Among the top complaints I’ve heard from various clients is a familiar refrain about some of their team members: ‘They’re just not delivering as expected.’
And it comes in many guises:
The ‘Promising Interviewee, Disappointing Employee’ one;
The ‘Missed Deadline for Important Meetings’ scenario;
The ‘They Should Know Where to Find Information’ assumption;
And the classic …… ‘They Should Just Know’ expectation.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the harsh truth often points in a different direction: it’s not solely on them; it’s also about you, the leader.
Communication Is Everything When It Comes To Performance Expectations
In my experience, upon probing how expectations were set, it becomes clear that 9 times out of 10, clear direction from them on what is actually required has been lacking, if not entirely absent.
I recall a manager who bluntly stated, ‘I pay them to know what to do!’. And whilst it’ might seem frustrating, this mindset overlooks a crucial aspect: payment doesn’t guarantee understanding or alignment of expectations.
The Disconnect Between Said and Understood
Fair enough you might say. You pay a wage and you expect certain standards to be delivered. But what you believe you’ve communicated, clearly might not be how your team perceives it. Effective communication involves not just stating expectations but also ensuring they are understood.
You might think that what you said had been understood by all, but how did you summarise and play it back? Did you involve them in how they might deliver what was being asked? Did you check to see that they understood what you had asked? And, crucially, did you do this in the way in which your team work best? Because each team member is likely to hear different things. What is understood by one team member, may not be understood in the same way as another as we all learn differently. Which is why you should also write things down and follow up wherever possible. Your role here is as a coach, helping them to see how they can achieve the goal in hand, providing the support (and environment) so that they can deliver with aplomb and inspiring them to want to do it.
Leaders often fall into the trap of assuming that their team members will connect the dots on their own. This gap between assumption and reality is where underperformance begins. To bridge this gap, leaders need to practice active listening, understanding the unique perspectives and challenges faced by each team member
So the person you hired that isn’t working out – could a more thorough assessment have predicted the challenges? Reflect on your briefing methods. Were there gaps in how you communicated timelines or deliverables? Self-reflection on your communication style can unveil improvements for both your team’s performance and your leadership.
There’s No One Single Way To Get Great Performance Every Time
…But there are some simple steps you can take to get your message across and make the dark art of getting people to perform and behind you a darn sight clearer:
- Set Expectations From The Outset: From up to date job descriptions to quality time during the interview process and discussing what success in the role looks like. This stage is critical.
- Support Them When They Do Join: Don’t just leave it to chance that they will ‘pick it up’. Spend time with your new recruit on a regular basis outlining what you expect from them and when. Like to be updated on a weekly basis on how the product is progressing? Tell them. Show them. Share with them how you do it. Try it all.
- Focus On WIIFT (What’s In It For Them): For you it’s probably very clear what you get out of their high performance, but What’s In It For Them? Learn what motivates them and push those buttons to get the most out of your team.
- Return The Favour: Give them feedback on how they are doing. Do it immediately and make it real. A well-timed comment along the lines of “That campaign you ran totally hit the mark in terms of coverage but the signups we were after didn’t materialise. Let’s analyse it together and see how we can do it differently next time” is far more supportive and constructive than leaving it a few months to the end of the probation to tell them they didn’t get the results you were after. You’ll have missed valuable time for them to improve and will look as though you were too incompetent to raise it beforehand.
- Keep Talking: Few people like to work in a vacuum, so keep the conversation flowing. It builds relationships. Makes giving feedback (good and bad) much easier. And makes people feel involved.
Despite spending much of my adult life coaching on the subject, I’m not immune from it either.
There’s been many times over the years when I found myself ‘tutting’ in my head when a piece of work failed to materialise or arrived half finished. At that point I have to check myself and think about what exactly I said/ did/ wrote when I communicated what I wanted. Almost every single time I realised that I hadn’t been clear about the importance of what I’ve asked for, why I’ve asked for something and what exactly I’ve needed.
For HR help, advice and all the tools you need to manage and develop your team & help you take your People & HR plans to the next level, contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 3951 120
Later this year,The HR Hub team will be moving up in the world, as we take part in the Three Peaks Challenge.
The race to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon (the three highest mountains in the UK) within 24 hours, is one I’m both looking forward to and with apprehension in equal measure. On the plus side, it will be great to spend some time with the team away from laptops and with the wind in our hair ( and perhaps the odd blister on our feet too….). However given that the last time I saw Scafell Pike through a window out of the back of an ambulance as I was whisked away to the hospital having suffered hypothermia was on a Silver Duke of Edinburgh exercise, I’m hoping very much that my visit this time will be with less need for medical intervention!
Notwithstanding this, the team and I are all primed and ready to start our training for the big weekend! And so how lucky we are then, that in the first month of our training for the race, that May is none other than National Walking Month – an annual campaign that takes place every May to encourage people to walk more and improve their physical and mental health – something that can only. boost our motivation to lace up the trainers.
The campaign is led by the charity Living Streets and aims to raise awareness about the benefits of walking, as well as promoting walking as a sustainable and environmentally friendly form of transport. It’s also therefore a great opportunity for you to support your team members in engaging with this & some suggestions of how to do this are shown below:
3 Weeks Challenge: Create a walking challenge for different team members to rack up the distance of the Three Peaks Challenge between them, but to be done over the remaining days are left in the month. Less sleep deprivation needed for this one that the real Challenge but still provides a sense of achievement for those who take part.
Walkey Talkey: Encourage team members to take their meetings outside and walk while they talk. This can be a great way to boost creativity and productivity, while also getting some exercise.
Happy Feet: Create a walking club within your company, where team members can get together and go for a walk during lunch breaks or after work. This can help foster a nice sense of community and support among the team as well as often getting to see parts of your city and town that you’ve never seen before!
Keep on track: Share resources to help people get started such as route maps, apps to share or trackers in order to make it more accessible & achievable for everyone.
Lead from the front: As a business owner or leader, you can set an example by prioritising your own physical activity and encouraging your team members to do the same. This helps create a culture of Unity as well as one which values and supports their team’s well-being.
For more information on how to keep your team engaged and firing on all cyclinders, drop us a line via email@example.com, give us a call on 0203 6277048 or pop in a diary time here.
#walkthismay #lighthtspark #employeemagic #wellbeing
Or as Franki Valli may put it … ” Oh what a night!”.
I certainly cannot pretend to be a lifelong football fan ( I am one of those ones who watches any big game from behind my fingers for fear that I might accidentally ‘jinx’ them!), however I too was swept up in a swell of pride for our women’s football team last night and am envious of those friends of mine who watched the game live from Wembley in what has become such a historic event. What a well deserved victory.
Hearing the players interviewed ( and I use the term loosely as such was the excitement that one ran off with the microphone, another was hijacked by the goalkeeper seeking a ‘backie’ and then in what is normally a reasonably-happy-but-sedate affair the whole team interrupted the managers’ press interview to do a spontaneous rendition of ‘it’s coming home’) after their win was like a lesson in the ‘keeping it real’ category: no ‘Oscar’ speeches, no technical breakdown, no explanation of the strategy to us awestruck viewers. Just unbridled joy and delirious excitement from every single person. #nofilter
There is no doubt of the hard work and resources that has gone into this win and every single one of the team has a shining future. But none surely more so than their manager, Sarina Wiegman* who was the mastermind behind their strategy. Whilst football (or any?) managers are often viewed as the grey suited folks behind the sidelines, the whisperer of decisions which can make or break someone’s career, the ones not out there in the field getting ‘stuck in the action’. But Sarina has given a masterclass in what great managers are capable of.
Every move that she made with the team appeared as well calculated as any chess game: no panic, fear of change (the two substitutes she brought on were both the goal scorers), just well deployed use of all the skills her team had in their arsenal that created such magic. This seemingly humble individual has brought with her methods and interactions, such strong loyalty, kinship and motivation that inspired the team to glory.
And let’s not forget the fun they had! Even before the final whistle had blown the team were whipping up the crowd to shout louder for them and show their appreciation and backing against such a strong side. Whilst not in any way sure of victory at that point, once again it showed recognition of using everything at their disposal to achieve their goal. And in doing so, inspired millions of girls at home watching what can be achieved. #lightthespark
With post match parties looked set to continue into the night as the impact of the win was absorbed, who can blame them if there’s a hangover or two in sight tomorrow.
Well done England! (And no pressure chaps as we head to the World Cup later this year… )
Whilst your ‘field’ of expertise and goals may be markedly different to that of a football team, if you want help strengthening your own management skills & finding the MAGIC in your team, drop us a line via firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call on 0203 6277048 or pop in a diary time here.
** Definitely one for another day, but if you want an instant lesson in how people view women’s vs men’s football, simply type in ‘manager of the England football team’ and count how many times Gareth Southgate’s name appears vs Sarina Wiegmans. It’s like an instant representation of diversity in football
If the phrase ‘Management Training’ conjures up images of a suited three day offsite to a faceless training centre on the Surrey borders, then you likely came into the workplace at the same time as me…. . Management Training as it was when I entered corporate life, was very regimented, solely classroom based and very predictable. There were of course some real nuggets of learning to be found in many, but being stuck in a room for several days discussing areas that perhaps had little relevance to my own role in order to get to those, meant that the most exciting thing I often found to come out of it was the acquisition of a shiny new binder, most often condemned to a shelf once you arrived home and never viewed again ( case in point, I found 2 such folders from the early 2000’s when I moved house recently – I still hesitated to throw them out despite not having opened them for many years such is the ‘power of the binder’!).
As time went on and organisations evolved, this kind of training lost the appeal as a default programme all had to attend prior to promotion, with even Google questioning whether these kinds of roles and skills were necessary in the modern workplace and should they instead be consigned to the cupboard alongside the fax machines?!
Happily Google had the resources and data to investigate thoroughly in this area with their workforce to find that the answer to this question is a resounding ‘yes’, with the caveat of course that the right skills are being used (and at a sufficient level) by managers to support and motivate their team members. It turns out that great managers do indeed make a difference: to not just the welfare of their teams, but also the bottom line.
Their application of these skills can often make or break another team member’s experience in your business, yet individuals aren’t born with them and most of the team don’t arrive through your door fully formed either. They are developed over time. The challenge therefore comes as to how to support the development of them, make sure it is in line with your culture and what kind of investment is needed and can be found to do so.
Having been responsible for many an HR budget in my time, I know all too easily how the ‘training and development’ line can be a place to pad out figures, plunder for other priorities if the mood takes or simply just erase all together under times of pressure. But as we march towards a tightening of universal belts, having the right knowledge, skills and confidence to hire, manage and grow your team will be key to your success & remain a ‘must’. It will just be a question of cutting your cloth accordingly.
We know that growth and development is key to people’s retention – through good times and bad – but not everything needs to cost the earth, so here are a few focused learning options for you to consider which may help those who are new, aspiring or experienced to management to feel valued and develop:
1. Encourage Peer to peer learning and sharing: Encourage peers with similar management scope to share their knowledge with each other: what has worked with their team members, what challenges they’ve had.
2. Undertake blended or ‘classroom’ style flexible training that suits your culture: this still remains the go-to skills method development of choice with SME’s & our Management Essentials and Deeper Dive bite-size training sessions are designed to be flexible and support those keen on developing just the kind of skills the Google research found was key.
3. Utilise online training: sites such as Future Learn, Udemy and LinkedIn have online courses for a vast array of management skills in an accessible way. They may not allow so much interaction or always be so relevant for your particular needs, however they allow people to plug short gaps and there’s nothing more satisfying that ‘ticking off’ a new course!.
4. Share “best practice”: Bring in a recognised expert for your employees to spend some time with: use your network and contacts to find someone you admire and value and bring them into work with you. Get the more experienced members of your team to share some of their past notable successes.
5. Be a bookworm: most of those who want to develop are pretty hot on their reading, so encourage all to share the books that have given the most joy and/ or information when it comes to skills you can use with your team.
If you need a hand getting the team to get a boost for your Management Skills, drop us a line via email@example.com or give us a call on 0203 6277048.