Setting Expectations – How Far?

The other day, I asked a group of “new” managers, “what is the basic thing or task that you need to do for your employees?” The overwhelming favorite was setting expectations. Why is that? It is almost always the first thing that is taught to managers. You have to provide direction to your employees and the best way to do that is setting goals and expectations. They seemed to listen to that lesson well… What if you were to take it a look at expectations a bit further? Would you see the minimum set needed to be successful? How high of expectations do you give? We all have employees that go much further than the stated expectations. Those could be your raising stars. Do you set higher expectations for them? Do you tell them those expectations? If so, do you tell the other employees as well?  Draws out that do you provide a sliding scale of expectations?

For me, those questions are tough to answer. Why? Couple of things come to mind right off the top. First, when you lay everything out in a nice neat package, you may lose the creativity of those high performing stars on your team. They will not have the freedom to stretch on their own. I have worked in two types of rewards systems. Merit systems would struggle with setting up the higher expectations and having everyone or almost everyone meet those expectations you have set out. You would be basically telling the team here are the expectations, but at the end of year we will not be able to reward all the same. The other was a flat time in grade system. This system sets you have to be in grade for a minimum timeframe before promotion. Depending on where you fall is more important than what you have done (for the most part). As an employee, I wanted to know how I could move up and be extremely successful. Almost all of the employees I have managed wanted the same.

From experience,  I have had managers that have communicated the exceeding expectations set and others that would not. For those that would not, I would simply ask, “Describe what that may look like?” The answers were all over the place. I did get what was felt an honest answer, “I’ll know it when I see it.” When you stop and really think about that you have two simple thoughts. The manager has not clue would probably be the first thing that pops in… Think some. I took it as if I truly want to be a high performer, I have the door open as to what that means. I can do whatever I think is right (of course, within some set of rules) and make it happen. Stand out and be seen! Raising my value (to myself, my team and organization).

What would you do? Those “new” managers really struggled with this question. From the experienced crowd – what would you really do

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