Play a little game in your mind.
Pretend I need a favor. I want you to drive from your workplace to a nearby airport and pick up an investor who is thinking about building a factory in our city limits that will employ hundreds of people. You must leave in exactly 20 minutes, but there’s one caveat—I want you to spray paint your windshield black before making the trip.
What is your response? You think I’m crazy, right?
Well, think about this. Many times we ask employees or other stakeholders to partner with us in the context of business strategy. Such opportunities can be very exciting—something to really look forward to. However, if we burden the means of getting there with unrealistic expectations, an abundance of red tape, instructions that do not make sense, etc., we may set others up for failure before the journey even begins.
Whenever you can, make expectations as clear as possible. Here are some tips:
- Simplify – Local government terms and definitions can be difficult to understand. While you may know what terms like subsidy, infrastructure, and balanced scorecard mean, it is very likely that many in your organization do not. Whenever possible, introduce terms as if you are communicating them for the first time. If that is not feasible, consider adding a glossary of terms to your website.
- Clarify – When establishing expectations, be sure to clarify that the other party is on the same page. There’s an old adage that goes, “The response you get equals the message you sent.” If someone looks confused after you have given him or her instructions, then you sent a confusing message. Keep your emotions and check and review until the other person has their “aha” moment.
- Repeat Often – It is important to consistently repeat expectations. Organizations that only offer performance evaluations once annually make a major mistake by relegating all coaching to one annual meeting. Instead, keep on-going conversations regarding expectations as a consistent, interactive practice. In essence, there should be no surprises when performance evaluation time rolls around.
- Partner – Instead of constantly issuing orders and decrees from a lofty perch, invite team members to participate in crafting expectations. Ownership can act as a major plus when outside forces attempt to derail mission, vision, and values. Remember: our co-workers are part of the “public” we are called to serve.
Feel free to pass this article along to others; and by the way, don’t ever spray paint your windshield—or anyone else’s either :).