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14/03/2016: Expexctations, Expectations, Expectations

In my time working with many companies, I have found that staff not living up to senior management's expectations is a recurrent theme. This becomes a problem when not addressed immediately - managers become increasingly frustrated while staff remain unaware of the problem. My main concerns when this happens are as follows:

While not addressing the problem, managers take on a great deal of worry, using up valuable time and energy which could of course be better spent elsewhere. Things are left until the manager is so frustrated they then lose their cool and there is a big row. Relationships are damaged as a result.

Often the person not living up to expectations is completely unaware. As nothing has been said they believe they are doing a good job. There is no established agreement of what is expected so it's really hard to measure up.

When staff are allowed to get away with things it can cause friction with other staff. The staff who do live up to their managers' expectations can be disheartened to see others 'getting away with it', leading them to feel unfairly treated or feeling "why bother?" This too impacts on productivity and profitability.

Does this problem sound all too familiar? There is one key solution: setting high, clear, explicit expectations and sharing them from the outset. It is then so much easier to hold people to account effectively. It is useful to remember that we humans are naturally driven to push the boundaries. When we are given too much slack, we push the boundaries even further. The manager-staff relationship is very similar to that of a parent and child unless you teach your staff to take responsibility for their own performance.

To do that effectively, the expectations need to be set right from the first day and revisited regularly. A good way to establish boundaries is through induction and training and staff meetings, ensuring that a shared agreement is reached. It is helpful to offer the expectations in writing so they can be referred to at a later date if they are not met. They need to be an integral part of everyday conversations so that they support the culture of a 'can-do' organisation.

There will be times when people don't deliver what is expected. It is important to deal with this quickly, professionally and with no aggression. There should be a sequential process to manage such situations so if and informal chat doesn't work there are things in place if it requires a more formal approach.

In essence, expectations and boundaries should be clearly laid out. Sequential follow-ups can then be carried out in a non-aggressive yet firm way. This ensures that expectations are consistently met, leading to a reduction in stress and increased productivity.

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