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Are Your Employees Living up to Your Hidden Expectations?

Hidden or clear Expectations_ man smiling_what do you expect from your team

People always have expectations - lots of them. Some people are consciously aware of them. Many others are not. Expectations, hidden or vocalized, are persistently in the background of your daily life. Whether people are attuned to them, or oblivious to them - which too often is the case - they are still there. Expectations run the world, and when people don't live up to your expectations, or you don't live up to theirs, issues arise. Therefore, it is imperative that you are clear about your expectations of the people on your team.

Background on expectations

Where do expectations come from? How did they get started? Here are the three areas that drive expectations:

  • Family of origin (parent/grandparent models, attitudes among relatives, siblings, etc.)
  • Society (friends, neighborhood, school, religion, media, etc.)
  • Personal experiences and preferences (hurts, happenings, hopes, etc.)

Do you ever get upset or frustrated with someone because they don't work as hard as you? Are they not as detailed as you would like them to be? Don't go about doing something the same way you would? Those are your hidden expectations coming to the surface. You have a team of people with different upbringings, who’ve lived in different neighborhoods, have a wide variety of different experiences. Yet you expect them to do things exactly the way you would do them, without having to say anything? That sounds tricky, doesn't it?

Does your team know?

Research from a Gallup study found that only 33% of U.S. employees and 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. While there are 12 elements of employee engagement, the study suggested that setting clear expectations could be the most foundational one. Do people know your expectations of them?

One common expectation we hear a lot is about workdays. As the owner or sales leader, you're putting in a lot of hours, you're at the office at 7:30 am and leave after 6 pm. But, a few of your team members show up at 8:10 am and leave around 4:30 pm. The company policy says it's a flexible 8 am – 5 pm workday but, you expect them to show up at 7:55 am and leave after 5 pm.

Does your team know that's what you expect? Have you told them? If you have told them, how clear were you? Saying "I expect you to work hard every day and put in a full week" can be interpreted in many different ways by different people with diverse backgrounds. Merely expecting something to happen will not make it so. Thus it would be best if you made it crystal clear.

When is it time to get over it?

There are many instances where expectations of someone doesn't affect their work but drives you, their boss, crazy. There was one example where a sales leader wasn't thrilled with the way a salesperson dressed. The salesperson wore designer jeans with rips, shredded bottoms, and jackets with patches on the elbows. This salesperson's appearance bugged the sales leader to the point of distress. The leader said, "That's not how a salesperson is supposed to dress. I never dressed like that. That is not our brand." 

We asked that leader what expectations were outlined with the salesperson. Was it covered in an employee manual? Did you give them feedback? The answer was no. The sales leader expected that the salesperson would dress like everybody else. He eventually had a conversation with the salesperson and ended up making the dress code part of the onboarding process. If you want to know more about company culture, check out our blog on "What is Company Culture."

Before expecting someone to dress the way you would, ask yourself, "does this expectation I have affect their performance?"

All in all, you want your team to perform their best. If they are performing to expectations, but taking a different approach, then you may have to figure out whether that approach is fundamental enough to address.

An expectation exercise

One way to figure out what expectations you need to move away from is to start by writing down all the things that drive you nuts about your team. Pivotal Advisors did this exercise with a group of sales leaders and owners, and within 10 minutes, each person had about 50 things written down.

Next, circle the things that are most important to your team's performance. The majority had about 7 or 8 items circled.

After that, put a star next to the circled items if you've shared your expectations with your team or made it clear to them. If you don't have a star, then place an "X" next to it. In most cases, there were more X's then stars associated with the important items.

Lastly, share all the items marked with an “X” with your team. For the rest of the 40 some nuisances, it's time to move forward and for the lack of a better phrase, "get over it." There will always be behaviors that conflict with your own, however, if they don't affect the person's performance, then let it slide.

When to share your hidden expectation

We've given you the background on where your expectations came from, you've established which of your expectations affect your teams' performance, and you know which ones to let go. Now you may be asking when should you share this insight with your team. The short answer is NOW.

If you didn't make it clear to your team that you want them to put all their notes into your CRM, then now is the time to set that expectation. Rather than give direction like "Put your notes in the CRM" which is vague (Which notes? Every conversation? What level of detail?), sit down as a group and get specific about what you want them to do and why you want it. Go the extra mile and call out all the salespeople who are great at doing it well.

Explain to them why it's essential not only to you but to the team that they all do this. Tell them from here on out that you expect to see their notes in the system, and you will be reviewing them each week. Make it a habit and reward them when they do it. Be clear, concise, and to make it stick, reward their actions by showing recognition and appreciation.

We hire people because of their skills, their track record, and their other abilities. We fire them because of entirely different circumstances - typically, because they aren't meeting hidden expectations. So, make sure your expectations are understood right from the start. Share your expectations in a polite, considerate manner and reward your team when expectations are met. 

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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