Enjoy this excerpt from our new book, Healthy Leadership.
Just as winning in sports starts with practice, winning in business starts with understanding the performance process and expectations. If you wait until after the work is done, you are simply imposing consequences rather than inspiring performance. That’s why aligning with your teams on expectations is a good predictor of winning results.
The large majority of performance frustrations stem from leaders not clarifying expectations for assigned tasks or projects. Although your team members each have performance expectations for a given role, we are focusing here on the day-to-day, real-time clarity needed to ensure leaders and their teams are in synch.
Healthy leaders work side by side with team members to let them know exactly what they expect. This gives team members a clear picture of what success looks like on a given task or project so they can execute with excellence.
The key is to front-load clarity. You and your team should be able to give the same answer to this question: “How will I know if I have met expectations?” Do not rely on others’ perceptions of your expectations. Be more specific than you think you need to be.
Gaining alignment through clear expectations is job No. 1 for healthy leaders. A good example of clarity in action comes from one of our clients, Encore Wire’s Chairman and CEO, Daniel Jones. Jones is crystal clear that 100 percent of orders are shipped within 24 hours of receipt.
This expectation is challenging to meet, but it is clear and understood by all employees. Encore team members work together to meet this expectation, which results in a distinctive service advantage within their industry.
As team members embark on new tasks or projects, clarify the 3Ws: What, Who, and When. We use this simple format with our clients to help them drive growth and improvement. The power is in its simplicity.
To ensure clear expectations when using the 3Ws, identify only one “Who” per action. Actions with multiple owners tend to become unowned and undone. This simple 3W form is even more effective when you carry it with you as a mental template to bring clarity and closure to daily conversations and interactions.
After all, we each bring our own perceptions, experiences, and assumptions to every interaction, so the chance that we will be in sync with others after a discussion is quite low. Since human communication is much more art than science, clarifying the 3Ws after even short conversations helps identify perception gaps and avoid execution gaps.