When we understand the differences here, that's when we know how we can over-deliver. We know well what's gonna be that thing that's gonna set me over the edge when I'm thinking about getting a promotion or moving to the next level of my career. Expectations are a part of all of this, and again, the more clear we are with our team members, the more upfront, transparent, straightforward.
The better they will do, the more engaged they will be and the more motivated they will be.
Welcome to the Managing Made Simple podcast where I bring a decade of experience working in some of the most influential companies in tech to help you navigate the ins and outs of being a people manager. From conflicts to feedback to delegating and more, we will leave no stone unturned when it comes to what makes us love managing, kind of hate it and everything in between.
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Welcome back to the show. If you've ever asked the question, why isn't my team listening to me? Then this is the episode for you.
And frankly, if you haven't asked that question yet, I bet it comes up at one point. And this also works great with kids and toddlers, so it's kind of like an all around win-win.
What is the nature of this question? Why isn't my team listening?
Years ago, I heard a manager say this, someone that I was working closely with, and they felt like they told everyone what they needed to see in the meetings.
We were all on the same page.
Then we'd walk outta the meetings and nothing would happen.
There was no follow through.
Decisions were being reopened.
When we would get in a meeting again, people were like, why are we doing this?
And it was a complete process breakdown.
As someone that was running the process on the team, it was really frustrating for me to see this happening, but for the manager, they internalized this like, "ahhh, nobody's listening to me! I'm saying what I want. No one's listening."
But as we dug into it, it was less about people not listening because, well, you'd go ask them and they'd say, "yeah, I was in the meeting. I heard, I just don't think it's realistic," or, "I really don't know what they meant by that."
All these things that really pointed to a lack of understanding what was going on.
But more than all of that, it was a lack of expectations.
And this is the superpower we are gonna talk about today.
I mean, making it clear who does what, what the work looks like, what are the milestones, what communication looks like, what success looks like when you expect people to communicate status, how you wanna be looped in.
All of those things are expectations that leaders need to set on their teams so that people can deliver on those expectations. And the awesome thing about all of this is that people thrive in clarity. When there are clear expectations, that's when we can get creative. So that is what the fun part is here, setting expectations.
This is not micromanaging.
This is so that everyone knows what the constraints are, how to play, how to be creative, how to innovate, and they know how to communicate what's going on so that you're getting what you need as a leader. Now, a huge, huge piece of expectation setting is painting the picture of what success looks like, getting everybody on the same page around.
What does done look like?
What's a good job?
What's a great job?
What is the MVP or the minimum viable product? Maybe a pilot.
When we understand the differences here, that's when we know how we can over-deliver. We know well what's gonna be that thing that's gonna set me over the edge when I'm thinking about getting a promotion or moving to the next level of my career.
Expectations are a part of all.
And again, the more clear we are with our team members, the more upfront, transparent, straightforward, the better they will do, the more engaged they will be, and the more motivated they will be. This is why it is your superpower, because when you have expectations, everybody else does a better job.
And again, it's not micromanaging. It's about clarity.
This is really why it's such a big part of my Ops Playbook program because when you're running a smaller business and a lot of those ideas in your head and you have that whole vision and you think. I believe in it. So everybody else has to, that's not always the case because not everyone is bought in as we're gonna be.
And that's why it's also such a big part of my Manager Development program because when we're clear around expectations, we start to see that feedback. Conversations are easier. It becomes easier to have hard conversations, I'm telling you, because when you've set clear expectations, you can go back to that conversation as what the feedback's about.
It also allows people to step out proactively as owners. And when people feel like owners and take responsibility for their work, they're proactive about solving problems. They're proactive about communicating risk. They're proactive about all the good stuff that you need to have better results on your.
That is why it's such a superpower and on larger teams where there's a lot of different people that maybe have overlapping responsibilities or there's a lot of stakeholders to communicate with, or you have to be looping people in up the chain, maybe doing status reporting.
Expectations around all of these different modes of communication are gonna make it really clear on why do I have to communicate with this person? What's in it for me? What if I don't?
And as someone that spent years and years of their career rolling out processes, designing processes, trying to get people on board for new processes, setting that context of why, 'what's in it for them?' as you set that expectation, that is going to help so much with rolling out process.
I just gave you my number one life hack. Getting people bought into the why. It's part of the expectation setting, frankly, because if we don't really know why there's an expectation, eh, we're kind of not on board.
But this is again, where the superpower comes into play because if you say to your team, "Hey, we're rolling out this new status report that has to go to senior leadership every Friday, I understand that it's a little bit of an extra lift. But why we're doing it is because the more visibility you get to senior leadership, the more I can advocate for you. When it comes to promotion time, raises time. The more we can be better set up to get more resources and team members on our team. So it's really critical that we enter in all the awesome stuff we're working on and the areas we need help so that we can get that extra."
Wow. Now I'm interested in writing in the status report because I understand the expectations and why.
Very similar if you're running a small business saying we're gonna start tracking our work in this new tool. "I know it feels like a lot of overhead, but it allows me to be able to better forecast so that we know how our time's being spent, so we know when we can take on more clients. When we need to bring on more support so that I can better reward you and compensate you financially, because I understand that we all have a lot going on and I really wanna make sure we all have clarity and are supported."
Again, this doesn't feel as heavy handed when we've framed it in what's in it for that other person.
Now let's turn up the heat.
Let's say we set clear expectations. We've done all that. We've reframed accountability. And, and yet people don't take action. We're sitting there like, I was pretty clear, but I'm not seeing what I need to see. Now we can assess what's actually going on because it's not that they're not listening and it's not that there weren't clear expectations.
What else could be present? Well, I think a lot of times there's a risk that hasn't been communicated, and when that hasn't been communicated, it might imply that people don't feel safe speaking up and communicating risks. And even when you have said, "tell me if there's anything going wrong, tell me if this idea doesn't make sense. Tell me if you're worried about anything." If people aren't sharing risks, and I'm talking about if people are never really speaking up, that points to an issue around psychological safety.
Even if you didn't mean to create that, even if people really like each other, oftentimes when people don't communicate risks, it's because they're worried that someone's gonna think they're a naysayer or not a team player or because everybody else is saying yes, even when it's not possible.
Instead, it's important to create a culture where we talk about risks proactively.
A great way to do this is talking about risks before a project and saying, "Hey, let's have a meeting specifically about all the kinds of things that could go wrong." This is sometimes called a pre-mortem, and it's a forum where you can talk about things like risks, what might go wrong, wild ideas.
All the considerations when the tensions are low, before things go off the rails, get people accountable saying, "Hey, I'm gonna take this risk, I'm gonna take this one, so that when something goes wrong, you have your plan for what you're gonna do. And this is gonna be really helpful for establishing psychological safety so that people can communicate the risks once you've set the expectations.
Let's say it's not about risks, then it might point to there being a skill gap.
So you've communicated the expectations and work's still not getting done in the way that you expected. This might mean that there's actually, someone doesn't quite know how to do the job and they've said, yes, they wanna do it.
They're trying. It's just taking longer than they expected. We can identify this by asking someone, "what's getting in the way from getting this thing done on time?"
There's a story I talk about my book where I was working with a designer and he was a star performer. Always had stuff done on time, and then all of a sudden outta nowhere, he started just kind of standing around, literally at his computer.
He wouldn't really be working on anything. And I thought to myself, what happened is he, he's gotta be looking for another job, I'm sure of it. Okay. This guy is not usually working this way. He's always done with stuff. And I was not his manager at the time.
I went to his manager and we were talking about him and we were saying, "Hey, we gotta do something, like why is his motivation down? What you think? He's looking for another job." And I said, "okay, I'm gonna go talk to him." And I went and talked to him and he said, "oh my God, thank you so much for coming to talk to me. My computer has a virus and it crashes every time I save a file. And so right now I'm rebooting and reinstalling windows for the eighth time and it's just really thrown off my productivity. Can you order me a new computer?"
And I thought, oh my God, what if I had never asked? And we start thinking he's quitting and starting to think about hiring a backfill or whatever we were gonna do? All because I hadn't talked to him. And this is a situation, it wasn't a skill gap, but it was a communication gap, very similar, where someone maybe didn't come forward, but when I asked them, "Hey, what's getting in the way? Is there something you wanna share?" And I was proactive with the communication. Then they could tell me what was going on and I could resolve it. Right.
Last thing could be the expectations aren't being met because there's a resource constraint. Everybody is working as hard as they can, burning the midnight oil, putting the pedal of the metal, whatever you wanna call it, to get the work done.
And there's just too few people, and this is something that we're seeing more and more of in this do more with less situation when there's been layoffs. When there has been no hiring of backfills, when we're tighter on budgets and have fewer people, and in this situation, it's important to talk about people's bandwidths, people's workloads, people's stacked ranked list of priorities so that you are clear of what's possible to get done.
And then in that situation, if stuff's not getting done, it's not because people weren't listening or didn't want to, it's that the workload exceeded capacity. And I know this is a really hard conversation to have. There are high expectations of all of us in the workplace right now. We have KPIs, we have goals, we have OKRs, we have investors.
We have whatever our metrics are that we need to be making and in a recession, we need to be making them more than ever. I understand. And if work's not getting done, then it's still not gonna get done. Whether we talk about it or not. And when people feel like their managers have a really unrealistic sense of what's possible, of what's doable, of what can actually get done, even if they've set the expectations, then that's has a chilling effect on that psychological safety because people don't communicate risks because they think the manager's gonna just say, do it anyway.
As part of building safety around, talking about risks, it's gotta come with a conversation about what's realistic to get done. There you have it, the power of setting expectations to establish psychological safety ownership, to have people take more responsibility for getting their work done, to bring clarity to your team.
All of this together will work to drive higher motivation and higher engagement because when people know what's expected of them, they know what success looks. They can work towards that vision. It doesn't feel like a moving goalpost. It doesn't feel like one day it's one thing and then the next day it's another.
And this predictability fuels trust. And trust fuels more engagement and it becomes a virtuous cycle. All because you did what? Set those expectations.
In the workplace right now, we're all feeling stuck. Managers are burning out. Employee engagement is on the decline, and women are leaving the workforce at record numbers. And if you have a small business, you're wondering when is the right time to scale.
The good news is you do not have to solve these problems alone if you're looking for tools to better support your managers, finally improve those employee engagement scores, retain that woman talent you worked so hard to attract, or make sure that in your small business everybody's on the same page about how to get things done. Then my programs were designed for you. Reach out at [email protected] and we'll chart the course to building your best possible team.
That's all I have for today. Thank you so much for tuning in to the Managing Made Simple Podcast where my goal is to demystify the job of people management so that together we can make the workplace somewhere everyone can thrive.
I always love to hear from you, so please reach out at liagarvin.com or message me on LinkedIn. See you next time.