Of all the challenges that we have as leaders in our firms, one of
the most difficult is
expectations and then ensuring that
implementation follows. Whether you are
a partner, a manager or a committee leader setting expectations sounds like an
easy assignment, but it is not. There are many things that should be considered when you
are setting expectations for your team.
- Will you
drive higher sales while minimizing client service complaints?
- Will you get
back to clients quicker when they have questions?
- How will the
- Are there any
foreseen issues that could be created as a result of the expectation?
When you set expectations, typically you are
trying to raise the bar or create some form of uniformity within your firm so
there are some guidelines to follow when you are doing this:
Guideline #1: Make sure that you have buy in from the entire team and let
them participate in setting the expectations.
In this case you may have certain things in mind
before you meet with your team but a good leader is subtle in getting the
expectations put in place and making it look like it was your team's idea all
along. If you just dictate expectations, you are going to have a hard time with
commitment from the team because they have no ownership. When you have buy-in
it's a lot easier to hold your team accountable as well.
Guideline #2: Don't set too many new
expectations all at once.
You are human and so is your team. Don't try to
change the world in one meeting. Effective change doesn't work that way. Figure
out two to three of the most important needs for the project or task you are
working on (with the help of your team of course) and focus on just those
critical items. You may have 15 areas that you want to fix but you must resist
the temptation of trying to fix it all because you will fail.
Guideline #3: Hold people
What's the best thing about the whole team
creating the new expectations? They now have ownership and it takes away
excuses with regards to how they were set up. Make sure that if you set a new
direction for your team that you are the leader of this new direction. As the
leader, you must drive the new behavior not only by your actions but how you
hold others to the standard.
If someone is off track and doing things in a
manner that is not congruent with the expectations, you must "course correct”
with that person immediately. A
professional conversation is necessary, yelling, berating and chastising will
not be effective. It's not enough to "course
correct” once, you must also be consistent and "course correct” over the entire
project or task.
Think of some of the committee or task forces
that you have worked on in the past. You
have a strategic meeting and decide on what you are going to change. The leader talks about how this month or
quarter you will be doing things differently and a huge game plan for how it's
going to be done is developed. No sooner do you get back to your desk when it’s
business as usual for you and your team. Everyone ends up doing things the way
they have always been done without a word from the leader of the meeting about
it. What's the message that is sent? He/she's just not that serious about the
If you want to kill your credibility with your
team, don't follow through on what you say you are going to do. You do this too
often and everything you say to your team will be a joke.
Guideline #4: Follow up and update
There are going to be some growing pains with
expectation changes and it's important to have constant feedback on how things
are going so that you keep your team in the game. Many leaders fall short here
because feedback and updates can take a lot of work and diligence on your part.
This is why you only set two to three new expectations so you are not following
up too much. I think of the hard/easy rule with regards to this guideline. It
may be hard to get your team executing your firm’s expectations in the
beginning but if you stay the course and see it through you have created a new culture
within your firm that, in the end, allows your team to be more successful.
and managers tend to interact with their direct reports only on "special
occasions” such as when something goes wrong or when they want someone to
tackle a new project. As a result, many
managers do not set clear expectations for employees, which can lead to a
variety of performance problems. A few ways to ensure that everyone will adhere
to the expectations are:
Where to start?
One-on-One Dialogs: You
need to set your team up for success, and having consistent meetings that are
strategic will insure a positive result.
These meetings do not need to be long, short and consistent is the
key. Managers must be clear as they
outline the expectations and monitor employees’ progress, then small problems
will not turn into big problems, resources will get used efficiently, employees
will not waste time doing a task the wrong way, they will be more productive
and produce higher quality work and they become more motivated. A lack of clear
expectations will deprive employees of opportunities to learn from their
managers. It deprives them of the opportunity to improve and fine-tune their
- Ask Good Questions: If
you take the time to ask your team good questions the payoff will be felt in
the end results. Questions should be
deeper than simply "How’s everything going?” or "Is everything on track?” or
"Are there any problems I should know about?” Think about questions that will help you
discover if expectations are really being met, such as:
- Can you complete this project? What do you
need from me in order to complete this project?
- What is your plan for achieving this project?
Have you set a schedule for meeting deadlines along the way? What date and time
is the first reporting milestone? What initial steps will you follow? What will
be the benchmarks for success at that milestone?
- Have you created a to-do list or checklist for
each step of the project? How long will step one take? What guidelines are you
following for step one? What about steps two, three, four, and so on?
The first step, and most important, is to
communicate clear and specific performance expectations. For recurring tasks,
that can be accomplished through ongoing dialogs with employees and standard
operating procedures providing step-by-step instructions.
ensure that expectations are clear for special or one-time projects, we suggest
partners and managers work with the team to create a project plan that
identifies initial, intermediate, and final goals; the project’s specifications
and requirements; steps that will be taken to accomplish established goals; and
a timeline for each step.
most managers don’t get enough training in the basics of supervision, such as
setting clear expectations, we recommend that Leadership Education should
become a staple in every firm of every size.
This training should be practical, concrete, and focused on the basics.