This was a very interesting week for me. Actually, it was the culmination of observing a consistently common element at play over the course of many weeks.
Both the clients I have been working with and many of their employees I have spoken to have expressed a common condition: disappointment.
After much consultation, careful listening, and earnest discussion, it seems the source of this disappointment comes from unrealized expectations or people not receiving what they had hoped for.
Specifically, leaders are disappointed in the results some or all on their team are producing. And employees are disappointed in the lack of clarity when they are given directions and often do not fully understand the expectations their boss has of them.
In my opinion, there is a relatively simple solution to reduce this sense of disappointment. The solution on the leader’s side is to clearly express expectations. The solution on the employee’s side is to receive accurate and clear feedback on a consistent basis. These ideas may seem simple enough, but can be very challenging to implement, so allow me to focus on one at a time.
Clearly Expressing Expectations – this is a leader’s number one responsibility. Over the past 20+ years, I have had the privilege of working with over 60 organizations. In situations where I am asked to diagnose the root cause of issues, invariably one topic comes up all the time – poor communication.
Successful leaders spend a great deal of time formulating, editing, revising, and perfecting their communication. They don’t wing it. They take into account how their audience best receives and processes information. They construct their message in a way that can be clearly heard and understood.
Leader’s set the vision. This means they must explain with clarity a place or outcome the organization will realize at some future point in time, whether it is one week, one month, one year, five years or more. Then they create the environment to achieve the vision.
Receiving Accurate and Clear Feedback – Have you ever noticed how a young child reacts when they are given praise for a particular behavior? They are excited and happy. And since they like being happy, they will tend to do more of the behavior because they will receive more praise, keeping the happy emotion front and center.
News flash – adults are merely kids in grown up bodies! The vast majority of adults like to hear praise when they have performed well. It is not about being insecure – it’s about desiring the good feelings which come from being acknowledged and reinforced.
Adults also want to hear when they can do better. They particularly like this feedback from people they respect.
Finally, the frequency of the feedback has to be taken into account. Every day can be too much; once a year is not nearly enough. The best available research suggests providing some sort of specific comment or observation once a week or every other week has the desired effect of positive reinforcement and boosting engagement. And, feedback doesn’t have to be any longer than a minute or two.
The secret weapon of a leader is really two-fold: clearly expressing expectations and providing accurate and relevant feedback. Do you use this secret weapon liberally? If you do, it just may be the key to the high performance you are looking for in your team.
PS. If this topic of communication styles and frequency has piqued any interest, you will no doubt like to know I have a number of very cost effective assessment tools which will help you pinpoint the styles and preferences of those on your team (or others including your boss, your peers, your customers, and anyone else you communicate with on a regular basis.) Do yourself a BIG favor and reach out to me – you’ll thank me later for sure.