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Setting High Expectations

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If you’re a people manager, what is your job?

I don’t mean what’s your job title, I mean what is the organisation paying you and trusting you to deliver for it? Now if your first answer is to achieve goals, to get things done, to stop things going wrong, make sure things go right, yeah that’s a fairly decent answer, but have you thought that your organisation is actually paying you and trusting you to ensure that, not just things are done and done well, but to help your team members and peers enjoy their journey?

Doesn’t that sound soft and fluffy, hug a tree kind of thing? But this is about employee engagement. A key role for a people manager such as you, is to set extremely high expectations with and for your team, that you’ll do a great job together. How so? Well first of all, it’s not just positive thinking and motivational speaking, it’s saying, “No, come on, let’s have a great day today. Let’s ensure that we get done what needs to be done. Let’s get it right first time. Let’s share our ideas, let’s share our expertise and make sure that we do a fantastic job, and then, at the end of the day, let’s review how we’ve done today.”

Setting very high expectations is a wonderful thing, but it needs to underpinned by proper planning, proper communication, proper collaboration and delegation. There’s no point think, oh, I’m going to win the national lottery. I want to win a million, I want to win a million, I want to win a million, positive thinking, without buying a ticket. It’s flawed thinking isn’t it? There’s no planning or strategy behind it. This is the same for some motivational managers that I’ve met. They say all the right words, they make all the right noises, and they really want to help people do a great job, but they don’t underpin the communication and the positive thinking with proper planning and effective dialogue, and delegation and collaboration with their team and with their peers.

Another reason to set really high expectations and underpin it with the communication and planning, is people catch feelings off each other. As a manager, you are always transmitting your emotions, whether you know it or not. How you feel is not a private matter when people are watching you and looking to you for guidance on how they should respond in a situation, good, bad or indifferent.

People catch emotions from each other, and because you’re always transmitting, people are always receiving your emotions and even your level of emotional engagement and authenticity. Some people hear all the right words and noises from their boss, but they realise that they’re only words, they’re only empty platitudes. The person doesn’t actually mean it, they’re just saying it because it’s what management do, but think if you’re transmitting your emotions to your team, how might they then transmit those to your customers, to your stakeholders, to your internal customers as well. If you project high expectations and you’re uplifting for all the right reasons, you’re supportive, you’re collaborative, and you can even have a laugh along the way whilst getting the job done, that will be passed on 10 times over to the people that your team members come into contact with on a moment-by-moment and day-by-day basis.

Also, if you’re transmitting the negative, self-defeating communication that’s very limiting and strangles their creativity and innovation and motivation, they’re going to send that on to your customers and internal customers and stakeholders too, so it’s about leading by example. You’ve seen the professional boxers where they go in for a world championship title fight, and they say, “I’m going to knock this guy into next week. He’s going to be in row Z at the back of the stadium and even his mother won’t recognise him,” and then they go on to get pummelled. Speaking the words, saying the right things is a good start, but it’s a very dangerous role to play if it’s not backed up with competence.

Please consider how you can set high expectations, high challenging, reasonable, achievable, stretch targets, stretch expectations, but support your people in wanting to achieve them and being able to achieve them. Wanting to achieve something is one thing, being able to achieve it requires a little more thinking and a little more planning, and a lot more communication. Set high expectations, help your team members understand why these high expectations have been set with them as well as for them, by yourself, and you will improve employee engagement. They will communicate with you more authentically, they’ll spot problems, but come up with solutions to problems and you’ll be surprised just how much gets done.

Please use this for 10 days and then come back and tell us how you’re doing.