100. Tough but fair begins with this.

“The reason adopting The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations is so vitally important in today’s world, and particularly in managing people in the workplace, is because if you, as a manager, do not unwaveringly practice The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations with each and every one of your direct reports, then you cannot be upset, disappointed or angry by anything they do.”

With these words my friend Anthony began his story of explaining to a group of us how he had removed the single biggest contributor to stress in his workplace from his life.

I’d spent all day in a training session with the five members of the executive leadership team of a local company and the six of us were enjoying a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant.

Anthony is one of four Senior Vice Presidents and is responsible for ensuring the successful distribution of the company’s many products to customers throughout North America.

Logistics is his strength and he has proven his ability by the way in which he has improved the quality, timeliness and accuracy of the distribution system from one which was, according to their CEO, “in an absolute shambles,” to being the standard-bearer for the industry.

And he had accomplished this in little more than 18 months.

Realizing he had the attention of all at the table he explained he learned long ago that assuming anything about what people should know what to do is a huge mistake and that the fairest and only way to set people up for success is to meet with each employee one-on-one and, in as detailed a fashion as possible, outline clearly the expectations he has of that persons performance and of how they conduct themselves.

He has directed all of his immediate direct reports to meet one-on-one with each of their direct reports and have a ‘healthy discussion’ in which these expectations are outlined with crystal clarity so that each employee leaving that meeting, knows exactly what is expected of him/her in order to be rated and assessed as an exceptional employee and contributor to the organization.

Those direct reports do the same with their direct reports and this process permeates throughout his entire division.

As I listened to Anthony’s passionate description and incontrovertible belief around this exercise I was reminded of the number of times in which I have been asked by managers in my own client companies to coach a staff member who they felt was underperforming.

I have long adopted the practice of asking that manager exactly how he or she measures that employee – in other words what his expectations are of that employee – and then have asked permission to meet the employee and ask them how they determine if they are doing a fine job.

I learned a long time ago that if the two descriptions did not match then no matter how well that employee performed he or she would never be judged favourably by his or her boss.

In order for any of us to know we are doing exceptionally well we have to have a clear description of what exceptionally well means, otherwise we are living in a world of subjectivity where our perspective of doing well might differ quite radically from that of our boss or other people and, by so doing, we can easily find ourselves wanting in the eyes of someone who has sway over our careers.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations is an assured way of reducing so much of the friction that I personally have seen all too often inside of corporations resulting from ill-defined or undefined expectations.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations makes it easy for all to know the rules of the game and what we each need to do in order to win.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations; so obvious yet so rare.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S.My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours continues to sell very well. Please visit us at http://www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.

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