Why Aren’t People Doing What You Want Them to Do?
It’s a sad reality that frequently plays out across all levels of an organization: senior leaders and managers shake their heads in frustration because their team is not doing what they need to be doing. Meanwhile, competent employees leave their roles with unmet potential because they are fed up with being either micromanaged or under supported.
Do you ever find yourself with direct reports not doing what you expected them to be doing? Perhaps they are simply unable or unwilling to do what you expect. If that is the case, you ought to be having employment conversations, not a performance conversation. But it might not be about their ability or willingness. Perhaps it would help you to look in the mirror.
As a leader, are you establishing a clear understanding of the objectives to be accomplished by your team? Do you have an approach that allows you to be involved in what those objectives are without micromanaging how they go about achieving them? Have you created clear measures of progress that provide guidance without hand holding?
Often, we think that because we said it, referred to it, or sent it in an email (once), people will understand what you want them to do. From what I’ve seen, unmet expectations are rarely about someone not trying to do a good job or even intentionally missing the mark. Most people show up to work with the desire to do their best each day. More often, it’s about being unclear about the expectations, fully understanding what ‘good’ looks like in their performance, or not being prepared or skillful enough to do the job well. In all three cases, leaders share a responsibility in the result.
Leaders need to stop assuming their people don’t need guidance and do a better job of defining the work that needs to be done.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind as you communicate your expectations with your team:
- Share a clear goal or objective. Make sure your people understand where you are now (point A) and where you need to be (point B). Focus on the results. What outcome do you expect? What does success look like? Many leaders leave these expectations vague. Keep your objectives clear, focused, and simple.
- Decide how you will measure success. Determine the metrics you will use to measure success. What are the milestones that will reflect progress towards the objectives? Are there metrics that will portend success? What indicators will let us know we are off course?
- Report progress. Beyond metrics, seek to have meaningful conversations with your team about what is working, what isn’t, and what resources are needed to complete the task at hand. This is your chance to be involved in ‘what’ is happening without micromanaging ‘how’ your people do everything.
Communicating clear goals, deciding how you will measure success, and checking in with your team along the way will help you achieve the kind of success that gets the job done right—and helps your team reach their individual and collective potential.