Friday, February 19, 2010

Do They Know What I Expect?

Are the people you are leading confused? Do they know what you expect? Really?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself as a leader/manager/supervisor of people. Unfortunately, based on the work I have done with leaders, we don't typically take enough time to answer the question thoroughly.

Unclear expectations are one of the primary reasons for "poor performance" in the workplace. If you want to be successful and achieve your desired outcomes, then you need to make very sure that the people who are going to get you there know where "there" is.

We could go into a discussion of the negative consequences of followers not being clear about what their leaders want, but I think there is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. And, the problem in most cases is not a lack of communication. The real problem is that most leaders don't really know what they want. They haven't clearly defined the measurable results they are after.

Leaders usually have big picture goals defined (e.g. a top-line revenue number in a business venture, or the big picture mission in a non-profit organization). And, normally they have a pretty good idea of what activities they want people busy doing. But, the end results they want from those activities hasn't been figured out or well articulated.

Why aren't expectations clearly defined? Because in many cases this exercise is a lot harder than it first appears. Activities are pretty easy to figure out. But the measurable results we want gets a little more tricky - usually because we aren't measuring, or because we don't think far enough.

Here's a quick example. The other day I was working with a company on this. I asked one of the managers to define what results she wanted from one of her administrators. She said she wanted the person to complete all of her A/R collection calls by a certain day each week. So, I asked her if completing the work by a given date was really the result she was after. After some discussion we agreed that the result she wanted was cash collected faster. The problem with her measure (task completed by a certain time) is that it didn't ensure the result she wanted.

In our example, the better approach is to say that we want outstanding invoices paid in a certain number of days (on average). Do you see the difference? In the first case the focus would be on helping the person figure out how to complete the calls by a certain deadline. In the second case, the focus is on designing the process (and related skills required) to get cash in the door. That's what the business really needs to meet its goals, not activities being completed.

What is it that you want? Do you know? Are you defining it in terms of measurable results? More next time.

Seize the day!

No comments:

Post a Comment