It’s the 30th January and already, I have had multiple conversations with managers relating to issues (unmet expectations) with their employees. To all of them, I’ve pretty much said the same thing, “January is a great time to sit your team down and go over your expectations with them for the upcoming year”. The New Year provides us with a fresh, clean slate to write on in many regards. As an employer or manager, it is up to you to set the direction and the culture of your business, department or area.
Whether you are a new manager, just taking up a new year role, or a manager who is continuing with the same staff base – take some time to set expectations with your staff as part of your general planning for the year. If you don’t map out the direction you will take for you and your people, you will end up where situations, customers, employees or your tired brain take you. A ship with an unused navigation system is pretty useless – it can’t get to where it needs to go. And yet many of us take our businesses less seriously. I do get it. It’s busy. It’s hot. You’re tired – maybe you didn’t get a break. You have the same staff and the same problems. In fact, it’s like ground hog day for many. That is precisely why YOU need to take the reigns, step away from your daily task calendar and the phone and set the year’s agenda for you and your team.
Back to expectations…I often wonder why we spend time on maintenance schedules for our plant and equipment, recognising that things break if they are not looked after, but we fail to do regular check-ins and ‘re calibrations’ with our staff. It’s really, really dumb! Our people are the ones driving our systems and programs. They are the ones with the customers, telling them right or wrong information about our products. They are the ones managing our teams and departments. Are they telling our people the right things at the right time? I would highly recommend that at the start of every year (calendar or financial), you schedule and plan for time with your people to go over YOUR expectations. This is the prime opportunity to get everyone back on track and singing from the same choir book. It’s an opportunity to document conversations held with the whole team that doesn’t target any one individual, but allows each individual the opportunity to consider whether their performance or behaviour needs re-aligning. An additional advantage is that you have a foundation laid for later conversations with individuals who are not conforming to your expectations or policies etc.
Things to consider for re-alignment (just to get you started):
- Break times: are people taking advantage of breaks and coming back later to work than they should be? Re-align them with a simple and clear outline of expectations (and consequences, as needed).
- Policies: what policies in your organisation are gathering dust. Do you need a refresher on bullying and harassment, for example? Act before there is a problem.
- Customer service: is everyone treating customers or clients the way you want them to? What processes need to be refreshed on? (People will tend to veer off track over time without clear processes and occasional realignment – it’s human nature, don’t be surprised!).
- KPI’s: whether written down or verbal, your staff will have some kind of performance metric that you follow. If you are flexi with your performance expectations, you’ll get flexi results. Be clear. Re-align. Performance is key to your bottom-line, so don’t let this one wander into the new year.
- Management technique: Do you have managers or team leaders? How do they treat your people? Tell them what you expect and why. Be clear. If your managers are out of sync with your personal culture, you are bound to come into difficulties down the track.
- Compliance: whether it’s January or July, make a time to check compliance in your business. Payroll is critical – Award entitlements are non-negotiable. Are you in alignment? Get some outside support if you need, to ensure you are meeting your obligations.
And what about YOU!?
Do you really think as a key person responsible for others’ work performance and well being, that you are any less in need of taking some time out to rethink what you’re doing and where you are going? The most common argument is, “I’m too busy!”. Guaranteed – you will be less productive in the long-term if you don’t take time out to plan and strategise, getting your people on board with your program. (I wish people really understood this point.) I like to plan each January and set out my year’s direction and objectives. Do I always meet all of my objectives for the year? Not completely. I aim to, but I’m flexible in my approach with what is critical and what I can be more flexible with. With a plan in place, no matter how small, rigid or flexible, you’ll be able to set out and make things happen. Without a plan, everything becomes critical and you achieve less in the long run.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
I wish you all the best for the New Year. May it be productive and fulfilling.