Managing employee expectations

The key to managing your employees' expectations

Managers should not underestimate the power of managing expectations. In fact, the reality of managing expectations revolves around three simple principles.

Managers should not underestimate the power of managing expectations. In fact, the reality of managing expectations revolves around three simple principles:

  • Managers communicate their expectations verbally and non-verbally to their staff.
  • People consciously and unconsciously understand their manager's expectations.
  • People perform in ways that are consistent with their manager's expectations.

More times than not, people excel in response to their manager's performance message. Conversely, it can undermine someone's performance when a manager does not articulate his or her expectations in a clear and concise manner. Although sometimes a manager's expectations are subtle, the manager's staff picks up on these expectations both consciously and subconsciously. It could be as simple as a manager who fails to praise one employee's performance as frequently as he or she praises another employee's performance. Other times, it could be a manager talking less to a particular person or not sharing ideas or personal items with that person. Yes, people do notice these little things, because to them, it is obvious.

Build better relationships

Great leaders know the value of relationships. They know who people are, what is important to them, and what motivates them. Knowing this will help you understand their goals and how you can support them. When you help people, they will care about you and your goals in return.

Less skilled managers will reduce an employee's self-esteem and performance level

That's right. However, if a manager is skilled and has high expectations for an employee, the employee's self-confidence grows, his or her skills develop faster and the individual's performance moves in a more positive direction.

Imagine for a moment if you were able to communicate your exact expectations to everyone you manage

If you have high expectations of the people you manage, and you communicate those expectations to them, you will find that your staff will begin to make more positive contributions and live up to your expectations.

Setting your employees' expectations is a critical element in managing people; however, don't stop there. Follow-up with your employees on a regular basis to ensure that they are meeting your expectations. If not, you will find that some may take the path of least resistance in getting things done, and that will produce average results more times than not.

Case in point: Let us say you are managing a sales team and you have set a "sales quota" for everyone. You also know each sales person needs to make a certain number of "prospect cold-calls" to make their quota. If you are not managing their level of "cold-calls" each week, there is a very good chance some people will not perform to your expectations. On the other hand, if you do manage their phone time by setting specific dates, times and number of cold-calls they need to do each week, you will soon see their sales increase.

This means that managers need to spend time getting to know their employees in order to understand how they are driven internally or externally. Then, managers can adjust their communication and follow up accordingly. Yes, it's that simple.

Executive summary

Managers do not have to verbally communicate their expectations in order for them to be set. Non-verbal cues and lack of verbal cues alone can set the tone for how managers expect their employees to perform. This is why it is important for managers to be clear and direct about what they expect from their employees. Also, following up in order to ensure that expectations are clear is another way to make sure that employees understand their responsibilities.

Need help or want more information? Contact Cindy McSwain using the information below.

Cindy McSwain

Senior Vice President
Outsourcing Services

Cindy McSwain leads AGH’s outsourcing services group. Her team provides payroll, accounting, funds disbursement, controller, and other financial outsourcing services to numerous clients throughout the U.S. Prior to joining the outsourcing group, Cindy served AGH’s audit clients for 10 years, working with a wide range of middle-market, closely held and family-owned organizations.

Her current clients cross many industry sectors, including manufacturing and distribution, restaurants, retailers, medical and not-for-profit. She has participated in numerous SEC filings and public registrations and has experience in mergers and acquisitions. Cindy is a certified public accountant and a member of both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants.

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