Great leaders have nonnegotiable values and they surround themselves with people who share those values. At SEI one of our non-negotable values for leaders is to be great communicators.
An organization’s capacity to achieve great results is proportional to its leader’s ability to communicate how those values align and impact results.
Here are 5 ways leaders can assure that they are communicating expectations effectively:
The biggest question that employees need answered is “what do you expect of me?”
They don’t want leaders who understand what the expectations are, they want leaders who can communicate those expectations with clarity.
Communicating expectations in a clear way creates alignment and ensures that the right things are being done. At SEI that’s been a mantra for us, particularly this past year in leadership training. We’re a growing company, with 24 offices in 12 states, we must communicate with clarity so that each of our offices are in alignment with Vision, goals, objectives and priorities.
In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni (tweet him and tell him @ronalvesteffer says hello!) says that leaders must often become Chief Reminding Officers in order to ensure that their message and that their Vision is cascading through the organization effectually.
Clear communication isn’t effective if it doesn’t happen often. One of the most critical roles of a leader is to ensure that it happens regularly and in a structured way.
At SEI we have weekly huddles; a time in which teams gather to talk about what’s going well and what isn’t, discuss corporate initiatives and announcements, and it’s an opportunity for leaders to set clear expectations and answer questions. We also have monthly Executive Leadership strategy meetings and quarterly leadership training sessions at which time we bring our leadership teams in from across the US for a day to spend time working on ourselves and on our business so that we’re equipped on how to serve and develop our teams.
We also use something that we call SR5 (for more on SR5 view my post here) and it consists of written expectations and performance measurement. It allows managers and employees to dig deeper, prioritize expectations and set clear goals. It also insures that individual and department priorities are in alignment with our company priorities.
Honesty isn’t always easy, but it sure creates clarity and it builds trust. Have you had bosses that gloss over conflict or try to sugar coat uncomfortable matters so that they can avoid conflict (healthy conflict) and coaching conversations that need to be had. That isn’t leadership. There is no value for the organization or for the employee when you don’t address problems in an honest way. Leaders who truly care are honest in their feedback and most employees are receptive and appreciative for having received it.
Great results should be affirmed with people. Poor results should be addressed with people.
At SEI, I present the companies quarterly updates, an annual business plan and a mid-year business plan for all employees. I’m clear about the areas in which we’re doing well and in the areas that we’re struggling. Because SEI has filled our bench with great people, I know that they’ll take ownership over the problem areas and find solutions. We get some of our best professional development peer-to-peer when we break out into our groups and discuss how we’re going to apply what we’re learning.
Have the Tough Conversations Quickly
When an employee is not meeting expectations, leaders should have the tough conversations quickly. If a deadline is missed, if work isn’t up to par or an employee is not adhering to those nonnegotiable values, it can’t wait for a weekly, monthly or annual review. The conversation must happen quickly to prevent further problems and to protect other A players.
The more difficult the subject, the more important it is that leaders address it quickly and not put it off.
Focus on What, Not Who
Dwight Strayer, our Chief Operating Officer, often reminds his leaders not to focus on who, but on what. Too often conversations become personal. To be effective, leaders should focus on what is expected for the position, what the results currently are, and what needs to be done moving forward.
These are five ways to effectively communicate expectations and align goals and priorities that I’ve identified, I’d love to hear your take!