07 Nov 2015

Is Your Team Flying Blind To Your Expectations?

getting their team to do things to the standard or manner in which they want them done – without being regarded as a micro-manager (a modern leadership equivalent of a cardinal sin).

How do you avoid micro-managing your team as well as get what you want? One of the reasons that teams don’t do what their leaders want, whether you realise it or not, is that you haven’t told them! While you may think it is obvious from your smiles or scowls, your team may not be on the same page as you regarding expectations, values, behaviours and performance levels because you haven’t made clear what you want and expect.

In my last role in the Air Force, my team of 22 instructors often dealt with 50% turnover in staff each year (due to postings and operational requirements). With that much experience lost, we needed to find a simple and effective way in bringing new staff ‘up to speed’ with what was important. It involves understanding what you love and hate your team doing and being able to articulate it with your new team members. I have used this on numerous occasions outside the military and taught it to senior Managers of numerous businesses – it has an enormous impact on the team and the leader each time. 

What is listed below isn’t rocket science – in fact it is quite simple and easy to implement. That being said, most senior leaders I have worked with just expect their people to know their intentions. What isn’t it done more? From my experience, it is one of three reasons. One, the senior leader just didn’t think of it. Two, there isn’t enough time to go through little details like this – there are more important things to do. Three – it is beneath them to go through minor details. In his book ‘The Advantage’, Patrick Lencioni refers to this as ‘the sophistication bias’ – leaders having a hard time believing that minor actions can have a meaningful benefit.

To address this issue, provide honest and open answers to the following questions:

1.   What are the behaviours that you hate your team to exhibit?

What are the things, big or small, that annoy you about your team’s behaviour? What are the things that you wish they would never do? Write as many as you can possibly think of. We have found that this works incredibly effectively in small groups, as people ‘feed’ off the answers of others and add some of their own when prompted.

2.   What are the behaviours that you love your team members to do?

What are things that you thank your team members for doing? What are those little things that are done for you that make your life easier?

3.   Get specific.

The more specific you can be in what you love and what you hate, the better the list is. Often, the reason why we love or hate a behaviour is based on an experience in the past. Remember that experience and be able to explain it. Why do you love or hate this type of behaviour so much? People turning up late to a meeting frustrates me so much because of one particular Manager that wasted everyone’s time. The team would arrive on time for a meeting, and our boss would regularly turn up 10 minutes late, then expect to be briefed on what had taken place prior to his arrival. I not only found this rude and disrespectful to others, but also a huge waste of time for everyone concerned. I vowed that I would always turn up to meetings on time, and that my meetings would run on schedule.

4.   Compare your list with what your team knows.

Once you have written down the behaviours that you love and that you hate, you need to check if your team has the same understanding. Have a look at your list and consider this question: If I asked a member of your team what behaviours you loved and hated, how many would they be able to tell me?

Have a look at your list and pick up a highlighter pen (or circle your answers). If you think your team already knows the behaviour you love or hate, highlight or circle it. If you think they don’t, leave it blank. Go through your entire list, considering whether your team knows what you love and what you don’t.

When I undertake this activity with management groups, most participants have about 50% of their list highlighted, and 50% unmarked. What this means for most people is that half the time your team doesn’t know if the behaviour they are demonstrating is loved or hated by you. In essence, they are flying blind regarding what you want them to do!

Does that make sense? You could have team members doing a task in a way that you love, but because they don’t know it, they change it or perform it inconsistently. Worse, your team members could continue to do something that you hate because they have no idea that you don’t like it.

5.   Brief your team on your likes and dislikes.

Every team and every Manager we work with has different likes and dislikes – what one Manager loved another might hate. If we don’t tell our team the specifics of what we prefer, they will fly completely blind and be forced to guess, wasting both of your time when they could be doing something more productive.

It would be much easier if we were robots – we could print our optimum operating instructions on our foreheads for everyone to see – ‘How to get the best out of me – Step 1’ etc. Thankfully our teams and Managers aren’t robots; and because of this they do not instinctively know our likes, our dislikes and the best way to get the best out of us – we have to tell them.

6.   Advanced Step – Ask the same of your team.

Now your team knows how to get the best out of you (by doing more of what you like and less of what you don’t), do you know how to get the best out of your team? What are their preferences?

For your team to work efficiently and effectively, you all have to be on the same page. While the steps outlined above might be simple, experience has shown us that 60% of Managers haven’t thought of the question (or its importance) and 85% have items that they love (or hate) that their teams didn’t know about.

Simple question for you to ask yourself:

‘If I spoke to a member of your team today, would they know what you love and what you hate them doing?’

If they couldn’t, could clearer communication make your expectations meet reality? You might be surprised what expectations your team is blind to and consequently, the impact it has on your results.

For your free PDF ‘Team Expectations – Likes and Dislikes’, click on the link below.


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