Setting expectations is one of the basic fundamentals of management; yet, many managers fail to do this very important step effectively. Setting expectations first requires planning. The more time you invest on the front end, the more effective your team will be when it is in operations mode. The second component of setting expectations requires communication skills. People cannot read your mind, so to get your team on the same page as you, you must communicate your expectations clearly, in a way they can be heard, and often several times before they become internalized by others. Unless you are experienced and well-practiced, these actions may seem counter-intuitive at first. But they work.
Providing structure starts with defining a direction and setting clear boundaries. Your direction might come from your boss, your customers, your own vision for the future, or even from the collective wisdom of your team. However it comes about, it needs to be clearly articulated and spoken about often. It ensures you are all on the same page in terms of what needs to be accomplished.
Next, setting clear boundaries requires defining what is within the scope of work and what is not, what appropriate behavior is and what is not, and what productive work is and what is not. Sometimes this feels bossy; as if you are telling people what to do. But when people have guidelines within which to operate, they are actually more empowered to act, take initiative, and innovate.
Take a second look at job descriptions and job duties. Do they match the work that is actually being done? Are they an appropriate fit for the structure you have set?
Generally, you can expect a job description to accurately describe 50-75% of the role. The rest may require adaptability as needs arise and priorities shift.
Keep in mind job descriptions are the baseline minimum expectation. For those on your team seeking advancement, a career development conversation should focus on above and beyond.
It is incredibly important to get goals right. When goals support key initiatives and are aligned with the department or organization’s strategic goals, they have a lot of power to direct work almost effortlessly. And when work piles up, stress mounts, and we start to lose sight of how to prioritize, goals can refocus our efforts and help keep us on track.
To be motivating, goals should make a difference, be fairly urgent, have a measurable accomplishment tied to them, and sound challenging. There should be a visible difference between the success and failure of a goal, the timeframe for accomplishment should be shorter than one year, and the completion of the goal should evoke a sense of pride.
Nobody is perfect; a conversation that includes two-way feedback is one of the best ways to ensure continued improvement, upward progress, and ultimately, better performance. Additionally, an honest conversation where you seek and accept feedback without defensiveness or excuses builds trust and your relationship with your team.
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