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.

How to Improve the Biggest Variable in Your Company: People

Your company’s biggest variable for success is your people.  Everything your company is known for is a direct result of their motivation, engagement, training, effort, and skill.  Chances are you have a good group that already works for you, but there are probably occasions, or maybe even some people in general, that simply don’t measure up.  This article focuses on increasing the performance of your staff:

  1. Lead from the Bottom Up.  Employees are motivated when they feel needed, included, and part of the team.  Communicate your expectations consistently, and define what your company success should look like.  The old adage, “Man supports what he helps create” works here.  Get your staff involved in the decisions, and delegate responsibilities.  People want to contribute!
  2. Make it Easy to Succeed and Difficult to Fail.  Even with complicated or complex tasks, try to make it easy for your staff to do it correctly by giving them the tools for success.  This includes training, support, and leadership.  If they work on equipment, make sure it’s properly maintained and not outdated.  Constantly look for opportunities to change something to eliminate ways someone could fail at their task.  Ask your staff, “What do you need to do this better?”  They will always tell you!
  3. Cross Train.  Want a more motivated and professional staff?  Keep them sharp by constantly training them in other areas of your business.  People naturally want to contribute and learn, and by giving them more opportunities to succeed than just the one role they play your staff becomes more engaged.
  4. Be Proactive.  Building a “Do It Today” company culture is a constant effort.  Your leaders must always encourage your staff to try to think a few steps ahead in everything they do.  Whether it is answering a question for a client, or working on a project; everyone needs to look forward and address any needs that might be just over the horizon.
  5. Set a Good Example.  Company management should walk the walk.  Just like children take their cues from their parents, employees take their cues from their management leaders.  If you have a supervisory role in your company, you should set the bar for your staff.  Think about how you focus on detail; how you execute your job; how you talk, act and perform.  Your staff is looking to see what you do, and a good many of them will emulate your actions.  If you operate with high standards of performance, so will they.
  6. Paint the Picture.  This phrase is something I use constantly.  “Paint the Picture” means that you have to illustrate to everyone how success will look like in the future.  This is especially true if you are trying to define a company culture change.  This leads to some great discussions and if you have a highly engaged staff they will think of things that you never considered.
  7. Be Fair and Equal.  If you are a leader and outwardly play favorites, you are adding to the difficulty in getting your job accomplished.  Whether if it’s how you speak to people or actions you take, you need to be consistently level with everyone.  Whether you like it or not, your staff talks about you and a lot of it is in a gossip type format.  If you give them ammunition by not treating everyone equally, this can lead to employee dissatisfaction, apathy and low morale.
  8. Celebrate Success.  Want more success?  Celebrate when something great happens and include everyone.  Thank everyone for their contributions, and publically acknowledge key performers.  A public thank you goes a long way, and helps reinforce how you define success in your company culture.
  9. “Catch People Doing It Right”.  You’ve heard this one before, I’m sure.  It works.  Don’t always focus on what your staff is doing wrong (of course that’s important too…), instead focus on encouraging your staff when they are improving on something.  Positive reinforcement.
  10. Get rid of the deadwood.  Eventually you’ll discover that you have some staff that regardless of what you do, will never improve or measure up.  These people bring your company down, and like a dead branch on a tree, need to be pruned.  Your performance review program and managers should be working with this type of person all along, but eventually the writing may be on the wall.