How often does something like this happen to you? One of your Key Executives hires a new employee. You find out that another candidate was a much better fit, but because she was requesting another $6,000 in total compensation, he didn’t hire her. You think, “The compensation difference between candidates for this position was minor; certainly not enough to disqualify her. So why didn’t he hire her?!”
Obviously, there is a disconnect here. The Key Executive is operating under a different set of expectations. He is thinking that he has a budget to live within and is confident he made the right decision within that constraint. You assume that he knows he can hire anyone, as long as his performance goals are met.
In my work, I have the benefit of working with both CEO’s and their C Suite. In one of my recent Key Executive Peer Advisory Group meetings, my members overwhelmingly agreed that the expectations of their CEOs are unclear. Yet, when I talk to those same CEOs, they are confident that their expectations are crystal clear. Unclear or unspoken expectations not only affect performance and results, they also create conflict. CEO’s are often guilty of this mistake. How can this disconnect be prevented?
One of the biggest problems with CEOs’ communication is that they assume they’ve communicated clearly when they haven’t.
To help you clarify and communicate your expectations, try the following 10 steps:
Do: Put your desired outcomes in writing. The process forces you to be clear. Rewrite them as many times as necessary until all ambiguity is gone. Your additional work in the beginning will not only help you communicate more effectively, but it will also save you much aggravation later.
Don’t: Fool yourself by believing that you “have it all in your head” and skip this step.
Do: Relax when you feel uncomfortable emotions. You will repeatedly need to address issues where you will face resistance, conflict, etc. Learning to manage your own discomfort while remaining engaged in a difficult discussion is one of the most important skills that you can master.
Don’t: Avoid uncomfortable situations. If you ignore a performance or behavior problem, you send a message that the status quo is acceptable, and you will still feel bad (because you avoided the situation).
Do: Start with the “Why” behind your initiative. Share your vision of the end result and intentionally create an open dialogue. You may need to explain your position several times, in different ways, for everyone to understand. Be patient! People will embrace your vision once they understand why it is important to the business and to them personally.
Don’t: Assume that others know what you mean or issue a general order such as “This is a priority.” Regardless of how talented your team is, or how long they have known you, they can’t read your mind.
Do: Ask your Executive Team to create the plan (the “How”) in a SMART format once they understand the desired outcomes (the “What”). Every time you issue an order to a direct-report, stop to determine if any of your expectations was unclear. Your goal is to guide, not to micromanage.
Don’t: Give them a detailed plan. Thinking through the “How” develops their skills.
Do: Establish regular check-in dates and develop metrics for how progress will be measured.
Don’t: Wait until the deadline approaches and assume that everything is fine. This is just abdication of your responsibility.
Do: Have the courage to give and receive feedback frequently, both positive and corrective.
Don’t: Say nothing. Your team wants clarity, and they need to know if they are on track.
Do: Adjust deadlines when necessary. This demonstrates your flexibility and understanding.
Don’t: Stick to impossible deadlines. It is demotivating, and it establishes you as a dictator with unrealistic expectations. Also, don’t arbitrarily raise or lower your expectations. It just creates confusion.
Do: Be a role model for how to set clear, motivating expectations to which others willingly commit. Expect your Executive Team to do the same with their direct-reports.
Don’t: Set expectations only when someone is under-performing.
Do: Meet monthly with each of your Executive Team members to ensure that your expectations and theirs’ are aligned.
Don’t: Assume that one conversation about expectations is sufficient for long-term understanding and performance.
Do: Publicly celebrate when projects meet or exceed expectations. Not only is this fun, but it also reinforces the type of behavior that you want to see in your company.
Don’t: Just move on to the next “big thing”.
Clearly articulated expectations motivate employees, create strong relationships, and, most importantly, are vital to achieving your desired results.