One of the most frustrating time wasters in the workplace is spending hours and resources working on something only to find out it’s not what your boss wanted. Or believing you were doing something the way your boss expected it to be done, only to find out in a feedback session you misunderstood their expectations. Wasting time and resources at work due to misunderstanding hurts credibility and often leads to frustration, feelings of resentment and loss of respect.
Many of us spend the first year of working for a new supervisor trying to figure out, mostly from trial and error, how things are supposed to be done. Sometimes, the boss’s verbal directions don’t match their unspoken expectations. Sometimes, those expectations are inconsistent from one day to the next, or from one employee to the next.
This is understandable however. For most of us supervisors, if we were asked every week about our workplace expectations, and we gave an answer off of the top of our head (which would be the case for most of us), the answer would probably not be consistent week after week. It would vary based on the mood we were in at the time, new information or circumstances, or a variety of other variables that change from week to week. And often we’re just too busy in the moment to explain things as thoroughly as we should.
But when our lack of clear expectations leads to confusion and distress, valuable time and productivity are lost. And so is your credibility. And so is the company’s productivity.
With a little additional effort, forethought and intentionality, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be the leader who breaks the mold. You can have the employees who are confident about working consistently for you and with their peers, knowing that they are all moving forward together in the right direction- the direction that you clearly articulated to all of your employees.
One of the best ways to become a leader whose communication motivates employees is to have a written leadership philosophy. Put down in writing what you expect of your employees and what they can expect from you in return. Consistent expectations lead to predictability in the workplace, which leads to stability, confidence and improved productivity and teamwork. So how do you create crystal clear expectations for your employees?
The first step is to realize that you’re probably not as understood as you think you are. None of us are. So begin by assuming that you’re going to have to work harder at being clear about your expectations than you thought. But, like all leadership development, a little extra effort up front will have huge payoff down the road.
Second, commit to taking time to put your big picture expectations in writing, along with the major principles that guide your decisions and leadership behavior. Hone that message into a “living” written leadership philosophy that you can use as your basis for communicating a consistent message.
Third, share your written leadership principles and expectations with all of your employees. They will be thankful for your clarity and for the days and weeks you’ve saved them by not having to figure you out through trial and error. And you’ll be thankful for their extra energy, consistent effort and improved productivity.
And lastly, let your daily actions be consistent with your written and spoken expectations. Hold yourself accountable to behavior consistent with even the smallest details. There’s nothing more frustrating than bosses who don’t walk their smallest details. There’s nothing more frustrating than bosses who don’t walk their talk or hold people accountable to their stated expectations, even the smaller ones. It’s better to not share an expectation than share it and kill your credibility by not living up to it.
You can download some FREE examples of effectively written leadership philosophies here.
Supervisor, if you’d like to become an expert at clearly and consistently communicating your expectations, I’d recommend attending my Leadership Excellence Course in Anchorage or Seattle. Every participant finishes the three-day course with a written personal leadership philosophy that’s ready to share with his or her employees. Click here for all the details on dates, locations, and discounts. If you live outside of Alaska or Washington, I can connect you with a Leadership Excellence Course led by one of my Academy Leadership colleagues in your area.
Jay Pullins has been leading and developing leaders in a variety of settings for over 30 years. He has a diverse background as a leadership coach, military officer, an appointed state official, and executive leader of Alaska's largest church. Jay has trained over 1,400 leaders in the last five years, from Alaska to Southern California, in various fields from universities to military, construction, product distribution, manufacturing, telecommunications, churches, banks, casinos, and a railroad.