Tag Archives: expectations

Three Questions

“Team members have three questions,” Pablo continued, “and they all have a bearing on retention.”

  • What is expected of me?
  • How am I doing?
  • Who do I go to for help?

“The third question is the key,” I replied, “and, we can use that key to help us with the first two questions. It is a question of WHO?”

  • Who helps me set expectations in my role, to which I agree?
  • Who helps me understand how I am doing?
  • Who do I go to for help?

Pablo nodded. “How does the saying go? People join companies. People quit managers. People will work (for a while) with substandard pay, substandard benefits, as long as they have a great relationship with their manager. But, even with competitive pay and superior benefits, people will quit if they have a lousy manager.”

“So, it’s not just the role, its the working relationship with their manager,” I said.

“And, working relationships is how we define organizational structure,” Pablo stepped on my line. “Organizational structure is the way we define the working relationships (accountability and authority) between people. Organizational structure is the context in which people work. It is the context in which people engage in work or engage in non-work. Change the context, behavior follows.”**
**Famous quotation from Gustavo Grodnitzky, Culture Trumps Everything

What Were They Thinking?

“I don’t understand,” Geoff began. “We had a meeting. I explained the new way things were going to be done. A couple of people asked questions. Everyone on the team agreed.”

“And?” I asked.

“And when I took a look at the work today, nothing was changed. It was done the same as before without the changes,” he replied. “I don’t know what they are thinking.”

“If you want to know what someone is thinking, watch what they do. People say and agree to all kinds of things. As a manager, never mistake what someone says for what they can do or will do. Don’t listen for their agreement, watch what they do.”

Expectations as Clear as Mud

“Most of the time, your team members will do exactly what is expected of them, if they could just figure out, what that is,” I explained.  “When you observe underperformance, look for the cause.  It is usually in one of these five areas.”

  • Make the expectation (of output) clear.
  • Ensure the availability of required resources.
  • Validate the required skills and sufficient practice for the task.
  • Match the persons capability with the capability required for the task (measured in time span).
  • Ensure the person places a high value on the work (interest or passion for the work).
  • Ensure the person engages in reasonable behaviors required to complete the task.

“But I told my assistant that I needed the report ASAP,” Carolyn objected.  “When I went to find out the status, I found out the report had not even been started.”

“Let’s work through the list.  The expectations were clear to you, but were they clear to the team member?  What does ASAP mean?  You needed the report for the meeting on Friday, so ASAP could mean – as soon as possible before Friday.

“When I look at expectations, clarity of expectations, I think QQTR.  Quantity-Quality-Time-Resources.  If I miss any of these elements, then the expectation is not clear.”

  • What is the quantity of the output?
  • What is the quality standard (so I know what to count and what not to count)?
  • What is the time deadline, specifically, date and time?
  • What resources are available, or not available?


How to Start, as a New Manager, in the Company

Julia was accurate in describing her situation. She was a woman in a male dominated work environment, and now, she was the manager. Her team wasn’t downright hostile, but she would have to earn their respect quickly. There were changes that needed to be made and her boss was expecting results in short order.

“How will you bring value as the new manager on the block?” I asked.

“I think it is important for each team member to understand what I expect from their role on the team.”

“And, how will you do that?”

Julia thought briefly, struggling between what she really thought and what she figured I wanted to hear. “I am going to schedule an individual meeting with each person.” She stopped to check my reaction before going on.

“Okay. What is that meeting going to sound like?” I prodded.

“Questions, I am going to ask questions and listen. I am going to ask questions about what they think their job is, what they think their role is.”

“And why is that an important question?”

Julia knew it was important, but she had never thought about why. Suddenly, she knew. “Before I tell them my expectations, I need to find out where they stand. I need to know how far apart we are. It’s a guarantee we will start from different places. I need to gauge the distance of the journey to find that point where we have common ground.”

I smiled. “The point of intersection, that’s a good place to start. How do you get there?”

The Manager is Accountable

“Roger, the reason we are having this conversation is that I don’t believe your accountability on this project is clear. As the manager on the Phoenix project, you are accountable for the output of your team. You have been working with this project team for more than two years. You are accountable for who is on the team and off the team. You are accountable for monitoring the pace and quality of the team’s output. You are accountable for the work environment.” I stopped, so Roger could catch his breath.

“I know, I know I am accountable. But, if I have team members who are slow walking the job? I mean, I set the example. I am here early. I stay late. I’m engaged,” Roger defended.

“So, let’s say the pace is not meeting what the client expects, or what you expect, as the manager. What could be happening?” I asked.

Roger’s eyes flew to the ceiling, searching for answers in the back of his brain. His head began to nod.

  • “Could be an attitude problem.
  • Or, could be that the expectations are out of line.
  • Could be that the work instructions aren’t clear.
  • Maybe the training wasn’t effective.
  • Maybe we don’t have the right tools available.
  • Or, the way we have the work layout isn’t efficient.”

I could see a clearer understanding infecting Roger’s take on the problem.

“Roger, everything on your list could be valid. Which of those could you have influence on, as the manager of your team?”

Roger’s nod stopped, his eyes intent. “I can impact all of them.”

“So, I expect to see this list written. Then some analysis, which are you going to tackle first? What steps will you take, as the manager, to inspect the work instructions, check out the traininig, look at the work layout.

“This meeting is adjourned. Let’s meet tomorrow morning at ten, and you can tell me your intentions.”