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Let Your Expectations Be Known

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Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

~Benjamin Franklin
 
Managing people requires a broad array of skills, but basic management skills are sometimes overlooked. For example, managers sometimes forget how important it is to be clear about their expectations so their staff will understand what they desire. 
 
Simply put, staff will not know what to do unless they are told what results are expected. When expectations have not been shared, usually one of two things happens. Employees will either do what they want to do or they will try to guess your expectations. In either case, results will be disastrous for both the manager and staff member. The manager will feel that the staff member is failing to do what they want done, and the employee will feel frustrated because they cannot please their boss. 
 
The bottom line is that managers must be specific about what they want and need from each team member.
 
Related Article: Why We Miss Our Goals
 
Recently, the owner of a firm was faced with the tough job of finding a replacement for her retiring marketing manager. This situation had her concerned because the marketing manager had so much institutional knowledge that would be hard to replace. 
 
The owner ended up hiring a man who had considerable expertise. Upon starting the job, she had him spend the first seven weeks just working at a very low level with each of her employees to see how he would get along. 
 
During this period, the new marketing manager consistently sent suggestions to the owner, who basically ignored all the ideas because she felt her company was not ready for these changes. 
 
At the end of three months—after the new manager had become part of the organization—she let him go saying she had purposely given him little instruction or guidance since she wanted to see how he would do in this environment. This was a sure recipe for disaster as this employee had nothing, nada, zilch to guide him. Because of this, he was left to guess what she wanted and evidently missed the mark. In the end, much money was wasted and careers were ruined simply because clear and concise expectations were not laid out.
 
In yet another case, a president of a company hired an acting CFO to run the finance area. He gave the acting CFO no direction, and the CFO had to come in to figure out what needed to be done. There were a few major personnel and accounting issues that he needed to work through in order to make the company viable. 
 
Unknown to the acting CFO, the CEO wanted him to focus 100% of his attention on improving profits. This was never communicated to the acting CFO, however, and finally, the acting CFO resigned from this position out of total frustration.
 
This is a sad tale with much loss suffered by both the company and the employee. It is especially tragic knowing it all could have been avoided just by clearly laying out some expectations.
 
Now go out and make sure you have provided each of your direct reports a set of clear short-term and long-term expectations. In order to be effective, these expectations must be fully understood by both parties. Ensuring this will make such a difference in your organization.
 
You can do this.
Published: May 21, 2015
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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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