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Engaging Your Employees…Clear Expectations


{#/pub/images/EngagingYourEmployees.jpg}The small IT Company that I once worked for had a ton of potential.  But after awhile I realized almost everyone was unhappy.  There was a lot of solidarity and “stick it to the man” mentality.  Being new to the organization, I approached my manger and the owner about the concerns I had about the level of unhappiness in this tiny business…we’re talking 15 people…and I was shocked at their response!  


To them it was all the employees’ fault for being unhappy, they had nothing to do with it, and that’s just how it is.  People don’t like to work.  I about fell on the floor.  I have been on plenty of teams where there is a grump, or a difficult person, but not almost everyone that worked there having something bad to say on a regular basis!  


How did they think that somehow they had a knack for hiring sour people that don’t work hard?  

You could hire that way, but odds are that it’s not the employees at that point.  Unfortunately, that’s when I learned how the leadership operated there.  It wasn’t long before I too was unhappy and wanted to “stick it to them too.”  I was miserable!


How do you ensure your team will work even if you aren’t in the room?  

Leading to me is using your resources to reach a goal.  And the best resource I know is people.  The more people you can get to help you reach your goal, the easier your success becomes.  If employees are fully engaged, amazing amounts of work can get done with less.  We all have to do more with less, right?


There are several studies done each year to measure the level of engagement of employees in organizations.  On average about 21% of employees are engaged, meaning they are freely giving their time, energy, creativity and knowledge to their work.  Think about that, it’s 1 in 5!  That’s a disturbingly small number when you think about the impact people have on a business and its customers.  


Worse yet, 38% are either wholly or partly disengaged, meaning they might not know the right things to do to add value to the company or they might be doing just the minimum to get by. Play those percentages out across a large workforce, and it’s easy to see the implications for performance, especially if large numbers of those disengaged people are in customer-facing or strategically important roles.


Every day we encounter opportunities to engage our employees!  Most people are capable of more than they are currently doing, but they need the structure and support to do it.  Not everyone can take on as much at the same time, so you have to pay attention to the feedback of the individual as you help them grow.


All teams or groups perform their work within a set of clearly defined boundaries.  Football is a great example.  The game is played on a field 100 yards by 53 yards.  There are many rules that apply when a player steps outside of these boundaries.  In addition, there are numerous other rules and regulations which govern the play.  Whenever those rules are violated there is a consequence which punishes the team that violated the rules.  The boundaries, rules and regulations in football establish fairness and consistency to the game.  


Work groups or teams have boundaries as well.  Think of them as “rules of play”.  They establish order, predictability and stability in the team’s performance.  Without the boundaries there is chaos, disorder and poor performance.  Boundaries, rules, regulations, expectations, or whatever we want to call them, must exist to create a highly engaged environment.


Many managers are reluctant to set clear expectations and discipline when they aren’t met.  Clear expectations increase engagement dramatically.


One of my clients came to me extremely upset because she had just had her performance review for the year.  She has been working for more than 20 years and has never been considered a poor performer.  Her boss went through the review and told her that she did a poor job in all these areas.  She was in such shock she didn’t really know what to say.  The items he rated her poorly on, she had no idea she was even supposed to be working on!  None of the amazing work that she had done, and I witnessed, in other areas mattered.  He also handed her the job description with the poor performance review.  After a year in the job, she had not seen a job description until then!  


Yes, he wasn’t afraid to discipline “poor performance” but he didn’t set the clear expectations upfront.  How do you think that made her feel?  What effect on her engagement would that have?  Luckily we were able to work through it and turn things around for her, but you can see where clear expectations are key!


So, in order for you to have people work hard for you, regardless if you are in the room or not, you need to set clear expectations.  There are 3 areas that expectations should be set.  And these depend on your authority to set them, or if you are enforcing them. 


  1. Compliance with policies and procedures

  2. Interpersonal conduct and behavior

  3. Minimum performance expectations


People want to know what they are supposed to be doing.  People want to do a good job.  Nobody ever wants to get broadsided and find out that they weren’t meeting your expectations.  If you want to lead others to get amazing results, make sure you are absolutely clear about what you want from them.  



{#/pub/images/20120913174147_DSC_14831small.jpg}Written by Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting A sought after Coach, Mompreneur, Strategist, Mentor, Speaker, Author, Trainer & Business Consultant, Emilie works with people who are ready for that next level of success, and realize how they work with people is KEY.  Her coaching will help you lead, delegate, sell, collaborate, perform, influence, and relate with people to launch your success to the next level. She provides clients, teams and organizations the skills and tools for leadership and professional excellence.



Do you have a management question for Emilie?  Post it in our First Time Manager/Supervisor Community and she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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