While there’s certainly some ties to The Cost of Poor Communication, the “profitability killer” I referenced last time, the confusion I’m alluding to here comes from not setting clear expectations. To make a case for how much falling short of expectations matters in the business world, I opened the chapter on this in What’s KILLING Your Profitability? (It ALL Boils Down to Leadership!) with a few examples of publicly traded companies that did so for the first time in years – and specifically how much their stock prices fell as a result. I also shared a quote from a LinkedIn article called “The 10 Best Ways Managers Can Impact Profitability Through People” where Nicki Rankin stated that “Employees need to know what’s expected of them, both what they need to accomplish and how to behave.”
As I initially read that article, I immediately connected Rankin’s statement to how much this matters for everyone! I won’t speak for you, but I would tend to push my boundaries a bit as a kid. To that end, I still do that on a regular basis today. If two ibuprofen is the recommended dose, three should do the job a little better. When the speed limit is 70mph, I’m more than a little bit annoyed when I’m stuck behind someone going 71 in the hammer lane – and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in either case…
But while I am very willing to push those boundaries, having clear expectations for what is and what is not acceptable behavior – as well as for the results that need to be achieved in each situation – is often the difference in success or failure.
When dealing with our children, these clear expectations can prevent some very embarrassing situations and help them avoid serious injury in others. And we’ve likely all been in situations as adults where we’ve had to be very clear in detailing what we expect from others; be that through a transaction of some sort or even an unfortunate scenario where someone we considered to be a friend wasn’t quite as trustworthy as we had hoped. Without having clear expectations in any of these cases, a violated boundary can start off as something that seems innocent enough but often becomes a source of significant frustration over time.
If we tell a teenager, “Don’t stay out too late!”, there’s a high likelihood that they’re not picturing the same time as we are. At this point, I’m usually ready to go to sleep by 9pm. But 30 years ago, nothing fun even started for another hour or so! A neighbor may need to borrow a tool for a little while and we agree thinking we shouldn’t need it in the next few days. When we look for that tool several months later, we’re likely to be annoyed that they haven’t brought it back yet (assuming we even remember who has it).
In another article I cited called “Cultivating a Culture of Clear Expectations and Accountability that Equips and Empowers,” I found this statement: “Leaders are ultimately responsible for setting expectations, effectively communicating those expectations, and developing accountability standards.”
In nearly every session Cindy and I share with any group, we stress that being a leader has nothing to do with a position or a title but the responsibility we take in our relationships with others. Whether it’s with our kids, our family members, friends, or even casual acquaintances, being clear in our expectations helps remove the cost of confusion – but only if there’s some degree of accountability built in so that’s where we’ll pick up next time. Until then, I’d like to invite you to take advantage of the $.99 pre-order option for the Kindle version of What’s KILLING Your Profitability? (It ALL Boils Down to Leadership!) and to join us at the release celebration event on February 20. Details are available in the ad in this edition!