I often ask leaders and managers, “When do you want to know your employee is failing?” They always answer, “As soon as possible, of course!” And, the key to nipping failure in the bud is to become engaged. The more engaged you become, the more likely you are to know when an unproductive pattern of behavior or poor performance begins – and why. This gives you, as the manager, a strategic advantage over your competition and peers.
Engaged managers are strategic and strategy is the ‘ace up their sleeves.’ They focus on their goals, develop an execution plan, and provide frequent communication and productive feedback. They understand that achieving results through others is more likely if they do the following:
- Communicate expectations clearly
- Remove obstacles to success
- Develop their people
Communicate Expectations Clearly
Communicating clear expectations should be a simple task, but managers may struggle with it for several reasons depending on their behavior styles. For those of you familiar with DISC Behavior Styles here are some examples:
- The ‘D’ or Dominant Style is an extrovert who is task oriented. If this is your style, you may not provide the detail and clarity your employees need. You may have a tendency to say, “As a professional, you should know what to do – what’s taking so long?”
- The ‘I’ or Influence Style is an extrovert who is people oriented. If this describes you, you may place popularity over results and therefore fail to provide the details and deadlines your employees need.
- The ‘S’ or Steadiness Style is an introvert who is people oriented. If this style fits you, you may take on extra work to avoid upsetting the team. You might assign the same degree of importance to all duties and responsibilities and fail to convey a sense of urgency for the highest value tasks and projects.
- The ‘C’ or Compliance Style is an introvert who is task oriented. It you fall into this category, you may fail to communicate expectations and delegate tasks because you believe you can do it better. And you would probably be right! You may also have a tendency to provide too much detail, insist on doing it your way, or micromanage employees. And although we applaud your emphasis on quality, your employees may wonder if they can ever measure up!
Tips for Communicating Clear Expectations
- List the tangible things, work products, you require your employees to produce so that you can achieve your goals. Examples include presentations, reports, plans, schedules, communications, etc.
- Rank the work products from high to low according to their impact on your ability to achieve your goals.
- Set quality standards for the top 3-5 work products and communicate the standards. Assign #, $, or % values to the quantifiable work products. Share positive and negative examples for qualitative work products – “it should look like this, and not like that.”
Your employees will appreciate your precision, clarity, and communication style. Now all you need is to remove obstacles and get out of their way!
Remove Obstacles to Success
Obstacles to success can take many forms and sometimes they are not within your control. Start by identifying the obstacles. Are they within or outside your control? You may need to fix or develop processes. There may be tracking and monitoring systems to implement. Perhaps you have the wrong people for the job. Or maybe they simply lack proper training. Regardless, you must attend to them.
Begin with the obstacles that are within your control and develop a strategy for removing them. For the obstacles outside your control, develop a business case for improvement, enlist a team of stakeholders, and tackle it together. Taking the lead on improving tasks and processes that affect your success will most likely help others and position you as a leader as well.
Developing people should be your primary focus. Engaged leaders and managers know that their most important responsibility is to develop a high performing team. This means that they need a way to monitor skills, knowledge, and behavior so they can detect productive and unproductive patterns as quickly as possible. Here are some tips for achieving a higher level of engagement:
- Be visible and accessible
- Develop a culture of accountability
- Conduct regular coaching sessions
- Provide training and education opportunities
- Participate in and reinforce training and education events
After all, your involvement in their development represents an investment of your time and effort in their success.
Your engagement is the key to success. And your efforts will garner higher employee engagement levels, increased productivity, and improved performance. Remember, your most important work product and accomplishment is a high performance team!