Skip to main content
be a better leader

While on my way to the Halifax airport one morning I was faced with the task of driving through fog. For many people, going to work each day can be a similar challenge, because their roles and responsibilities are unclear.

A gap between a manager's role and employees' roles and expectations can create a fog that undercuts productivity, engagement and efficiency. Employees who are not clear about their roles and what is expected of them can become frustrated and confused. To correct this, it's necessary to define all the behaviours that are expected and their performance standards, such as reaching monthly sales quotas.

What process do you use to define behavioural expectations with your employees? Are your employees performing to the standards you are expecting?

One sign that employees may be in a fog is the level of frustration, stress and complaining they present to their leader or co-workers. This can lead to increased risk for employee-manager conflict, employee disengagement and performance issues.

To clear away this fog, frame behavioural expectations in a clear and precise manner, using a structured process. Expectations that are understood and agreed to can provide a guiding light to success for both employees and manager. Here are three easy steps a manager can take:

1. Define expectations: Before providing any direction, be clear about exactly what the behavioural expectations are for each employee's role, how they will be communicated and taught, and how success will be monitored and measured. You need to ensure these expectations have been defined and are aligned with the business objectives and corporate values.

2. Deliver expectations: Provide employees with all the information you have prepared about the expectations, and allow them to ask questions. Provide behavioural expectations in writing whenever possible, to serve as a training aid. Engage employees to be sure they fully understand the defined standard and expectations. Provide support and training where needed. Be clear about how success will be evaluated and measured (such as performance and operations management measures).

3. Manage expectations: If an employee is not performing at the desired standard, it's important not to assume he or she are not willing or not capable. Be sure the first two steps have been completed, factor in the learning curve, and provide coaching and feedback throughout.

When an employee performs at the desired standard, acknowledge and recognize good work. Too many managers get into the habit of interacting with their employees only when there's a problem. Employees also like to hear when they are doing a good job. It helps keep them committed and motivated to the company's objectives.

Never surprise employees with a list of failures. Deal with problems in an open and collaborative manner as they occur.

If an employee understands the expectations and chooses not to achieve them, ensure he or she clearly understands the consequences of not performing to standards. Managers can influence knowledge and skills, but employees must own their own attitudes and willingness to get along and co-operate.

The role of an effective leader is to ensure all members of staff are clear about what is expected of them, to reduce the risk that they will be slowed down or even stopped by unnecessary fog. A leader who skips any of these three steps will be face a greater risk that employees will be confused about their roles, and that can negatively impact both the employees' and the organization's results.

Bill Howatt is the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S. Website:

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct