Have you ever started a new role, project, or job and your leader says, “Thanks for being here. I am sure you are going to do great! Now, go get some results.”? I do an exercise with my clients called Blindfolded Darts that sounds a lot like this. In essence, I put a blindfold on them, give them darts, and say go get some results. There is a dartboard in the room and peers to give them feedback. What do you think happens?
Often, the blindfolded person stands there and waits for more instruction while getting frustrated. Sometimes, they throw darts blindly, which is a scary thing. The feedback they receive is non-specific like booing, cheering, or good-job/bad-job. The blindfolded person gets frustrated, confused, and loses their motivation.
Does this sound like your workplace? I find that leaders are so busy that they do this to their employees. They have good intentions of setting clear expectations, explaining the results that are needed, and providing feedback. However, the reality is that leaders are moving targets who often feel they only have time to give non-specific feedback like “good job” or “you need to do better”. Furthermore, they have to cancel a lot of 1:1s and the employee is left blindfolded, trying to figure out what their leader really wants.
Three Reasons We Need Clear Expectations
· It is hard to hit the bull’s-eye without a clear understanding of the purpose, tools to do the job, and goal and metrics to measure performance.
· Employees want to innovate and do the work without a lot of guidance from you. However, with unclear expectations, they do not know the resources available to them and do not understand how much of the project they can own. Thus, they often end up waiting for guidance which could be viewed as resistance. Often this resistance is just a lack of clarity.
· Employees are self-motivated and can do great work without you but, if the expectations are unclear, then they are going to be knocking on your door asking for a lot of guidance. Now you have a time management challenge that could have been avoided.
How do we get better at this?
· Take time to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.)
· Ask your employees what they need from you to be successful.
· Be open to employee ideas, offer your suggestions, and set up a follow-up plan to offer feedback, encouragement, and recognition.
If you are able to follow these ideas, you should have a motivated and engaged employee that is capable to hitting the bull’s-eye consistently!