Expecting the Most Out of People and Getting It….Most of the Time

by Denny Strigl

A key to managing people is clearly articulating what it is you expect them to do.  In Managers, Can You Hear Me Now? much is said about the importance of a manager’s  accountability and how a manager builds accountability in others, but what does a manager do when someone who works for him or her just isn’t getting the job done?

A few weeks ago I received a telephone call from a manager I worked with years ago in Chicago.  She told me that had she not read the book a recent experience she encountered with one of her employees might have turned out very differently.

Here is what she told me:

“About five months ago I had a conversation with one of my employees who had been underperforming for awhile, doing just an OK job in her position.  In addition, as we discussed the work for the upcoming week, this employee told me something I knew not to be true.  After I hung up, I was very angry and vacillated between ignoring it and firing her, thinking it might be easier to ‘throw her under the bus’ and start with someone new–that is, until I realized that as her manager, if I did nothing about the situation then I was not doing my job well either!”  She went on to say, “I remembered one of the tools a good manager uses is clear, concise communication, and by silently stewing about the situation, neither my employee nor I were able to give our best to the tasks at hand.  I picked up the phone and called her right away.  We had a short, concise conversation in which I let her know my disappointment at her ‘untruth’ and also that I expected more from her.”

The manager also told me that she laid out specific tasks and behavior that she wanted accomplished and let her employee know that she was definitely capable of delivering more.

What happened over the next few months was, to use the manager’s words, “an astonishing turnaround.”  The employee is now not just living up to her manager’s expectations, but exceeding them to the point where she is a candidate for the division’s employee of the year award.

As I think about what happened in this situation I draw a couple conclusions:

  1. When managers communicate their expectations clearly and concisely – in understandable, actionable and realistic terms, almost all employees will respond positively.  I believe employees want to meet their managers’ expectations. They want to be successful, and they want to be a member of a successful team.
  2. Good managers make sure they do everything they can to help their employees to do an even better job.

Bottom line:  When managers clearly state their expectations, they are demonstrating trust for their employees – trust that the employees can deliver.  When employees know their manager trusts them, they generally give the manager their best performance.

Related Posts:

Hard-Hitting Lesson #3: Put Your Message in Clear and Concise Terms

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