A constant refrain that I hear from business owners is “they should know better!” “They” of course being any or all the employees that screwed up. Naturally, when I hear this statement, I just can’t leave it alone and therefore I need to challenge it. At which point the conversation goes something like this,

Client: They should know better

Me: Really, why is that?

Client: It’s their job

Me: Did you tell them?

Client: No, I shouldn’t have to

Me: Why shouldn’t you have to?

Client: Because they’re supposed to be adults

Me: That may be true, but you still need to tell them what you expect

Client: I hired them to do a job. If I have to tell them or show them I don’t need them.

Me: Seriously?

It’s not about micro-managing

I think you get the drift and I’m sure many of us have felt the same way at times. Unfortunately, too many owners wrongly assume that once they hire an individual, that person should automatically know everything there is to know. Granted, they should have all the technical skills required for the job, but that’s only half the battle.

Where many entrepreneurs fail, is in telling their employees what they expect from them on a regular basis. We’re not talking about micro-managing, it’s about providing clarity. It’s about setting expectations or objectives. It’s about letting them know specifics, like when you expect the task to be completed or how many hours you’ve allocated for that project or how you expect them to act in front of customers, or your dress code and on and on. Just because you failed to mention something and then expecting your employees to read your mind, is asking a little much, don’t you think?

The easiest way to fix this is to communicate. Yup, it can be that simple. Communicating is nothing more than telling people what you expect. Because left unsaid, it is usually just asking for trouble. And once it becomes a crisis, emotions usually take over and its no longer just a conversation. By having regular ongoing dialogue between employees and managers, everyone should be on the same page. This can go a long way in minimizing surprises.

Here ya go, get it done!

You see, nobody likes surprises because they usually occur at the wrong time and leave little opportunity to correct the situation. Simple, regular and informal dialogue between managers and employees would avoid many of the problems that arise.

The alternative of course, is to simply assume that once the project was assigned, it would be completed without further communication and it usually goes something like this- “Here ya go, get it done!” The weakness in this strategy usually manifests itself once the client calls to inquire why the project is two weeks behind schedule. Those are always fun conversations. Why is it then, that the only person that knew was the client?

In hindsight, one of my major communication tools was simply wandering around and talking with my staff or watching them do their job. This provided me the opportunity to reinforce what my or our clients expectations were. If I noticed that something was lacking, I would typically bring it to the attention of the project coordinator responsible for the project, for them to rectify. Often in a quick group meeting.

Fortunately, this was a rarity because the coordinators were very good at setting expectations and at helping individuals meet those objectives. In addition, our reporting processes allowed us to monitor our benchmarks in real time. This real time reporting was not designed to “catch” individuals for low productivity, but to identify potential problems in the execution and to take corrective action early on, thereby allowing us to finish on time and on budget with excellent results.

Hoping things will improve rarely works

Because of our ongoing dialogue with the front line employees, coupled with the data, this allowed us to notify the client early on of a potential problem and take corrective action. Although this was never fun to tell a client you’re having a problem, and thankfully was a rarity, it was far better strategy than waiting until the end and hoping things would turn around on their own. It has been my experience that hoping things will improve rarely works and leaves you to make a bunch of lame excuses to a very disappointed client.

Being visible and asking questions is part of being a manager. Equally important to opening the lines of communication, is asking the right questions. These questions should focus on removing roadblocks to productivity and serve as teaching moments.

However, in order for this to work it must be a two way street. Employees need to feel comfortable enough to be able to express their thoughts or know that delivering bad news won’t earn your wrath.

Yes, they should know better, but if you want better communications within your organization, then it’s up to you to create it. Being visible, watching, listening and letting people know what to expect, will go a long way in reducing those nasty surprises that just ruin everybody’s day.


Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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