) for employees that will drive the business forward. When I was working for an international company, we realized that customer deliverables (such as manuals and job descriptions) were not driving the business forward. However, when we focused on annual customer retention as a KPI, our business grew. Retention has become both the goal and the new expectation, as we haven’t had to work so hard to attract new customers throughout the year to combat attrition. Our growth was supported by measured performance.
If you don’t tell them, how will they know?
Have you ever made a mistake and no one told you? Next thing you know, you’re in the middle of a storm trying to figure out what went wrong. It happens to employees with astonishing frequency. If no one is ready to tell someone that they didn’t meet an expectation or that they made a mistake, it sets the stage for a lot of drama and frustration. So if a staff member made a mistake, let them know, but don’t forget to give them some advice on getting things back on track afterwards. Resetting expectations after such a clear conversation is actually simple, and more often than not, you won’t have to repeat yourself unnecessarily further down the road.
Related: Employees only meet expectations when they know what is expected
Finally, setting expectations does not have to be a complicated or arduous process. Keep it simple and never assume that expectations are mutually understood – ask them if they understand what you’re looking for and give them a chance to ask questions. Your job as a leader, after all, is to help remove the obstacles that hinder their accomplishments.