Clarity of expectations: The first step towards high performance and productivity

As business owners we want and expect our team to perform at high level and when they don’t, it’s easy to look to them for the explanation. Please explain

Of course there are going to be times when circumstances are to blame and your assistant has made a mistake. However, if you find yourself defaulting straight to blame and frustration, then I invite you to explore the following fundamental rules of performance. In particular, clarity of expectations.

Here are three steps to a high performing assistant.

  1. Clarity of expectations.
  2. A commitment to meet expectations.
  3. A commitment to mastery.

In this article I’m only going to focus on step one, ‘clarity of expectations’, and will explore the second and third points at a later stage.

Clarity of expectations comes in FIVE key areas:

  1. Clarity of behavioural expectations.
  2. Clarity of expected results.
  3. Clarity of expected quality.
  4. Clarity of priorities.
  5. Clarity of timelines and deadlines.

Clarity of behavioural expectations.

The most frequently mentioned challenges I hear from employers about employees relate to behaviour. Which is funny, because I find that this is the area that has the least clarity provided by leadership teams.

Why? Because for most people, behavioural expectations are difficult to define. They are subjective to interpretation. What you consider acceptable behaviour, someone else considers lacking.

Also, correcting someone’s behaviour can be confronting to an employer, as it can appear very personal.

A highly effective tool to provide clarity of behavioural expectations… Core values.

If you haven’t clearly defined the core values of your organisation, then you are shooting yourself in the foot. Core values will be covered in another blog, but for now, believe me when I say, the benefits of having them are unequivocal.

Make your core values REAL… Use YOUR language, NOT what you think a core value ‘should be’, like “Team Work” or “Integrity”. As an example, one of PROTRADE United’s core values is “Raise the bar”, rather than innovation.

Side note: Clarity and alignment of behavioural expectations will more than likely provide the greatest impact on performance, as it is interrelated with the other key areas.

Clarity of expected results

So, are you paying people to turn up and ‘help out’, or are you paying them to produce a result? Either one is fine, it’s your call. But if it’s the latter… What are the specific results you’re expecting them to produce?

It’s important to create specific outcomes or indicators for success, often referred to as KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). Be specific about these results and ensure they are regularly measured and reviewed.

The only thing that I feel is more important than the specificity of the expected results, is the attainability of them. Have them be a stretch, but not unrealistic. Further to that, don’t move the goal posts mid-match. There aren’t too many things that a manager can do to demotivate a team faster than moving the goal posts or setting them up for failure.

BTW: Not that I have to tell you this… But your job (in fact your PRIMARY job if you ever want to be free to live an unhurried life, is to ensure that your team WINS! That is, they produce or exceed the results for their position.

Clarity of expected quality

If ‘near enough’ is NOT good enough, then be sure to communicate that early and often.

The old saying that ‘your staff will never do as good of a job as I will’ is a wild, broad sweeping statement. It was created by people who don’t know how to lead and manage a team. Set the bar high, then train, train and train some more. Make them better than you.

The fact of the matter is, we get what we tolerate. The more you tolerate in lack of quality, the more it will become the norm.

Side note: When giving feedback on quality of work, be sure to be specific about what would take it from a six to a ten. Don’t just critique them and move on. Also be mindful about the balance of positive feedback and correctional (negative) feedback. Try and catch them doing a ‘good job’ and not just a ‘bad one’.

Clarity of priority

It is natural for a human being to experience overwhelm when the workload expands and deadlines shorten. Overwhelm, which can also be referred to as stress or anxiety, is the enemy of long term high performance.

In a state of overwhelm priorities can very quickly become distorted. It is essential, if you wish to maintain a high level of productivity, to assist your team to prioritise their actions.

Reviewing your staff’s task or project list regularly and assisting them with an order of importance is just good management. Have them prioritise and then adjust accordingly.

Clarity of timelines and deadlines

By when do you want this task completed and would you like to receive regular updates on the progress of the project?

Just because you haven’t heard from your assistant for some time, doesn’t automatically mean they are not working… It could just mean that they are working behind the scenes and don’t realise that you want regular updates.

Be crystal clear on project milestones, timelines and deadline with your assistant. Be specific on how you wish to be updated and at what frequency. For example, an end of day report via email, with a quick overview of what you’ve accomplished.

To wrap up…

So, that’s the five key areas where clarity is essential to enhance your teams performance. If you ever believe one of your employees are not performing at the level you require, then walk through each of these five areas and look for what’s missing in your communication. Almost any challenges regarding employee performance can be addressed with these simple steps.


For more information on hiring quality staff and improving your recruitment process, contact the PROTRADE United team today.

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