For Better Results Set Clear Expectations

“In order to maximize your group’s performance results, as a leader you need to set clear expectations.”  You’ve heard this before, right?  What does this really mean in a day to day, sweating like a pig, gotta get it done, orders have to ship atmosphere that is real life at work?

Simple…  The phrase means that as a leader your staff has to have a clear comprehension of the direction and daily rules that they will use to guide their effort.  This could be macro rules such as what time to show up for work, to micro rules on specific actions like how much tape to use when closing a box.  Without definitive expectations from the leaders in your company, your staff will operate in the manner that they choose or think will work.  Sometimes this won’t be a problem, but often it’s a mixed-up bag of success and failure alike.

Here are some thoughts on the subject:

  1. Get it in writing.  This is the first step, and this thought can contain everything from your employee handbook to your actual work orders.  If you provide something that your employees can refer to, then there shouldn’t be any question as whether or not you can wear flip flops on the production floor, or if an order is shipping UPS or FedEx.  For work orders, the more detailed the information provided the better…but there can be overkill if you just print out all twenty pages of your e-mail conversation and attach it to the work order.  Be concise with your language for positive results.  No need for the entire conversation if some bullet points or some key words will work.
  2. Make sure your staff is trained.  People don’t walk through your doors in the morning and magically obtain the knowledge that you want them to have, or behave in the manner that you would like them to either.  You have to train them, and reinforce that training constantly.  It’s a manager’s responsibility to make sure that their staff members have the training and knowledge regarding their job, and most importantly, how it is to be performed.  Some tasks are complicated, and there may be some mistakes while someone is learning a new skill.  Also, the employee is cross trained in related functions, the better they will perform their core job duties.  Broadening someone’s perspective can have some very beneficial results.
  3. Communication is critical.  How your company communicates clear expectations is critical to the overall success and performance of your staff.  Not everything is going to be welcomed either.  You may have to have people stay late to get a job finished for a client.  How are you delivering that message?  Is the clear expectation already there that staff stays to complete important tasks, or are you guarding the door and herding everyone back to work to finish up?  You don’t have to deliver the message like a dictator either.  Move your company culture needle to the point that the expectation is that the entire staff knows what’s expected and is motivated to deliver.  That happens by constantly communicating through training, internal documents, person to person communication, performance reviews, and daily positive reinforcement.
  4. Individual vs. Group Tasks.  Do your employees know what is expected of them in both?  Most company departments have a culture all of their own, as they have different leaders and tasks.   In some circumstances an employee may be handling a task by themselves.  In others, a team may be required.  In a team setting, the performance for the group is basically set by the weakest member.  Here’s where leadership with your employees can kick up your performance if members of the team train and coach that weakest member as they work.  Recognize that leadership and develop and nurture it.
  5. Trust, but verify.  You can’t be everywhere at once, so to a certain degree you have to trust that your staff is executing their jobs.  It’s important to have that trust, as it helps you sleep better at night.  However, that being said, I’m a big believer in following behind someone and reviewing their work.  Did they really do it?  How was the quality?  Sometimes I’ll do this when the staff isn’t around, sometimes in front of them.  People need to know that you are reviewing their work.  It’s important to have conversations with them regarding it.  Discuss the good points, for reinforcement, and the not so good points, for correction and training.  Show them the craftsmanship that you want, and the expectation will be for them to execute it properly.

Are you having trouble getting your staff to understand your expectations?  If so, I’d love to help you!!  Please contact me at and let’s get your company back on track.

Trust – The Ultimate Five Letter Word

Whatever happened to TRUST in American society and business?  Long ago, a man’s word was his bond.  Businesses valued their customers and supply chain partners.  Trust was earned with a simple handshake.

A simplistic and naïve point of view, sure…  Would we all be better served if people focused on building trust in their everyday relationships and interactions?  In my view, the answer is a resounding “Hell Yes”.

I consistently see too many people shoot towards short term gains, and pass right by long term ideals.  It’s sad really.  Everyone always wonders “why” and “what happened” to American businesses.  From my perspective, they’ve lost the ability to hire and maintain a trustworthy staff.  It’s a rare occasion when someone in a business really makes you feel special and that they value your time, and more importantly your money.

It’s not all bad.  Some companies will go to great lengths to keep your trust, as when the makers of Tylenol removed their product off the shelves in the United States after the tampering scandal.  They quickly self-imposed the recall and then invented their security systems to keep their product safe before restocking the shelves.  That’s big.

Compare that to how BP has bungled the Gulf Oil spill disaster, and then posting record profits the next quarter while the entire economy of the Gulf region still suffers.  I for one will drive right by a BP on the way to another gas station, even if their marquee sign posts higher gas prices.  That’s big too.

To me, earning trust is just common sense:

  1. Do what you say you are going to do.  If you make a promise keep it.  Even if it’s hard or inconvenient.  Do it.
  2. Be honest.
  3. Give.  Give your time, your love, your support, your thoughts, your efforts, your emotions, your participation, yourself.  Don’t worry about the payback, or “what’s in it for me”.
  4. Have empathy for others.  Especially if they work for you.  You don’t manage robots…
  5. Trust isn’t about money.  Money doesn’t buy trust, nor should it.
  6. Do the right thing.
  7. Lastly, trust is earned – not given.  The more trust you desire, the harder you have to work for it.  Put your time in.

I’m lucky to have some great people in my life that I trust.  Sure, I’ve faltered and done some regrettable things; who hasn’t?  I’m always working on gaining more trust.  It’s the currency that I want in my corner when the chips are down and I need to spend it.

Trust me on this…