Employees, family members and partners quizzed about business complications often offer up the same phrase: “We didn’t fully understand what was expected of us!”
It is easy enough to point the finger of blame toward an owner, manager or supervisor – “He didn’t tell me it was important” or “I didn’t know that mattered so much.” Likewise, a supervisor or manager may say the same about the workers – “I don’t understand why they didn’t know what to do!”
Where did the breakdown occur? That is the million dollar question when trouble arises. More often than not, communicating expectations is at the center of the puzzle.
Many business owners/entrepreneurs create job descriptions with a list of expectations. The employee may see the job description at the time of the interview and perhaps again as she begins the job, but a sentence on a piece of paper does not always translate into viable solutions. Even if a supervisor goes over each written detail, how does she know the employee truly understands what each means and how to put it into action?
One definition of expectation is “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” Owners commit expectations to paper when writing a mission or vision statement for their business plans. Expectations are what they dedicate their business to achieve at present and in the future. These statements and beliefs reflect what they feel they can accomplish with the talent and resources at hand. While personal to a singular owner or family group, expectations for a successful operation must be a part of everyone who works for or with that particular operation. Now come the most important factors in following that path – communicating those expectations to each and every connected person and group, and making certain they are fully understood and implemented.
Perhaps you started work wondering exactly what to do or how to do it and were reassured with something like “Once you are on the job you will understand.” Bewildered, you walked away hoping it would become crystal clear sooner or later. Or, as a busy manager, you expect the employee to comprehend what to do, because it is vitally clear to you.
Communication is a two-way street. Managers must clearly communicate to employees and employees must be able to reiterate back their understanding of the expectation. A road block in either direction often launches problems from the start.
This reciprocal communication eases tension and sets up pathways for overall business success. It can be as simple as an owner saying to an employee “Harvest will begin tomorrow at 7 a.m. We are expecting you to have the tractor prepped and fueled and at the field by that time.” Instead of asking the employee if she understands and anticipating a yes or no answer, a manager can ask the employee to repeat the expectation and follow-up with any questions or concerns. At that point, an employee may ask, “What do you mean by ‘prepped’? Which end of the field do you mean?” At that point, the manager may realize, “Hey, I didn’t make myself entirely clear!”
Employees need to know they work in an environment where questions, however elementary, are okay to ask. Employers need to know that workers are ready for the job and are responsible enough to succeed at the task. All of this comes back to clear and concise communication that flows without barriers throughout an organization.
As a manager, owner or supervisor, you know how you want your business to operate and how that can best be accomplished. Communicating your expectation to others is vital to making it a reality. Expectations are built on strong beliefs of what will happen now and in the future. The goal then is for every person connected to your operation to understand and implement what is expected of them in a cooperative and cohesive environment.
The above information is presented for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling.